Category: Uncategorized

Aug 21 2018

Will Someone Please Tell Me Exactly What a Looking Glass Can Do?

A few weeks ago I wrote about the launch of the Looking Glass, a desktop holographic display made for 3D creators. Since then, over a thousand people have purchased a Looking Glass for their desks. I think part of the reason for this attention is that the Looking Glass is filling a much-needed hole in the REPL for Hardware flow alongside additive and subtractive desktop 3D printers and laser cutters. It also helps that the Looking Glass works without a VR or AR headset.

If you have ever used a 3D printer, has Unity, Maya, or Blender on your computer, or isn’t scared by terms like “volumetric video” and “light-field photography”, you should probably have a Looking Glass. For 48 more hours, you can get one of your own for 25% off here.

It’s right around this point in the post that I can hear the skeptics asking themselves (reasonably), “But what can the Looking Glass do right now”? It’s a question that comes up a lot in the area of new human-computer interfaces, one of my favorite Foundry Group investment themes particularly because it lives on the edge of the comfort zone. The same question famously came up repeatedly for the personal computer back in 1983, answered by this Apple ad.

Rather than waiting for a killer app on the horizon, the crew at Looking Glass Factory are taking a page from the early-Apple playbook and answering this challenge with a daily flow of new holographic applications. They’re aiming to get to 100 practical (and in some cases not practical but joyful) things a 3D creator can do with their Looking Glass by the time most of the units ship in December. Here are just a few that have come out over the past few weeks:

WYSIWYG preview of 3D models before 3D printing.

Exporting 3D scenes directly from Autodesk’s Maya – and soon supporting a live viewport direct from Maya into a Looking Glass.

Ramping up other integrations for other 3D creation programs like Blender.

Voxatron in the Looking Glass: this is a voxel-based engine that was developed by an indie game developer Joseph White in Tokyo. What’s remarkable about this is that Joseph started to develop Voxatron back in 2004 on the belief that one day a holographic display would exist to house it. I really like how in this example a tiny bit of code generates a holographic app in a Looking Glass.

Display of 3D architectural models.

Photogrammetry drone scans of a terrain.

And this completely impractical but joyous sloth captured with an iPhone X.

I have a feeling this is just the beginning and I believe this team and the community of 3D creators coalescing around the Looking Glass are going to blow past 100 holographic apps and integrations very quickly.

To see for yourself, head over to the Looking Glass Kickstarter launch. The Standard Looking Glass is normally $600, but you can pick one up for $450 if you grab one of the last units in the next 48 hours.

And as the Looking Glass founders Shawn and Alex say, thanks^3.

Comments
Aug 3 2018

Speaking at the Aspen Entrepreneur Showcase on August 13th

On August 13th, I’m giving a talk as part of the Aspen Entrepreneur Showcase. I’m doing an AMA moderated by Chris Klug on:

  • Entrepreneurship & Innovation in Rural Communities
  • Angel & Venture Capital Investing
  • The GiveFirst Ethos and its Impact on Startups
  • Forming Great Boards of Directors
  • Techstars Accelerator Going International
  • Mental Health and Depression
  • Philanthropic Giving
  • Trends for 2019

And, since it’s an AMA, that means people who show up can ask me whatever they want.

If you are near Aspen on 8/13, it’s from 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm at the Rocky Mountain Institute in Basalt, CO.

Comments
Jul 17 2018

The REPL For Hardware

We’ve been soaking (and investing) in the world of 3D printing since our investment in MakerBot in 2011. Since then, we’ve made three other investments in the world of 3D printing – Formlabs, Glowforge, and Looking Glass. While Looking Glass is a holographic display and is the inverse of a 3D printer, you’ll see how it fits into this in a moment.

While I continue to be impressed by Desktop Metal, the incredible press that they get, and am a big fan of the writing of Jason Pontin, I think Jason’s story in Wired – 3-D Printing Is The Future of Factories (For Real This Time) – misses several key points that take the idea that 3D printing is the future in a different direction.

I’ve decided that 3D printing is the REPL for Hardware. Dan Shapiro, the CEO of Glowforge, coined this and he’s completely nailed it. If you don’t know what a REPL is, it’s a programming concept called the Read-eval-print loop. Following is an example of a Python REPL running in a browser.

In the middle window is the Python code for a simple factorial. You hit the “run” button and the REPL reads the Python code, evaluates it, and prints the answer (120) in the right window. Hang on to that idea – Read, Evaluate, Print – we’ll be back to it later.

My first thoughts around 3D printing started at the beginning of 2010, when I read Chris Anderson’s Wired essay In The Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are The New Bits. His 2012 book Makers: The New Industrial Revolution helped me understand this better.

At first, I was obsessed with distributed 3D printing. On the desktop. For professionals. Each of MakerBot, Formlabs, and Glowforge took expensive industrial products that cost $50,000 to $500,000 and put them on a desktop for $2,000 to $5,000. The metaphor we used for this was that of the evolution of the laser printer market. If that’s elusive to you, the path from mainframe to PC works also.

We started with our investment in MakerBot, which used a technology called FDM (fused deposition modeling), which is a cousin of FFF (fused filament fabrication). This is a fancy phrase for “heating up plastic, extruding it, and building a 3D thing with the heated plastic”. It was magical, but limited on many dimensions based on the constraints of the materials and the process. As a result, MakerBot (and FDM in general) is primarily a hobbyist and DIY product.

FDM is additive manufacturing. So, when Glowforge came along, we immediately recognized it as the analogous subtractive manufacturing technology. Glowforge is a laser cutter (basically the addition of a laser to a CNC machine). You shine a laser at a material – any material – over and over again to subtract from the material to make your 3D print. As magical as MakerBot was, what Glowforge could do was mind-bending and took 3D printing to an entirely new dimension for me. You could work with paper, granite, sushi, cardboard, chocolate, wood, and basically any other material. Plus, well, LASERS!

We knew Formlabs from our experience at MakerBot. If you haven’t seen the Netflix documentary Print the Legend and you are interested in this stuff, go watch it. It’s the early story of both MakerBot and Formlabs, has endless cringe-worthy moments in it, stars some of your friends, and shows how incredibly challenging a startup is.

Since MakerBot had been acquired, it cleared the way for us to invest in Formlabs, which we did in 2016. Formlabs first product was based on SLA (stereolithography). In this technology, you shine a laser at a vat of resin and it builds up the 3D print (again – additive manufacturing). The quality and fidelity of the 3D prints are much higher with SLA, there are a wide variety of resins, and, as a result, Formlabs has had great success in the prosumer market. Next year, Formlabs will be shipping the Fuse, an SLS (selective laser sintering) 3D printer, which is another, even more advanced technology, at a desktop price point.

With Formlabs and Glowforge, we now have high-end desktop 3D printers at a price point under $10,000 (or at least 1/10th the price of similar industrial products). They are WiFi connected (just like today’s laser printer), have contemporary software, are integrated with everything 3D software related, and work extremely well.

Let’s go back to REPL. You start with a 3D image, which you can either design, get from the web, or get from Thingiverse or Pinshape, Formlabs and Glowforge printers then provide the REPL – it reads the 3D code, evaluates it, and prints it. On your desktop. Next to you. In high fidelity. Right away. Inexpensively.

So – how does Looking Glass fit into this? It still takes some time for Formlabs and Glowforge to print the 3D object, so the output from the REPL isn’t immediate. What if you could visualize the 3D object, in 3D, as an intermediate step? Voila – a holographic display (also known by a variety of other names like lightfield or volumetric display.) Looking Glass is 3D visualization on the desktop, which makes the desktop 3D experience for the professional even more powerful.

In 1984, HP shipped their first HP Laserjet. a 300-dpi, 8 ppm printer that sold for $3,495. A decade later, HP shipped its 10-millionth LaserJet printer. By the end of 2000, they had shipped 50 million of them. Over the weekend, I installed an HP LaserJet Pro M277dw Wireless All-in-One Color Printer, a 600-dpi, 19 ppm WiFi connected color printer / scanner / fax that sells $484.

When someone asks me what they can do with a 3D printer, I wish I could shove them into my time travel machine and send them back to early 1985 to ponder the question “Why do I need a laser printer on my desktop – I’ve already got an Epson MX-80.”

If you make anything in 3D, you now can have a 3D REPL on your desk.

Comments
Jun 21 2018

Happy 25th Anniversary Amy

Amy Batchelor and I have been married for 25 years today. Here’s what we looked like a long time ago on a vacation together in Cabo.

R.E.M. and Dilbert together kind of says it all.

Here’s another picture of us in our apartment at 15 Sleeper Street in Boston on Amy’s 25th birthday. Amy remembers that I took her out that night to Biba for dinner.

That keyboard is the one that almost burned down an entire fraternity building on 351 Mass Ave one night. But that’s another story. I loved Amy’s permed hair – maybe that look will come back in fashion some day.

Amy and I are in Dresden on our way to Berlin with my parents right now. They just celebrated their 55th anniversary, which is a remarkable achievement. I hope to have at least another 30 years with Amy.

Happy anniversary my beloved.

Comments
Dec 11 2017

BREAK THE INTERNET TO SAVE NET NEUTRALITY

We have just hours. The FCC is about to vote to end net neutrality—breaking the fundamental principle of the open Internet—and only an avalanche of calls to Congress can stop it. So we decided to help “Break the Internet” on our sites. You can also support on TwitterTumblrYoutube or in whatever wild creative way you can to get your audience to contact Congress. That’s how we win. Are you in?

More info here.

Comments
Apr 3 2017

iOS Border Crossing Mode

Now that US Border agents are aggressively asking for your cell phone and passwords when you cross the border, it’s time for Apple and Google to add a new feature to iOS and Android. The feature is needed because it’s not enough to just lock your phone, or turn it off before you go through the border.

A while ago, to make it easy to comply with FAA regulations, which many believe to be unnecessary,  iOS airplane mode and Android airplane mode were created. I’ve always been mildly fascinated with the feature because it’s a good example of Apple and Google doing something clever to make the use of their product super easy in a particular context.

I’ve read a few articles that say you should delete all of the apps on your phone before you cross the border. Since most of your data is likely in the cloud, this isn’t a big deal in terms of data. But, it’s a huge hassle to delete the apps, reinstall, and then log in after they’ve been installed.

Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a button that turned on iOS Border Crossing Mode? When you clicked this button (liked iOS Airplane mode), iOS would upload any local data to your iCloud account, delete all the apps on your phone, and lock your phone to only be used with your password. Even if border control forced you to enter your password, they would now be confronted with a phone that didn’t have any data on it.

Then, after you crossed the border, you could turn iOS Border Crossing Mode off and all of your apps and any local data would be restored.

Theoretically, you could be forced at the border crossing to deactivate iOS Border Crossing Mode. I have a feeling the ACLU would have a field day with this.

Comments
Feb 1 2017

This Page Intentionally Left Blank

For some strange reason, I woke up thinking about one of my favorite things to discover in a book or an article. I know there’s deep meaning in the notion that it was the first think that floated up to my consciousness when I awoke this morning. Like any good zen koan, I’m going to let it roll around all day. In the mean time, I look forward to my digital sabbath on Saturday to put the thought into practice and just do nothing.

Several years ago I told Amy “no more three city days.” She reminded me this morning that yesterday was a three city day (Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles.) It was also a three board meeting day (Chorus, Mattermark, Nima), although Nima was a lovely dinner instead of a board meeting. And this trip has three California cities in it – San Francisco, Los Angeles (for the Upfront Summit, which is turning into one of my favorite annual work events), and then Santa Barbara for a TrackR board meeting.

As I got out of the shower, I realized I had slept in a very similar room at this hotel the week after my 50 mile race in April 2012. That was an uncomfortable shock, as I attribute a lot of physiological damage from that race as one of the root causes of the depression I ended up having in early 2013.

Which, reminded me of the first thing I thought of when I awoke today. Maybe the meaning of the koan is as simple as “Don’t forget to rest, grasshopper.”

Comments
Dec 14 2016

Boulder Startup Week 2016 Panel on Mental Health and Wellbeing

During Boulder Startup Week 2016, Dave Mayer of Technical Integrity moderated a panel on Mental Health and Wellbeing that I was on with Sarah Jane Coffey and Tom Higley. It ended up going 90 minutes and I remember it being powerful for me and the audience. Dave recently put it up on Youtube and wrote a blog post about it. His leadoff in his post sets things up nicely.

“During my relatively short six-year journey through the startup landscape- I’ve been through ugly founder breakups, I’ve lost plenty of money, lost way too much time, and I ended up in the hospital from exhaustion from too many 100 hour weeks. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the reality of building new companies. I know of suicides, families being torn apart and of course several cases of debilitating depression.”

If this is a topic that is interesting, relevant, or important to you, I hope you enjoy our rambling session on it at Naropa during BSW 2016. Thanks Dave for organizing and hosting. And thanks to Sarah Jane and Tom for being vulnerable and brave enough to talk publicly about this stuff.

Comments
Nov 20 2016

The Techstars Origin Story

Greg Avery recently wrote a detailed story in the Denver Business Journal of the origin story of Techstars a decade ago. It’s unfortunately paywalled but comes with a video.

For all of you who have participated in or supported Techstars to date, thank you!

Comments
Oct 6 2016

Dreams and Garbage Collection

I love dreams. Mine are often very detailed, clear, extremely colorful, linger for a while (several hours) after I wake up, and full of strange and complex linkages between things that often cause me to make associations I wouldn’t have otherwise made. Ever since I learned about the concept of garbage collection in 6.001 at MIT in 1984 while using Scheme on HP Chipmunks, I’ve always thought of dreaming as the same as garbage collection for a computer. When I read Minsky’s The Society of the Mind I started referring to dreams as garbage collection for the mind.

I woke up this morning with a particularly vivid dream that has stuck with me for the past hour as I get ready to head to Seattle and Portland for a few days. After 30 days off the grid, I’ve had an expectedly intense full three days as I get back in the flow of things. I’m processing a lot and when I went to bed last night around 11:30 my brain was full. As I laid down next to Amy, she said “I can feel you thinking.” We murmured a few things to each other and then I promptly fell asleep.

I woke up in the midst of the dream to Amy saying “Did you set an alarm?” (Answer: “No, but I’m awake now!”) In my dream I was walking down the hall with the Chief Information Officer of a health care company I’d somehow ended up as a consultant for. The CIO was an older white guy – classic last generation CIO – who was totally panicked about a security breach but had no idea what to do about it. He and I had just walked out of a board meeting with about 30 people moments after they’d fired the CEO. The board was in an uproar, trying to figure out how the CEO had let the security breach happen and why there were all these Twitter accounts posting images of patients with posts in weird / poor English saying things about how great Trump is.

In the board meeting I had explained to the board that the Twitter accounts were geo-coded with locations in Russia, so it was likely a Russian hacker and a focused attack that had nothing to do with the company. One of the board members was emotional. “I don’t give a shit – just fix it!” Other board members were talking over each other about who the new CEO should be. The consensus was “We don’t care what it costs – just solve the problem.”

Immediately prior to walking into the board meeting, I had been in an underground office below a parking garage meeting with a small team of white hat hackers. They had previously gotten my attention by breaking into several highly secure systems unrelated to me, sending me evidence of their break ins, and suggesting that they were for hire. I had been going back and forth with Rob Hayes at First Round Capital about his experience with them, since he’d hired them in the past. The lead hacker showed me how he’d spoofed Rob’s response to me and replaced it with an image of a gigantic hairless cat.

As I go back further in the dream, it’s fading now so I’m losing the thread. But you get the idea.

And yes, Amy and I love the movie Inception. It’s on a semi-annual rotation in the Feld/Batchelor household. It is entirely possible that everything we are experiencing is just one of the levels.

Comments