The Future's So Bright...
April 11, 2017

General Motors sold about 10 million cars in 2016 for $9.6 billion in profit, accounting for 17.3 percent of all cars sold in the U.S., but on Monday, electric-car startup Tesla — 0.2 percent U.S. market share, 84,000 cars made last year — was briefly worth more money, despite having never turned a profit. After a Piper Jaffray analyst suggested that Tesla stock was undervalued, the company's share price rose to a high of $313.73, valuing Tesla at $51.5 billion, versus GM's $50.2 billion. Ford is worth about $44.6 billion, a mark Tesla passed last week. Tesla shares were valued at $40 in 2013.

Investors are betting that Tesla founder Elon Musk will deliver on the luxury carmaker's mid-range Model 3 arriving this year, with a base price of about $35,000, as well as consumer solar products. "Tesla's reputation as beyond-a-car company — it recently absorbed Musk's Solar City company for $5 billion — has captured the imagination of California's technology pack and, apparently, investors," The Washington Post explains. "The company has been developing batteries that could store power from rooftop solar panels, expanding its mission into a renewable-energy enterprise. Tesla also is exploring technology for self-driving cars."

Like all speculative investments, the bet on Tesla could deliver or flop, and Musk's electric-car enterprise has its skeptics. But even the doubters are impressed with what Musk has produced in a relatively short period of time. In the end, says Matthew Stover, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group, Tesla's heady rise "says a lot more about the stock market than it does about the auto industry." Peter Weber

December 29, 2015

Virtual reality has been around for 30 years, but the technology has been too clunky and expensive to gain much favor with the public. That will finally change in 2016, The Economist boldly predicts. Virtual reality products will generate an estimated $3.8 billion in revenue in 2016, and tech companies are already clamoring for their slice of that pie. But gaming isn't the only way virtual reality will make a splash next year, The Economist says: Journalism, architecture, shopping, and medicine will also take advantage of VR technology in new and interesting ways. Most of the video, in fact, focuses on an Iraq War veteran getting help with posttraumatic stress disorder through virtual reality. Watch The Economist make its case for a very VR 2016 below. Peter Weber

October 21, 2015

Most sci-fi movies aren't all that specific, so when Back to the Future II was released in 1989, a clock started ticking down to Oct. 21, 2015 — the day the sequel to the 1985 smash hit Back to the Future takes place. In the film, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) travel to the future to save McFly's as-yet-to-be-born children — as explained in the original theatrical trailer:

Now that "Back to the Future Day" has finally arrived, fans are celebrating around the world. Universal has re-released all three Back to the Future films, and you can watch them back-to-back in cinemas nationwide (or on Amazon Prime); the town of Reston, Virginia, has changed its name to Hill Valley; companies with tangential (or no) tie-ins with the movie are jumping in with products and promotions; Cubs fans are glumly watching their chances of one of the film's predictions — a Cubs World Series victory — slip away; and people are digging up trivia and comparing Back to the Future II's very specific predictions with the reality of Oct. 21, 2015. It's a mixed bag. CNN runs through some of the hits and misses:

The movie's director, Robert Zemeckis, doesn't have much patience for tallies of what Back to the Future II got wrong and right. "I always hated — and I still don't like — movies about the future," he says in a new book about the trilogy. "I just think they're impossible, and somebody's always keeping score." And that's sort of what Back to the Future Day is all about. If you want to participate, go ahead and watch the movies, the special Jaws 19 trailer Universal put out, and — if you want a darker take on how today stacks up with 1989's vision of today — this animated parody from College Humor (there is a bit of NSFW language).

Finally, before you get too cynical about Back to the Future Day, remember, in the '80s, the future was so bright, you had to wear shades. Peter Weber

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