You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Charlie Chaplin

This article was previously posted to the Synced Publication and is now reposted here

Humanity’s biggest collective endeavor

The food you eat, the knick-knacks on your desk, the building materials your house was made from, the car you drive and the screen you’re looking at all were made somewhere. The fruits of the labor of teams of designers, scientists, engineers, planners. This may seem ordinary and trivial, but is one of the most difficult and impressive things humanity has achieved so far. Since humanity started building things, we’ve striven to try to build them faster, more accurately and with less waste.

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Automated decision systems (aka AI) are rapidly transforming the way industries work. Over the last few months, we’ve posted some of our key theses in fields of mining, manufacturing, and warehousing & logistics.

Despite the talk of “Software is eating the world,” the reality is that some industries have barely changed in the last 50 years. Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of construction — the only industry where productivity has consistently dropped for the last 20 years and is still lower today than it was in 1964. This graphic by Plangrid outlines how far we’ve come.

This post is the first of a series of blog posts from our team that outlines why we believe that, finally, we will begin seeing wholesale change. …

Comet Labs started with a simple observation — that the changes enabled by AI will transform the way we live. Since we launched, we have worked tirelessly to contribute to and participate in this monumental shift by supporting the next wave of founders. Not content to simply invest capital, we were determined to aggregate the necessary resources for this new generation of companies to succeed: access to customers, sensor toolboxes, datasets, long-view capital, meaningful content, vibrant communities, and global perspectives.

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The response we received to this mission was staggering. From founders & academics building new applications, from the investor community, and from corporates looking to modernize their businesses continue to be our biggest source of encouragement. In two short years, we have been lucky enough to back nearly 40 incredible teams that we truly believe will transform massive industries with innovative AI solutions. We have run multiple programs that brought founders and corporate partners together to create entirely new opportunities for growth. Most of all, we have fostered a community of some of the smartest minds in AI, industry, and academia to work and learn together. …

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Recent AI squabbles are distracting and completely unhelpful

To our benefit and to our peril, technology has become a mantra, a hurrah-word, and often, is seen as the balm to all our problems. In most environments, engineers take the stance with technology of ‘the more the better’, and ‘it’s all about how you use it’. Especially in Silicon Valley, this rings even more true.

It makes me proud to see members of our community such as Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg thinking cautiously about what technology means, especially so in the case of AI, which is such a transformative technology. However, I think the hype that has surrounded this conversation in the past few days has created an unreasonable and unhelpful discourse around the developments of AI technology. …

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Frank Chen — In a few years, no investors are going to be looking for AI startups

Soon, AI will be taken more and more for granted as a foundational building block of technology. For future startups, that means that AI will almost certainly be essential to their solutions, and questions will be raised if it’s not.

But I don’t share the view that VCs should assume every startup will use the best available AI. We shouldn’t even be suggesting that there will be a “best available” at all. …

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Image source: Intel & Mobileye Acquisition Announcement


Intel’s acquisition of Mobileye is a reminder that fundamental transformations to the infrastructure of the auto industry are underway — mostly caused by the drastically increased ability of computing to perceive, understand, and act on the physical world. Where huge companies previously dominated, new startups are bubbling up that are challenging the way we think of automotive companies. Some of them will grow organically (e.g. Tesla) and some will be acquired by incumbents. Comet Labs believes that many more will be born in the next few years tackling each part of the stack — and this same trend will be replicated into every major industry — agriculture, professional services, retail, construction etc. …

Undoubtedly you’ve heard the news about Amazon Go. If you haven’t, let us be clear: they’re not jumping on the Pokemon bandwagon. Sorry to disappoint you. (Are you even playing it anymore, anyway?)

No, it’s actually much more important news, in our opinion.

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Swipe in, grab products, walk-out

Why does Amazon Go make sense?

What we’re seeing is an example of a company truly reimagining the idea of what an in-store experience could be. Like we discussed in our AI in Retail Report, we see this, and many other drastic changes coming to the way stores are operated and managed.

Watch the magic happen

And while it may seem surprising at first that this is coming from a purely online retailer, it actually makes perfect sense. In fact, Amazon is ideally positioned to do this kind of thing. Just as Alibaba and Ant Financial have experimented with seamless payments [in partnership with our portfolio company Megvii], we now see a counter attack by e-tailers on traditional retailers on their own turf. …

It’s hard to believe that just a year ago, when I founded Comet Labs, most people looked at me with skepticism when I told them that AI is going to transform every aspect of our lives and work.

Fast forward to today, and nearly every tech event, article, VC and startup seems to claim to be part of this revolution. Over the last year, we’ve seen corporations devote resources to it, and new approaches to research be attempted. We’ve seen regulators discuss opportunities and risks, and Silicon Valley has exploded with new AI companies. All of this couldn’t make us happier. …


Saman Farid

Partner @ Baidu Ventures, Founder @ Comet Labs Passionate about AI & its applications for the future of our world

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