Friday File: “Cognitive Sight” examined, plus some updates

Looking at a Michael Robinson teaser... plus, what's up with Input Capital and Crius Energy?

Happy Friday! I have a couple updates and notes for you today, but I thought I’d start with a look at a new teaser many of you have been asking about from Michael Robinson, it’s headlined “Cognitive Sight” and it’s really about artificial intelligence and it’s ability to make the blind see again (among many other things)… and, it turns out, it’s an extremely timely teaser (more on that in a moment).

Robinson’s ad features him wearing a pair of normal eyeglasses with some extra little thingy at the temple, and talks about how this “Cognitive Sight” ddevice can folks with nearsightedness, macular degeneration or other vision problems to identify Mount Rushmore when all they can “see” is a blur. All because of that little thing on his glasses, so it must be some cool new gadget that turns you into a half-man, half-robot, right?

Well, not exactly. That’s some of the future possibility he’s hinting at — but, as we’ve learned to expect from Robinson, he’s selling us on a fantastic dream of huge advancements that are quite possible but then actually recommending a stock that’s just a small part of the background of making that technology possible.

So it was when he pitched the “end of disease” thanks to the small sensors that can be used to more closely monitor our health or alert us to potential problems, and was actually teasing not some innovative new sensor maker with a new way of doing things or a brilliant medical discovery, but big ol’ STMicrolectronics (STM), the diversified semiconductor giant that’s also the biggest player in the MEMS chip sector.

And when he was promising that a new “neural imprinting” technology would rid the world of pain, he was really pitching virtual reality as a broad concept… and NVIDIA (NVDA) as his stock pick because their graphics chips will help make high-end virtual reality systems work better and faster.

Often we have to look past the headlines of his ads and get into the nitty gritty before we can make sense of what he’s actually talking about… so what is it this time?

Here’s a little sample from the intro:

“I’m wearing what The Financial Times reports could be a $20 trillion technology…

“Cognitive Sight….

“Right now, the biggest players in Silicon Valley are betting it could be the breakthrough 324 million people who suffer from macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, even blindness have been searching for.

“And remarkably, stakes in the 7,300 patents driving this multi-trillion-dollar invention have been put up for grabs!”

Wow! Thousands of patents backing a cure for vision problems? That sounds awesome! We’ll be rich!

Oh, but wait, we need to look at the details… right?

What he’s really talking about is the combination of visual sensing and what data scientists seem to now be calling “deep learning” — which can mean something as simple as a little glasses-mounted camera being able to understand the images in front of you and describe them to the wearer using words, or more dramatic enhancements to the visual field made possible with “augmented reality” glasses like Google Glass or Microsoft’s Hololens.

And then we get into a bit more about why he’s picking one particular “secret” company…

“Now here’s the big secret. And it’s a really big one.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s Microsoft or IBM or any of the veritable “who’s who” of tech behind this massive $8.5 billion funding wave…

“The lion’s share of this cash is all set to land in one place…

“One tiny company controls an astronomical amount of patents that are driving this Cognitive Sight revolution.

“7,300 patents to be exact.

“A truly rare situation has presented itself.

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“You have a chance right now to actually secure ‘patent stakes’ in this tiny firm’s technology.

“And be at the center of it all, possibly becoming a millionaire in the process.”

This is, of course, what’s wrong with these kinds of ads — the “possibly becoming a millionaire” bit. Many of us will be millionaires by the time we retire, one hopes, because it’s hard to generate enough income without a large nest egg, but the promise of “becoming a millionaire” based on one stock idea is what leads individual investors to chase rewards and take large and risky “bets” on a specific outcome for a specific company.

And don’t get too hung up on the idea of “securing a patent stake” on this technology — that’s just his way of being more exciting and “insider-y” than if he were to say something more pedestrian like “buy some stock in the company.” The owners of the corporation, which would be stockholders like you or I, are owners of everything the company owns, including their patents, so it’s not necessarily untrue that you’re getting an indirect “patent stake”… but it’s misleading.

Most of the quotes that Robinson pulled in the ad, the pieces that are supposed to jump out at you because they’re from recognized names like consulting firms or business publications, are about either artificial intelligence or “deep learning”, a more specific concept of AI, combined with gadgetry that seems to be based on the augmented reality stuff (like Google Glass), so perhaps he’s just broadly piecing that together into a single revolution that benefits his particular company.

More hype:

“…. with veritable pocket change you can get a small piece of every device these companies roll out using this firm’s patented technology.
Because of the deals they are negotiating, their market share on some of their boldest applications could hit 82%.

“They’ve established contracts with:

  • Apple
  • Intel
  • Amazon
  • Cisco
  • HP
  • Sony

“Even three of the biggest early backers of Cognitive Vision:

  • IBM
  • Microsoft
  • Google

“We’re at the beginning of what could be a wild and exciting 6,642% burst in revenue.”

So that’s all sticking in your subconscious brain — the only references to what you might earn are huge percentages or “millionaire” status, the only references to what you might have to invest are “pocket change.” It’s subtle, but it subconsciously drives many of us to huge expectations.

He then goes on to describe the “cognitive sight” device he’s wearing and using as an example, which essentially is an extended depth of field camera that somehow transmits data to his brain, and he says then that the “Artificial Intelligence Processor” is the key enabler….

“None of this would be possible without the most important component of this technology.

“Look at it as an “Artificial Intelligence Processor”…

“Which I’ll just abbreviate as A.I.P….

“It’s what makes it possible for this device to use artificial intelligence to interpret all of the images being captured by the lens.

“It’s what makes it efficient enough to run all day, processing any kind of writing.

“It’s what allows it to tell time, see colors, and identify faces of friends and family…

“Not only recognizing them in the moment, but storing them in its advanced memory to access later, just like the human brain can.”

And he compares this “AIP” to a more conventional CPU, like the central processor in your computer:

“Your typical CPU consists of 8 to 10 cores…

“However, the A.I.P. can hold up to 15 billion microscopic transistors….

“This A.I.P. is at least 3,200X more powerful than the CPU you most likely have in your computer right now.”

So, in case you haven’t jumped ahead yet, we’re starting to understand that he’s taking this whole artificial intelligence, deep learning, augmented vision world and pin it all on the processor that makes it possible. And it’s the owner of those “A.I.P.” patents that he’s excited about…

“… the A.I.P. is what gives Cognitive Sight devices the power necessary to augment or even replace damaged human sight….”

The specific “tiny device” that Robinson is wearing in the picture, and which he references over and over again, is almost certainly the MyEye from Orcam, an Israeli company founded and controlled by the same guys who built MobilEye (MBLY) — Orcam is still private, though they’ve got $15 billion in funding from Intel a couple years ago and they may go public at some point fa