While it is commonplace for gamers to immerse themselves in VR/AR/MR activities, it is quite a different challenge for the television/motion picture industry to profitably use it for widespread entertainment distribution. There is still a lot for the technicians and academics to learn about how the technologies affect the individual. In addition today’s goggles are just beginning steps for large numbers of people to take advantage of the productions. The M&E industry is working aggressively to deliver the next barn burner but with the new technology that may be years away.
October 5, 2015
Mountain View, CA
Car and Tech
As Mercedes-Benz U.S. Research Director Eric Larsen puts it, everything that gets into the car and shapes the driving experience used to be decided entirely by auto manufacturers. A floodgate has now opened for alternative services to flow into that space, delivered by your trusty smartphone: navigation, streaming music, telephony and other communication distractions – think text-and-drive. He asks: “Who will control the dashboard?”; the battle is on. Car manufacturers (or OEMs) all have little choice but integrating in their new models Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay. Larsen thinks the industry is more exciting now than it has been for 20 years. On October 5, 2016 the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA – a stone throw from Google’s headquarters – hosts the second SVRtW by the Western Automotive Journalists and the Churchill Club.
Ahead of Tech
Back in 1996, 12 years before Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone, General Motors launched OnStar – now the longest-standing drivers’ platform for safe hands-free directions, concierge assistance, diagnostics, emergency services, and much more. “Unlike Yelp, OnStar recommends restaurants then makes the reservation, all hands-free,” says General Motors Director of Business Systems Architecture & User Experience Dan Kinney.
OnStar has clocked 1 billion user interactions to date. As it turned out, Kinney says owners of the electric Volt are the heaviest users of OnStar, especially to remotely check battery charge and range status. That information is communicated with the OnStar RemoteLink app on mobile devices. The values that users can expect from OnStar are: trust, expertise, and convenience.
Open Car Tech
Adapting Silicon Valley’s best playbook, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has partnered with Intel and opened its 15,000 square foot in-car infotainment technology development center in Portland. It plans to add another 50 engineers to the current 30, and will open a second facility in the next few months. Matt Jones, the Head of the unit, says that his top priority is to reduce time-to-market, such as: produce a proof-of-concept in six months.
The technology developed by JLR are both proprietary and open source. Jones himself is President of the GENIVI Alliance, and Director at the Linux Foundation. And he aims to incubate some 200 startups to develop on Linux technologies that will work across all vehicles, not just JLR’s.
JLR along with Nissan and Toyota were the first carmakers to participate in creating the Automotive Grade Linux workgroup (AGL) in 2012 for the advancement of automotive devices. Last year, JLR started within AGL the Remote Vehicle Interaction project (RVI) to develop an open source infrastructure for connected vehicles that is secure, reliable, and production-ready.
At the top of the list, one is not surprised to find navigation, podcasts, and telephony. More interactivity is needed than with a regular tablet app, and more instant sharing of experience. Also voice recognition is fundamentally needed to keep driver hands free, and this still requires cloud computing resources. In the end the most important challenge is that, while many software startups have a 15-month lifespan, it takes two years to take a car to market.
AI on Wheels
How many cameras does a car need? The sweet spot as nVidia discovered, is 12. And so the nVidia Drive PX has two Tegra X1 processors to deliver 2.3 teraflops of performance, and 12 camera inputs – to run AdasWorks and provide advanced driver assistance.
This in-car unit uses Sensor Fusion and Deep Learning artificial intelligence methodologies to: detect shapes, correctly recognize them, anticipate their behavior, and recommend needed actions (accelerate, brake, turn right or left). For example recognize that a Prius is not an SUV despite similarity in shape. Understand that a car on a billboard is a picture, not a moving object. That a fast approaching plastic bag can safely be ignored. Technically speaking any carmaker can thus quickly and easily implement assisted or autonomous driving. Where can this be road tested? “On the moon,” suggests nVidia Senior Director of Automotive Danny Shapiro.
World vs SV
Back on Earth, for doubters of self-driving cars, Google Robotics and Machine Learning Researcher Dave Ferguson asserts that: driving more safely than the majority of humans is truly not difficult.
And so throughout the day, SVRtW participants hear, discuss, an anticipate an increasingly urbanized and congested world where technology will contribute to solve big chunks of our transportation problems: electric vehicles, multi-modality, etc. But Silicon Valley, and even the U.S. is not the world. True that the whole world has become very urban and accelerating. Still, Mercedes-Benz’s Larsen reminds us that except for New York and maybe Chicago, Americans live in suburbs and prefer large cars. Yes the recession and high gas prices did spur sale of small cars; but big cars are back as gas prices have dropped. Carmakers cannot confuse consumer behavior driven by economics with those driven by a change in value.
Classic luxury cars are still in solid demand in the U.S. In the Bay Area, there is the new progressive luxury category for those who want green, cutting edge, and high tech – they choose Tesla. Relatively small as the 20,000-30,000 Tesla sold per quarter may appear, it is disruptive. Audi had spent decades and over $5 billion to claw its way up the luxury list. Tesla accomplished that in much less time and money.
Good luck and happy reinvention.
Hong lives and works in Silicon Valley. At Video Technology Magazine, he covers the intersection of technology and energy, transportation, and the environment.