Great article on the final frontier. I found the points around mission planning with additive manufacturing capabilities on board to be most thought provoking. Imagining a future in which food, medicine, tools and large scale equipment can be printed on board the vessel, the flexibility and safety of such missions could be greatly increased. As more companies move towards space travel for the masses, these concerns of safety and flexibility will certainly come into the foreground.
This is a really interesting view into the way an iconic company is trying to innovate to remain relevant. I think your question around Toys ‘R’ Us and the decline of brick and mortar sales is a good one and I personally think that Lego can thrive in an e-commerce environment as they already have a strong brand that could drive traffic to their sites and their package sizes lend themselves to manageable shipping. In fact, I would love to see Lego shift their physical footprint away from point-of-sale to point-of-build. Is there a future for Lego in which I contribute a Lego building my local online Lego City, vote on the various buildings in the city and then go to a Lego location near me to build the city with others one day? I think Lego’s shift into open innovation could promise not only new, customized product designs but more interesting ways in which young builders interact with each other and with the products.
Interesting view of Tesla’s approach to this space and, in particular, the bets it is placing on chip development. Another notable bet that the company is making is around the use of lidar technology – Tesla’s hardware suite (including the new HW2) lacks the lidar sensors that most other autonomous driving programs claim is an essential ingredient on the road to level 5 autonomy. While contentious, Tesla’s stance is that humans can navigate our roads with only the use of cameras (our eyes) and software (our brains) so the cars should be able to do the same and it’s just a matter of getting the software piece right. As the team continues to push the envelope in their Autopilot releases, it will be interesting to see how the R&D into chips and the choice of sensors pays off, or if the decisions need further revision to make level 5 a reality.
This article is a great analysis of how FarmBeats is leveraging technology in their approach to precision agriculture. I think that research in this area is particularly pressing as we consider the potential destruction and removal of arable lands through climate changes in the future. However, I would echo the concern that Reed Hastings has raised on whether yields are the most pressing issue in this space. I find it an interesting thought experiment to consider the agricultural revolution of the 18th & 19th centuries as a large-scale experiment in crop yield improvements. Fast forward from that period of technological and cultural advancement to today and we have the situation of a world population approaching 8 billion people with massive disparities in access to food. As society explores avenues to activate further increases in crop yields, we also have to ask ourselves how we ensure the next increase does not result in the same disparity. Additionally, we need to examine closely the ways in which increases in crop yields lead population growth (i.e. does a new influx of consumable energy accelerate population growth such that yields are always chasing?) As a company with the reach and resources that Microsoft has, I would urge them to tackle the distribution and waste problems that currently exist within the agriculture industry, while still developing such precision agricultural technologies that will doubtless be useful in a future with a very different climate.
This article does a great job of outlining both the opportunities and the challenges associated with additive manufacturing in automotive. I think that Buzz_Lightyear brings up a great point around the service element of the automotive industry as well – if you couple the ability to more rapidly prototype automotive components during program development with the decreased cost to serve a larger number of programs in the field (thinking through decommissioning older ‘service-only’ manufacturing lines, holding smaller amounts of inventory at global service facilities, cutting out transport of parts in some instances), additive manufacturing could allow auto companies to more continuously improve & respond to customer demands. As mobility needs continue to change, this ability to quickly respond to changes in vehicle design could be a huge competitive advantage for players like BMW.