October 04, 2023
Today's newsletter is 1,176 words, a 4-minute read.
1 big thing: AI revolution sparks wearable hardware boomlet
Entrepreneurs and tech giants are racing to deliver AI in new devices and gadgets — including smart glasses, pendants and pins — that they hope will challenge the smartphone.
Yes, but: Novel hardware designs are notoriously hard to get right — and the phone, with its ubiquity and built-in cameras and microphones, may be all most users need to harness AI.
Driving the news: Most entrants in the new AI hardware race work via voice input, foregoing the price and bulk of a large display.
- Humane: The startup, led by former Apple employee Imran Chaudhri, showed off its AI Pin on a Paris runway this week after previously teasing the device in a TED talk. The wearable uses a projector to allow its simple user interface to appear on a hand or other nearby surface.
- Rewind Pendant: Rewind.ai is showing off a $59 neck-worn pendant that's designed to record conversations and transfer them securely to a smartphone. Its AI software sorts through and gleans insights from that mass of audio info, creating a sort of searchable database of your life's soundtrack.
- Meta smart glasses: One of the biggest changes in the updated Ray-Ban models Meta announced last week is that users can converse with an AI chatbot through them. The earlier Ray-Ban Stories models had only limited voice control for tasks like taking a picture or playing music.
- Tab: Due out next winter or spring, Tab is another smart wearable that "ingests the context" of your daily life by listening in to all of your conversations, according to a video founder Avi Schiffmann posted on X. Schiffmann is best known for creating a COVID dashboard and a short-lived Airbnb-like platform for refugees.
- Jony Ive: In addition to these announced devices, former lead Apple designer Jony Ive is said to be in talks with SoftBank and OpenAI regarding raising money for an AI hardware effort.
Be smart: These smart wearables often look like their less tech-enabled counterparts, raising privacy issues, especially when the devices don't make extremely clear when they are recording.
What they're saying: Tab's Schiffmann told Axios, "Talking to Tab feels like a late night conversation with a friend ... It's a much more natural way of interacting with tech."
- He also emphasized that the device "does not store transcripts or audio recordings" but instead builds a knowledge base for users.
Between the lines: Meta and Amazon have a particular interest in seeking devices that make the smartphone obsolete, or at least less central to everyone's lives.
- That's because Google and Apple have long held a duopoly on the smartphone business, controlling what others can and can't do on the devices and taking a significant chunk of the revenue from digital goods and services sold through them.
- Meta and Amazon tried — and failed — with their own smartphones, and both are determined to own a part of the market for whatever comes after the smartphone.
The big picture: The smartphone has reigned supreme since the early days of the iPhone and Android.
- New hardware could find a niche even if the phone remains the dominant device.
- Even older hardware may get a new lease on life thanks to AI. Both Google and Amazon are looking to revamp their smart speaker and smart display products using generative AI to offer a more powerful and flexible interface than what's provided by earlier digital assistants.
- Because most computing work is done in the cloud, even years-old speakers could theoretically support generative AI.
2. Axios plans two AI summits in November
Another big thing: We're hosting two AI summits this November, one on each coast (okay — technically two big things).
- You can catch us in San Francisco on Nov. 8, and Washington, D.C., on Nov. 28 for even more live AI coverage.
Why it matters: With AI infiltrating much of the human experience today, these events will help to provide a snapshot of the hype and mystery surrounding AI's rapid rise. Both summits will feature noteworthy conversations with a variety of newsmakers on AI and will cover a range of topics from its impact on the workforce and how it's affecting creative industries, business and government.
- Stanford professor Fei-Fei Li, Lockheed Martin CEO Jim Taiclet, Metaphysic AI CEO Tom Graham and others are scheduled to participate.
Check out our lineup and request an invite to either location here.
3. Canva gives its presentation tools an AI makeover
Canva is today unveiling a host of generative AI features it says will give more creative powers to average workers.
What they're saying: "AI has incredible potential to supercharge the 99% of office workers who don't have design training, who haven't been able to access easy-to-use, powerful design tools before," Canva co-founder and product chief Cameron Adams told Axios.
Details: The 10 new tools, introduced under the Magic Studio banner, aim to help with everything from applying a corporate brand style to translating documents to photo editing.
- The Magic Grab feature allows people without photo editing skills to easily move around the main elements in an image.
- Magic Switch makes it easier to go from one type of document to another, such as transforming a long block of text into a presentation.
- A Magic Media feature adds text-to-image and text-to-video capabilities, with some of the technology involved coming from AI startup Runway.
- Canva also uses AI to generate alt text that offers a text description of a photo for those with visual impairments. "I don't think you can empower the world to design if you're not an inclusive design tool," Adams said.
Catch up quick: Canva, a decade-old online presentation tool, had already been adding AI features over the past year. Adams said those tools have been used 3 billion times by more than 40 million people.
The big picture: Nearly every major software maker is looking for ways to add generative AI capabilities to their products, including Adobe, Microsoft, Google and Salesforce.
Between the lines: Canva said it will indemnify enterprise customers who use the new AI tools against intellectual property complaints or other legal issues.
What's next: Adams said he hopes to add more features that use generative AI to refine ideas.
- "Generative AI is great at producing stuff fresh," he said, adding that, when it comes to modifying or refining one's work, "it can be a little hard to wrangle."
4. Training data
- Anthropic is reportedly in talks to raise up to $2 billion in funding from Google and others. The generative AI startup aims to garner a valuation of $20 billion to $30 billion. (The Information)
- OpenAI's DALL-E 3 image generator is now available as part of Microsoft's Bing Chat. (The Verge)
- Intel plans to split off its programmable chip business. (Bloomberg)
- On tap: Google is hosting a "Made By Google" event later this morning in New York, where the company is expected to introduce its latest crop of Pixel phones, among other devices.
- AI threatens to introduce a new wave of internet censorship, according to the Freedom of the Net 2023 report, released today. (MIT Technology Review)
5. + This
Google's "emoji kitchen" is a nice place to procrastinate for a couple hours while, say, writing a newsletter.
Thanks to Megan Morrone and Scott Rosenberg for editing and Bryan McBournie for copy editing this newsletter.