May 18, 2017

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

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The VR battle looks a lot like PC guys vs mobile

The battle to control the virtual reality market is shaping up to be a struggle between familiar foes and allies. On the one hand, you have Intel and Microsoft pushing to get the PC makers to build machines based on Windows Mixed Reality, while on the other hand, Google and Qualcomm are wooing the smartphone makers to build mobile VR units based on Android.

"You play to your strengths," says Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi.

The bigger question: It is not certain how big the market is for dedicated VR devices, no matter who makes them. Also, there's the question of what shape makes the most sense. You have low-cost devices like Daydream and Gear VR that have more limitations but take advantage of a smartphone for display and power. At the higher end you have Sony's PlayStation VR, HTC's Vive, and Oculus' Rift.

So perhaps the question isn't necessarily mobile versus desktop, but rather how much room there is for a midrange VR device at all.

Intel's view: Intel, for its part, sees a range of different devices coming to market over the next few years. It is at the center of Microsoft's tethered PC strategy, but has touted Project Alloy, a standalone VR concept device that makes use not only of Intel processors, but also its RealSense camera technology.

"This really is a long-term revolution in the way people interact with the computing technology," Kim Pallister, director of Intel's VR center of excellence, said. "There will be lots of different attempts."

AR sure sounds cool, but its uses remain scarce

The whole point of augmented reality is to merge virtual and real worlds. But it turns out that it's actually hard to find examples of AR in the real world. Most applications thus far have been short-lived marketing stunts rather than ongoing additions to reality. Pokémon Go is rightly used as an example of just how big the potential could be, but it makes only light use of AR, tying the game to real world places and overlaying creatures with the images coming from a phone's camera.

At Google I/O there were glimpses of other possibilities. One demo, along the lines of Pokémon Go, let people get their photo taken with characters from Oz. But perhaps more intriguing was a classroom set-up that showed how AR could allow cells and organs to come to life as virtual objects, as could planets, solar systems, and asteroids (see above).

How Facebook has skyrocketed since its IPO

When Facebook's went public 5 years ago today — the third-largest U.S. IPO ever — it was largely seen as a platform for teens to share photos and play silly games. Now, it's the fifth-largest company by market capitalization and rivals Google as the biggest online advertising platform. Sara and Kim take a look at how the company has grown since then. Two impressive metrics:

Revenue: When Facebook went public, it had just made its first major investment in Instagram for $1 billion. That expense impacted Facebook's ability to make a significant profit that year, earning just $53 million in net income. By the end of 2016, Facebook had pocketed $10.2 billion in net income, becoming not only profitable, but lucrative.

Mobile: At the time of its IPO, Facebook's user base was mostly accessing the platform on desktop, so Facebook was making only 11% (roughly) of its ad revenue on mobile. Today, Facebook is a mobile ad cash cow, with 85% of its ad revenue coming from mobile. It accounts for roughly 20% of all U.S. mobile ad revenue, per eMarketer.

Here we go again, net neutrality...

The never-ending saga continues this morning as FCC votes to consider Chairman Ajit Pai's plan to scrap net neutrality rules. You can watch the vote here. David will be there, and so will protesters.

Let's recap:

  • Pai's plan would nix the utility-style regulation (i.e., Title II) that underpins the current rules and gives the FCC significant authority over ISPs.
  • It also asks questions about what to do with the bans on blocking and throttling content or offering paid prioritization. So, at the end of this process, those might be scrapped, too.

What's next: Once the draft proposal is approved, the FCC will take comments from anyone with something to say — and as John Oliver has once again reminded us, people have a lot to say. That process will run through the summer. Then Pai can put final rules to a vote. Whatever happens, it's a safe bet this whole thing will end up back in court.

An "operating system for the brain" gets FDA approval

Combining virtual reality and neuroscience may help a stroke patient's brain recover more quickly.

That's according to MindMaze, a Swiss company (with U.S. headquarters in San Francisco) that just received FDA approval to bring its VR platform to the U.S. market, after already selling it in Europe. The "neurorehabilitation" platform, called MindMotion Pro, uses 3D motion tracking cameras to coordinate movement and brain function and then analyzes that data to tailor therapy, CEO and co-founder Tej Tadi told Axios. He calls it an "operating system for the brain."

Why it matters: Now that it is FDA-approved — a big win for any startup— MindMaze's VR device will be among the first to be used in U.S. hospitals to assist with therapy after brain injury.'s not cheap: A hospital-grade device runs about $80,000, Tadi said. Kim has more here.

Life imitates art

On Sunday, HBO's Silicon Valley gave us Not Hotdog, an app that taps machine intelligence to discern if, in fact, an object is a sausage or not. Yesterday, Google introduced Lens, which is capable of telling far more things. But, Kia, rightly asks, can it tell you when something is, in fact, Not Hotdog?

Take note

On tap: FCC votes on net neutrality rules...Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Ahead of it, Apple this week posted several videos on YouTube highlighting some cool ways its products are helping people with disabilities. Google also had an accessibility area at I/O, which continues today in Mountain View, and showed tools from Alphabet's Verily that help people with cerebral palsy, Parkinson's and other diseases.

Trading places: Top Dropbox sales executive Thomas Hansen has abruptly left the company, according to The Information (Update: A Dropbox representative notes that Hansen is not, in fact, leaving abruptly and and is staying on for the next seven weeks to help with the transition.) ...Former Wealthfront CEO Adam Nash is returning to Greylock Partners as an executive-in-residence; it's his second stint at the VC firm.

ICYMI: Here are all the things Google announced at I/O on Wednesday...Apple began limited production of the iPhone SE in India...Qualcomm escalated its battle with Apple, suing the contract manufacturers that make the iPhone for withholding licensing payments at Apple's behest. (Qualcomm had already sued Apple directly)...Digital ad spending is on the rise, but TV is still king.

After you Login

I try to steer clear of politics, but have to end with the tale of a political leader who has been leading a secret life. That's right, the King of the Netherlands has been quietly working part-time as a pilot for KLM -- and doing so for more than two decades.

Ina Fried

Gotta go. Watching stand-up comedy at a tech conference. Really. Even the comedian seems confused.