Spatial Computing startup helps autism therapists, potentially improving my son’s life

My 11-year-old son, Milan, is autistic.

Now, he isn’t the kind of autistic that starts companies. Nope, he’s going to have a tough time adopting to the “normie” world (what we call neurotypical people). He can barely talk. He isn’t always good at paying attention crossing roads. He will have a tough time holding down a job, particularly one that requires communication with other human beings (which will be most of them, particularly since the world is turning many jobs that he will be able to do into robot-run services).

I have a bigger dream.

What if, people like him (and he isn’t facing as difficult a challenge as many others) could be helped by technology?

I see a way, and so does a little company working away at BoostVC, which I see as the spiritual center for VR/AR/AI community. That’s a startup accelerator located in San Mateo and was started by the son, Adam Draper, of one of Silicon Valley’s most famous investors. His dad, Tim, invested in tons of startups from Tesla to Hotmail, along with his firm DFJ (which recently changed its name to Threshold).

The company is BehaviorMe. Here I sit down with Andy Chavez and Annie Escalante joins via videoconference.

In the video, they explain how VR is being used to help autism therapists provide ABA therapy to kids with autism. They dig into what ABA therapy is, and how it’s currently applied.

Today their system is being used by a few therapists who are seeing good results. Why? Because these kids take to technology, particularly technology like VR very quickly. Why? They usually are amazing at visual processing. Some autistic kids, in fact, are so good at visual processing they go onto have amazing careers, like Temple Grandin did developing cattle handling facilities.

But both I, and the team at BehaviorMe, sees far more opportunity as new Spatial Computing devices come out (we use the term Spatial Computing, which means computing you can move around in, because there are many devices coming that will go far beyond the VR and AR devices we currently have). In the interview we explore some of the ways autistic kids could be helped in the future with these kinds of technology.

In fact, when Irena Cronin and I first were thinking of starting a company, I told her this is why I cared so much about Spatial Computing and the industry that quickly is forming to build and support it. I see how headset-based computing will greatly help my son have a productive life, from showing him how to do complex tasks to reminding him of basic things that you and I take for granted, like teeth brushing to finding him a ride to job or school via something like Uber or Lyft or a self driving car. Soon we will be wearing similar glasses, but for him those devices might be life saving.

Sorry for the poor audio, a new set of microphones has just arrived for future interviews.


Spatial Computing’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity, a conversation with Jeff Saperstein and Irena Cronin

It is my goal to everyday have an interesting conversation.

Today’s interesting conversation is with Infinite Retina‘s cofounder/CEO Irena Cronin and me, while being interviewed by Jeff Saperstein. He’s a coach to executives, and here we talk about our business and spatial computing (AR/VR).

In it you hear our thesis for just how deeply life itself is about to get as a perfect storm of change arrives.

Irena and I are getting to see a ton of new things and new companies and we are starting to see a bunch of patterns. All of which add up to more changes for humans on the way in the next decade than we’ve ever had to deal with. Here Jeff adeptly asks us to dig into what they mean for entrepreneurs.

Tesla vs. world on self driving tech

Silicon Valley.

My Tesla, sitting in my garage at the moment, costs about $5 an hour (actually it’s closer to $2 but I was being generous and keeping the math easier to get). If you bought one you’ll pay about $1,000 a month in car payments. About $200 in car insurance. About $100 (or far less if you drive less than I do, since I put 31,000 miles on mine in its first year) for electricity. About $1,200 for tires every 20,000 miles or so (hey, it is a lot more fun to drive than my Prius was). And a few extra bucks for maintainance (it still needs some, even though you need far less brakes due to using the electric motor for most braking and no oil changes). Divide that all up by the hours in a month and you come to less than $5 an hour.

Now, what does an Uber cost? Pretty close to the same, but you need a driver which costs about $15 an hour in Silicon Valley. So, let’s say that’s $20 an hour.

That shows you how big a threat that is to Uber/Lyft’s business model.

But what if you could send your car to pick up your laundry? 
Or pick up the stuff you just ordered from Amazon?
Or pick up dinner for you or your family?

What if you could send your car to do work on your behalf? It would start paying you back.

I don’t believe Elon will get there next year. The dude is always too aggressive on timing.

But it is coming. Is it three years away? Five? Certainly no more than 10.

Why can’t the other car companies do it? They don’t have a fleet on the road with an AI chip yet. A neural network inside. An exponential learning system.

They also insist on using knobs on their dash and refuse to force its owners to use their phones as keys. Both of which will pay HUGE dividends when the Tesla network actually starts fully self driving. They say their customers won’t allow such things. Even my dad turns off his phone, so I see their point. Yet my Tesla already has both, which means everything on the car can be customized to you simply by carrying a phone around.

One other thing I’ve been doing? Research on how people approach robotaxis. When I ask them:

“Are you willing to get into a car without a steering wheel?” (Like Waymo or Zoox or any of the others that are doing research will force you to accept). The answers are almost wholly negative. “F**k no,” many answer. Many explain they don’t even like using cruise control and that they actually like to drive.

Then I ask a second question: “What if the car drove to you and then you had the choice to drive it away?”

The answers always change to “yes, I’m cool with that.”

Now, I know that they all are lying. Why? Peter Norvig, Google’s head of R&D told me he had the data. He knows that everyone will stop driving their cars after they have about three days of experience inside a fully-self driving car.

He asked me a question while we had dinner a few years back that provides the key.

“Do you know why Google made their own small cars that could only go 25 miles an hour instead of giving everyone big cars with all the LIDARS and that?”

“No, why?”

“Because when we gave the full size cars to employees we had them sign a contract that said they would be fired if they took their eyes off the road or their hands off the steering wheel. We showed them the sensors and cameras.”

“They all broke the rules after three days.”

“Despite the threats of being fired? Wow.”


So, this is a huge marketing problem. Waymo and other self-driving car companies will need to do a lot of marketing to convince people to use it.

Tesla won’t.

I remember sitting next to Kraft food execs and they say they spend $34 per person to acquire a customer. Tesla doesn’t spend much at all in marketing, if any. So, Tesla will be more profitable out the gate than, say, Waymo will be.

And, even better, everyone knows that a Tesla is a HOOT to drive (everyone who gets into mine says “wow” because it accelerates so fast and mine is one of the slower ones in the fleet. Some Teslas go 0-60 in 1.8 seconds, mine does it in 5.3).

All this translates to: when Tesla turns on the self driving network it will do real damage to Uber and Lyft and I don’t see how Uber and Lyft will be able to quickly react since Uber and Lyft don’t make their own cars, don’t own their own battery plant, and if they try to work with Toyota, Ford, Mercedes, VW, et al, they will find slow-moving car companies that resist making the tech and other changes that they will need to do to compete with Tesla.

That said, it’s not too late yet. My friend Brandon Wirtz says that the chip architecture that Tesla chose is the wrong one and that the bet against LIDAR is the wrong bet. If he’s right (and he usually is) that gives the others time to fix their internal cultures and get their own designs on the road.

But what if he’s wrong? Tesla will end up with a transportation monopoly that will be chewing through Lyft and Uber, and a Tesla pickup truck is coming in a few years.

We visited Ford’s plant last summer where they make F150 trucks. That makes a new truck every minute. Now, what happens if Tesla takes 25% marketshare, like I expect it to do with an electric truck?

Huge disruptions. (That’s Silicon Valley’s word for job losses).

And right around that same time Tesla will be shipping 18-wheel trucks too and disrupting shipping.

A perfect storm for the transportation industry is right around the corner.

We could see a major change in America that only a few are warning about and it’ll all happen in the next decade.

Today’s chip just shows the kind of effort that is being done to get there. I know Tesla isn’t alone in investing billions in this stuff. But it sure is the most exciting company on the field today because it is figuring out the pieces fastest.

I wonder what self-driving expert Brad Templeton thinks. Oh, he just posted he was impressed by Tesla’s announcements today.