Oct 15, 2018

Axios Login

I'm in London for the TIP Summit, a gathering of telecom providers seeking to create their own open source hardware as part of an industrywide coalition led by Facebook. I'll be moderating the opening keynote Tuesday with Facebook's Jay Parikh.

Meanwhile, we're getting closer to the launch of our upcoming Axios show on HBO (see the trailer here).  Make sure to tune in for the premiere on Sunday 11/4 at 6:30pm to get smarter on what really matters, with new episodes every Sunday in November.

1 big thing: Adobe's next canvas is AR

Project Aero can take a Photoshop image with layers and make it into a 3-dimensional AR object. Photo: Adobe

At Apple's developer conference in June, Adobe first talked about Project Aero, an effort to allow creators to transform works of digital art into augmented reality objects. At its own conference this week, the company will announce a limited release of the tool and detail its effort to dive deeper into AR creation.

Why it matters: Adobe is always looking for the next area where creatives will need good authoring software tools. The lack of such tools has been hindering both AR and VR, says Adobe CTO Abhay Parasnis.

  • "Before they become mainstream somebody has to step up and write authoring tools," Parasnis told Axios. For AR, at least, Adobe has decided the time is right.

Details: The private beta of Project Aero will focus on iPhones, iPads and a cloud service, for now, with plans to have native desktop versions for Mac and Windows next year. Adobe is not yet talking about how Aero will be priced or bundled into the company's existing subscription products.

  • With Aero, a designer can take a 3D image in Illustrator or even a Photoshop file with multiple layers and turn it into an AR object that can be seen layered over the real world thanks to a smartphone's camera.
  • Consumers, meanwhile, will be able to see Aero-created content in the Aero app or natively on Apple devices thanks to iOS support for a new 3D file format.

The big picture: For brands looking to move into AR, Adobe's move is important because today's augmented reality often requires developers to be familiar with advanced coding or game engines — skills in short supply. The goal with Aero is for a much wider array of creators to bring their work into mixed reality.

What about Android?: The fragmentation of Android hardware makes this effort harder in the Android world, according to Adobe. And while there are already 700 million iOS devices capable of running Apple's ARKit, Google's similar ARCore is only supported on about 150 million devices.

What's next: Separately, Adobe is also using its annual Max conference to make several other big announcements, including:

  • The latest versions of its core creative apps, including Photoshop, Lightroom, and Illustrator.
  • Premiere Rush, a new app designed to give social media creators powerful but easy tools to create videos for YouTube and Instagram.
  • iPad versions of Photoshop and Project Gemini, a professional-grade drawing tool.
2. Facebook and the digital sixth sense

Facebook's secretive Building 8 hardware lab has reportedly developed a prototype that would let people hear through their skin.

  • An audio sensor would be paired with a system that makes tapping vibrations that map to the phonemes (root sounds) used in the English language, according to Business Insider.
  • In testing, people could learn the system in less than two hours and "hear" through their skin with 92% accuracy.

Why it matters: A system like this could provide an alternative method of communication for those who are deaf, as well as potentially provide a means to serve up information to those who are operating machinery.

The company's researcher-in-chief, Regina Dugan, talked briefly about the project at last year's F8 developer conference.

My thought bubble: The project reminded me of a pair of 2015 TED talks.

  • In one, Stanford researcher Abe Davis showed a way to discern sound from a video that was shot without audio. Davis’s reconstructed the audio by analyzing the vibrations the sound makes on nearby objects, such as a bag of potato chips. That would allow sound to be gathered, for example, even when filming through soundproof glass.
  • A second talk, from neuroscientist David Eagleman, explored how haptics could be used to replace a missing sense or add a new one. In the latter camp, he described how a pilot might be able to have a tactile sense of the overall health of a plane and its many discreet instruments. On the more mundane front, he talked about providing the ability to "feel" social media sentiment on Twitter — which sounds both extremely clever and potentially alarming.
3. Between the lines on Facebook's latest breach

Facebook continues to struggle with managing its existing products, even as it looks to invent ever more capable technology for the future.

The big picture: The company disclosed Friday that its recent breach may have affected somewhat fewer customers than originally announced (30 million vs. 50 million), but it turns out a great deal of information was taken, after all.

  • Facebook also said that the attack appeared malicious, but said it wasn't sharing any information on who might be behind the breach at the request of the FBI, which is investigating.

Details: Hackers accessed names and listed contact information for 14 million people as well "as other details people had on their profiles," Facebook's Guy Rosen wrote in a blog post.

  • "This included username, gender, locale/language, relationship status, religion, hometown, self-reported current city, birthdate, device types used to access Facebook, education, work, the last 10 places they checked into or were tagged in, website, people or pages they follow, and the 15 most recent searches," he said.
  • He said that for an additional 15 million people, the hackers accessed just their name and listed contact information.
  • One million people's accounts were implicated in the hack, but had no data accessed.

What they're saying: The reaction from media, critics and politicians was sharp and swift.

  • BuzzFeed was among those that pointed back to comments from Mark Zuckerberg earlier this year, in which he said "We have a responsibility to protect your information, If we can't, we don't deserve it." Well, BuzzFeed said, they couldn't, so they don't.

Meanwhile, Wired's Tom Simonite notes that a comment from Facebook exec David Marcus sounds a lot like a comment given by Gavin Belson, CEO of the fictional tech giant Hooli on HBO's Silicon Valley.

  • "Hooli isn't just another high tech company. Hooli isn't just about software. Hooli is about people." —Gavin Belson, Hooli, 2014
  • "Facebook is truly the only company that’s singularly about people. Not about selling devices...Just about people." —David Marcus, Facebook, 2018
4. A Twitter spat on helping the homeless

Marc Benioff and Jack Dorsey are locking horns over how to tackle San Francisco's growing homelessness problem.

What they're saying: Benioff has been loudly touting his strong support for Proposition C — a pricey but comprehensive bill designed to address the causes and symptoms of homelessness. Dorsey on Friday responded by saying he opposed the measure, instead supporting efforts to let San Francisco's new mayor, London Breed, address the issue.

  • "I want to help fix the homeless problem in SF and California. I don’t believe this (Prop C) is the best way to do it," Dorsey wrote, replying to an earlier Benioff tweet.
  • Benioff responded by asking what Dorsey and his companies were doing to help the issue.
  • "Hi Jack. Thanks for the feedback. Which homeless programs in our city are you supporting?," Benioff wrote.
  • From there, Dorsey tweeted a picture of an iPhone calling Benioff, and said he had been trying to reach the Salesforce chief.
  • Benioff continued to jab back, posting links to coverage of the spat with additional commentary.

Meanwhile, Stripe CEO Patrick Collison weighed in on Dorsey's side, tweeting "Am with Jack. Marc is well-intentioned, but I trust Mayor Breed's expertise on homelessness over his."

What's next: San Francisco voters will have their say on Proposition C during next month's election.

5. Take Note

On Tap

Trading Places

  • Amazon has hired computer science professor Siddhartha “Sidd” Srinivasa to be its head of robotics, per GeekWire. Srinivasa last year moved his research team to the University of Washington from Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University. Srinivasa will now split his time between Amazon and UW.


  • Uber's secret weapon is its team of economists. (Quartz)
  • Why we're still stuck using QWERTY keyboards. (MIT Technology Review)
  • Elon Musk is following through on a promise to help give students in Flint, Michigan access to clean water. He is donating nearly $500,000 for ultraviolet filtration systems. (CNET)
6. After you Login

This video is a guaranteed pick-me-up. Feel free to watch it over and over. (I have.)