The brain computer cometh
Image: Facebook / Protocol
Good morning! This Wednesday, why Facebook is so excited to talk about AR — and what its plans are for the tech. Plus, we have a look at Biden's team of trustbusters, Roblox's direct listing is today, and how a Banksy became an NFT.
Also, we have a new episode of the Source Code podcast, with more from the authors of "2034: A Novel of the Next World War." We talk about China, robots, hoverboards and much more. Have a listen!
Facebook is all-in on augmented reality. (Why? Because it's a chance for Facebook to own its destiny, and not be beholden to search engines or app stores or anyone at all.) And it really loves talking about it.
Facebook's hardware plans are the most interesting part. The company imagines you'll interact with the digital world through "a pair of soft, lightweight haptic gloves." (Very "Ready Player One.") And it's exploring "a range of neural input options," along the lines of the brain-computer interfaces Regina Dugan talked about way back in 2017.
This won't come true anytime soon, of course. Last week, Facebook CFO David Wehner actually tried to dampen the hype for the "smart glasses" the company is building with Ray-Ban. "It's not going to be anywhere near where we want to eventually go," he said.
And when it does come true, it may not be very surprising. Facebook also detailed a sort of Day in the AR Life yesterday. And for a company claiming to be working on a wholly new paradigm, there's not much very new about it.
Still, the blog post is worth a read, mostly as a set of questions around which to frame your work. If AR is going to be as big as the industry thinks, it's going to involve every company and product in some way. Hell, if you own a bakery you're still going to have to decide what your AR sign looks like. And Facebook's definitely right about one thing: The AR world is desperately waiting for its Mother of All Demos.
Anna Kramer writes: Tech has yet another foe in the Biden administration, and her name is Lina Khan. (Whose name we spelled wrong in yesterday's issue, apologies.) Between the incoming head of the antitrust division at the DOJ Vanita Gupta, Biden special policy advisor on antitrust Tim Wu, and now (pending approval) FTC commissioner Khan, industry leaders finally have names and faces of some of the people likely to push for much harsher antitrust action in the next four years.
But wait, back up: Who is Lina Khan, anyway? Well, she rose to fame as a superstar academic whose writings on Amazon transformed the way lawyers approach antitrust law, according to Protocol's Emily Birnbaum.
This group should — and does — make tech execs nervous. Gupta captured the relationship vibe best at her Senate confirmation hearing yesterday when she said: "I will just say based on my prior engagements with tech companies, I would highly doubt that they would be excited necessarily about my confirmation." And when news of Tim Wu's appointment broke last week, industry leaders called it "dangerous."
There are still a few major holes in Biden's antitrust lineup that could provide room for more moderate voices, chief among them a permanent FTC chair. Though the most popular candidate there might be the acting chair Becca Slaughter — yet another industry skeptic.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the most-discussed and least-understood law governing the modern internet. This event will delve into the future of Section 230 and how to change the law without compromising the internet as we know it. Join Protocol's Emily Birnbaum and Issie Lapowsky in conversation with Senator Mark Warner and more. This event is presented by Internet Association.
On Protocol: Keeping the internet open is going to be hard and expensive, the Internet Archive's Brewster Kahle said:
Katrina Parrott is suing Apple for allegedly stealing her idea for emoji with multiple skin tones, but said the real problem is even deeper:
Chris Sacca said he keeps getting the same job offer:
Venture capital might be losing its shine, Arlan Hamilton said:
Net neutrality is coming back to Congress, Ed Markey said:
Roblox is going public today. Not only are investors watching, but all the people building games, services and creator careers on top of the game are as well.
Dropbox bought DocSend for $165 million. The company's getting ever closer to building a complete digital document system.
Apple is leasing a new office in Ireland with room for up to 400 new people. The company has been working on a deal for more office space there since before the pandemic. Apple also said it would invest $1.2 billion to set up a silicon design center in Germany.
Clare Martorana is the new federal CIO. She was previously CIO at the Office of Personnel Management.
Andrew Steer is the new president and CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund. He joins from the World Resources Institute.
Jim Messina is joining the board of Blockchain.com. He was a longtime top aide in the Obama administration.
This is the purpose of this space until further notice: to highlight all the best, weirdest and wackiest in the non-fungible universe. Today's entrant: a Banksy print that someone bought, burned on a livestream and tokenized. And then sold for $380,000.
Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer and Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or our tips line, email@example.com. Enjoy your day; see you tomorrow.