Alexa and the iPad undoubtedly have a place in the history of innovation of Secret Projects but neither Amazon nor Apple have taken their foot off the gas in recent times. It’s true, these majors players along with other big names like Facebook and Uber continue to invest heavily in an increasingly digital and autonomous future.
And that’s just part of the story….
You see, these four names are working on more than a few revolutionary concepts and yet still managing to keep these projects out of the headlines. In this article, we take a closer look at the most interesting secret projects for each of these companies and what we can expect to see from them in the near future.
Amazon: Vesta – the Domestic Robot
While Jeff Bezos is not one to comment on rumors or speculation, it’s no secret that Amazon has been busy with building a domestic robot. With an expected market value of $15 billion per year by 2023, it’s also no wonder why the richest man on the planet has his eye on this particular niche.
It’s true, Amazon is currently in the midst of “Vesta”, a project run by Gregg Zehr in the research and development lab at Amazon. As you may know, Lab126 is also responsible for many revolutionary devices such as the Echo speakers and Amazon continues to hire an immense number of engineers for Vesta.
Now, you might already know about Amazon Robotics, a company subsidiary that deploys robots in the many Amazon warehouses. However, this has nothing to do with Vesta which is expected to be far more advanced and capable than anything the industry has ever witnessed.
Amazon is equipping these robots with computer vision software and cameras so that they can navigate their way about the home. As you might expect, these robots will also be voice enabled to accommodate the increasingly impressive Alexa and it’s widely believed that Vesta is being designed to accompany users to parts of the home that may not have any Alexa-enabled devices.
Unfortunately, that’s about as much as anyone knows about Vesta and although there is no release date, Amazon will begin seeding these robots in the homes of employees shortly with the intention of bringing the finished product to the market later this year.
Facebook: Mind-Reading Devices
Facebook has come under a lot of fire in recent times with a data scandal dominating the headlines for many months last year. At the same time, the social media giant shows no signs of slowing down and “Building 8” is right at the centre of what could be one of the most remarkable inventions in digital history.
Building 8 is home to the Facebook experimental team and this tech department is working on four different projects including a consumer drone, AR glasses and a medical device. However, a mind-reading device is most definitely the one that stands out and this innovation is a long-time interest interest of Mark Zuckerburg who had previously talked about his desire to create a device for telepathy.
Yes, you read that right; Facebook wants to know what you are thinking !
Featuring a “brain computer interface”, the prototype for this augmented-reality device can apparently scan the human brain and link the GPS data of a person to real-world data in the area. In other words, Facebook will know what you want as soon as you know it. For example, you might be walking down a main street when this device will provide a listing of the shops that you might be thinking about.
Anyway, it’s still early days for the concept but Facebook has previously made investments in artificial intelligence and achieved great success with the likes of facial recognition and language understanding. With that said, it would seem that mind-reading is merely the next step for learning about predictive behaviour and maybe this invention is not so unbelievable after all.
Apple: Project Titan and the Apple Car
In spite of reports that more than two hundred employees were let go from the project this year, Apple has simply moved these individuals to other departments. More importantly, the tech giant continues to push forward with project Titan which is tasked with creating a fully autonomous self-driving car. In fact, Apple have already “poached” a number of Google and Tesla employees to work on this project including the former senior designer at Tesla, Andrew Kim.
As with most Apple products, things seem to have changed along the way and some reports suggest that the project is now focused on producing an electric van of some kind. With this in mind, the exact purpose of the vehicle is unclear and in spite of regulatory issues that require Apple to be more public in this industry, very little is still known about the project.
On the other hand, Apple is a major force and already at the forefront of this market. According to sources at both Tesla and Amazon, autonomous cars will be just as much about the “experience” as the destination and this ‘experience’ is certainly a concept that Apple have mastered with previous products.
But what do we know about the actual project and vehicle?
Well, after briefly focusing on the systems within the vehicle, it would seem that project Titan has come back to the original focus in terms of the vehicle design. The project uses a fleet of 66 Lexus SUVs as a test-bed for autonomous driving and the vehicles are often witnessed in the San Francisco Bay Area. More specifically, each vehicle is equipped with computer systems, software and sensors which are mostly tasked with defining the navigation and safety of the Apple Car.
As a side note, the Secret projects is also using Titan technology to develop a self-drive shuttle and this program is expected to use Volkswagen vans to ferry employees from one Apple campus to the next. In terms of a release date, the Apple Car is expected to launch between 2023-2025 and representatives state that revolutionary technologies will differentiate this product from self-drive vehicles from any of its’ peers.
Uber: The Ghost App that Can Deny Ride Requests
Controversy seems to follow Uber nowadays with one viral video after another highlighting the dangers associated with picking up strangers or even drunks. But what has Uber done now?
Uber has developed a mirror of the original app that gives certain users the perception that they can order a ride. In fact, this ‘ghost app’ even has fake cars moving around that will obviously not show up even if you manage to “book one”. In case you might be asking yourself, this literally means that Uber is deliberately deceiving people so that certain users cannot avail of the service.
According to Uber, this app was designed to protect drivers of secret Projects and deny ride requests from users that might be violating the terms of service. This violation could refer to characters they believe to be dangerous or individuals who might prove disruptive to the Uber service. In some ways, it sounds rather reasonable but this also brings forth a question of morality that will touch every other industry. For example, is it okay for restaurants or bars to deny someone entry yet create a cunning façade that stops this person from knowing the reason why?
As you can see, this is where things get confusing but either way, Uber has created a revolutionary system that could have far greater consequences than just wasting peoples time.
Indeed, we have come a long way since the iPad and it would seem that voice technology and artificial intelligence is just the beginning for the robots, rides and mind-reading devices of the future!