Connection controls the opportunity of people, not technology.

There is a lot of doom and gloom in certain corners of the internet about AI and it’s coming impact on the world.

However, the availability of connection, not technology is the measure of opportunity. At one point in history, if you wanted to spread a message. It required a team of messengers, which may require horses for each, plus attendants to ride with them. It also may require boats for them to voyage across seas, or to islands. Only kings could spread a message!

Today, anyone with a phone can spread a message. Anyone with a library card can access  the internet and do the same. Marketing a product or service is simply spreading a message. People are still going to buy stuff, so there is still opportunity, so stop the doom and gloom!

For more proof, let’s look at when TV started, and advertising picked up steam, it started creating entire industries for a few giants, locking the small guys out. It took the beer industry from 4,000 breweries to 44 in 100 years. The internet brought that number back up to 7,000 in 20!

If I told you, I’m an AI writing this post, or this blog, would it make you less inclined to read it? I’m betting the answer is yes, if this is the first time you’ve every thought about it. Though it’s not a super intimate way to connect, you’re still here to connect with an idea. An idea from another person like yourself, who believes what you believe.

Connection is the key to this whole thing people! People buy products by connecting with the people who make and sell them. People listen to ideas from people that share them.

There is no data to back up this last claim at all, but there is none to refute it either…

If monkeys could talk, people wouldn’t listen to their ideas!

No other animal talks, so we don’t know for sure, but humans are likely seeking the attention of other humans, so AI likely won’t cut it either.

3D Printers

In the age of Amazon Reviews, online price comparisons, and massive competition from a 1,000 small competitors, product design and manufacturing is facing serious pressures in the following forms:

  • Lowering product development costs, while not skimping on testing. That terrible Amazon review will do you in! Make it good!
  • Increasing automation and it’s flexibility to keep production costs low, those price comparisons matter to the frugal! And 50% of customers are more frugal than average.
  • Delivering a better buying experience with proof of concept or customized products. Short runs have traditionally been expensive and slow, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
  • Shortening the supply chain and decreasing inventory. Storage space is expensive and too many pieces in the supply chain make it difficult to fulfill orders quickly. Just ask Toyota or Apple.

If you’re not looking at 3D Printing for what it can do, then your missing what others aren’t. It’s not just about a neat way of making things at home.

 

 

The interchangeability of numbers on a board.

Imagine you need to tell a story with numbers. You start putting a poster board together with numbers that will change daily. Let’s pick an example, a board illustrating the number of days without an accident in a warehouse. You have multiple ways to make this board, what do you choose?

You can write in the number and put tape over it every day. You can print out a new number block every day and tape it. You can make a set of interchangeable numbers multiple one through nine’s that get attached with velcro. You can have a digital readout where the number is. How much effort you put in to customization depends on the change that happens daily and how long you imagine you’ll need it, the importance of the item you’re trying to convey and your budget.

On a small scale, this is the choice that is made about business systems daily.

An AI that knows the temperature at a gas pump.

It doesn’t really require an AI.

Just a company or designer who cares enough to add some sensors, or connection to a weather application to determine if a car wash offering is actually appropriate. When it’s -10F outside, and windy, and I’m having to decline a car wash as the slow moving menu at the pump processes my decline, it feels like an eternity. Why subject all your customers to that?

I would gladly go a bit out of the way to go to a gas station that cares to put in pumps that are a bit smarter and don’t inconvenience me in the bitter cold, trying to sell something that isn’t viable anyway.

When AI becomes a stand up comedian

Knock Knock.

Who’s there?

Failed AI comedian.

Failed AI comedian who?

Failed AI comedian looking for a gig.

Knock Knock.

Who’s there?

Failed AI comedian.

Failed AI comedian who?

Failed AI comedian can’t get a laugh.

Knock Knock.

Who’s there?

AI looking for a laugh

AI looking for a laugh who?

AI looking for a laugh from you.

Knock Knock.

Who’s there?

No one.

No one who?

No one software.

Knock Knock.

Who’s there?

Funny robot.

Funny robot who?

No one software.

On Comedians in Cars Getting coffee, Jerry Seinfeld talks with many different guests about how hard stand up comedy is. From the conversations, it seems it’s emotional grind, as bad nights are common as material is being developed and tested.

This begs the question, lacking emotion, could an Artificial Intelligence (AI) be better at comedy than a person?

Let’s look at the current process most comedians go through, at the macro level:

  1. Write new material
  2. Rehearse material
  3. Try new material with any old material that’s proven
  4. Eliminate/Revise material that didn’t work and loop back to step 1.

Now when AI does this process, the main difference is it can likely skip #2, measure laughs in step #3, and try again with the data gained. However, here’s the issue, there is still work to be done in getting the audience. Without feeling terrible having let the audience down, there isn’t as much incentive for the AI to work even harder, as the comedian would. Without having “friends” there isn’t anyone for the AI to test material on. People aren’t going to keep listening to thousands or millions of terrible jokes to get to that one nugget of truth. The data also doesn’t currently exist that has measured laughs against old jokes, so it can’t train in advance.

There are many things that require creativity and emotion that humans excel at. The future is going to force us to develop our skills in that realm in order to remain relevant.

Flex your art early and often.

Everyone is seeking freedom

Motivation for a job increases by young guys because rapidly rising pay increases freedom from renting, more ability to take vacations, more savings to spend on things they want to pursue. Depending on the person, there is likely some point where someone will turn down any amount of money. Jerry Seinfeld, famously turned down $100,000,000 for a tenth season of Seinfeld.

At higher levels, many aren’t moving companies for more money, they are moving for more freedom. The ability to make more creative decisions. Product decisions. Customer service decisions.

With the future coming, more people than ever are going to be empowered to start their own businesses. To design, produce and sell the products they want for themselves to people that have the same beliefs. That’s the freedom that manufacturing innovations are creating in the world.

Bowling is the best analogy for business

Bowling is the best sport for business analogies and yet it’s one of the least often used, likely because most people don’t understand the game at the highest levels. 

  1. Oil Pattern – The Market. No idea what it’s like on first shot. Good players generally make 3 adjustments to line up.
  2. Ball Selection and lane play – Business Strategy. Goal is clearly a strike. Spares keep you in the game.
  3. Physical Execution – Execution of business plan. How consistent is the shot? Even with consistency, oil will move and adjustments are required even after things have been working for a while. The best players start to notice the patterns in the moves and stay with them, but it can also lead to jumping too far ahead. 

I would love to take a team of executives to the lanes one day for a lesson on how things change and move, and how every decision shifts the market slightly. If I trained them well enough, I would bet the following would happen:

  • The newly hired CEO would be guessing what kind of ball he should be using and where on the lane he should throw for the best line to a strike. He’s worried entirely about strategy, not understanding his physical capabilities or the oil pattern yet.
  • The underperforming CEO would be blaming the oil pattern. He’s not worried about how well he’s throwing the ball, and as a result, can’t make great decisions on balls and lane play.
  • The successful CEO would be the best successfully executing shots consistently. As a result, he sees the changes in the oil pattern, adjusting continuously and putting up high scores. Every once in a while, he’ll make a bad ball and lane play choice, but generally, his other factors outweigh that.

I’m just kidding, that’s how their personalities would translate into bowling, but nothing to do with their actual bowling skills. Still, I’d love to teach a class like this some day. I’m someone who constantly thinks about the future, and bowling has been an analogy in my life for the last 20 years. Every time I think something too radical, I ask myself, will the oil pattern let me play there? I’ve failed in multiple bowling tournaments trying to make adjustments earlier than everyone else, when the pattern hadn’t developed for it yet.

It’s great to be an innovator, it’s terrible to be unable to communicate value coherently because the market hasn’t caught up to you.

The Stone Age, The Bronze Age, The Iron Age…

Now the plastic age.

It doesn’t have the same ring to it, yet it’s undeniably the age we are in. If we don’t want to be in this age, we need to innovate our way out. New materials that are more friendly to the environment and cheap, or political policies that tie in the full cost of disposal into the cost of plastic goods are starting points.

It’s no doubt that plastics did have a positive effect on many things, however, perhaps seeing the effect of this age persisting as long as the other ages isn’t something we want as a society.

How to get started.

Skip the big company stuff. There are any number of thing you can start with:

  • Create a presentations of a vision for why your product is needed.
  • Make a low-cost prototype.
  • Talk to some people you would like to eventually sell to.
  • Seek out a team of co-founders who have the skills you lack.

It’s amazing how doing any of these things, and showing even some low effort will start to get more people on board. I once had an idea for an app with a friend, we talked about it for months, then I made some screenshots that weren’t programmed, and entirely static, all of a sudden, a few friends offered money as investment to become owners. We didn’t take the money, but that started a snowball of effort to get further. To build a working prototype, to seek investment.

Small efforts snowball. Just get started, and talk about it. This applies when starting your own company, or when trying to start something new inside the company you work for.

 

Disneyland is the culmination of generous ideas

Though it’s been said many different ways by many different entrepreneurs, competing on price is the realm of a company that’s out of generous ideas.

One of the best studies of generous ideas may be Disneyland, or Disney World for those who prefer.

When thinking about Disney, remember it was started as an animation studio. Walt wanted to make animations that made people happy, brightening faces of children and adults alike. When he first started selling his animations, he was getting killed on price. Many of his early movies were financial disasters, his studio constantly on the edge of bankruptcy.

He had sold his animations to others at market rates, after all that’s the business he was in. Eventually, he reached the conclusion he needed to own the characters. That there was more that could be done. Merchandising for example. That eventually led to financial success, which led to Disneyland.

Creating Mickey Mouse. Creating an experience of Disney Land. Creating a hotel that extended the experience. Creating a world of characters and wonder. Creating a brand that makes you feel good was the sum of a 1,000+ generous ideas that continues to grow today. Ones that weren’t based on a value analysis, but based on how they would succeed in bringing joy to the people that engaged with the Disney brand.

Though it’s never great to copy, emulation is a different task in my mind. Seek to think like Walt, but do it as you. Be true to the goal that you’re trying to achieve with the people you’re seeking to serve.

Do all bullet holes look the same?

Ballistics experts, people who look closely would tell you no.

Experts are those that look closer than everyone else. In the modern era, they are required for just about anything.

Could you imagine being the only one who understood how DNA works?

Could you imagine being the only one who understands how to program a computers?

Could you imagine being the only one who understands how to read?

Of course all those suppositions are far too general to allow for anyone to be the only one. However, as the world is expanding at the fastest rate ever, there is plenty of room to pick a specific niche and know more than anyone. And that’s where you want to be. The big boys, the ones who market to the masses are struggling. Connection due to technology is eroding the mass in subcultures.

Pick your favorite subculture, the one you self-identify with, and find a way to serve them something unique for them. That’s the way to make a living in the modern era.

Could you imagine being the only person who knows how to connect with engineers in Honolulu, Hawaii who are into car racing? Possibly. And there’s a market for that.

Everyone is a protector of human knowledge.

If the majority of humanity met an untimely demise, what would be the vital knowledge that you have to restoring the world as we know it? It could be musical knowledge, knowledge of building partnerships, how to make things, mathematics, art, etc. All of these things make up the world we live in today, without them the world would be a much worse place.

There are ways to protect knowledge. Write it down. Store it on a computer in a bunker, bury books on the subject in your yard. There may be even crazier ideas out there, but there is a much simpler one, share it.

On a personal level, using knowledge too rarely leads to loss of it, so teach someone. A coworker, a community, a spouse, a child, or a class. Find someone interested in what you know and teach them. By building in redundancy through sharing what you know, you may even save humanity as we know it in the case of a post-apocalyptic future.

The sentiment here is true even if I don’t believe the apocalypse is coming. Share your knowledge, it will likely make the world a better place.

Thanks to Ed Domich for a conversation that inspired this post.

Don’t wrestle that pig.

A customer once told me, “Arguing with an engineer is like wrestling a pig, the more you do it, the more he realizes he likes it.”

Turns out knowing when the argument needs to come to an understanding to keep things moving and when you are wasting time is a skill.

Cut your losses when able, drop the argument.

PS: This isn’t limited to engineers, there are combative types in all jobs.

Walking like a baby.

It’s not linear. It’s slow. It’s inquisitive. It’s exactly what’s needed in a new venture.

I took my 22 month old daughter for a walk. Except, she doesn’t walk like I do. I consider myself fairly spontaneous, changing my route on a whim, sometimes going to the park, rather than the neighborhood, and not necessarily always following the same path. And yet, by comparison to my daughter, my spontaneity may as well seem like I looked at a map, and drew my walks out. She looks everywhere. She notices the smallest details, and turns her path to investigate the smallest interesting objects, finding paths I wouldn’t have even seen.

That’s how more people should be when it comes to opportunity. It’s all around. Everything new has so many rabbit holes, it’s time to follow them. Once we know they are dead ends, we can move on, but it’s still interesting in the meantime. Experiencing joy of discovery, the excitement of what’s at the end, and an occasional delight from what we learned is the entire point of any journey, your life included.

The most amazing thing about walking like a baby, is the story adults tell themselves about it.

“That baby just needs to gain coordination, and attention span, then walking with her will be easier.”

The real story is, “Once that baby forgets that there are interesting things in the world, and starts walking in a manner best suited to her physiology that can minimize her effort, she’ll finally fit in with the rest of us.”

Fitting in isn’t always such a great thing.

The world’s best cover band.

I love the creative process. The ideation. The whittling. The editing, smoothing, and checking the flow. The connections that are made and refined until a product that is good pops out.  In music, this is a new sound with a new story that never previously existed.

I took piano lessons when I was young. I took band in middle school. And I took guitar lessons in high school. Most of that music learning wasn’t much fun to me. I liked playing the instruments, but I didn’t like learning scales. It wasn’t a trial and error process that match what most people go through in life. It was rigid, structured, and not something that fit my creative process.

In band, the grade was based off of participation, knowing the scales, and playing the pieces assigned. There was no composition portion ever.

While playing is a great skill, composing is where the value lies. The world’s best cover band still isn’t nearly as popular as the world’s most popular artists. That’s because art is value higher than technique in our society.

Opportunity is easier in the overlap.

When new technologies come out, developers that work with those types of things often leap at it making new applications immediately. There is a glut of releases in the market early and all at once.

A few times in the world it happens that certain technologies adopt slower because of the overlap of knowledge required. Augmented Reality (AR) industrial applications falls in this realm. Augmented Reality (AR) requires both software knowledge and modeling knowledge, the people and companies who have both these skills typically operate in gaming. We’re a few years into Augmented Reality (AR) and most of what’s been done is fun, cute things, without real progress into practical applications.

There isn’t much competition. It’s time someone step up.

The overlap of Augmented Reality

There is an overlap of skills needed in the Augmented Reality (AR) world, which is why there isn’t a truly great company in this space yet.

The skillset needed for this is:

  1. Model building
  2. Rendering
  3. Model Translation
  4. Application Development for different platforms
  5. Artistry/Taste
  6. Scripting

That’s a large Venn diagram. Add in the overlaps of ambition, sales skills and leadership an entrepreneur needs, and it’s easy to see why no one has emerged yet. It’s a lot to synthesize.

 

The Financial Side of AR.

Let’s take a virtual home-staging application of Augmented Reality (AR) and look at it through the lease of a realtor who may use it to sell more homes at higher prices.

Based on studies by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) a well-staged home sells for 9%-12% more than an unstaged home. Still, not everyone has the finances, nor equity to be able to afford to stage their home at the time of sale. If there was a cheap, easy alternative that could help achieve more value in the home sale, let’s calculate what that would provide. We’ll start with the assumption that a well-presented virtual home-staging offers the same increase in home sale price as the physical staging. We’ll use 10% since it falls in the normally accepted range, makes the calculations simple and is on the conservative side of the spectrum.

According to the US census, the average US home sale price in February 2019 was $379,000 with the median being $315,000. Though in this calculation, average is likely a better number, we’ll use the median to stay conservative. and partly because some of the homes sold were already staged increasing their sale price, so going with the latter makes up a bit for that.

The average potential increase in home sale price is $315,000*10% = $31,500. There are over 5,000,000 homes sold every year in the US. So, the total value created by staging could potentially be 5,000,000*$31,500 = $157,500,000,000. That’s $157.5 Billion! Absolutely massive.

Now to address the possible value created by virtual home staging. In the upper end of the market, there is much more likely an opportunity to pay for a full home staging experience, so the full market shouldn’t be included at the present time. As the technology progresses, perhaps it will reach into the higher end, expanding it’s market size, but let’s take a look at the lower end of the market. Even assuming the only homes that would be staged in a virtual manner using Augmented Reality (AR) are homes priced at or below the median, there is a potential value created of $232,500*0.1* 2,500,000 = $58.125 Billion. That $232,500 is the estimated average home price sold below the median price based on data from the US census.

That $58 Billion is value that is created by increasing the home sale price, not necessarily the addressable market size. Assuming that realtors are the customers, working off the standard 6% commission, the market is $58.125 Billion * 6% = $3.4875 Billion. In order, to create value for the realtors, they must get an earning boost. Assuming that, keeping roughly a third in fees for the product leaving two thirds of the additional value to realtors, sets the market size at roughly $1,000,000,000/yr.

How does the work back to a pricing model? There are 1.1 million realtors in the united states. Therefore, charging roughly $1,000/year approximately reaches that $1 Billion mark if they all adopt it.

In reality, 27% of realtors spend between $500 and $2000 on technology. If only that group adopts it, it would mean the market size is roughly $270,000,000/yr.

Keep in mind, all these numbers reflect the US market alone. They aren’t indicative of the world wide market.

Now, how much does the average realtor stand to gain from using this tool on a sale?

If we take the average home price we used of homes below the median of $232,500 and calculate the commission on that, it’s seen that $232,500 * 10% increase in value * 6% commission = $1,395 in commission increase on a sale. That’s typically split 2 ways, so roughly a $700 increase for the realtor who staged the place virtually. Really good value, even if it took a couple extra hours virtually putting in furniture to a few different homes. Especially, if it helps the buyer make a decision faster, netting the realtor more time to sell more houses.

 

Augmented Reality (AR) and the business experience

Currently, Augmented Reality (AR) is primarily in the realm of what is cute and fun, as often happens with new technology. There are a number of potential business applications that can benefit. The largest beneficiary will likely be the customer experience. Many of the applications are surrounding the experience before buying in e-commerce, or visualizing products before they go into production.

Here are two potential applications of Augmented Reality (AR) and how it will help the buying experience:

  1. Furniture purchases. Furniture companies can provide scaled 3D models that allow customers to visualize what their purchase will look like in their specific home. This reduces the need for measuring, fabric swatches, and pictures that help customers, who are particular, make their decisions. In cases of interior designers, it will certainly be a value add, making it easier to make design decisions and convince their customers.
  2. Configurable products. There are a growing number of configurable products companies. Currently, some of these provide a preview of the final product that will be produced before it’s made and shipped, however, these previews don’t allow the purchaser to see the product in the space, or area of operation it will be used in. Examples could include custom jewelry boxes, flower arrangements, eye glasses, RC Cars, etc. For larger ticket items, this can lower the tension of the buyer and make them more likely to continue the purchase.

A break from our regularly scheduled programming.

On this blog, there is a lot of different topics. I don’t have a continuous theme, though there are some commonalities. I’ve decided to start writing a bit more about my thoughts on Augmented Reality (AR). I see a lot of opportunity and value to be created in this realm, and the opportunities overlap with my day job. Though it should be kept in mind, Augmented Reality (AR) will have some long-term uses, those who want to use it as a marketing tool have the most opportunity now while not many companies are using it. Once it becomes the norm, social sharing will slow/stop, and there will be a new level that has to be reached to get people excited again.

I chose the title “A break from our regularly scheduled programming.” with a dual purpose in mind. First, to convey the literal meaning that I wrote about in the first paragraph. And second because it’s important to take a look around at areas that aren’t in your day-to-day. Augmented Reality (AR) has some overlap in the world that I work in, engineering software, but it also has applications in real-estate, restaurants, hospitality, consumer products, medical, maintenance, and others. I’m not an expert in all of these, but I’ve taken some time to think about how this technology could be used to change each of these. It’s amazing how eye-opening the opportunities are when just looking for new things in industries you don’t normally associate with. Take a few minutes and brainstorm an new use for technology in an industry that hasn’t used much. It’ll will be the best 10 minutes you’ll spend today.

As home cooking decreases, cooking shows increase.

The title is a statement that I heard that was backed up with some data. It’s an interesting inverse relationship.

Are people trying to learn? Are they trying to satisfy an innate desire to see food cooked? Does the cooking show make up for the lack of their own cooking?

As we find increasing efficiency, or convenience, is society as a whole losing attachment to the endeavors that used to be part of everyday life?

In a world where robots, automation, and AI are seeing massive discussion in a changing world, what sort of tasks will people long for?

I don’t have any answers here, these are just questions running through my mind at the moment. If you have thoughts, send them to me noneofthisisright@gmail.com or tweet @Brandon36554029 . Sure it’s a crazy generic twitter handle, don’t judge, ok?

 

“When am I ever going to use this?”

I can’t imagine a phrase more commonly heard by teachers who educate students about calculus, differential equations and other advanced mathematics. Of course mathematics has solved significant problems in finance, engineering, business, science, and any other industry, but mostly in math class the focus in on fundamentals rather than applications.
This is purposeful. While good teaching should entertain to create interest, it’s up to the individual to find and develop applications of the knowledge. The necessity for math won’t be known until a problem is uncovered that doesn’t have current solutions. Pioneering something new isn’t as likely without it.
Many people can apply a simple equation, few can develop new methods, understanding or principles.
Those who do are leaders.
[Think about this for 5 minutes.]
The answer to “When am I ever going to use this?” is “When you stop following and start leading.”