Facebook’s quest for wearable tech superpowers and the curse of the ‘glassholes’

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I’m your host Alexei Oreskovic. Hit me up with your thoughts, tips, rants and raves at aoreskovic@businessinsider.com.

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This week: Facebook’s quest for wearable tech superpowers and the curse of the “glassholes”

Marc Andreessen Google Glass
Google Glass circa 2013

Remember the “glassholes,” those idealistic, starry-eyed pioneers of wearable tech who enlisted to be Google’s Glass guinea pigs in 2013 only to be greeted by the public with derision and hostility?

In the years since that fiasco, wearable tech has steered clear of sci-fi stylings and worked on improving familiar products that consumers are already comfortable with: Snap made relatively normal-looking sunglasses with a built-in camera and Apple focused on wireless earbuds and a wristwatch.

It’s been working. Apple’s gadgets now dominate the wearables business, accounting for 36% of the market in the last quarter of 2020. But sure enough, with sales of these ordinary-looking wearables growing, tech companies are getting excited and drifting into sci-fi territory again.

  • Facebook showed off a neural bracelet prototype this week that reads motor signals for hand movements you intend to make, allowing you to control a computer with your brain (while wearing a pair of augmented reality glasses of course). “It’s sort of like having a superpower like the Force,” Facebook promises.
  • Google is working on secret project code-named Wolverine, as Insider’s Hugh Langley exclusively reported this month. The gadget, a sensor-packed device that can be worn near or in your ears, would deliver “hearing superpowers” like the ability to tune different speakers in or out in a crowded room.
  • And Apple is working on a virtual reality headset that The Information reports includes dozens of cameras to track hand movement as well as an 8K display and support for advanced eye tracking.

Will any of these futuristic doodads catch on? It’s generally not wise to bet against technological progress, even when the ideas initially seem silly, ugly or just unnecessary. Clunky and rudimentary smartphones were around for at least a decade before Steve Jobs finally cracked the code with the iPhone in 2007.

This next generation of wearables being cooked up in the labs by Big Tech will probably fall short of the mark. But eventually someone will figure out how to make brain-reading headsets that actually work and that don’t look ridiculous – and like it or not, we’ll all be glassholes some day.


Welcome to the Elon Economy

elon musk dogecoin pumping stocks 4x3

For someone who is the CEO of several companies, Elon Musk manages to find a lot of time to tweet. And as Becky Peterson writes, those tweets have become an economic force of their own.

A loyal crowd of the celebrity CEO’s fans, many of whom will never buy anything produced or sold by one of Musk’s companies, treat his frequent tweets as inspiring calls to action, sending ripples of demand in the direction of whatever Musk mentions.

This year alone, Musk’s tweets have spiked the price of the cryptocurrency Dogecoin and have contributed to a massive surge in downloads of the encrypted messaging app Signal. He has spurred a global arms race to develop carbon-capture technologies and has left superfans straining to decipher absurdist puns in search of hidden financial advice.

The result is a spontaneous and unpredictable market that ebbs and flows according to Musk’s musings, often with dramatic results. The phenomenon has invigorated Musk’s followers, incentivized opportunists, and exasperated those who see reckless speculation in the personality-driven marketplace.

Read the full story here:


Quote of the week:

“At the outset of the pandemic, none of us knew how long this would last, and we kind of just threw our laptop on the kitchen table, and a couple of months in, we’re like: ‘Wow, I need to find a way to structure this for myself, and learn how to unplug.'”

– Laura Mae Martin, Google’s in-house executive productivity advisor, on the importance of setting boundaries while working from home and structuring no-tech time into the day.

Google's Executive Productivity Advisor Laura Mae Martin
Google’s executive productivity advisor Laura Mae Martin


Got an NDA at your tech job? We want to hear from you.

NDA callout 4x3

Insider is working on a first-of-its-kind reporting project examining the role of non-disclosure agreements in forming Silicon Valley’s culture of secrecy. The documents themselves, combined with stories we are hearing from sources about the culture surrounding NDAs at their workplace, will serve as the foundation from which we tell the definitive story of how money and power enforced silence across an entire industry.

Want to participate in our reporting process? Please consider sending us a copy of your NDA.

Click here for all the details on how to participate.


Recommended Readings:

China’s tech giants are exploring a way around Apple’s privacy changes, and the move could have major implications for Apple’s relationship with a crucial market

I tried Starlink, Elon Musk’s satellite-internet project, for 3 weeks after moving to rural Vermont. It’s a game changer.

Amazon’s ‘underappreciated’ B2B unit is on pace to become an $80 billion marketplace. And execs from Citi to Uber are praising it this week.

How the Collison brothers built Stripe into Silicon Valley’s most valuable startup and became 2 of the youngest billionaires alive


Not necessarily in tech:

A woman featured on YouTube star David Dobrik’s channel says she was raped by a Vlog Squad member in 2018 the night they filmed a video about group sex


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– Alexei

Read the original article on Business Insider