The Future of Computing: Distributed, Deep Learning, Embedded Intelligence.

By Bilal Zuberi, PhD

I loved this post on the future of computing from Chris Dixon. Please read. ‘What’s Next in Computing?‘.

The future clearly appears to be built around hardware systems that are mostly composed of cell phone components + software + internet connectivity + data-enabled intelligence. The convergence of these forces is unbelievably powerful. We can already see the rise of embedded intelligence in hardware systems all around us — and this is set to grow exponentially.

What’s fueling this new age of computing, but not getting deserved attention in the public sphere, is GPU computing. NVIDIA clearly stands to be a big winner but others may catch up (including competition from FPGAs, ASICs etc).

GPU’s are powering the rapid growth of deep learning and AI. As others mentioned on twitter, VCs that pursue hard tech now hear about GPUs as often as we used to hear about AWS a few years ago. In fact, one could argue that deep learning could likely become the future of ALL computation. As Chris says in his blog post, to consider it merely a SV buzzword would be at your own peril.

Between on-device AI & in-the-cloud AI, all kinds of hardware systems are becoming intelligent. They can see, learn, find their own way. In fact, the use of GPU compute + Machine Learning/AI is now almost ubiquitous in modern hardware startups. A majority of recent Lux portfolio companies are also part of this revolution, and helping make it happen. From self-driving cars (stealth) & drones (CyphyWorks) to home automation (stealth), physical security systems (Evolv Technology), medical devices (3Scan and Auris) and AR/VR (Matterport, Survios and Altspace). In fact, new GPU based infrastructure (e.g. Nervana Systems) is literally helping the blind see (eg Clarifai and Aira collaboration) and physicians make smart decisions (CloudMedX).

As cost of sensors, connectivity and compute approach zero, the question is what kind of future can be envisioned a few years out? This is where Lux is spending time now. It is easy to fast forward and visualize a world where smart sensors were embedded in every dumb surface we see around us, image and voice sensors seamlessly analyzing spaces and activity for us, and our decisions always supported by tons of data. And such a future doesn’t have to be all Big Brother-y either. It can also be private, where AI would make us feel our 6th sense was actually real.

Reality is VCs did not see this coming at us as fast as it has. We are observing and learning. Entrepreneurs are predictably at the bleeding edge of all this, noticing these advances, and rapidly imagining + building the future we will all live in. It is happening fast. It is awesome.