PlayStation Creator Is Now Focused On Robotics, Autonomous Driving


The creator of the original PlayStation console is back to make new machines, though they probably aren’t what you’d expect. Ken Kutaragi has moved from video games to robots, and he aims to help human workers with factory jobs.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Kutaragi explained that as CEO of Ascent Robotics, a company founded in 2016, he is not receiving a salary and wants to solve problems caused by the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has turned the old argument about robots taking our jobs on its head,” he said. “It’s pretty clear now that if we want to arrive at a new normal, we need more and more robots in our daily lives.”

Increased automation has certainly been a concern across numerous industries, with machines taking the place of cashiers, assembly workers, and even cooks. With the pandemic putting peoples’ lives at risk, however, at least a temporary increase in automation may be necessary. The machines working alongside humans could reduce person-to-person contact which would in turn limit chances for the virus to be transmitted.

In Kutaragi’s case, he’s aiming to create new technology related to autonomous driving and more traditional robotics, including an arm that can pick items out using a camera.

Kutaragi left his position at Sony in 2007, the year after it launched the PlayStation 3. He had served as chairman and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment (now Sony Interactive Entertainment), and was succeeded by Kaz Harai, arguably a more recognizable figure who has spawned countless memes. Harai went on to lead all of Sony as CEO for several years. The PlayStation brand is still strong, of course, with the PS5 due to launch next month.

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A Look At The Innovators Driving Education Change In An Age Of Political Paralysis


While the political cyclone of 2020 continues to suck the air out of the proverbial room, the world of education innovation continues to engage in the all important task of responding to and iterating for the challenges of education worldwide. It’s astounding and inspiring to convene with the best in class entrepreneurs whose work is not only making a difference, but can help you forget the insanity we live in today. 

It’s hard to believe, but I had the chance to attend one such convening just last month, in Italy, no less! In full disclosure, the US-Italia Ed Innovation Festival, was the brainchild of my organization.  Our “modest” goal was to create a new education renaissance, so we set out to do so with this unique hybrid event. What’s most remarkable and newsworthy isn’t just that it happened, but that the assembly of on-ground and on-line attendees from throughout the two countries were able to demonstrate the success of new educational synergies to benefit students throughout our globe in this era of Covid-19.  Despite the daily bad news headlines about education and work being upended dramatically by the pandemic, these conversations showed that it’s possible to solve our most pernicious problems with focus, coordination and the right innovations.  

As in the US, schools in Italy had to adapt and rely on technology that wasn’t widely available and move fast to get teachers trained. Invalsi’s CEO Roberto Ricci and TAO-Testing’s Marc Oswald worked with the Italian Ministry of Education’s strategies for handling the blow Covid-19 had on schools. They found that many Italian schools that had transitioned from paper to digital a few years ago were able to get back up early on,

Nissan Will Provide Automated Driving Technology in All Future Models


Self-driving: It’s not just for Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) owners! Japanese automaker Nissan (OTC:NSANY) announced on Thursday that it will include automated driving features in all of its future models, regardless of price.

In an ambitious three-year plan, the company expects to roll out 20 new models by 2023, all of which will feature some level of automated driving capability. The move comes as competition heats up among automakers of all sizes to implement advanced technology like long-range batteries, automated driving, and heads-up displays. 

A concept rendering of an autonomous vehicle cockpit.

Image source: Getty Images.

Race to the top

Nissan, the ninth-largest automaker in the world by revenue, has had some success bringing technological innovations to market. It was the first carmaker to offer a mass-market battery-electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf, in 2010. In 2016, the company introduced its ProPILOT 1 technology, which allowed a car to automatically follow the car in front of it while driving on the highway. That technology will come standard on Nissan’s lower-priced models.

More upscale vehicles, including Nissan’s new Ariya battery-electric crossover SUV, will get an upgraded version of the technology, ProPILOT 2.0. Unveiled last year, ProPILOT 2.0 purports to be the world’s first system “combining navigated highway driving with hands-off single-lane driving capabilities.” The Ariya is scheduled for a 2021 release. By 2023, Nissan hopes to sell 1.5 million vehicles per year with ProPILOT technology.

Rival carmakers are pursuing their own versions of the technology. Tesla plans to offer automatic tracking and lane-maintaining technology as standard equipment on its Model 3 sedans, and is considering rolling out an Autopilot subscription service. Other manufacturers offer automated-driving technology as an optional feature, or standard on higher-priced vehicles only. But Nissan’s move may accelerate the race to include such features as standard on most cars.

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How California Wildfires Are Driving Energy Storage Beyond Lithium-Ion


California needs batteries. When California is on fire, it needs batteries that can keep a home, a hospital, a fire station, a senior center running longer than the four-hour standard of lithium-ion.

“What’s happened that’s brought this to bear has been the wildfires and the contingency issues we have in the PSPS (public-safety power shut-off) events,” said Mike Gravely, research program manager for the California Energy Commission.

“In November of last year over two million resident people in California were impacted by wildfire PSPS events” in which utilities shut down portions of the grid to prevent equipment from sparking fires during flammable conditions. “The average short outage was 11 hours, and some of it went as high as three to five days.”

During those outages, senior centers and hospitals have relied on diesel generators to supply electricity for critical-care equipment, but during wildfires, diesel fuel can also be hard to come by.

The likely answer is microgrids.

“Microgrids are a big topic,” Gravely said in a webinar hosted by the Clean Energy States Alliance, “and energy storage is a key element of all micro grids.”

What California needs has outsized significance in the energy-storage industry. The state expects to install 2,400 megawatts of energy storage in the next two years, a market-driving number that is, even so, a mere fraction of the 20,000 to 30,000 MW Gravely expects the state to need by 2045.

Lithium-ion’s seeming limitation

5 Tech ETFs Driving the Market Rally This Year


The technology sector has shown strong resilience amid the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, it has driven the bull market since the March lows and has been the best-performing sector so far this year with the S&P 500 Information Technology climbing more than 26%. In comparison, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite Index has gained 4.4% and 24.9%, respectively.

The gains were primarily driven by mega-cap companies, especially the FAANG stocks though these have bled lately on elevated valuation concerns. Notably, after an astounding surge since the March lows, these stocks are now selling at very rich valuations. Still, they are fundamentally strong.

This is especially true as the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the global digital shift, which has accelerated e-commerce for everything ranging from remote working to entertainment and shopping. The resurgence in coronavirus cases lately and the prospect of lockdowns will continue to fuel demand for Internet (read: Stay-At-Home ETFs to Soar Further on New Lockdown Measures).

Further, the rapid adoption of cloud computing, big data, Internet of Things, wearables, VR headsets, drones, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital communication and 5G technology will continue to drive the sector higher. As companies across sectors and many individuals are dependent on remote working, cloud-computing services have become essential.

Given this, we have highlighted those tech ETFs that are at the forefront of the broad market rally this year.

ARK Next Generation Internet ETF ARKW – Up 88.6%

This is an actively managed fund focusing on companies that are expected to benefit from the shift in technology infrastructure to cloud, enabling mobile, new and local services. The fund holds 49 stocks in its basket with AUM of $2.4 billion. It trades in an average daily volume of 726,000 shares and charges 76 bps in annual fees from investors (read: