TechFirst with John Koetsier
By John Koetsier
Deep discussions with diverse leaders from Silicon Valley giants and scrappy global startups. Plus some short monologues based on my Forbes columns.
TechFirst with John KoetsierNov 21, 2020
Reinventing speakers: replacing 100 year old tech with MEMS chips
In this episode of TechFirst, host John Koetsier explores the global transition from traditional coil and magnet speakers to solid-state semiconductor alternatives with Mike Householder, a VP at XMEMS. The discussion includes the history of the speaker, the advantages of using solid-state semiconductors, and the future vision for sound technology. Mike also makes a big product announcement and provides insight into how his innovative technology will improve audio quality and enhance sound experiences in various devices like earbuds, phones, and home theaters.
00:00 Introduction to the Evolution of Sound Technology
00:31 The Limitations of Current Sound Technology
00:40 Introducing a New Silicon-Based Sound Technology
00:49 Interview with Mike Householder from XMEMS
01:12 Understanding the Old Tech: Coil and Magnet Speakers
03:08 The Advantages of Solid State Components
05:20 The Benefits of the New Tech for Manufacturers and Consumers
07:58 The Unique Sound Signature of the New Tech
16:32 The Path to Market Dominance and Upcoming Product Announcements
20:47 The Future of Sound Technology: Beyond Personal Audio
24:25 The Science Behind Ultrasonic Amplitude Modulation
30:02 Conclusion and Final Thoughts
Can VR change history? Maybe 1 mind at a time ...
In this episode of TechFirst, host Jon Koetsier welcomes Emmy award-winning XR director Michaela Ternasky-Holland to delve into the world of immersive storytelling through technologies such as virtual reality (VR).
Using her VR documentary project, On the Morning You Wake, as a case study, Michaela explains how the deeply immersive nature of VR can change the audience's perception of a global threat - nuclear weapons. She compares the engagement and impact of VR experiences to traditional 2D experiences, highlighting how the narrative and the audience's sense of agency play key roles in creating quality engagement. The discussion further explores the future of immersive storytelling, addressing their potential and challenges in the technology field.
00:01 Introduction and Context
00:34 Guest Introduction: Michaela Ternasky Holland
00:56 The Role of Technology in Storytelling
01:13 Discussing the Project: On the Morning You Wake
05:18 The Impact of VR on Audience Engagement
05:40 Challenges and Solutions in VR Accessibility
08:07 The Emotional Impact of VR Storytelling
10:55 The Future of VR and Storytelling
12:04 The Role of Research in VR Storytelling
19:07 The Intersection of VR and Gaming
21:30 The Ultimate Expression of Storytelling in VR
25:10 Conclusion and Final Thoughts
Very first cell phone call: meet the man who made it ... and the engineer who helped make it happen
It all started with a stolen car. In 1983 Chicago resident David Meilahn's car was stolen. He bought a new one, a Mercedes Benz 280SL 2-seater. But then he needed to replace his old radio-phone ... and the sales rep told him there was something new: a cellular phone. He was one of the first few to be selected, then won a race to place the very first commercial cell phone call, which ended up being from Soldier Field in Chicago, IL, to Alexander Graham Bell's grand-daughter in Germany. This is his story, along with the story of Stuart Tararone, the AT&T engineer who helped build that system and still works for the company to this day.
Can generative AI make rockets launch faster?
Generative AI won't be building Falcon 9s or new space shuttles just yet. But can it help with all the work that goes into running an organization that builds the future? According to Kendall Clark, CEO of Stardog, yes. Generative AI that democratizes access to data and insight and knowledge speeds up organizations can help with launching space ships, or anything else. For NASA, a generative AI solution is apparently helping the team to do in days what used to take weeks.
81% Of Companies Have Generative AI Teams
How will generative AI impact work? And why are smaller companies adopting generative AI more than enterprises?
Generative AI is almost literally exploding: there are so many possibilities. But how is it changing work and business?
Recently GBK Collective, a consultancy founded by top academics at Wharton, studied 672 businesses in the US with annual sales over $50 million
In this TechFirst we're chatting with 2 of the authors to get a sneak peek into what they learned:
- Dr. Stefano Puntoni, Professor of Marketing at The Wharton School and Co-Director of AI at Wharton
- Jeremy Korst, former Microsoft and T-Mobile exec, now President of GBK Collective
Diversity, equity, and inclusion in AI: solved problem?
Is equity, inclusion, and diversity in AI a solved problem?
I’ve written a lot of stories lately about AI. AI is critical to our future of automation ... robots ... relf-driving cars ... drones ... and … everything: smart homes, smart factories, safety & security, environmental protection and restoration.
A few years ago we heard constantly how various AI models weren’t trained on diverse populations of people, and how that created inherent bias in who they recognized, ho they thought should get a loan, or who might be dangerous.
In other words, the biases in the people who create tech were manifesting in our tech.
Is that solved? Is that over?
To dive in, we’re joined by an award-winning couple: Stacey Wade and Dr. Dawn Wade. They run NIMBUS, a creative agency with clients like KFC and featuring celebs like Neon Deion Sanders.
Apptronik has a totally different approach to building humanoid robots
Who will win the race to have the world’s first usable general purpose humanoid robot?
I thought I knew all the companies making general purpose robots:
- Sanctuary AI
- Figure AI
- Fourier Intelligence
- Agility Robotics
- Boston Dynamics
I was wrong ... there’s probably a bunch I don’t know. But one that popped up as interesting is Apptronik. They’re based in Austin TX, they're partnering with NASA, and they're building Apollo, a 5’8” 160-pound robot.
In this TechFirst, we chat with CEO Jeff Cardenas. And we learn that he has a completely different approach to building a humanoid robot than probably every other robotic company out there.
Generative AI 10X'd this solopreneur's output
Could artificial intelligence make you MORE human? Help you become your best self? And, maybe, 10-15X your output?
In this TechFirst we chat with author, flow coach, and entrepreneur David Passiak, who has gone way down the generative AI rabbit hole and made tools like ChatGPT his CMO, CEO, CRO, chief strategy officer, chief content officer, and more.
He says it's 10X'd his output, but in some ways it's even more that that.
10Xing what you can do it one thing, but enabling what you could never do (like design, or software engineering) is yet another level of enabler.
We also get a little deep and talk about what it means to be human in a world where everything is gaining intelligence.
Solving the GPU shortage: software to 2-4X existing GPU utilization
GPUs are rare and expensive right now. Every company doing AI model training needs more, and NVIDIA can't build enough, especially of the NVIDIA H100 GPU.
Run.ai CEO and co-founder Omri Geller says he has a software solution to this hardware problem.
The key: GPUs are mostly idle, even in high-demand settings. According to Geller, his software 2X to 4Xs your GPU capacity on existing hardware, simply by streamlining workloads and maximizing GPU usage time.
In this TechFirst, we chat about:
- the GPU shortage
- how many GPUs we need
- what Open AI is using right now
- whether OpenAI is getting dumber or not
- and much more
As always, get a full transcript and subscribe to the audio podcast at my website:
The Black Swan cargo drone carries 800 pounds for 1500 miles
Dronamics just got a license to operate in Europe. Its Black Swan cargo delivery drone is the size of a 2-seater aircraft and carries 800 pounds for 1500 miles.
It's also 50% cheaper with 60% fewer emissions and 80% faster than standard airfreight.
In this TechFirst, host John Koetsier chats with Dronamics CEO and co-founder, Svilen Rangelov. Topics include:
- The Black Swan cargo drone
- Why is it so much cheaper, faster, and less polluting?
- Dronamics has raised $40M. One of its investors is the European Union itself. It now have a license. What are the next steps?
- Concerns and challenges of drone cargo delivery?
- Will the Black Swan ever be an EV?
- Safety and hacking ... how are you protecting this drone?
- What kind of ground support is required?
Wireless power for robots on the moon
It looks like we will soon be delivering power wirelessly to NASA robots on the moon. Yank Tech just won a NASA contract to to develop wireless charging solutions for autonomous vehicles on the moon.
In this TechFirst, we chat with CEO Josh Yank.
Topics we cover include:
- Wireless power on the moon ... how does it work?
- What’s the power source … solar energy?
- When will it be ready?
- When could it be used?
- What missions will this be used on?
- Any uses on earth?
- There's been a massive growth in humanoid robots … is this tech useful for them?
Space phones: why Apple, AT&T, Verizon are adding space comms
"ET phone home" has never been more relevant. We're seeing a wave of phone calls to space, or at least space connectivity from relatively ordinary cell phones.
- Apple added SOS
- T-Mobile is working with Starlink
- AT&T is working with AST SpaceMobile
Why? And where is this going?
To answer, we chat with a senior director from Ciena. It's a networking giant that supports 85% of the world’s largest telcos, with customers like AT&T, Amazon, Google, Deutsche Telekom, Verizon, and the U.S. DoD.
Formerly with Nortel, his name is Brian Lavallée.
Sanctuary AI humanoid general purpose robot: a deep dive with CEO Geordie Rose
Right now might be the golden age of humanoid general purpose robot development. Tesla, of course, is building the Optimus robot. Figure.ai is working on one as well, plus others like Chinese company Fourier Intelligence with the GR-1 Boston Dynamics, and Agility Robots. So is Sanctuary AI. Sanctuary says they’re on a mission “to create the world’s-first human-like intelligence in general-purpose robots.” They’ve recently released their 6th generation robot, called Phoenix, and have completed their first commercial deployment in March. They’ve raised over $100 million. Today we’re chatting with co-founder and CEO Geordie Rose.
Tesla full self driving: worse than a drunk driver?
Elon Musk calls him "batshit crazy," but Dan O'Dowd has built software for the F-35 fighter jet, the B2 bomber, and to secure U.S. nuclear forces. He's also built a microprocessor for Mars, worked on the Mac at Steve Jobs' request, and completed a ton of test drives of Tesla full self driving.
His conclusion: it's worse than a drunk driver.
And: it does not recognize small children.
In this TechFirst we chat with Dan about his tests, what he thinks is wrong with Tesla, and why Tesla is falling behind General Motors and Google (Waymo) in full self driving.
Humanoid robots: 'we could be one-to-one with humanoids quickly'
Optimus, the Tesla bot, has been in development for 2 years and still can’t really do that much. There’s another dream team of engineers and roboticists who are building a humanoid robot that they call the “kinder, gentler” robot.
In this TechFirst we chat with 2 investors in Figure.ai: Jesse Coors and Gregg Hill.
They think humanoid bipedal robots could be one-to-one with humans in numbers "pretty quickly." Corporations will want thousands, and most of us will want at least one.
We also dive deep in the Figure.ai robot as I ask them these questions:
- Timeline to usefulness?
- Battery life?
- Where does a humanoid robot fit in the world?
- What does it do to our economy?
- Where do you see it helping most?
Can open source AI save health care? HIPPO AI founder Bart de Witte chats with John Koetsier
Can we get an open source medical AI that saves millions of lives?
Everywhere on the planet, health care is a problem. In the US it's too expensive. In Canada it's too busy. In much of Africa and India it's too rare, and in many other countries including Western Europe, it's overwhelmed and overrun.
AI could help, but only if we can get our act together, says HIPPO AI foundation founder Bart de Witte ...
Intel research scientist: ChatGPT is NOT generative AI
ChatGPT is not actually generative AI, says Intel senior research scientist Ilke Demir.
In this TechFirst we chat with an Intel scientist who has been working on generative AI for years. We talk about the genesis of generative AI, which is as far back as the 1970s, and we talk about ethical uses of generative AI and how we can use neuromorphic computing to help reduce the massive computation cost of generative AI. Plus, we also talk about what Intel is doing with generative AI, including several projects around privacy.
Is nuclear back? Talking to Nano Nuclear Energy about tiny reactors
I’ve done a lot of shows on alternative energy ... green energy sources like wind, geothermal, solar ... but should nuclear be in the mix?
Nuclear’s having a bit of a resurgence lately as a green option for reliable energy. To talk about why and where it might fit we chat with the founder and president of Nano Nuclear Energy, Jay Yu, and the CEO, James Walker.
We discuss Zeus and Odin, their two nuclear reactors, safety, disposal after their usable lifespan, and what the ideal mix of green energy sources might be.
Could full-body MRIs save millions of lives and billions of dollars?
Would you get a whole-body MRI scan to check for cancer and other problems even if you don’t feel any symptoms? Some have done just that and saved their lives.
Others simply find out that they're relatively healthy.
I seem to fall somewhere in the middle.
I recently did a 60-minute full-body MRI scan. I learned I'm mostly healthy, but there are some potential problems. The CEO and co-founder of the company that ran the MRI says that adopting these kinds of scans would be part of a switch from sick care to health care, and it could save both millions of lives as well as billions of dollars.
We chat about the technology, how it works, what it can do, and what it can't do. We also talk about why doctors are in general skeptical ... and why my doctor specifically didn't take the results super-seriously.
Apple VR competitor: my biggest fear is Apple will fail
Apple's likely releasing its massively expensive VR/AR/mixed reality headset, Reality Pro, next week at WWDC 2023. One key VR competitor says he's much less worried about Apple winning than he is worried that Apple will fail.
That would devastate the consumer VR market, setting back the industry years.
In this TechFirst I chat with Varjo CEO and co-founder Urho Konttori, Finnish maker of one of the best VR headsets on the market. Their headsets are super-high resolution ("human eye resolution"), have a wide field of view, impressive color, and LiDAR for high-quality mixed reality without occlusion fails.
We chat about the state of VR, where VR is going, what Apple will do, what Meta will do, and how independents can compete with the kind of ecosystem Apple can bring to bear.
Generative AI will completely transform gaming as we know it
Generative AI is going to drive a 10X transformation in gaming, says Unity CEO John Riccitiello. It'll create truly believable worlds ... so believable it might even become more real that our "real world."
It will transform NPCs -- non-player characters -- into deep, intelligent, and differentiated characters who might be more fun to hang out with than your real friends. And it will make infinite worlds and infinite experiences more of a reality than a dream.
In this TechFirst we hang out with Unity's CEO and chat about how generative AI will change gaming.
We also discuss how Unity's runtime -- on 4 billion devices -- has an AI inference engine built into it ... one that Unity started making 5 years ago.
When AI takes over ... will you even notice?
Huge chunks of our lives are already managed by AI. The songs we listen to, the routes we drive, the search results we see, the climate in our homes? When AGI takes over, will you even notice? In this TechFirst, we chat with Evan Coopersmith, a data scientist and AI researcher who says that when AI fully takes over ... we probably won't. And, he says, his bird can teach us a lot about what our future relationship with AI will be.
Generative AI and podcasting: story coming to life
Imaging using an entire podcast as a prompt to GPT-5, or GPT-10. What would a massively capable generative AI do with a podcast?
Create a movie?
Score a soundtrack?
Build an immersive world?
John Gauntt is the host of The Augmented City podcast. He’s als