Bull Session

How Will SoundCloud Survive?

July 21, 2017          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we discuss SoundCloud’s cashflow woes, the difficulties of making money with online audio, and the ongoing problem of finding business models for digitized content. Last week, SoundCloud announced layoffs of 173 employees — about half of its staff — as well as the closing of its offices in San Francisco and London, leading to speculation that the service would soon shut down. However, in a blog post entitled “SoundCloud is here to stay,” the company’s CEO stated, “we did this to ensure SoundCloud remains a strong, independent company.”

As a premiere online music and podcast streaming service that enables users to share tracks, SoundCloud gives unsigned artists and podcasters an easy to reach listeners. However, the streaming audio category is getting increasingly competitive: Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Pandora vie with SoundCloud for listeners’ ears. How will SoundCloud survive? Is there a new business model in the company’s future? Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
Music streamer SoundCloud has cash until fourth quarter after layoffs
SoundCloud says it’s ‘here to stay’ amid rumors it’s running out of cash

Bull Session

The Race for the Brain-Computer Interface

July 13, 2017          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we discuss the race for the brain-computer interface. Voice and typing are imprecise: A link from our brain to the computer would be much more effective. While this sounds like it could be the realm of science fiction, major research efforts are already underway. For instance, social media giant Facebook is attempting to build a brain-computer interface to translate your thoughts directly to the computer screen. This effort is being led by Regina Dugan, who previously ran the U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Resarch Projects Agency (DARPA) and is now in charge of Facebook’s research lab, Building 8. At the same time, DARPA is investing $65 million in new funding to develop neural implants, allowing the human brain to interact directly with computers. And Elon Musk’s new company, Neuralink is embarking on a similar mission, to link the human mind to computers via brain implants.

Resources:

Facebook is developing a way to read your mind
DARPA awards $65 million to develop the perfect, tiny two-way brain-computer interface
With Neuralink, Elon Musk Promises Human-to-Human Telepathy. Don’t Believe It.
U.S. to Fund Advanced Brain-Computer Interfaces

Bull Session

The iPhone: A Revolutionary Decade

July 8, 2017          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we discuss the impact of the iPhone on its 10th anniversary. In 2007, the smartphone market was dominated by products like Blackberry and Palm, which brought basic services to the business user, like e-mail and task lists, but not much else. The iPhone served as the stimulus for mobile computing for a mass audience. While mobile phones were already popular, the iPhone was something vastly different. It brought us computing in context, anywhere and everywhere; introduced new services that we seemingly can’t live without today; and set the foundation for the disruption of multiple industries. From the touch screen user interface to the walled garden of the app store, the iPhone and the ecosystem around it brought about a mobile computing revolution. Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
How Apple’s iPhone changed the world: 10 years in 10 charts
The iPhone Decade

Bull Session

Bioinspired Product Design

June 30, 2017          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we explore designing bioinspired products with special guest Nic Hogan, a computational designer focused on the creation of design and fabrication techniques that emulate or implement biological processes. Nic’s work includes projects with Harvard iLab and bioinspired technologies currently being developed at the Wyss Institute.

Resources

The Wyss Institute
Harvard iLab

Bull Session

Amazon Eats Whole Foods

June 22, 2017          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we explore Amazon’s recent purchase of high-end grocery chain Whole Foods and how this transaction will impact the future of retail. For its $14 billion investment, Amazon gets, among other things, a strong real estate portfolio in areas of the US with wealthy, desirable demographics; sophisticated food industry logistics and warehousing; a host of purchasing relationships and agreements; and some potentially rich customer data.

It’s a little ironic that an e-commerce giant such Amazon now has an unique opportunity to redefine brick-and-mortar retail as well. But, the company has been experimenting in this space for a few years. Its Amazon Go offering, for instance, is a IoT-enabled grocery store which enables customers to forgo the checkout line. People can walk in, tap their mobile phones on a turnstile, grab what they like from the shelves, and just walk out again — no waiting in line required. We can imagine that Amazon’s retail technology might soon make an impact on its newly purchased grocery stores. Join us as we discuss the evolution of the retail and the consequences of the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods.

Resources

Why Amazon Bought Whole Foods