Autonomous Cars, Baby Tech and Media Layoffs

Ariba Jahan

It’s a wild time to be in the advertising, technology and media industries. From massive layoffs at BuzzFeed, Huffington Post and other publishing giants to advancing AI that can track pregnancy and sleep, the one constant is change. Join Ad Council Director of Innovation, Ariba Jahan as she breaks down the biggest innovation trends swarming the interweb!

Alexa, make me coffee ...... in my Audi?!

In 2015, Elon Musk and Google predicted self-driving cars would be swerving in the streets by 2018. According to CES, we’re not there yet (and thank goodness). But this statement can be hard to believe when you walk the floors of CES and see autonomous cars, shuttles and taxis from companies like Audi, Kia, GM, Ford and Mercedes with Alexa and Google Home assistant built in. In reality, AI experts predict it may be decades (they are calling this reality check the “AI Winter”) before a fully autonomous self-driving system can navigate without accidents.

Once cars and shuttles are fully autonomous and able to navigate us without danger, we can spend our time in vehicles doing other things –like shopping, watching movies, playing games, warming up before the gym, making coffee (Thanks Lavazza) or getting some work done. The most mind-boggling new mode of transportation? That would be the massive Bell Nexus helicopter, which you will be able to order as a flying taxi. Drivers can also navigate it without a pilot license (not frightening at all).

Rock a bye, baby.

Baby Tech and Sleep Tech blew up this year at CES, and rightfully so. According to Pew, more than a million millennials are becoming moms each year, and 90% of us sleep with our phones nearby. From the mom side, CES had everything from wristbands and apps to help moms manage their fertility, perform in-home sonograms or monitor their babies to wearable breast pumps to help them better manage their lactating experience. For those looking for better sleep there’s a rocking bed–that’s right, it rocks your entire bed so you can sleep like a baby. There’s also a headband that tracks your sleep behaviors to help you get higher quality sleep and blood pressure watches to  monitor your steps and  stress.

AI isn’t driving cars yet. So what exactly is it doing?

AI is making music, detecting diseases, screening resumes, make our photos look instagrammable and even assessing our credit scores. Scientists are even training AI to diagnose mental illness. According to WHO, about 300 million people are afflicted with depression and 60 million with bipolar disorder. Doctors and scientists are questioning whether our current diagnosis methods are accurate or viable (especially in communities where access to care is limited). Will the machine learning approach prove superior?

Trying to understand what AI is and what it can or can’t do? Cool. Verge put together a reading list (short stories and books) just for that purpose. Let us know what you’re reading!

Is this too weird?

Sundance’s New Frontier, designed to feature new storytelling forms that leverage technology got extra weird this year. Oculus released The Under Presents, a social VR game that will teleport you from your seat to an absurd universe that combines VR, remote live actors and an immersive theater. While VR has been failing to find the perfect-use case, Oculus believes that The Under Presents may be weird enough to work. If the Oculus experience isn’t odd enough, you can always fine dine in VR, sing karaoke with a digital puppet, use AR to solve a murder mystery or collaborate with Mica, an artificial personality noted as the “human center of AI and mixed reality.”

Poppy, the 22 year old YouTube star (12 million views) called “part bubblegum, part robot, part pop princess,” was a standout at New Frontier. She has her own online church and stars in her own AR film, A Jester’s Tale, created by RYOT and 1RIC. Weird or not, Sundance’s New Frontier signified a shift in storytelling and emphasized the evolving play between us (no longer just the audience), characters, our reality, universes and stories.

Another profound part of Sundance this year was a product from the #MeTooMovement and its founder, Tarana Burke. At the tail end of #OscarsSoMale, four deeply moving PSA videos released by the #MeToo movement were screened, with one voiced by actor Terry Crews. Read more about her vision and the four PSAs here.

What is happening in media?!

If you’ve been on social media, then you’ve felt it – the awkward and bizarre number of layoffs.  BuzzFeed laid off 250 workers because it’s raised $500 million over the last decade without turning a profit. HuffPost is laying off 20 writers and two sections. Verizon is cutting 800 jobs. Gannett plans to cut over 20 jobs, including several Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, as it prepares for a possible buyout. Oy. On the plus side, the internet world is trying to help them out. Check out this aggregate of the talented BuzzFeed folks that just got laid off and are ready for their next opportunity!

Policymakers are struggling over copyright rules for the internet age. Europe is in conflict over two articles: “Article 11 simply gives publishers the right to ask for paid licenses when their news stories are shared by online platforms.” This means every time you share an article on social, someone has to pay a licensing fee/tax. Should it be you or the social platforms? “Article 13 says that online platforms are liable for content uploaded by users that infringes copyright.” This means that platforms like Facebook & Instagram would be more liable for what you upload and would have to monitor whether there was copyright infringement. Wherever Europe lands on this issue, it will affect many companies – and it may require the make some changes of its own.