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Auto-ID with Invisible Barcodes

Mister Beacon Episode #125

· Mr Beacon

What does it mean to ‘modernize your supply chain’?

To Digimarc, it involves moving beyond the conventional barcode to an imperceptible data carrier, the Digimarc barcode, that can be repeated many times on packaging without spoiling the appearance. Digimarc is helping businesses across many industries solve for brand protection, sustainability, and traceability. Their digital identity can be applied to material and media of all kinds, including packaging, labels, audio, fabric, and more. We welcome Sprague Ackley, Principal R&D Engineer at Digimarc, back on the Mr. Beacon Podcast to learn about the technology behind the invisible barcode and how it works. Tune in to learn about the use cases that are driving leading retailers, brand owners, packaging suppliers, and even all of the currencies of the world to adopt the Digimarc Barcode.

Transcription

Narration 00:07

The Mr. Beacon Podcast is sponsored by Wiliot, scaling IoT with battery free Bluetooth.

Steve Statler 00:16

Welcome to the Mr. Beacon Podcast. wonderful to have you back. Amazing that we're all still alive after the turbulent couple of weeks that we've had. I am really happy to have Sprague Ackley back on the show. Sprague, thanks very much for joining us Sprague's from Digimarc. Did you mark a really fascinating company doing something pretty unique? I'll say what I think they do and then spread can correct me but basically digital fingerprinting. So putting IDs into things that in a way that's invisible. So images, sound. And this ability to encode is very, very clever. In our level, simple, but the applications are endless. And so spread, thanks very much for coming back on the show to talk to us about this.

Sprague Ackley 01:14

Thank you, yeah, that's a great opportunity. And you boy, you're just gonna have to shut me down because I, I love talking about it, it is an incredible technology,

Steve Statler 01:26

What's your role at Digimarc?

Sprague Ackley 01:28

So I'm in the there. It's a I'm an R&D engineer, they call it that basically do, you know, research into pushing the limits of the technology, but my first task really is to work with measuring print quality. So just step back, you mentioned all the audio and video, you know, that's really where the company got its start. But the and so you know, if you imagine a digital file, you have a bunch of bytes that have, you know, a certain value, and whether it's audio or visual, or, you know, light detection, whatever it is. And so if you want to, if you manipulate that slightly up or down by, you know, a gray level or two in the printing world, or in or a level or two in, in the audio world, in a particular pattern, you won't be able to hear the difference, you wouldn't be able to see the difference. And so that's how we digitally fingerprint content, for instance, that's on the internet. But the, the thing that Digimarc did that's really remarkable is they were so that's called Digital watermarking. That's been around for a while, well before Digimarc that's, you know, well known in, you know, I triple E papers and all that for decades. But what Digimarc did is they figured out a way to print the, the digital watermark in a way that you can't really see it and and so when you read a digital Mark symbol, you don't already know what it was supposed to be, which is what all those other technologies, you know what the original sound was. And so you can you can detect the information. This allows you to print something, and read it just like a regular barcode. So the easiest way to describe it is one of the forms is called the binary pattern. And it basically looks like just a bunch of dots widely spread over uniformly over the substrate. So, you know, imagine, I think I use this analogy last week, sprinkling some pepper on the white paper. And so it shifted around, so it's kind of uniformly spread out to the naked eye, you can see just a bunch of dots, but it's very pleasing because it's, you know, kind of all spread around all over. And the actual technology is called spread spectrum encoding, which is how radio frequency RFID works. But it's spread spectrum printing, and then we replicate that pattern multiple times. So it's, it has phenomenal redundancy, which is one of the key traits that allows it to be used in lots of applications. And and it's an even when it's black and white so you can see it, you you hardly kind of notice it because it's just like this kind of kind of like a nice pattern that you would have, you know, like no like, like fabric might have like a pattern or a fancy napkin or something. It's

Steve Statler 04:57

So if I wanted to see your product in action, where would I have to go to see an example of Did you mark or not see an example of Digimarc?

Sprague Ackley 05:07

Right. So the so the binary pattern is, is just quite new. So in order to see that it's used in, it's actually woven into fabrics. And they one of the, well, one of the applications is to be used in high end textile fabrication. And I can't tell you which companies are using it, unfortunately. So you can't go out and look at it, because obviously, they, they want you to think it's a beautiful textile pattern that they have and not, you know, something that will detect, you know, knockoffs of their brand.

Steve Statler 05:54

Fancy counterfeit in high fashion. I will look at it and could it you know, if I have a gray, like a black shirt, it's not going to work in that, presumably you need some kind of variability in color, otherwise, you would see the pepper,

Sprague Ackley 06:13

right. For instance, if you had black fabric, and you and you looked at individual, here's white fabric, and if you look at it up close, there's you can see the weave. And if you had, you know, one of those little weaves be black, or, or even, you know, a light color, and it's spread all over the shirt, the shirt would still look basically white, but there would be a little bit of a textured pattern to it. So you would not know it was a barcode for sure was on there, you could you could say oh, I can see those little dots, if you look under with a magnifying glass.

Steve Statler 06:55

So in that example, I'm wearing something that looks kind of black or looks kind of white, but it's got some texture, and there's actually a barcode in there that's spread all over you. And just at a practical level, I don't need to worry about framing the whole of your shirt, I don't need to get you to kind of move to the left moves to the right, I can be pretty carefree into taking a picture of that fabric and anywhere, read it

Sprague Ackley 07:19

anywhere. So I mean, it's something about the size of a quarter, that's enough to read all the data. And it can be anywhere on the shirt. And in fact, it can be in different parts of it. You know, if you pick a little bit up here, and a little bit down there, the grid is made, and you end up getting your data.

Steve Statler 07:40

So let's say I go from wearing the white shirt, and it's Friday. So I'm going to go crazy and I wear my tartan shirt. is the is the Digimarc pattern going to be the same pattern replicated? Or do you adjust it? Because you know, one moment I'm on green fabric next time on red, then it's yellow? Do you? Is it an offset? Is it sort of darker yellow, brighter green, darker red? Or am I basically going to look for little black specks throughout the whole of the tongue? How does that work?

Sprague Ackley 08:14

Yeah, so the way that it works in that in that binary symbol is you're looking for so it's a very sparse mark. So the contrast doesn't need to be very much you just need a little bit of contrast. So you can either have a light area surrounded by dark or a dark area surrounded by light. And that can be with color. You know, for instance, if you have kind of a lighter reddish purple, you know, syrup dot surrounded by a kind of a bluish purple background, you won't even see that at all is the human eyes just very hard to see something like that. But if you look at it with a red light scanner, you'll see you know, bunches of dots everywhere that are very clear. And so the color aspect is the other thing that Digimarc does. In there are lots of examples of this so that this color symbol has been out there for like around five years so there's lots of places you can go to see that. You know what I should I should have brought some some props here with me. If you look at the package, it just looks like a regular you know, whatever crack cracker box or cereal box and but if you look at it under red light with a magnifier you'll see very subtle color variations where this light color is surrounded by dark or vice versa. And that that is the secret sauce basically. And that allows every item which is you know printed on a regular halftone print press. So you don't need any different type of printing technique. It's exactly off the shelf printing, you know, in a PDF format, artwork, just like everybody uses. But instead of halftone, it's kind of random. If you ever look at, you know, a cereal box, whatever magazine page, under magnifier, it's actually tons of little dots. And the intensity of the dots from the three colors, you know, that are used in a printing press give you when you stand back, it gives you It gives you that image, well, we use the exact same process, but we manipulate it so it's not random. So those little dots are not random, but are placed there in a specific way, which encodes the data. Now, those types of packages, like a cereal box, every cereal box is encoded with the same data, which is the same data that's in the UPC barcode on the front. It's called the the GTIN. So every package is the same. With the advent of these digital printing techniques that are coming out, now, you can actually print the same package that actually looks the same, but has a serial as serialized barcode in it. Obviously, no one's going to go through the expense and difficulty to do that for you know, a box of Cheerios. But they are doing that for more expensive things like wine, you know, and high end types of products. So they are all actually unique. You get the GTIN plus a serial number, so you know which product is

Steve Statler 11:46

that you're dealing with. So this is part of this mega trend, as I would call it of serialization we're going from every product has a skew, but they're all the same to everyone has a unique ID. And if you have a unique ID, that means you can have a digital passport in the cloud. And you can start to track and trace and have history and provenance. who owned this before? What was it? Where did it come from? Is it in the right place all of these applications

Sprague Ackley 12:15

lately and especially important for like fresh foods? where, you know, how many times have you heard about this? e coli breakout and that, you know, recall, and they gotta recall everything and they don't know who has what. But so we have a few customers and I don't believe I'm allowed to say that the customer I know, I'm going to just err on the safe side. But we have some fresh food customers, you know, that basically grow fresh food. And they are using Digimarc binary barcode. But it's printed in a color offset fashion that's easy to pick up with a red light scanner, which is what's used at the point of sale, you know, in every supermarket, but it's very hard to see by you'd have to get a magnifier and have to know it's there. But if you just stand back and look at the label, it looks just like you know, a label that's not enhanced. And that way they are serializing every single you know package of fresh produce that allows you know, targeted and you know one recall is like millions of dollars Yeah, plus loss of revenue. So it's it pays for itself incredibly quickly.

Steve Statler 13:35

And the thing I like what I like about what you do is the aesthetics you can have the benefits of a barcode without the destruction of the the visual beauty of the print work the artwork you can you can have products that are relatively small that have this data encoded and it looks beautiful so I'm sure the merchandising people the art director for the CPG company really loves it. What are the what what do you have to have to read this presumably, you need a camera that's pretty sophisticated given that these artifacts are quite small what what sort of device Do you need,

Sprague Ackley 14:20

or you need for the binary mark you need any type of a regular old barcode scanner and all the major manufacturers support it in all of their products now. So basically you just need to get a regular barcode scanner, you know or a mobile computer that has a barcode scanner in it. Or if you have a mobile phone you can download our app and just you know read it with the camera on your phone so it's nothing you need nothing. The color symbol we specifically make so that it can be scanned using red light which is what's used at the at the point of sale. So, nothing.

Steve Statler 15:05

I see kind of these laser scanners and then I see these optical scanners. Can it be read by both or just one of us?

Sprague Ackley 15:14

Yeah, so Historically, the point of sale used lasers, and the UPC symbol was designed to be read in any orientation, as long as you had a, you know, an X beam, laser scanner. And then starting by actually starting precisely in 1994, the first what we called an imager was released, which was essentially a, you know, a video chip, which is now used in every, you know, phone as a as a, it's a camera, basically, a that camera is now how barcode scanners work so that there's, there's a little video chip, or in the scanner, and you take a picture at a very high speed. And it's, it's a, it's a photo, it's a digital photo. And that's what is used to decode it. So I don't know what all the details are in the transition. But anybody getting a new scanner for use a point of sale is only getting imagers. That's been the case for five years, there are still some installed laser scanners that cannot read Digimarc. And for that matter, can't read any 2d barcode like QR code or data matrix, which are being used more and more. You know, I joke that if you ask a kid what a barcode is, and they say, Oh, it's the square thing with the three eyes, you know? Yeah. And that's, you know, that's a QR code. That's really where barcode is moving into the future. And that the thing you mentioned about, you know, getting that, you know, that ugly barcode, and except for those of us who have been in the industry, and happen to think barcodes are beautiful, most people don't really want it those black and white stripes on their package. And GS one, which is the organization that manages the numbering, you know, for the all of retail, you know that that number underneath the UPC symbol, which is called a G 10 is administered by GS one. And they have, they are looking at the future and the future of aanpak coding is to go to 2d barcode. And I'm working with them on their technical committee. And we are investigating using 2d barcodes like QR code and data matrix. And in fact, we have just recently added to the general specifications, the ability to put a, a hyperlink into a barcode, which can, you know, take you to the, you know, the site that the brand owner is set up, so you know, you're getting accurate information. And you can pull out the G 10. Out of that if you need it for point of sale. Or if you're a consumer, you can get you know, all the all kinds of product information and nutritional information and, you know, whatever having to do with that product. And that the vision of that is to have like a 2d barcode next to the 1d barcode. And what Digimarc is doing working with GS one, and we've also published a paper on this, that is in the public domain to basically say that the future of that on pack coding really is Digimarc. Because you really can eliminate the the the visual barcode you don't even need the QR code or the UPC code, because you can print the barcode everywhere on the package. And in addition to you know, getting that data easily and having more marketing data on the package and all that you don't have to orient the package.

Steve Statler 19:10

That's actually a really good go down.

Sprague Ackley 19:11

You can go down the aisle and you can just go beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, inventory, you can even do it robotically, you know,

Steve Statler 19:18

yeah, this is the better checkout. Yeah, I want to tell a story here I was, I was at a Home Depot and I bought a miter saw huge thing, because I'm a little construction project, my small miter saw gave up the ghost. And I have it on, you know, it's really heavy with the stand and I'm a little worried about the, the the trolley is gonna kind of it's gonna flip off it and the whole thing's gonna fall in there and say, I get it up to the checkout read register, and the lady kind of looks at it. And we're like, yeah, where is that barcode and We kind of look on the top, the back front sides, it's not there, of course, it's on the bottom. And this thing is like super heavy. And if we don't have that problem, I wish that they were. And I think it's kind of ironic that the one of the biggest challenges with any of these technologies is the infrastructure that is the infrastructure that read it. And I've seen loads of problems with laser scanners, especially with QR codes on phones, there's famously very, very bad at reading that and then time doesn't work. And the thing that I think is driven this change is QR codes and the fact that you can actually obsolete QR codes, you you you're you've like, taken advantage of one of your biggest competitors success, they've they've laid, they've driven the infrastructure, these are optical readers that actually can also read your product. So you know, why isn't everybody using this? It seems like it's looks better, better user experience, scan it faster, more data serialization, it seems like the whole world should be using this technology now.

Sprague Ackley 21:18

Well, you know, this, the serialization stuff is, is just starting to happen, you know, we, we started, you know, piloting some of these applications less than a year ago, you know, bus, we've been on lockdown. But we're still moving forward with that. And the, the, the retail barcode that, you know, this is blended in with the package that was only introduced maybe about four years ago. And we have lots of customers for that. I think I mentioned the the Walmart toy catalog, all 40 million copies of that every single page, both sides, is completely enhanced with Digimarc. So you can just take just like any, like this little piece of the upper right corner of any page, and it reads. And in some cases, we have multiple functionality on the same page. So if you, you know, aim it at the dollhouse or something, you know, you get an animation about, you know, the dollhouse and all that. So that's out there. Quite a bit. And the and that's, that's expanding fairly quickly. But this, our business with the variable bar code is just exploding. And to be honest, we, we are stretched to the max, just handling all of the enthusiasm that we have, you know, from potential customers. So I guess and what most of it I can't talk about that's that. So it's out there, you just don't know it.

Steve Statler 22:49

One of the things I'm thinking about is, is it an all or nothing thing? Because one of the challenges with you know, if you've got a supermarket might have 50,000 different items in it. And do you have to have all 50,000? Using, you know, from from maybe 1000s of different brands? or using Digimarc? Or is this one of these things? Where Yeah, I can have barcodes and I can have Digimarc and it can work together? Does that even make sense? So I think we know that we're using this what are the barriers to scaling this? And it seems like, Yeah, what are the practicalities of having a dual ecosystem? With both technologies? Do I get the benefits of the new product? If I have to do that?

Sprague Ackley 23:42

Yeah, well, certainly the more you have enhanced with digital are, the more benefit you're going to get. Right? You know, so if you're checking out, you know, products, and you see, you know, your store brand, for instance, and that's most of our applications are brand owners, doing, you know, enhancing their own products, they're in charge of the printing and the reading. Yeah. And they, you know, they just know that they don't have to find the barcode norina they just grab the thing, and it just beep, beep, beep beep and self checkout is greatly, you know, enhanced with that technique. But the, you know, this scanning technology that it that you have, is, you know, allows you to add this, while you already have other barcodes, and, you know, so it does work with other barcodes. But the more you move into the Digimarc the better, you know, your your productivity is going to be. And to answer your question from a technology standpoint, one of the issues we have that we're facing right now as we scale this up is online. The Press line is developing quality tools. So that while these symbols are being made, you know, whatever, they go at 100 feet per minute, you know, they're just, you know, it's like a, you know, it's pictures of old newspapers, you know, ripping along, it's basically how do you make product packaging is developing quality tools to enable process control. And that's one of the things I'm working on with my much more learned colleagues at Digimarc. Right now. And that's one of the big limitations. So we're, we're developing a, an SDK that we hope will get incorporated into all of the barcode verification equipment that's out there. So that people that are already have, you know, a verifier, on press that they use to measure the quality of regular barcodes, they will be able to measure the quality of Digimarc. And similarly, there's also optical high speed optical cameras that go across the whole web. We're working with the manufacturers of those to enable them with our print quality software. But that is a work in process. So that's a big limitation to scaling right now is getting all the quality tools in place. And that's one of my big activities. Well, I can talk about the encoding of the retail symbol, and the binary symbol, you know, it encodes regular product information. So you start off with a little data packet, which is either around 50 bits or 100 bits. 50 bits is just the UPC symbol, which is remember the numbers on underneath the UPC symbol on a cereal box that's called the GTIN global trade item number officially. And we have a packet that is about double that that includes the GTIN and the serial serial number, for instance, or law and batch and Best Buy information. secondary data is called secondary data. And so you have 100 bits, and then you take that 100 bits. And you you add some some header bits, which tells the system this is what you're trying to read. And then you add approximately 900 more bits of error correction.

Steve Statler 27:34

Wow, that's a lot of error correction,

Sprague Ackley 27:36

a lot of error correction. So by contrast, QR code, which has variable amounts of error correction. So if you if you put the most amount of error correction, which is how you can read those QR codes with a happy face in the middle, it's because you don't need all the bits you can it's has this mathematical redundancy. Well, QR code is the most it has about 50%. redundancy. So if you take a bunch of data, and then you take 50% of that, and and that's your extra error correction. So you can kind of chop off a, you know, a corner of a QR code and it still reads digits or has in its in its serialized version has 700% error correction. So the at the point of sale scanner, just like you can read multiple barcodes with a, you know, a typical handheld scanner, Digimarc is just another barcode that is auto discriminated with all the others. So make sure it's turned on, basically.

Steve Statler 28:43

So going back to my question, you know, why why not scale overnight, you've been doing a lot of hard work working with all of these point of sale companies to make sure that they've got the firmware and the software running on their systems, because getting software into a point of sale is challenging, and they all presumably want money to do that, or at least a customer that's willing to say I'll only buy your seat.

Sprague Ackley 29:08

There's Yeah, there's been a number of brand owners who have said, I'm not buying your scanner unless you put Digimarc in it because we're thinking about putting digital art, you know, into our future product or, you know, branded product and we want to make sure that it's you know, in the, in the scanner, so yeah, you know, manufacturing companies, they they hop to it when they when they're told they can't sell something unless there's something in there, they put that something in there. And it's been several years that this has been the case this is not like you know, new, new stuff that's been in all the big guys scanning equipment for years. And where it is used, which is multiple brand owners worldwide. You know, it's already in the scanner. But what I see is, this is going to go. You mentioned scaling, one project that Digimarc has been working with within Europe, which is called the holy grail project is a envisioning the marking of plastics, so that they can be scanned in the recycle stream and sorted into pure material, which then instead of landfill becomes a profit center, because that pure material can be chopped up and reused. And that that system was, was prototyped in a lab about a year and a half ago, and is now being run in an actual recycling facility. And so what we're doing is working with major brand owners. And I'm not gonna say who they are, but they're every, every major brand owner that makes products in retail by essentially. And I would encourage your viewers to go just type in holy grail, or Digimarc, or plastic recycling, and it'll all pop up. And you can see videos and all that kind of stuff. But basically, if you will, one way we're working on it is adjusting the mold that makes a plastic container. So we're doing, we're experimenting with a lot of different types of mold adjustments, but imagine a mold that has little bumps in the mold. So when the plastic bottle is molded, it has either a positive or a negative, very subtle texture, you might be able to feel it with your fingers. But when you look at it, it might look at it like it's slightly frosted. Like it's a decorative thing. And that's the barcode. And anywhere you orient that bottle, you're going to, because you only need a tiny little piece, remember, you can read that barcode, and you crush it and twist it and get it dirty, you're still gonna find places that have readable barcode. And that is how we're, you know, you have to make the mold. But once you make the mold, you have hundreds of millions of bottles for free, all have a barcode in it, which when you read it, you can tell what the plastic is. It's awesome. And all the big brand owners are coming on board with that. So I think that is one of the big drivers, I think personally, because the circular economy, you know, is, is big. And here in America, there's, you know, some places in the country anywhere like the Pacific Northwest, where I am, we've been recycling stuff for, you know, 40 years. And elsewhere in the world, it's more than just Oh, that's a nice thing to do. You get fined if you're not doing it. And there's a there's a cost problem that you incur. And so by solving this problem, you not only are helping the environment, you're, you're saving money. And that's why the Europe operation is so much farther ahead. But we have, we're working in Asia and Australia and us also. But they're just a little farther behind than the the progress in Europe. And once this really gets up and running all these big brand owners, I I believe are just going to start saying everybody has to do it.

Steve Statler 33:32

I think it's awesome. And I think the fact that you can help the recycling industry make more money because you know, the better job you do of separating, the more profitable it gets, the more profitable it gets, then it becomes a virtuous circle. And I think people are more willing to recycle if they think that it's actually working. One of the things that puts people off is like I'm doing this, but I think it's all going into the landfill. But if they can see that there's a lot of reuse of these products and so forth. And

Sprague Ackley 34:06

so like right now it you know, at least in my State of Oregon, we recycle everything and it doesn't go into the landfill. But if you just have a bunch of mixed plastic, you know, you can kind of semi melt it down and make like bricks and stuff out of it. You know, there's a bunch of, you know, bumpers for thing. And there's a bunch of products that you that are on the market now that are made from this recycle material. But if you can get pure stream now you can save on virgin material, and you also use less fossil fuels, which is where the stuff is made from in the first place. So

Steve Statler 34:47

it just has to grow. growl.

Sprague Ackley 34:50

As you pointed out, it's the win win. It's a huge win win. And I tell you it for me personally, that's one of the feel good things about working at Digimarc is you really feel like you're Helping the planet?

Steve Statler 35:02

Yeah, in a very real way? Well, yeah, we had a podcast where we interviewed, we had a discussion on the circular economy in this amazing Latin American company that's working on that. And if anyone's interested in it, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Google that, and there's a lot to it. But

Sprague Ackley 35:24

the MacArthur Foundation is also a funder of a holy grail project.

Steve Statler 35:27

Yeah, there you go. So just before we sign off two other applications I wanted to find out about so let's imagine I'm a talented photographer, which I'm not, but I want to sell my wares and spot people that are basically pirating the image copying it and using it without my permission. Is that is that an application that you guys do? And if so, how would I avail myself of your services?

Sprague Ackley 36:00

Right, right. Yes, that is it. That's the classic application. And I must say, I'm not as versed on that application is I'm not directly involved in it. But there is a whole separate group of Digimarc people focused on that and that application. So getting the, the enhancement into the photos is actually fairly trivial. Because it's all digital. It's just software.

Steve Statler 36:29

And actually, I'm now wondering, what about audio? So you can do the same thing with audio? Right?

Sprague Ackley 36:34

And the same thing with audio?

Steve Statler 36:36

Yeah, so actually, this is kind of ironic, because when we do the three songs, tomatoes, what we do is we take a little fragment of that song, and we overlay it whilst you are telling your story of

Sprague Ackley 36:47

paying your I hope you're paying royalties.

Steve Statler 36:50

Fair Use, and you can use a short clip. But sometimes YouTube catches it. So is that like, did you mark technology? That's the that's catching the audio and saying, Hey, this is this is a copyright audio? Because I often wonder how do they recognize it? Because we're, it's not like this is a clean? signal? It's like, got you and me talking. And then there's the audio on top of it. And

Sprague Ackley 37:20

well, it's just like in the in the printed version, you can have, like, for instance, you know, on a on a cereal box, you have the nutritional panel, just all these words and white background, you can print binary symbol in the background. And it reads totally fine. And that's the same thing with audio. And and in digital photography. The it's the signal is spread all throughout the, the song, the entire song has it. Yeah. So if you take a tiny little piece of it, it the signal is in that tiny little piece in perceptively. So you can't hear the difference, of course, right. But if you run it into software, we will pick it right up. Well,

Steve Statler 38:07

and I just want to say for anyone that's annoyed by the adverts that you hear in this show, we actually donate all of the revenue from the adverts to a local charity for kids in San Diego. So your pain is resulting in school supplies to the homeless, so I

Sprague Ackley 38:27

didn't I didn't know that. But it's a nice feeling to know that. That's great.

Steve Statler 38:34

Very good. Well, on that note, let's wrap it. This is fascinating spread. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast.

Sprague Ackley 38:42

Hey, thank you for having me. Like I say I'm very excited about this whole technology. And you know, let's touch base in a year. And I bet you will have

Steve Statler 38:53

a lot of new applications

Sprague Ackley 38:55

or applications to talk about.

Steve Statler 39:02

So I guess the question is whether you have three more songs to talk about,

Sprague Ackley 39:09

I did not come up with three more songs.

Steve Statler 39:13

That's okay.

Sprague Ackley 39:14

I can I can do that.

Steve Statler 39:18

Well, what do you think you'll listen to this weekend?

Sprague Ackley 39:21

Why the song I mentioned or the the symphony I mentioned before, which is the sense song Symphony for Oregon. Back when I was in college, I was starting to get intrigued by classical music. And my dad said that there was this, you know, Symphony that he really loved and I got a copy of it. And, you know, I had you know the big stereo system. I don't know if you're familiar with it, but it's a this is probably an embarrassment to say this, but it's the most popular sounding Symphony i think i've ever heard it has a lot of great themes running through it that are really quite catchy. And, you know, when the Oregon comes in, it's, it's, it's very exciting. It's a, it's a great Symphony. So I would, I would have that one is one. And then another song, which I really love, especially if I've just accomplished something, you know, I've I've just gotten, you know, I remember playing it once, I had just come back from an expedition kayaking a wilderness river, and I was in a incredibly good mood. And it's the Queen song, I want it all and I want it now. It's just a great anthem for, you know, getting psyched up and feeling good. And then a third song, let's see what just jumps randomly into my mind. You know, I would have to say it's a here's a goofy thing, I would say it's the Star Spangled Banner, you know, for some reason. You know, when I look at a baseball game, and I hear somebody singing that, you know, with all this weird political stuff is going on now, maybe it's a weird thing to say. But I would say it still gives me goosebumps.

Steve Statler 41:24

Yeah, I think that's what we look for in music, isn't it sort of emotional resonance, it reminds you often, we like the music as much because it reminds you of a time or a person and or evokes and feelings. I mean, I think Queen gets chosen a lot on this show. Because it doesn't

Sprague Ackley 41:44

have that it does have that, you know, a lot of their songs are, are very powerful. And yeah, I just saw them in concert with Adam Lambert just saw them, you know, about a year ago before we stopped seeing concerts. And, you know, it's just it's phenomenal music, and, you know, the whole rest of the band is still original and, and I just seen the Freddie Mercury bioptic. You know, so it was?

Steve Statler 42:12

Yeah, that was great. I

Sprague Ackley 42:14

mean, fast there for a while. Yeah. But I saw them in concert, actually, with Freddie Mercury. Long ago, when they did that US tour. You saw the movie, you know that they they did one US tour? Yeah. And when was that like 80 or, I think was like 1980. I just moved to Seattle. And I went down and saw Queen on the floor live. just unbelievable.

Steve Statler 42:41

I saw them after you saw them. But it was in the early 80s. This was just when they were making their transition from guitar to synthesizers and the whole electronic thing. And it was, it was in a massive outdoor Arena in England. And I remember it took us two hours to get out of the caf at the end. But it was a great two hours, everyone was having an amazing time playing songs on the car. Stereo and such a great atmosphere in the concert was was incredible. So I'm seeing Adam Lambert though he's a local San Diego guy. Yeah, I have. So that gives my son

Sprague Ackley 43:24

and he did a great job, you know, shuguang, between the you know, half the only be Freddie Mercury stuff. And then they did a hologram with Freddie Mercury was pretty cool. It was all very respectful. And then some new stuff that was just with that Adam Lambert and yeah, it was, I thought that they, it exceeded my expectations. I thought it'd be a little goofy and you know, phony a little bit, but they did a great job.

Steve Statler 43:52

So these warm up section sessions, we used to just talk about music, and I've increasingly indulge myself in asking our guests about themselves and their history and their careers and so forth. And we talked a bit about that in the last episode, but I was thinking about your career and your role and you seem to have done a really good job, you've got this super interesting job, you're very creative. Technically, you get to engage with other people through this standards organization, aim that you're part of and so you get to travel the world a little bit I guess, and and more importantly, build these relationships with people. So if you are giving your advice to a teenage son, a 18 or 21 year old what what advice would you give about how to replicate your success because I'm thinking the formulas probably changed a bit but what what what do you think are the what's the advice that you would give

Sprague Ackley 44:56

you know, when I was in school, I was just completely in love with physics, I thought it was the coolest thing going. And I did advanced math, and I did dance physics courses. And I majored in college and I went to graduate school. And I was just all about physics all the way and, you know, right through to getting a PhD, until I realized that, you know, one of the big reasons I love physics, from a job standpoint is it would give me flexibility to kind of do anything. And then I realized that if I, you know, spent the remaining, you know, seven or eight years left to get my PhD, that I would have about three places in the world that I'd be able to work. And so that combined with falling in love with a bunch of other things that approximately at that time, led me to leave with a Master's. And then when I went into the work world, the the background in physics, you know, was great for all kinds of things. But the important thing is that what I loved about physics is that you could dig, dig into the root cause of fundamentally how things worked. And when I got my first job, which was in manufacturing, as a process engineer, I used all that information. And it became more like an applied physics kind of thing. But the the key was, I loved it, I loved figuring out those kind of problems, and I guess, loving it is the key. And so the advice I would give to young people, is take courses that you love, don't worry, at this point about, you know what career you're going to get, you're going to get a career based on someone hiring you to do something that they need to have done. And if you're doing something that you really love, and you're enthusiastic about, and you maybe even have hobbies that are linked to it, you're gonna be successful. You might not know now, you might love, you know, French and want to study French, like mad, and how am I ever going to make money, you know, with French or, or pure math or whatever it is? Well, don't worry about that. When you look back on your career, you'll say, Wow, I'm really glad I did this, because I was able to use it over there that you cannot predict. So, in short, do something you have the most fun that you really love. And the worst thing that will happen is you maybe you will be unemployed, but at least you've had a great time up until that moment. But I've found that people that are successful doing something have pursued a path where they pursue things that they really, really are these Yes. So that would be my advice.

Steve Statler 48:03

I think it's great advice. I think I feel like I've done very much the same kind of thing. Cool. Well, thank you. Thank you very much.

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