The old saying is that software will eat the world. In reality, digital has eaten humanity. We are so consumed today in our digital lives that nearly every trending story pertains to the digital space — NFTs, Defi, cryptocurrency, social networking, cloud gaming, SaaS, metaverse, OTT streaming — all related to the ones and zeros that our lives have become so dependent upon.
It’s not that digital is evil or digital is good — digital is what we make of it. Digital can be used for whatever purpose we humans set out to use it for. Like most things humans create, it’s a tool, how it functions and the role it plays in our society and for humanity is determined by the end-user. Digital living has been so instrumental in our lives, it enhances how we enjoy life, extends how long we live, allows us to connect in more ways than ever before with those around the globe. Simply put digital life makes life better.
But everything being digital also has its cons. It’s created a new generation of humans, one that’s lost its sense of what it means to live in the real world. This new generation is the digital zombie generation, where digital consumes and dominates every aspect — nearly every waking moment in some cases — of someone’s life. TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Fortnite, Runescape, World of Warcraft, Destiny, Madden, Skype, Zoom, Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus; many people never stop staring into the abyss of the digital space and when they do it’s usually in their pockets waiting for them to hop back in. It’s so striking that just this week Facebook canceled their Insta project targeted at our youth after considerable concerning reports surfaced regarding how much they know about how detrimental Instagram is to our youth, in particular young girls.
As a father of 3 kids ranging from 9 to 13, I’ve recognized many of these trends and have recently realized that what the world needs isn’t another solo solution or platform that disconnects us from the real world in which we live — the one where we can use all 5 of our senses at once. What the world needs, rather, is a co-reality solution and platform that enable us to come together to engage and collaborate. The co-reality experience is one in which people can game together, work together, build together, play together in both the physical and digital realms at the same time.
Co-reality is an extension of what Dan Ostrower wrote about in 2014, in his article titled The War For Our Digital Future: Virtual Reality vs Integral Reality. Dan defines Integral Reality the following way:
Integral Reality intertwines the wonders of the digital within the physicality of real things. With digital components embedded and invisible within objects, Integral Reality won’t separate us from the real world but instead promises to create emotionally engaging experiences with it.
Integral reality falls on the broad spectrum of Mixed Reality. Where Virtual Reality experiences like those created by Oculus or seen in movies like Ready Player One fall on one end of the mixed reality spectrum, Integral Reality is situated on the complete opposite end, with Augmented Reality falling in the middle. The interfaces today for Integral Reality are all tangible user interfaces, whereas Virtual Reality is primarily controller-based, and Augmented Reality is generally gesture-oriented. This concept of Integral Reality isn’t something entirely nascent, there are a number of experiences and solutions that have been built in the space so far.
As CEO of TapTop (aka Blok Party), our company was fortunate enough to have been backed by the leading Venture Capital firm investing in the new Integral Reality experience — Alsop-Louie. At TapTop, we built the world’s first commercially available tabletop gaming console, which fused the physical with the digital and created an experience whereby families and friends could gather around the table to play games and interact with physical and digital objects together. Our interfaces activated the majority of our senses: we used a large format LED screen with amazing first-party art and graphics for games; we were one of two non-Amazon devices with Alexa SmartScreen built-in for voice-based games (Facebook Portal being the other), we used amazing sounds to bring the games to life. The premise of TapTop was that we digitized the most popular board games for today’s mid-and hard-core board gamers including Catan, Ticket to Ride, Machi Koro, Space Base, Pandemic, Spirit Island, Codenames, and many more. In addition to purely digital games that could be played in a co-reality, we shipped over 5,000 units of physical toys, playing cards, and dice that when in contact with the TapTop screen could be detected via RFID interaction with our patented RFID screen sensing technology. Unfortunately, the global supply chain woes and semiconductor shortages put a hamper on our efforts and halted our plans.
We weren’t the only Integral Reality company in the Alsop-Louie portfolio and in fact, Stewart Alsop once said of Gilman Louie that “He’s beginning to see the whole world in terms of 3D, where everything might be interconnected online and offline.” That bridge between the physical and digital realms are being created by their portfolio companies the likes of Niantic who created the hit phenomenon Pokemon Go, Hover which enables contractors to use a smartphone to create an accurate 3D model of a home3D home construction, and Mixed Dimensions which brought digital avatars and game characters to the physical realm using some of the most advanced 3D printing and in-game capture software whereby full in-game scenes can be collected physically, Drop Kitchen human-computer interaction for kitchen appliances, and Shape Labs which develops a scale whereby users scan, track, measure, and compare their body shape in photorealistic 3D.
Other firms are already operating in the space and have also received billions of dollars of investment from the biggest names on Sand Hill Road. Self-driving cars like Waymo, robotic kitchens like Chef Robotics, human-computer interfaces like Nueralink, experiential museums and entertainment centers like Two Bit Circus, and humanoid robots like Sophia the Robot from Hanson Robotics. Investors, whether they realize it or not are enabling the future of integral reality, and more importantly the co-reality product, platforms, and solutions I think the world needs so critically right now.
The co-reality future that I envision is one that brings people back together, elbow-to-elbow, face-to-face, to bond, build lasting memories, and share amazing physical-digital experiences. The fact is, today’s society is more connected than any point in the history of humanity, yet we are more disconnected and divided than ever before; so much so that we are losing our humanity. I believe co-reality, multi-user, in-person experiences can and will save our society and humanity.
Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending
London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.
According to an Oct. 10 tech.eu report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.
The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:
“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”
The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:
“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”
The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.
The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.
Featured Image Credit: Photo from Kennek.io; Thank you!
Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs
As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.
Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI
In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.
According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.
One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.
To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.
Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Google DeepMind; Pexels; Thank you!
UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations
As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.
Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation
To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.
The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.
Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba; Pexels; Thank you!