Apple, Tesla and AI After Chatbots

January 13, 2024
The second space race is under way.

“Is this a tool we’ve built or a creature we’ve built?” — Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI

In spite of declining birth rates, civilization will grow by two orders of magnitude this century and surpass 100 billion thinking, creative, and productive inhabitants in the next two decades.

Tens of billions of connected computers, cars, robots, and toasters will work together to build and maintain the edifice of civilization, intelligently allocating and moving resources to where they are needed.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT got over 100 million users in its first two months of operation, making it the fastest growing consumer product of all time. We don’t have to believe in AGI or machine sentience to recognize that the workforce of civilization is at the cusp of a truly radical growth spurt. For better or worse, the energy output of civilization will be multiplied, consumed, and directed by machine intelligence at an ever-increasing rate.

Although they have an impressive lead, it may be too early to say that OpenAI has built a moat. Chats-as-an-interface and the-internet-as-context is an incredible revolution in human-computer interaction, but computers understanding and navigating the physical world will be the next breakthrough.

Today, our digital devices lack a critical sense that humans take for granted. The ultimate incarnation of AI will require a sense of space: machine proprioception.

Robots fail without proper machine proprioception.

When you wake up in the middle of the night to go pee, and you don’t want to wake your partner, you’re lucky to find that you know how to grab the bathroom handle in the dark. Nature has equipped you with complex spatial reasoning allowing you to navigate the world and pick your nose with your eyes closed.

What makes this possible are often-overlooked senses that we deploy as we move ourselves about the world.

Our sense of proprioception is how we understand the position and movement of our physical body without looking at it, and our sense of direction is how we understand our place in relation to the world we inhabit.

Today, digital devices largely lack these fundamental senses, relying on extremely rudimentary and low-resolution approximations of space.

For Elon Musk’s vision of humanoid robots entering the workforce to come to pass machines must first acquire a collaborative sense of machine proprioception, sharing, and reasoning about spatial data together.

Microsoft VP Lili Cheng highlighted this truth succinctly when she said that mixed reality is the eyes and ears of AI. Spatial computing is the bridge between the digital world and the physical world we inhabit.

Microsoft is not alone in this realization. Bubbling just under the surface of the public’s attention, hidden in the buzz of the metaverse and AI, is one of the greatest capital allocations and arms races in human history.

The spatial computing race has serious privacy implications.

Every major player in the tech industry is preparing for the advent of the spatial internet, scrambling to solve the problem of machine proprioception so that they can power the AI revolution, smart cities, and the transition from mobile to spatial computers.

Many analysts have noted that Tesla is not really a car company but an AI company. Even this analysis misses what is really going on and what Elon is driving at (pun intended):

The greatest assets that Tesla has are the millions of moving cameras building up a spatial model of the world for its cars and robots to reason about. What would make Tesla’s AI superior to that of OpenAI is that it is being trained on the real world instead of its human-curated internet derivative.

The-world-as-context is the next big frontier for AI, and Tesla is one of the world’s most successful and ambitious spatial computing companies, giving it a long-term edge in the race for AI dominance.

Another company receiving spatial computing recognition is Apple. The announcement of the Apple Vision Pro was one of the biggest news of 2023, and its upcoming launch on Feb 2 is one of the most anticipated product launches this year.

Analysts like Mark Gurman at Bloomberg have argued that Apple may be falling behind in the AI race, as Siri is getting completely outclassed by the new generation of LLMs. Although there is a clear and painful discrepancy in capability there today, Apple is leading the charge in spatial computing for personal computers and the hardware interfaces we will use to interact with AI.

The smartphone as the dominant computing platform is reaching its end. A slew of new hardware startups like Humane and Rabbit are also taking exciting new bets on the hardware form factor for AI.

The Rabbit R1 is one of many new devices.

Savvy VCs would benefit from breaking their AI hypotheses into 3 distinct competitive buckets: foundation models and the compute it runs on, new hardware devices and interfaces, and spatial computing and the-world-as-context.

A purely semantic understanding of the world is insufficient to tackle many of the tasks we dream of AI and robots solving for us. Even simple tasks like “Go fetch the book on my bed” require spatial reasoning, so an AI confined to the internet will be perpetually disappointing.

AI without spatial computing is an anemic vision of the future. No matter its inherent intelligence, an AI confined to the internet is only in its infancy. What kind of machine god could not pick its nose in the dark?

Nils Pihl | CEO, Auki Labs

About Auki Labs

Auki Labs is at the forefront of spatial computing, pioneering the convergence of the digital and physical to give people and their devices a shared understanding of space for seamless collaboration.

With a focus on user-centric design and privacy, Auki Labs empowers industries and individuals to embrace the transformative potential of spatial computing, enhancing productivity, engagement, and human connection.

Auki Labs is building the posemesh, a decentralized spatial computing protocol for AR, the metaverse, and smart cities.

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About The Posemesh Foundation

The posemesh is an open-source protocol that powers a decentralized, blockchain-based spatial computing network.

The posemesh is designed for a future where spatial computing is both collaborative and privacy-preserving. It limits the surveillance capabilities of any organization and encourages sovereign ownership of private space maps.

The decentralization also offers a competitive advantage, especially in shared AR sessions where low latency is crucial. The posemesh is the next step in the decentralization movement, responding to the growing power of big tech.

The Posemesh Foundation has tasked Auki Labs with developing the software infrastructure of the posemesh.

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