So this is just a quick note on some things that I am personally finding really interesting right now


as mentioned, I think this is going to be cracked soon, and maybe Khan academy will do it. Either way, I think whoever does it would need to be a "full stack" startup. I have thought about trying some things - like a GitHub type system for open-sourcing education materials and resources, creating open-standards for curriculum and educational texts etc - but they have always just been tools or things around the periphery. I don't think I have the resources right now to be thinking full stack!

Android first

Android is the most pervasive mobile OS (yes, there are some caveats about the stats, such as numbers coming from China, and the value of the customer compared to other iOS), and Google continue to widen their reach (recently purchasing Nest etc) I think we are going to seeing our first truly Android first apps. If Instagram was built today, would it be iOS first? Probably, but I think that landscape is changing. I think coupled with the following areas this could be a big one.  If I'm building a mobile app it's going to be Android first. Silicon valley is under-invested in Android - There is also growing appetite for it:

Smartphone as your social graph

I have mentioned this one a few times here. Smartphone usage is continuing to increase (even whilst tablet sales falter) and more and more existing mobile users across the world upgrade. Further to this, your smartphone is really where you social graph is. Your address book has your contacts in it, your phone number gives you a unique identifier, and as WhatsApp proved, it gives great power to mobile first startups to disrupt the social network incumbents. It could be argued that Google+ was never going to succeed to usurp Facebook as king of the social networks because people are lazy, and essentially creatures of habbit - if all your friends are on Facebook, why try to convince your entire network to switch to g+? But the smartphone takes away that power, as your network is on your device, not a particular platform.  Couple that with the fact that so many use their phones to double up as cameras it now means most of our photos/videos are also on the device.


I was recently talking with some colleagues about the future of TV and I speculated that in 5-10 years we may see the end of scheduled television, and everything will be only on demand. This would leave some interesting questions/problems:

  • One big problem as I see it is the fragmentation of device software - if you are creating an on demand app, you need to think about Android, iOS, browsers, Xbox, PS, not to mention all the TV manufacturers that have their own software running on their web enabled TV. This means at the moment, if you buy a new web enabled TV or set top box, the on demand apps may not be available, and may not be consistent. I think this could be a good market for Android and wouldn't be surprised if they do make some bold moves in this area (yes, bolder than Chrome Cast) - I would think it would make sense for them to be linking up with TV manufacturers to as the de-facto TV OS (would benefit from android app eco system - even if it would mean a LOT more work for app developers to fix up for another range of screen sizes
  • Another interesting implication of such a switch would be would we see a decline in produced content. At the moment there is a lot of content created specifically for quieter times of the viewing schedule (mon-fri afternoons, early morning, etc) - what might be considered as "filler", but we might see a decline in this as consumers will have complete control of what they want to watch, and there won't be any watch it because its on mentality.
I think its an interesting areas where battles are really going strong, with big players in the content production/distribution space (Netflix/Amazon/YouTube) as well as Google/Apple etc taking on the incumbents in hardware.  I just today saw a link for a site called Glass that is dedicated to ongoing conversation about this topic.


Sal Khan has changed my mind

This lecture is great - It's by Sal Khan from Khan Academy - and Sal talks about how Khan Academy started up and some of its goals.

I had previously started writing an article about the current raft of tech-education startups (Khan Academy, Udacity, Coursera, etc) and how I didn't think they were really in a place to disrupt education in the UK/US. I thought they were great in providing the lectures/materials to everyone with a web connection, but didn't see how they were going to change education systems here.

I thought they were all focused on providing a tech solution, and I didn't really think that a technology could replace human lead education, and without the personal engagement and stimulation to encourage individual learning it would inevitably lead to distraction and local optima in knowledge - but the things that Khan Academy are doing with schools are really exciting.

Well worth a listen.


VR & Oculus - What it means to fulfill its promise

I was listening to the a16z podcast on my commute this morning - Chris Dixon, Balaji Srinivasan & Gil Shafir were discussing Oculus Rift and VR in general.

They are all big believers in VR and believe that it will be a pervasive technology in (something like) 5 years or so - and will be another element of mobile computing. They made some interesting observations about how it might affect entertainment, movies (you could watch the movie from inside each scene, so could move around and explore them/the characters etc), holidaying/virtual tourism (get home from work and have a beer whilst sitting on a beach in Italy for half an hour) as well as the more boring/obvious usage of remote working (business deals/travel).

Anyway, a few of the points made and general concepts started me thinking:

Gaming would be to intense for a lot of the current games Chris Dixon argued that pretty much all the war/shooting/fighting games would be too intense to be played in VR, that driving games would likely be about the limit of intensity that people could cope with, and that VR will be so realistic/engaging that it would be too stressful to actually play some of the modern shooters available on current gaming platforms.

I have not used VR (other than the above, which is a different, probably superior, kind of VR). What is really interesting is that these guys who have had a chance to use Oculus believe that VR will, in the very near future, be so immersive, engaging & realistic that people won't be able to game in the casual way people do today (e.g. relax at home by killing hoards of people/zombies/nazis etc) because it won't be something that you can disconnect from, and actually being in a VR setting and having people shooting at you. Although there will inevitably be games that try FPS in VR, so maybe we will be seeing gamers with PTSD in 10 years?

The point I took away from this is that they believe VR is not something that will just take time for us to adjust to. That people won't adjust to VR and distinguish that it is virtual (obviously, they will know they are in VR, but sub-consciously the experiences of being shot at/attacked etc will stay with them as real, potentially traumatic, experiences). If this stands to be true then it will really add weight to concerns that violence in games leads to real world violence (which at the moment, most people consider to be rubbish).

It will be used for training/practice where normally it is prohibitive (too expensive, not possible).  Training surgeons - learning surgery is not something where you really have test runs. Training military/police in high-stress/conflict situations - they say (as I could imagine) nothing prepares you for conflict - having to make a split-second decision whether to use a weapon in any situation is something I guess you can't really prepare for.  This also suggests there is truth in the previous point - if VR really can prepare armed forces/law enforcement for coping with high stress situations (split second use of weapon decisions) then the brain would have to, on some level, identify VR experiences as real.  Currently, playing shooting games, or using firing ranges can't help prepare for these kind of experiences, as the brain recognizes that these are not reality.

Basically, for the state of VR to be a game changer, it needs to be (subconsciously at least) in-distinguishable from reality. Which itself leads to a whole host of other ethical/moral/philosophical questions and challenges.

However, these are just my opinions on their opinions! Its still too early to know exactly how powerful this new medium might be, so we will have to see how and what develops.