05.22.24

The European AI law is coming, it will set a global standard

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

Europe’s landmark rules on artificial intelligence will enter into force next month after EU countries endorsed on Tuesday a political deal reached in December, setting a potential global benchmark for a technology used in business and everyday life.

The European Union’s AI Act is more comprehensive than the United States’ light-touch voluntary compliance approach while China’s approach aims to maintain social stability and state control.

The vote by EU countries came two months after EU lawmakers backed the AI legislation drafted by the European Commission in 2021 after making a number of key changes.

Concerns about AI contributing to misinformation, fake news and copyrighted material have intensified globally in recent months amid the growing popularity of generative AI systems such as Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s ChatGPT, and Google’s chatbot Gemini.

“This landmark law, the first of its kind in the world, addresses a global technological challenge that also creates opportunities for our societies and economies,” Belgian digitisation minister Mathieu Michel said in a statement.

“With the AI Act, Europe emphasizes the importance of trust, transparency and accountability when dealing with new technologies while at the same time ensuring this fast-changing technology can flourish and boost European innovation,” he said.

The AI Act imposes strict transparency obligations on high-risk AI systems while such requirements for general-purpose AI models will be lighter.

It restricts governments’ use of real-time biometric surveillance in public spaces to cases of certain crimes, prevention of terrorist attacks and searches for people suspected of the most serious crimes.

The new legislation will have an impact beyond the 27-country bloc, said Patrick van Eecke at law firm Cooley.

“The Act will have global reach. Companies outside the EU who use EU customer data in their AI platforms will need to comply. Other countries and regions are likely to use the AI Act as a blueprint, just as they did with the GDPR,” he said, referring to EU privacy rules.

While the new legislation will apply in 2026, bans on the use of artificial intelligence in social scoring, predictive policing and untargeted scraping of facial images from the internet or CCTV footage will kick in in six months once the new regulation enters into force.

Obligations for general purpose AI models will apply after 12 months and rules for AI systems embedded into regulated products in 36 months.

Fines for violations range from 7.5 million euros ($8.2 million) or 1.5% of turnover to 35 million euros or 7% of global turnover depending on the type of violations.

FastCompany

05.21.24

Meet the new Microsoft AI powered PCs and features introduced at Build Developer conference

BY Fast Company 4 MINUTE READ

For the third time in roughly a week, a major tech company is showing off its near-term plans for the future of generative artificial intelligence. This time, it’s Microsoft’s turn.

The company will kick off its Build developer conference Tuesday in Seattle—and is expected to unveil how the Windows operating system will make AI computers the new standard. The three-day event comes a few months after CEO Satya Nadella said 2024 would be the year that AI becomes the “first-class part of every PC.” Build is where the company hopes to show what it has in mind.

On Monday, it began to show its hand, with a keynote presentation that preceded the conference, showing off what these machines could do—and what systems will be able to take advantage of the offerings.

The potential for AI integration into PCs and laptops has reinvigorated analyst and investor interest in the personal PC sector after a slowdown over the past several years. Gartner estimates shipments of the AI-focused PC will double this year, then double again in 2025, making up to 43% of the overall PC market by the end of next year.

Build comes just days after Google unveiled its most powerful AI system to date at its Googe I/O conference; and OpenAI’s own event on May 13, where it debuted ChatGPT-4o. Here’s a look at what Microsoft has said so far and what you can expect to hear more about as it pushes its AI effort.

NEW HARDWARE

Nadella, in his keynote address, introduced a wave of new hardware, including new AI-focused PCs, which the company calls CoPilot+ PCs. Dubbing them “the fastest, most AI-ready Windows PC ever built,” Nadella said the company expects to sell 50 million units before the end of the year through a variety of manufacturers. Microsoft claims these systems are 58% faster than the Macbook Air M3, and they will incorporate the latest Open AI GPT model (ChatGPT 4o) onboard. Battery life will last a day, the company added. The new systems will feature chips from AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm.

One demo showed a person playing Minecraft with Copilot observing the onscreen action and responding via voice, suggesting ways to improve and walking the player through the process of crafting materials.

“How do we build computers that understand us, instead of us having to understand them? I feel like we’re close to that breakthrough,” said Nadella. “”We have this new reasoning capability that helps us complete complex tasks. We’re entering this new era where computers not only understand us but anticipate what we want.

“We’re bringing real joy and a sense of wonder back to the PC,” he added.

Prices will start at $999, the company said.

COPILOT CHATBOT

One of the chief features of the AI-focused Copilot on these systems is dubbed Recall—a reminder functionality so you don’t have to keep dozens of browser tabs open or send emails to yourself to remember to do something. Recall will also act as a photographic memory for your PC, pulling up anything you’ve accessed before, whether that’s something you forgot to pin on Pinterest or an older chat where you were discussing something with a friend or colleague. (Microsoft did not elaborate on privacy implications in its discussions of the technology.) The new Copilot will also offer tips in Xbox games that are run on PC.

A Cocreator function in Copilot also promises to look at your photos and give you ideas for compositions and restore older photos to higher resolutions. Cocreator can generate an AI-driven image on request, but it can also work with your own art efforts via an electronic pen to enhance your images.

Additionally, Copilot will offer instant captions on any audio from your PC, instantly translating 40 different languages in real time as well as live captioning of your native language. Microsoft said that feature is not limited to Teams, either. Any video-calling app or entertainment app will benefit from Copilot as well.

AI EQUALS BIG BUCKS

Microsoft’s close ties with OpenAI have made its dedication to incorporating the technology clear for some time, but the details unveiled at the Build keynote, as well as those that are expected to come out over the next few days solidified why the company was going all-in on AI: finances.

To access the Copilot features shown today, you’ll need to upgrade to one of these new PCs. The jargon gets thicker than the fog in the Bay Area, but what it comes down to is, in order for PCs to handle AI as Microsoft has presented it in its keynote, consumers will need four times the operational power they have today. Newer chips will allow that at a reasonable price.

That not only helps Microsoft sell more software, it could be a welcome influx of users for PC manufacturers, who have been waiting for consumers to become active buyers again after a rush of demand in 2020.

FastCompany

05.19.24

Generative AI Phones, here’s how you will recognise them

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

Generative AI (general artificial intelligence) has been the trendiest term in software for two years. Now it’s about to make its way to the consumer hardware market, too. By the latter half of this year, it’s likely that we’ll begin to encounter phones being marketed as GenAI smartphones or simply GenAI phones. But just what is a GenAI phone, and where does the phrase come from? Here’s what you need to know.

WHAT IS A GENAI PHONE?

As far as I can tell, the term GenAI smartphone first came to prominence only in the last six months, when it began appearing in reports by a few major marketing research firms.

In December, Counterpoint Technology Market Research issued a report on GenAI smartphones that described one of their main characteristics as being “a subset of AI smartphones that uses generative AI to create original content, rather than just providing preprogrammed responses or performing predefined tasks.” (In April, it expanded on that definition.)

And in February, Gartner offered its own definition, which says one of the key differentiators of a GenAI phone versus a regular smartphone is that the GenAI phone is “capable of locally running a base or fine-tuned AI model that generates new derived versions of content, strategies, designs, and methods.”

Counterpoint’s and Gartner’s definitions differ a little (and are very wordy), but it’s safe to say that a GenAI phone can be considered a smartphone that has at least the four following characteristics:

– Offers generative AI apps and tools, such as AI chatbots and AI image editing and generation apps.

– These tools should be baked into the phone’s operating system wherever possible so they can be used seamlessly system-wide.

– The phones should have CPUs—computer chips—designed specifically for handling complex AI tasks.

– The phones should be powerful enough to run AI models natively on the device instead of needing to send data to the cloud for AI servers to process remotely.

WHAT ISN’T A GENAI PHONE?

If we use the four points above to define what a GenAI phone is, it becomes evident that as of May 2024, few smartphones can be considered true GenAI phones. That’s because most of the smartphones available today don’t have chips designed specifically to handle complex AI tasks.

And while many smartphones today can run, for example, the ChatGPT app, that doesn’t make them GenAI phones since when you use the ChatGPT app on your smartphone, your queries aren’t being processed locally on the device itself. Instead, whatever you type into the ChatGPT app is being sent off to OpenAI’s servers to be processed remotely. Likewise, just because you’ve downloaded a generative AI photo app doesn’t mean you have a GenAI phone since remote servers usually do the image generation.

Off the top of my head, based on the four criteria above, only the latest flagships from Google and Samsung even remotely qualify as GenAI phones. This is because the Samsung Galaxy S24 series and the Google Pixel 8 Pro both run Gemini Nano, Google’s scaled-down LLM that can run on the smartphone itself, provided its CPU is powerful enough.

So, yes, this means that even Apple’s flagship iPhone 15 Pro Max can’t be considered a GenAI phone—well, at least not yet.

THE FUTURE OF GENAI PHONES

While only a few flagship smartphones can currently be considered GenAI phones, expect that to change quickly. Next month, Apple will unveil iOS 18, and with it Apple is expected to add generative AI features to some existing iPhones, meaning Apple could soon be the company that has the highest number of GenAI phones on the market despite having precisely none today.

But all iPhones that will receive the iOS 18 update still may not be able to be considered GenAI phones—it’ll all depend on whether the various Apple A-series chips in each smartphone are powerful enough to run on-device generative AI tasks (the iPhone 15 Pro’s chip may be, while the iPhone 13’s chip may not, for example). One thing is for certain, however: The iPhone 16 series, set to be released this September, will be considered GenAI phones—and likely be heavily marketed as such by Apple.

And when it comes to GenAI phones and marketing, expect to be inundated with it going forward. Smartphone sales have been stagnant for years as huge evolutionary leaps have slowed. Every smartphone company on the planet probably sees the generative AI boom as a lifesaver to help them reinvigorate their sales.

But will consumers bite? Counterpoint’s research points to yes. The marketing firm says that while in 2024 only 11% of smartphone shipments are expected to be GenAI smartphones, by 2027, 43% of all smartphone shipments are expected to be GenAI smartphones, and by that same year the GenAI smartphone install base—the number of GenAI phones in use in the world—will exceed 1 billion devices for the first time.

FastCompany

05.17.24

Samsung responded to Apple Crush Ad with a brilliant Uncrush Ad

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

It’s not often that Samsung one-ups Apple in its marketing campaigns, but the South Korean company has done just that with its latest ad, “Uncrush.”

Earlier this month, Apple unveiled the long-awaited new iPad Pros, which feature OLED displays and the M4 chipset. They are also the thinnest devices that Apple has ever made. To show off that thinness, Apple released a new ad called “Crush.” The ad showed an industrial compressor smashing things like a guitar, piano, paint, sculptures, and more. When the compressor retracts at the end of the ad, only an iPad Pro is left in place of the destroyed creative tools.

Apple’s “Crush” ad was a rare marketing miss for the company. The spot angered a lot of creative professionals who said it symbolized technology’s destruction of human creativity. Apple later issued an apology for the ad, saying it “missed the mark” and that it wouldn’t run it on TV.

So, that was the end of the ad drama, right? Not so, thanks to Apple’s arch-competitor, Samsung.

SAMSUNG’S RESPONSE

Samsung has now released an ad called “Uncrushed” in response to Apple’s “Crush,” and whether or not you agree with the stance among some creatives that Apple’s ad was—intentionally or not—promoting technology’s destruction of human creativity, you have to admit that Samsung’s response is brilliant.

In the “Uncrush “ad, we are thrust back into what is supposed to be the same room with the same industrial compressor from Apple’s ad. Broken and crushed physical creative tools lie everywhere. (Even the paint from the crushed paint cans in Apple’s ad still stains the compressor in Samsung’s ad.) We see a pair of feet walking through the destruction, then a woman picks up a guitar that was only partially destroyed by Apple’s compressor. She begins playing it as she reads sheet music from a Samsung tablet.

The ad ends with the tag “Creativity cannot be crushed.”

While most people would probably agree Apple’s iPad Pro blows away any tablet made by Samsung, there’s no denying that Samsung has candidly beat Apple in the marketing department this time around.

“More than a response, this is a celebration of all creative souls,” Estefanio Holtz, executive creative director for BBH USA, the creative agency that made the ad, in a statement to Fast Company. “True artists, makers and creators know that creativity always finds a way.”

FastCompany

05.15.24

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky on the Next Big Thing for the company

BY Fast Company 5 MINUTE READ

This week, Airbnb’s co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky sat down to discuss the company’s new Icons initiative and how Airbnb plans to surprisingly pivot their business in the next year. Chesky also shares the inside story behind the antagonistic Airbnb vs hotels ad campaign, and why bodybuilding inspires his leadership. The second part of this interview releases on Friday—with Chesky revealing his bold strategy for an AI future.

This is an abridged transcript of an interview from Rapid Response, hosted by the former editor-in-chief of Fast Company Bob Safian. From the team behind the Masters of Scale podcast, Rapid Response features candid conversations with today’s top business leaders navigating real-time challenges. Subscribe to Rapid Response wherever you get your podcasts to ensure you never miss an episode.

You’re here in New York for earnings. Earnings cannot be the most fun part of this job.

Before I went public, I was forewarned by so many CEOs—stay private as long as you can. But having been public now for a little over three years and having done maybe a dozen or so earning calls, I actually kind of enjoy earnings calls. And I think being a public company CEO, I don’t want to diminish its difficulty, but I think it’s easier than a late stage private company CEO. Because when you’re a late stage private company, you have a lot of the downsides of being public. You have audited financials. you have a lot of scrutiny. But you don’t have the upsides, and there’s always the sense that you’re hiding something. “We’re not getting the full story.” And so once we went public, it was like this pressure valve just released.

I had a discussion with Michael Dell when he took Dell private. And he said that one of the upsides was he wouldn’t have to share everything—his competitors wouldn’t know everything he was doing.

Well, the good thing for you is I tend to be an oversharer. That might not be what my team likes, but I think for you and everyone else that works.

HOW BARBIE BECAME THE FUTURE OF AIRBNB

So, last summer, you launched this Barbie Malibu Beach House. And now you’ve announced 11 Icon locations from X-Men Mansion to Ferrari Museum to Prince’s Purple Rain House. It almost seems like this opportunity, this idea, sort of presented itself to you?

A hundred percent. I think it was Mattel and Warner Brothers that reached out to us and they said, “can we do a promotion with Barbie?” ‘Cause they were going to do a bunch of these like Barbie marketing activations. This Barbie house we put on Airbnb, it gets more press than the IPO. And we’re like, “what the hell?” The universe is telling me that the world wants this.

I rally the team together—this is only like six, seven months ago—and I said, “we need to create a platform for Barbies. Because this is going to be a bridge to where we’re going. We’re going to eventually relaunch experiences.” And I said this can be the way to do that.

Probably my favorite concept that the team came up with is the Up house. Up was one of my favorite movies. And I said, “if we’re going to build this, you better make sure it is done to the level of Disneyland craft.

We assemble fabricators, prop designers—a team of a hundred people. Then I said, “wait a second, if it doesn’t go in the sky, it’s not really the Up house.” The problem is, most houses aren’t constructed to be lifted in the air. It collapses. So we worked with structural engineers: How can you construct a house that’s 40, 000 pounds that can be lifted 50 feet in the air? And then we found one of the biggest cranes in the world. We found land in New Mexico where they filmed Oppenheimer. It kind of looks like Venezuela, where Up takes place. And so that’s just one of the Icons. We do this for 11 of them.

As you’re talking about the Up house, it costs you a lot of money.

It’s a very marketing-driven industry. We spend about half what our other competitors spend on marketing, but we still spend over a billion dollars a year. If you consider this a marketing expense, this is some of the highest ROI marketing you can do. We’ve had nearly 10, 000 articles written about us—almost twice as much coverage as the IPO. What’s an IPO worth? People say it’s tens of millions of dollars of free marketing. This was way more than that.

But there’s another reason that we did it. Before Walt Disney built Disneyland, he built a small train set in his backyard. And what he was doing was practicing. He was building the muscle at a small scale for something that was eventually Disneyland. Icons helped us build some muscle for something that we will unleash that will reach millions of people.

They’re Disney-like experiences. But you’re not going into the theme park business. Or are you?

When we launched experiences, it never really captured the public’s imagination. It didn’t quite have enough magic. So we said, “let’s start with something completely unscalable that’s pure magic”. There’s about 4, 000 tickets a year. So clearly these would be sold out and they’re going to be a low price. We’ll start with the craziest of magic and then figure out how can we bring it to millions of people. So we’re gonna’ start very high end with Icons, and then we’re moving to mass. It won’t be a theme park. It’s gonna’ reinvent the company, the next chapter of Airbnb and we’re gonna launch it next year.

HOW BUILDING HIS BICEPS HELPS HIS MENTAL HEALTH

So when Icons was announced, there was nearly as much social coverage of your biceps as of the house.

I wasn’t expecting that.

You did bodybuilding when you were younger.

I was 19. I was a competitive bodybuilder.

So what is your routine like? Is it an outlet for you for frustration? Is it like meditation?

It’s all the above. I remember telling my friends when I was 17—they were playfully teasing me that I was super skinny. I said, “well, I’ll be the most muscular teenager in the country in two years.” And two years later, I was the seventh most muscular teenager in the country. I competed in basically the teenage Mr. America called the NPC Teenage Nationals and Collegiate Nationals.

I learned two lessons from bodybuilding that I brought to tech. The first lesson is if you can change your body, you can change your life. The second—you can’t get in shape in one workout. There’s this narrative in tech and business that somebody has this flash of insight. But it’s not one idea. It’s a hundred thousand ideas. You don’t build a company in a day, just like you don’t get in shape in a day.

And yes, I think it’s an outlet. The amount of stress can drive you crazy. No one talks about when you start a company, the mental health toll. The amount of people I know that’ve had panic attacks, they’ve had to stop. They’ve gone through really dark periods. No one talks about it. It’s a lot and you need an outlet.

FROM A WORLD-CLASS FOUNDER TO ‘A CRAPPY CEO‘

Do you take moments to step back and think about the progress you’ve made and reflect on it? Or is your impulse always the next hill?

Kind of always the next hill. If I’m a rock climber, the part I like isn’t standing on top of rocks. The part I like is the climbing. I don’t do all this for the result. I do it for the process. And so I’m a little bit of a lunatic. But you do also have to stop and take stock in what you’ve done and have some appreciation.

My fellow CEO friends aren’t like, “can you believe what you’ve done?” They don’t say that. None of us do. We’re like, “can you believe how far we are behind at AI?” All of us are just egging each other on.

Being a CEO can be such a fun and rewarding job. It can also if you’re not careful, be at times close to an inescapable nightmare you can never escape.

Most of us started as good founders. If you’re super determined and creative and resilient, you can be a good founder. But no one’s born being a good CEO. So you go from being a world class founder to a pretty crappy CEO because it’s just a totally different job. That’s what I would describe as corporate adolescence. It’s a painful period. Most companies probably don’t actually make it out of that awkward adolescence. I think my series of podcasts with you was the journey from crisis, to recovery to growing up.

Part Two of Brian Chesky’s conversation with Bob Safian for the Rapid Response podcast will be available here on Friday. It covers Airbnb’s bold strategy for an AI future, including Chesky’s collaboration with legendary Apple designer Jony Ive, plus Airbnb’s unique operating culture.

FastCompany

05.13.24

The Evolution of Search, thanks to AI

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

The search engine market could be on the verge of a tidal shift. Reuters, last week, reported that OpenAI was planning to launch an artificial intelligence-powered search product as early as this week, putting it in direct competition with Google, but also with its close partner Microsoft. OpenAI has denied the details of that report, but didn’t completely reject the premise.

Google, meanwhile, is expected to talk a bit about its own AI search plans at its annual I/O conference, along with lots of other AI announcements tied to its Gemini AI, on Tuesday, making it very clear that the market for finding things online is evolving very quickly.

While things are certain to change considerably in the coming months as the technology gets smarter and search engines, both giant and startup, adapt to user habits, here’s where things stand with AI and search today.

GOOGLE

The search leader is already testing AI-generated answers in its regular search results as it hurries to catch up with the competition. These “AI Overviews,” which have been slipping into the search results fields of some users for the past month or so, anticipate questions and come up with a summary tied to the search query.

Google, meanwhile, has also been experimenting with incorporating generative AI into search in its Search Labs. Among the areas it’s exploring are plain-spoken answers to user questions, suggestions for specific user needs, and helping with visualizations via a generative art tool. For now, users have to opt in to play with those features, but the experiments could foreshadow some of Google’s longer-term plans.

BING

Microsoft’s search engine got a head start on the AI race when it incorporated OpenAI’s generative AI. While the initial rollout was flawed, with some high-profile hallucinations, Microsoft quickly updated it, cutting down on troubles and adding source links, so people can decide whether to trust the answers it gives.

Now known as Copilot, the chatbot offers detailed answer that are up-to-the-minute, thanks to its internet connection. Last December, Microsoft unveiled “deep search,” an enhanced search mode that expands a query into a more comprehensive description in order to better capture a user’s intent and expectations—and lets it search deeper than it would with just a few keywords. Then, in March, Microsoft upgraded the tool to use GPT-4 Turbo, giving it a deeper well of knowledge to draw from.

PERPLEXITY

This startup, one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies for 2024, uses AI to give more accurate and contextualized answers to user searches. It uses a combination of large language models (including OpenAI’s GPT-4) along with Web crawler to help users find the answers they need in a quick fashion—and it has quickly become one of the most buzzworthy products in tech.

There’s both a free and paid version of the search engine. Those who shell out $20 per month have access to more powerful AI models. Rather than giving you a list of links, which you’ll use to find the answer yourself, it does the research for you, writing a summary and then listing its sources. (It will also suggest follow-up questions.) And its Copilot feature will help you narrow your search to give you the most useful responses.

BRAVE

While not as well known as some of the others on this list, Brave uses AI to provide fast, accurate results. It has the added bonus of not tracking users or their searches, removing privacy fears that your data will be sold to third-parties. In an update earlier this month, the company said it received nearly 10 billion queries in the past year—some 27 million queries per day. The engine also supports multiple languages in its responses.

FastCompany

05.08.24

The Apple’s new Pen Pro is here for artists and not yet for all

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

Today Apple announced an update to the Apple Pencil—the first in nearly six years. The Apple Pencil Pro (available for $129 today) is cool, and artists will love its updated features. But it fails to fulfill the eternally elusive iPad promise of become a truly satisfying drawing and painting simulator.

The new Pencil comes with a handful of great new tricks. You can now double tap near the tip to trigger actions without even touching the screen. You can also squeeze the front part of the pen to access contextual menus that give instant access tools and shortcuts (something that Wacom tablets have allowed you to do for years). And the haptic feedback vibrates to give you a tactile clue when you change from, say, pencil to marker to selection lasso. It can even, according to ProCreate’s CEO James Cuda, help you feel when objects align with other objects; a tactile snap if you will.

Developers could also use something that Apple calls Barrel Roll, which is basically a gyroscope that registers how you roll the pencil in its Z-axis to do things like changing the color of your brush or trigger whatever other effect. I would imagine that a 3D app could allow you to control stuff in all three axis now using this gyro sensor, which adds to the Pencil 2’s tilt and pressure sensitivity.

CAN THE APPLE PENCIL LIVE UP TO ARTISTS’ NEEDS?

Admittedly, these neat features do little to change the way that most professional artists already do their work. The Pencil Pro just puts the iPad Pro almost on par with a professional drawing tablet like those made by Wacom. Even still, witout having tried it, I can image that using the new Pencil and iPad for illustration, photo work, or even writing will still feel too slippery, too unreal, too it-just-doesn’t feel right.

I say that with love. I’ve been buying Apple tablets since the original iPad came out. I love it, and I’ve loved all the iPads that came after. I even changed to work on iPad exclusively (spoiler: I came back to MacBook Air world with the M1). To me, the introduction of the pencil as an input device quickly became the iPad’s main advantage against a MacBook—the only true factor that made it unique.

More importantly, it promised something much bigger: the idea of having a true physical media replacement, which is something that Apple described in this patent from 2019. After all the rumors, I hoped we’d see something like that today. I thought that the new Pencil Pro was going to bring me a magical physical media simulator in which the haptic feedback made it feel like real paper, but alas, that didn’t happen.

Maybe this is a clear case of mismanaged expectations, but it’s been years already and the iPad is barely better than half a MacBook with a touchscreen. It’s great for reading (especially comic books), the web, writing (with the optional keyboard), and watching the occasional movie, sure. Good to draw on the go and do some insanely detailed illustration work, yes. But it is neither a great creative tool nor a great note-taking device. Something like the Remarkable 2 feels a lot more like the real thing thanks to its e-ink display and the nature of its screen, albeit way more limited than the iPad for sure.

To be fair, Wacom tablets also suffer from the same slippery-even-when-dry problem, but it’s proof that all pencil/tablet combos are suffering from the same ailment: They are simply not as satisfying as creating with real media. Here I was, just really wishing that Apple would surpass the best of the professional creative media peripherals with something that felt real. It didn’t happen with the Pencil Pro. Shattered dreams, broken hearts, and all that. But at least it has some nice details.

FastCompany

05.07.24

The Next iPhone – could show Apple AI powers

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

After a long delay, Apple is gearing up, finally, to embrace artificial intelligence in a big way on the iPhone. The company is expected to show off new AI-powered features for the iPhone’s upcoming operating system, iOS 18, next month at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference.

The most prominent AI feature iOS 18 is likely to introduce is an Apple-built large language model (LLM)—the software that powers AI chatbots like ChatGPT. Many are speculating that Apple’s LLM will be integrated with the iPhone’s current digital assistant, Siri.

An LLM-powered Siri would make Apple’s assistant more intelligent than it’s ever been and also more versatile. For example, an LLM-powered Siri will likely be able to process commands based on past context and previous queries, meaning a user could have more natural conversations with Siri because it could remember what you had spoken about before.

And Apple’s LLM may have one big benefit over current LLM chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Gemini: privacy. Current chatbots need to send your queries off to a cloud server to process—and who knows what those tech companies do with your data then? But as I speculated in March, it’s likely that Apple’s LLM will run directly on the iPhone. I thought this because Apple researchers had recently published a paper detailing a way to run LLMs on relatively low-powered devices like phones. If Apple has found a way to implement such technology commercially, it would allow iPhone users to keep their queries private from even Apple itself. And indeed, in April Bloomberg reported that Apple’s LLM will run on-device. If my speculation and Bloomberg’s reporting are accurate, it will be a game-changer for the AI chatbot industry.

IOS 18 COULD BRING AI TO APPS

Other AI features Apple is reportedly working on for iOS include baking AI technology directly into existing apps. For example, AI could power the automation and creation of playlists in Apple Music—helping users find new tunes to listen to or assemble a list of their favorite songs based on their current mood. Apple’s presentation software, Keynote, may also gain AI-powered capabilities to help users generate slide decks. The iPhone’s search tool, Spotlight, which lets users quickly find answers from the apps on their phone, may also receive an AI-powered infusion, making search results more comprehensive and accurate.

That’s where the firm reporting on Apple’s iOS 18 AI plans end. But it’s likely iOS 18’s AI features will go well beyond what has been reported. So, while the rest of these are just speculation, they also seem likely, given what we already know about the technology and how Apple’s competitors in the industry are utilizing it.

If Keynote is gaining AI deck creation, it’s likely that Apple will add similar AI tools to Pages and Numbers, the remainder of its office productivity suite. Specifically with Pages, I expect that we will see new abilities to generate text in documents to help us get our ideas across more succinctly. Such AI-generated text features are likely bound for anywhere you can enter text in iOS 18 including in emails and messaging apps.

MAPS, PHOTOS, ACCESSIBILITY AND MORE

Another area ripe for AI enhancements is Apple Maps, which has made great strides in recent years to become a terrific navigation app. However, the place Apple Maps still pales in comparison to industry-leader Google Maps is with its point-of-interest (POI) data. Google Maps’s POI data is robust and primarily generated by hundreds of millions of users across the globe contributing reviews and information to millions of listings. Apple Maps doesn’t have that kind of avid community of users. That’s where AI could come in. The company could use artificial intelligence to summarize public reviews and other publicly available information about a POI to give users more contextual information about the place.

It’s also hard to believe Apple won’t bring AI editing tools to the Photos app considering the tools are now common in many competing photo editing apps. Such tools could include the ability to expand an image beyond its original borders and quickly remove and reposition objects and people in a photograph.

Apple could also use AI to bolster the iPhone’s Accessibility offerings, the tools built into the operating system to make it more usable to those with various physical or cognitive impairments. For example, AI-powered speech could give the iPhone’s current Spoken Content feature, which reads text on a screen aloud to users, a much-needed update. AI-powered speech could make the voice reading the text back to you sound more natural. And since the iPhone can even clone your voice, perhaps Apple will let Spoken Content read text back to you in your own words—or those of someone you know.

For now, only Apple knows the complete lineup of iOS 18’s AI-powered features. But it won’t be long until the rest of us know, too. Apple is scheduled to preview iOS 18 during the keynote of the 2024 Worldwide Developers Conference, which takes place on Monday, June 10, 2024.

FastCompany

05.03.24

Mamadou Kwidjim Toure: Pioneering the Future of Finance

BY Fast Company 5 MINUTE READ

In 2014, Cameroonian businessman Mamadou Kwidjim Toure was named one of the top 10 Most Influential Men in Africa by Forbes Magazine. Now, a decade later, his impact is arguably even greater, for he has developed a way to put some of the continent’s vast underground mineral wealth into its people’s pockets.

The social entrepreneur, who turns 49 this year, was born in the Atlantic coastal city of Douala. Toure completed his education in Europe, graduating with a Masters of Science in Finance. He speaks six languages—English, French, German, Spanish and two African languages—and lists among his interests philosophy, music, history and art. As a World Economic Forum-designated Global Young Leader, he completed two education programmes at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2018, and two years later followed this up with a programme on artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

He is also the founder and chief executive of the Ubuntu Capital Group, which he established in 2015. The group provides a range of business services, including providing strategic advice on matters involving mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, capital raising, restructuring and risk management, among others.

In 2014, this African entrepreneur founded Ubuntu Tribe—a subsidiary of the Ubuntu Capital Group—whose primary goal is to help the continent leverage its natural resources to create sharedprosperity.

This taps into the African philosophy of Ubuntu, which stresses people’s interdependence. The word Ubuntu is sometimes translated as meaning, “I am because we are”. Toure seeks to harness this by offering financial freedom through secure and regulated investment in gold.

He believes gold-backed assets will offer returns to buyers as the commodity appreciates, and that by offering an easily-accessible platform to digitally purchase gold, he is democratising access to

Africa’s vast but largely “hijacked” mineral wealth. He disagrees with the view by some who say “Africa is poor”. Toure is aware that the largest known deposits of gold are in Africa—according to the United Nations, the continent is home to an estimated 40 percent of the world’s gold reserves, worth many trillions of dollars—and in the light of this vast wealth, he asks a question that is key to understanding his business: What if we trade these mineral resources as a currency?

In this regard, Ubuntu Tribe has created a 100 percent gold-backed digital coin called Gold International Fungible Token (GIFT). It offers the opportunity to build real savings and preserve purchasing power in a context of depreciating local currencies, which are fast eroding the savings of working-class people, as well as companies’ treasuries.

Through Utribe Wallet, an app developed by the company and easily accessed via a mobile phone, users can convert currency into gold in the form of GIFT. The fungible token is a digital certificate ofgold ownership, backed with physical gold and pegged to the international spot price of the metal. The gold is audited, insured and securely stored in reputable and regulated world class vaults across Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Switzerland.

Through Ubuntu Tribe, Toure is tokenizing gold to democratise access to wealth creation via mobile phones. This Ubuntu model allows people to not just use gold as a savings instrument, but also as an investment to be able to trade and preserve against currency depreciation. Through it, he is giving Africans—and people around the world—access to more sophisticated wealth-creation tools and appreciating assets, which historically have been barely accessible to those on a lower income.

During a recent launch of the Utribe Wallet in Lagos, Nigeria and in Nairobi, Kenya, Toure had the following to say about his vision: “As we bring our innovative platform to these vibrant African cities, we look forward to engaging with the local communities, forging partnerships, and showcasing the transformative potential of regenerative finance. Ubuntu Tribe is not just an event; it’s a movement toward shared prosperity, financial inclusion and a sustainable economic future.”

It’s clear to see that he has created a business that goes beyond just issuing finance. Instead, he has established an entity that provides alternative opportunities. In making this possible, he has brought together two different economic enablers: One is gold; the other is digital finance. He has created a digital token that is backed by gold, making his business one of the few that have managed to merge the physical and digital in the finance world. At the same time, he has enabled people to derive value from minerals without extracting them. Through Ubuntu Tribe, he has given people the ability to own pieces of gold without negatively impacting the environment.

In this regard, Ubuntu Tribe says it is committed to environmental and

social responsibility. One example of this is its adoption of technology that encourages miners to extract gold without using mercury.

According to Toure, in a recent interview: “The idea is that these miners have better health, a better environment, where they can benefit more from gold.” Using blockchain technology also allows for tracking the source of the gold at any stage of the supply chain, ensuring transparency and accountability.

One big advantage the company holds is it’s a forerunner; Toure is well aware of this.

“Indeed, at a time when digital assets were highly unpopular, or even scorned by the finance industry, Ubuntu Tribe was already championing real world assets tokenization.

“Beyond playing the role as industry pioneer… we have already achieved… tokenizing gold and proposed fractionalised ownership of gold-backed tokens in the form of a digital ownership certificate of gold, available from as low as six cents (US),” he says.

With this first-mover advantage comes unique expertise and robust experience, positioning Ubuntu Tribe ahead of most players who are only now entering the market.

FUTURE

The token Toure has developed can be used globally for cross-border and international trade. The solution developed by Ubuntu Tribe is helping solve the challenge of the 70 percent of Africans who are without a bank account. Their inability to trade globally due to the status of their currencies is solved by technology tools (app and web) that connect them with a borderless economy.

Compared to fiat currencies, whose values fluctuate according to imports and exports, the token developed by Ubuntu Tiribe is gold-backed, which means it is especially stable, allowing its users to avoid the volatility associated with dollar-to-local-currency transactions.

This feature of the token will be useful and, among other things, could help the African ContinentalFree Trade Area (AfCFTA)—the largest free trade area in the world, connecting 1.3 billion people across 55 countries—reach its full potential.

Through the development of this technological tool, Toure is contributing towards a more just transition to the Fourth Industrial Revolution—not only for a few in the West, but for the whole global community.

05.02.24

Meet America’s richest inmate – the Binance founder

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

Changpeng Zhao, founder of crypto exchange Binance, was sentenced on Tuesday to four months in prison after pleading guilty to money laundering last November.

The sentence is far below what prosecutors had suggested—and lower than the guidelines for the crimes (which were 12-18 months). Zhao will not be immediately remanded into custody.

“You had a responsibility to comply with United States regulations. Not some, but all,” U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones told Zhao in the hearing. “You failed at that opportunity.”

Addressing the court before the sentence was handed down, Zhao said, “I deeply regret my behavior and I’m sorry. I fully recognize the seriousness of the mistakes I made. I learned an important lesson here I will carry with me.”

Zhao, better known in the crypto world as “CZ,” was, like FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, once royalty in the crypto world. Zhao built Binance into one of the largest crypto exchanges. When he stepped down from the top spot at the company in November as part of his plea deal with the Justice Department, Binance had assets valued at over $65 billion.

While Bankman-Fried’s legal problems resulted in the collapse of FTX, Binance has continued to operate without Zhao.

Zhao, who founded Binance in 2017, will begin his sentence with a personal fortune estimated at $43 billion, which would make him the richest person to ever be incarcerated. And though he might not run Binance anymore, he still has some influence over the company since the board of directors is made up of his friends; and Yi He, the mother of his children, is the company’s cofounder.

A Canadian national, Zhao pleaded guilty last November to failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering (AML) program at the exchange. Binance also admitted to engaging in anti-money laundering, unlicensed money transmissions, and sanctions violations, all of which came with a $4.3 billion fine.

“Binance became the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange in part because of the crimes it committed—now it is paying one of the largest corporate penalties in U.S. history,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland at the time of Zhao’s guilty plea.

Prosecutors said Zhao “violated U.S. law on an unprecedented scale,” and had asked the judge to impose a three-year sentence, which would have been higher than suggested under advisory guidelines.“ [Zhao] led a massive financial institution that, as of 2022, processed trillions of dollars in cryptocurrency trades per year and massively profited from the U.S. financial system, U.S. businesses, and U.S. customers—all without playing by U.S. rules,” the prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “He ran Binance with deliberate disregard for the company’s legal responsibilities and for its capacity to cause significant harm. . . . Zhao’s sentence should reflect the gravity of his crimes.”

Zhao’s defense team argued for no prison time, pointing to his lack of a criminal record, charitable endeavors, and the fact that he had owned up to his mistakes, calling it an “extraordinary acceptance of responsibility.” They suggested probation would be a more suitable punishment.

Jones, in his ruling, said he did not believe Zhao was likely to commit these offenses again, but added that the scale of the crime was “notable,” which necessitated the sentence. Zhao had previously agreed not to appeal any sentence of less than 18 months.

FastCompany