San Francisco Chronicle: "Fridays with Foremski" Highlights 3VR Security

July 6, 2006 | Coverage

San Francisco Chronicle

A weekly round-up of news and gossip from Silicon Valley Watcher Tom Foremski.

Green sports cars are coming. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin will soon be ditching their poky Toyota Prius hybrids for something a lot more sporty, and a lot greener: the new Tesla Motors all-electric sports car. The Googlers are among other high profile investors in Tesla, which has collected about $60m in investments. And on July 20, the San Carlos startup will unveil the car in Santa Monica.

I recently met Martin Eberhard, CEO and co-founder of Tesla Motors. The company recently raised $40m to begin commercial production of the sports car and he is confident of its success--even though hardly anyone has seen the design.

"We brought in about 200 family and friends to see several designs and vote on the one that they liked," said Mr Eberhard.

The design of a sports car is very important I said, but shouldn't you have brought in 200, mostly male, mostly white, and mostly rich people to cast their vote? After all, that's the likely demographic of the buyers. I'm not sure I'd like to drive what my aunt likes to drive... :-)

The design and other details will be revealed later this month. This is what is known so far: the car will be priced at the lower-end of the premium sports car range; it has a Tesla Motors designed variable torque electric engine; it does zero to sixty mph in 4 seconds; it has a range of about 250 miles per electric charge; a carbon fiber body.

You'll need a lot of green for this much greener-than-a-hybrid car. But at about 1 cent per mile in electric power costs, it'll pay for itself after about . . . 500,000 miles (my rough estimate ;-)

The first video blog stars are heading for Hollywood. The BloggerSphere (BS) was all abuzz earlier this week when one of the first stars of the fast growing video blogging scene, Amanda Congdon announced she was heading for Hollywood. She is leaving the Manhattan-based Rocketboom, a popular five-times-weekly three-minute vidblog show.

Ms. Congdon's blond starlet looks certainly helped Rocketboom attract a large audience and lucrative advertising deals. She now joins many other hopeful starlets in Hollywood.

Where are the robot assassins from the future? This thought flashed through my mind as I sat in the offices of 3VR Security, a San Francisco startup with very impressive video surveillance technology.

3VR has some minority funding from In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the Central Intelligence Agency. And you can see why because the video surveillance technology is very impressive in terms of searching for faces within masses of video camera surveillance images.

Stephen Russell, the CEO of 3VR showed me a demo that used the staff in his office as examples of what the video search technology can do in tracking people. He showed how the search technology could pull together a timeline of video segments from many cameras to follow a specific person around the office and in the hallways. It was just one of many ways to analyze the video data. The first customers include banks, large corporations, and government agencies.

Mr Russell said that the investigation into the London bombings nearly a year ago, required 1000 police and six weeks to search through and analyze video content from more than 6 thousand cameras. This could have been cut to a fraction if 3VR's system had been available.

The technology still has a ways to go before it can match the facial recognition abilities of humans, but that will come. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that in the right/wrong hands future versions of 3VR's technology will provide unprecedented powers to monitor people, for all the right reasons.

And it doesn't take a science fiction writer to figure out that if future sentient machine life forms get their hands on this technology it could oppress humanity.

But I think 3VR's technology is not that threatening to the survivalĀ of humanity. Because if it were, the robot assassins from the future would have already wiped out 3VR :-)

The Long Tail book review. Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine coined the term "long tail" in an article to describe the existence of many millions of niche markets; and the the ability to use the Internet to find the few dozen customers for each of those niche markets.

The book just came out and I spoke with Giovanni Rodriguez, who is just bought a copy and is writing a review for Gelf magazine.

His initial impressions are very positive. "I just picked it up and was glad to see that it is only about 200 pages, it has the feel of a slim volume. That's a relief because I didn't want to slog through 600 pages."

If the reviews continue to be this good, Mr Anderson will be on the best seller charts in no time.

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