White House tech adviser Michael Kratsios addresses scores of executives, experts and officials at a White House summit focusing on artificial intelligence in May 2018. (OSTP via Twitter) For months, the White House has been talking up artificial intelligence as one of America’s most important tech frontiers. Now we’re starting to see some of the dollar signs behind the talk. In newly released budget documents, the Trump administration says it wants to split $850 million in civilian federal spending on AI research and development between the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Energy Department. This is in addition to for AI and machine learning, including $208 million for the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. Based on the agency-by-agency breakdowns, NSF would get the lion’s share of the $850 million — specifically, The Department of Energy says it’s that would “improve the robustness, reliability, and transparency of Big Data and AI technologies, as well as quantification and development of software tools for DOE mission applications.” About $71 million would go to DOE’s Office of Science, and $48 million would go to the National Nuclear Security Administration, which safeguards the nation’s nuclear arsenal. The National Institutes of Health doesn’t lay out exactly how much it’s requesting in its , but it does detail what the money would be used for: “NIH is focused on the promise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) for catalyzing advances in basic (e.g., image interpretation, neuroscience, genomic variants and disease risk, gene structure, and epigenomics) and clinical research (e.g., robotic surgery, natural language processing of electronic health record data, inferring treatment options for cancer, reading radiology results). NIH recognizes that there are many areas of biomedical research where novel computing, machine intelligence, and deep learning techniques have the potential to advance human health.” NIST hasn’t yet provided details about the funds it’s aiming to devote to AI, but its total R&D budget would be trimmed by 8 percent if the administration’s proposal is accepted. NSF would face a 10 percent cut, and NIH would see its total R&D budget reduced by 13 percent. The White House says fiscal austerity is forcing a narrowing of R&D priorities. “While recognizing the continued importance of R&D spending to support innovation, fiscal prudence demands a more focused approach to the Federal R&D budget in the context of America’s multi-sector R&D enterprise. This approach prioritizes maintaining peace through strength and ensures U.S. leadership in the Industries of the Future,” the White House said in its R&D overview. AI is considered one of four Industries of the Future, along with quantum information science, advanced communications systems such as 5G and advanced manufacturing. Today the White House sent another signal that it wants to raise the profile of AI research by launching a new internet portal about its policy: . The website pulls together the administration’s policies, documents and program descriptions relating to AI. “The White House’s newly unveiled illustrates our whole of government approach to national artificial intelligence policy and the historic strides this administration has made over the past two years,” Michael Kratsios, deputy assistant to the president for technology policy, said in a news release. “We look forward to continued advancements solidifying America’s position as the world leader in AI and ensuring this emerging technology is developed and applied for the benefit of the American people.” Will the White House’s AI spending plan get through Congress? It’s likely to get some tweaks along the way, but lawmakers have been generally supportive of AI initiatives. In contrast, the White House’s wider plan to trim back on R&D spending is facing pushback from the scientific community and some congressional leaders.
Tesla has started offering the long-promised $35,000 standard version of its Model 3 electric car. (Tesla Photo) Tesla is finally following through on its pledge to sell its Model 3 electric cars at the standard price of $35,000, but says it’s shutting down on-the-spot showroom sales to remain “financially sustainable” at the lower price point. Going forward, worldwide sales will shift to online only, the company says. Many of Tesla’s stores will be shut down over the next few months, . A small number of stores in high-traffic locations will remain open as galleries, showcases and information centers, but would-be buyers will have to go online to close the deal. Tesla touted the ease of online sales: “You can now buy a Tesla in North America via your phone in about 1 minute, and that capability will soon be extended worldwide. We are also making it much easier to try out and return a Tesla, so that a test drive prior to purchase isn’t needed. You can now return a car within 7 days or 1,000 miles for a full refund. Quite literally, you could buy a Tesla, drive several hundred miles for a weekend road trip with friends and then return it for free.” In a conference call with reporters, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said reducing overhead would boost the company’s long-term financial stability. “Ultimately this will be a very strong competitive strength for Tesla,” he said. The announcement came after Musk built up the mystery surrounding today’s 2 p.m. PT announcement. Some speculated that Tesla would lift the curtain on its Model Y crossover SUV, or provide a surprise sneak peek at the all-electric pickup truck that Musk said would be “something quite unique.” Instead, the announcement made good on Musk’s years-old promise that the Model 3 would be offered at the “affordable” base price of $35,000. Up to this point, Tesla had been selling only versions with longer range, steeper price tags and bigger profit margins. The standard Model 3 will have 220 miles of range, a top speed of 130 mph and the ability to go from zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. There’ll also be a Model 3 Standard Range Plus that offers a 240-mile range, 140 mph top speed and zero-to-60 mph acceleration in 5.3 seconds, with a price tag of $37,000 before incentives. Tesla said the shift to online-only sales, plus “other ongoing cost efficiencies,” will open the way for reducing vehicle prices by an average of about 6 percent, “allowing us to achieve the $35,000 Model 3 price point earlier than we expected.” Hitting the $35,000 price point should boost Tesla’s sales, but the move could also raise questions about the company’s profit margin. Musk acknowledged that Tesla is likely to report a loss for the first quarter of 2019, after turning a profit in the and of 2018. “Given that there is a lot happening in Q1, and we are taking a lot of one-time charges — there are a lot of challenges getting cars to China and Europe — we do not expect to be profitable.” Musk said. “We do think that profitability in Q2 is likely.” Tesla has also had to deal with a controversy sparked by Musk’s tweets about Model 3 production rates, which . Due to this week’s rush of developments, — including an after-hours dip that came in the wake of today’s announcement.
Today at MWC Barcelona CEO Pete Lau to spur apps for 5G networks. The timing is right, too. With 5G launching around the world this year, carriers, phone makers and consumers alike have yet to develop a killer app for the massive increase of speed provided by 5G. Basically, OnePlus is asking for help developing uses for 5G. OnePlus sees a lacking of imagination around 5G in the long term. Speaking on a panel, CEO stated he does not believe people have thought enough about how 5G can change lives in the long term. This contest will select 20 finalists, who will get OnePlus devices. The winners will get a trip to OnePlus HQ and access to 5G testing labs, and support from Oneplus and EE. Such contest were common around the launch of 4G as mobile device makers were attempting to bolster app marketplaces. But 5G apps, could look much different from 4G apps as much of the processing is offloaded to a central data center instead of happening on the device. The promise of 5G is nearly here, but it will take initiatives and programs like this one from OnePlus to help make the possibilities clear to consumers. Earlier this week OnePlus,, .
The Smith family takes a break from their entrepreneurial ventures to go on vacation. (Photo courtesy of the Smith family) Soojung Smith thought entrepreneurship was a grownup pursuit. Then her sons schooled her. The up-and-coming Generation Z-cohort that includes her two boys, “tend to be more independent minded and have seen the success of starting a business from social media and their icons,” Smith said. “And they have less fear. They’re like, ‘Hey, I want to try this.’” And that’s just what they’re doing. Soojung and her 17-year-old son Douglas are co-CEO of , a Bellevue-based education startup. Her 12-year-old Jonathan works on technology for the company. All three are co-founders, and the boys’ dad, Doug, is their advisor as well as a business development executive at Microsoft. They launched KuriousMinds last year. Their first effort is a program called Young Sharks that’s focused on teaching kids the fundamentals of starting a business, including building a business plan and pitching it in front of a simulated panel of investors. “There is no shortage of ideas,” Smith said. “But whittling them down to something meaningful that will really bring value to their intended audience, that is something that they really struggle with.” The program targets kids in later elementary years and middle school — a sweet spot where there are few options for young entrepreneurs, Smith said. Her sons have additional ventures already under their belts. Douglas launched a tutoring business in eighth grade, and Jonathan has created two aquarium products: a filter diffuser showcased at the 2016 and an automatic fish feeder with AI integration that he’ll debut at this year’s fair. Soojung Smith has worked as a product and marketing executive at Dr Pepper/7 Up, Anheuser-Busch, AT&T and Microsoft where she helped incubate new products and businesses. Smith said that Douglas plays a key role in developing curriculum for Young Sharks and figuring out which digital tools are best suited to the students. Soojung and Douglas co-teach the program. They collaborate well, she said — at least most of the time. “We’re family. We are very passionate individuals. He gets passionate and I get passionate and sometimes we need a time out,” Smith said. “And sometimes my husband jumps in and serves as a referee.” We caught up with Smith for this Mother’s Day edition of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire. Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We are on a mission to help enable Generation Z to become a generation of confident future entrepreneurs.” Inspiration hit us when: “I’ve always had a dream of building something impactful and long lasting as a family.” Soojung and Douglas Smith, the mother-son co-CEOs of KuriousMinds. (Kurious Minds Photo) VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We are an entirely self-funded, bootstrapped business. Client work in education coaching is funding our work for the design and delivery of the Young Sharks program. This is our second startup, and we are determined to build a solid foundation by growing at a measured pace.” Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “The deep involvement of our kids provides us with a unique view into effective learning styles for this generation. In addition, we are building an active local community of mentors and coaches with domain expertise who can guide and support young student entrepreneurs.” The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Working with partners in the community is integral to our success. We deliver our project-based experiential entrepreneurship program in partnership with city governments, educational institutions, homeschool co-ops and camp organizers with the programs tailored to the student profiles for their communities.” The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Building a business as a family comes with both opportunities and challenges. Trust, loyalty and shared values are the ones that glue us together. Of course, there are challenges when stress and pressure from the business side sometimes spill over into family relationships. We have learned to leverage each other’s strengths to get the benefit of operating as a family while minimizing the stress.” Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bill Gates because he is such an inspiration to everyone not only for his business success, but, more importantly, his philanthropic work to provide opportunities through education. His work in this area speaks to us most in terms of who we’d most want to back our endeavors. We admire Bill and Melinda’s commitment to impacting the lives of others and investing in a better world.” Our favorite team-building activity is: “Cooking as a family. We try to improvise and create our favorite dishes including crossovers between Korean and Mexican food.” The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “We look for curiosity, creativity, passion for entrepreneurship, empathy and strong success in working and connecting with kids.” What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Ideas on a piece of paper without sufficient experimentation won’t help you to build a business. Planning is critical, but implementation is king. Be proactive about learning from your customers, partners, competitors and everyone around you. Be gracious about receiving feedback from them.”