Op-Ed: 5 Ingredients For Digitally-Enabled Physical Experiences

Op-Ed: 5 Ingredients For Digitally-Enabled Physical Experiences
Op-Ed

Mark Newcomer, Chief Strategy Officer at Mirum, describes what venture capital firms are looking for when funding meaningful digital and physical experiences

PSFK Op-Eds
  • 22 february 2018

The essence of Digitally Enabled Physical Experiences, or DEPE, is about creating experiences that merge digital and physical worlds. Lately, we’ve been on the lookout for funding companies that support these types of enhanced experiences. We are finding that money is flowing into DEPE design—and more money flowing in means more money for the architects of DEPE to paint with, and a bigger palette to create from. Without looking too hard, you can find a variety of companies looking to bring DEPE to life.

Connecting devices, the fabric of DEPE

A key to DEPE is to create and design more intelligent experiences by connecting devices. Mythic is a tech startup that pushes AI into pretty much any device—turning a fitness band into a life coach, a drone into a film director or a fridge into a meal planner—enabling AI to run locally on these devices to achieve a deeper level of understanding of their environment.

In March 2017, Mythic raised $9.3 million in venture funding, led by Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ), Lux CapitalData Collective and AME Cloud Ventures. “With this, you could put machine intelligence into a toaster, a Roomba, a security camera, or all kinds of devices where it wouldn’t make sense before, because you’d need a persistent internet connection to make it useful,” said DFJ Partner Steve Jurvetson.

Optimizing AI and making it accessible

Mythic is a great example of how AI enables all the elements of DEPE to work together. Next, we need to make the tools accessible, and use AI to understand how to make the experiences smarter. Companies like H2O.ai will allow us to do that. H2O.ai makes “machine learning accessible” and allows business users to extract insights from the data, with no expertise necessary to deploy or tune the machine learning models. Nvidia and Wells Fargo are big investors in H2O.ai, with others soon expected to jump on the bandwagon.

Mark Newcomer, Chief Strategy Officer at Mirum.

Devices on humans help blend the person and the experience

Lux Capital in New York City is funding a life-changing venture called Aira.IO, smart glasses technology that allows blind and low-vision users greater mobility and freedom to live a normal lifestyle. With Aira smart glasses, users tap a button or deliver a voice command that connects them with an agent, or even family and friends, who can see what the user sees and assist with virtually any situation, including activities like running and hiking. Aira uses a real-time interactive dashboard that processes live data streams from video cameras, GPS and other sensor systems from wearable platforms, including Google Glass.

“Wouldn’t it be cool,” said Aira’s founder Suman Kanuganti, “if you could share a grocery list with Aira, and then use the glasses, whether powered by AI or a human, to guide someone through the grocery store and tell them where to find each item in each aisle?”

With wide-ranging implications, including rooms that surround us with tech, we must remember that DEPE is also tech that humans put on to enhance everyday experiences. In the long run, we hope these devices will be less cumbersome then they are today, and every advancement is getting us closer. 

DEPE in the workplace

DEPE design also encompasses how the enterprise delivers. Here, experiences can be created where robots send information to employees, thereby making their jobs easier and leading to a better shopping experience for consumers.

In the world of retail, Walmart is partnering with San Francisco-based robotics firm Bossa Nova on robots that roam the aisles of Walmart stores, auditing shelves and then sending data back to employees to ensure that missing items are restocked, as well as locating incorrect prices and wrong or missing labels. Bossa Nova recently raised $17.5 million in funding coming from Paxion, Intel Capital and Cota Capital.

In the Walmart example, store associates get a big step in transforming the enterprise from their robot coworkers. In fact, Walmart even created a competition among employees to give the robots names, which the robots wear on name badges.

While this example is arguably more focused on robotics, the notion of the workplace being automated, connected and sensing is another sign of progress.

Biometrics and human-sensing technology

Biometrics is technology that identifies individuals and acts as access control, signaling things that people can do on a grander level. You might already have heard of Face++, the facial recognition technology transforming everyday life in China. One of their biggest backers has been Chinese firm Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba Group. Ant Financial is the most valuable fintech company in the world and operates Alipay, the world’s largest mobile and online payment platform.

With Face++ technology, employees in China can just show their faces to enter an office building, and train passengers’ faces are scanned to match tickets to their government-issued IDs. Megvii (which stands for “mega vision”) is the Beijing-based company that created and runs the Face++ platform, which is also the technology behind Alibaba’s “smile to pay” facial recognition payments in use at KFCs across China. 

These are only a few examples that scratch the surface of DEPE design investment. Imagine what the world would be like if we broadened the scope of these technologies to include other categories.

As the Chief Strategy Officer of Mirum AgencyMark Newcomer leads Mirum’s Strategy & Planning, Insights, and Performance Media teams to transform client businesses. His approach is to work closely with organizations to collaborate, plan and execute large-scale digital efforts and improve marketing, sales, customer experience, product and brand.

The essence of Digitally Enabled Physical Experiences, or DEPE, is about creating experiences that merge digital and physical worlds. Lately, we’ve been on the lookout for funding companies that support these types of enhanced experiences. We are finding that money is flowing into DEPE design—and more money flowing in means more money for the architects of DEPE to paint with, and a bigger palette to create from. Without looking too hard, you can find a variety of companies looking to bring DEPE to life.

+AI
+artificial intelligence
+Asia
+Brand Introduction
+china
+Design
+Facial Recognition
+fashion / apparel
+finance
+financial services
+fitness / sport
+Frictionless Transaction
+Google
+Innovation
+Intel
+internet of things
+investing
+IoT
+IoT
+Luxury
+mobile
+op-ed
+Public
+retail
+technology
+USA
+Wal-Mart
+work

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