The Weekly Disrupt #4

Mar 03, 2015

The Weekly Disrupt is a summary of the most important technology stories from the last week. These are stories that hint at fundamental shifts in the way we will live and do business - things to keep on your radar to ensure you capture future growth opportunities.

Here are 10 stories that have caught our eye this week. A rating of 10 represents a truly disruptive innovation.

Mind-controlled Drone 

This story is almost unbelievable, the stuff of science fiction. But here we are, as a result of The BRAINFLIGHT project, we have a drone controlled by the brain. A brain-computer interface (BCI) that can be used over large distances is truly revolutionary. BCI is the most natural user interface; controlling machines via a keyboard, by touch, or even by voice seems passé in comparison.

Disruptive Potential: 10

Prosthetic hand controlled by the mind

In any other week, a mind-controlled prosthetic hand would be the top story. In Austria, three men became the first in the world to undergo a new technique called "bionic reconstruction," enabling them to use a robotic prosthetic hand controlled by their mind. Prosthetics are a very clear and valuable use case for BCI. Cost will be an important driver and over time society will need to come to terms with the idea of transhumanism.

Disruptive Potential: 10

Breakthrough in general AI

Last year, Google acquired a deep learning company called DeepMind. This week it announced that the creation of an AI that can teach itself how to play and master Atari games. The key here is 'games' - plural. This is the first known example of an AI that can take its learning and apply it to different games without retraining. This is the first step to a general AI. The issue with predicting general AI is that it is not on a linear or log scale, these successful learning-transfer skills show that more general-purpose AI is much closer than many think.

Disruptive Potential: 10

A robotic system with emotion and memory

Researchers have developed a robot focused on solving the problems of independent living for the elderly. This is an important use case for robots and likely to become one of the most important robotic markets. As old age healthcare costs becoming an ever increasing cost for national governments, social robots will offer a cost-effective way of meeting the needs of the elderly.

Disruptive Potential: 9

One machine to rule them all: 3D printing with German precision

3D printing does not yet offer high enough resolution to truly replace traditional manufacturing. DMG Mori Seiki hopes to solve the resolution problem by using a mill to smooth and perfect products. Depending on the cost of the machine, this is a great solution which should allow makers to start printing a much wider range of goods. Expect to see PC manufacturers explore 3D printing solutions to try and jump-start their desktop PC businesses.

Disruptive Potential: 7

Amazon files patent for mobile 3D printing delivery trucks

Amazon is experimenting with any technology that allows for products to be delivered to its customers quicker. Whilst its Prime Air program suffered a setback with the latest FAA regulations, last week it published a patent for a 3D printing on-demand mobile manufacturing hub. The idea would be to reduce the costs in its logistics network from warehousing to transport.

Disruptive Potential: 6

This nurse makes house calls, thanks to Kinect for Windows

The Microsoft Kinect was a product before its time. Bundled with the Xbox it was associated solely with gaming. With improvements in its machine vision algorithms, the product can now be applied to broader problems such as medical diagnosis. This is yet another technology that has the potential to reduce the strain on hospitals and help reduce costs of diagnosis. 

Disruptive Potential: 5

Full drone service for agriculture to launch in U.S. and Canada

PrecisionHawk and Agri-Trend are teaming up to offer a full-service offering to farmers. Drone-as-a-service is the business model that will dominate the drone industry. The hardware with unfiltered video has niche  benefits, but creation of value will come from analysis of the data. The long-term goal would be to offer automation based on the analysis.

Disruptive Potential: 5

Automated navigation robot developer RoboCV expands internationally

We very rarely hear much about Russian tech companies expanding internationally. But RoboCV is bucking the trend with its autopilot solutions for vehicles and industrial equipment. Not a sexy market, but huge inefficiencies can be removed (read humans) by using automated warehousing robots. This is part of a broader shift of robots replacing humans in navigation and vision tasks, tasks previously thought of as too difficult for robots.

Disruptive Potential: 4

SoftBank’s emotion sensing robot Pepper will be sold at a loss

SoftBank is putting its “emotionally aware” robot Pepper on sale for $9,000, which is less than it costs to build. Prices will inevitably fall with scale, competition and Moore’s Law, but what is interesting is that SoftBank have chosen to offer a subscription model. This makes sense, as advances in robotics will be software driven and in fact, the real value of Pepper may be in the cloud-based AI software that it runs. This has implications for other commercial robots such as drones and connected cars. 

Disruptive Potential: 3

The Weekly Disrupt is written by Frost & Sullivan's Connected Industries team. We focus on the impact of technology in industry transformation, helping our clients to navigate through an increasingly complex business environment where every vertical market has its own unique challenges and aspirations.

To learn more, please contact one of the team:



Vijay Michalik

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