Q & A: Richard Filipano
OPINION 10/06/2039 9:59 AM ET
Q & A: Richard Filipano
by Emily Jacqueline

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Neuree will allow people to compute in their minds as they go about their lives.
Klumbo is not slow, just patient, insists CEO Richard Filipano.

In late September, I sat with the easygoing former hedge fund manager-turned-tech investor in Rascallo's Bar, which sits atop the 1Leddenfeld tower in downtown Los Angeles.

Filipano is busy these days: Klumbo's hotly anticipated new bioaccessory was launched just last week and hits the market in December. Seemingly, the whole world wants to know if the product will match the hype, but also on his agenda is addressing how his firm's implant will differ from Wisper's catastrophic first attempt nine years ago.

The man known as the tech advisor to the stars was gracious enough to answer all my questions on the above over cocktails. He's intelligent, he's charming, and he loves his mother. So without further ado...


EJ: Thank you for meeting with me. I think the last time we spoke was CES last year.

RF: That's right. You were wearing that blue pant suit. You refused to unbutton the jacket because of a mustard stain, as I recall.

EJ: I can't believe you remember that. Is there like, some special thing you do to your brain to be able to magically recall the minutiae of press meet-and-greets?

RF: I eat my greens (laughter). Also, I make sure to always get seven hours of sleep a night. And call my mother.

EJ: You're so All-American (laughter). You're apple pie.

RF: I am.

EJ: Let me dive right in. You guys launched Klumbo's Neuree last week. Were you happy with the initial reception?

RF: I was. We paid a ton of people to generate excitement online and I think we got our money's worth (laughter). No, just kidding. We did not pay anyone. Yes, we were very happy with how Neuree was received. We realized we are gonna be slugging it out uphill on this one for a long time and we're ready to do that. The public is gonna need to be brought along on the quality of this product and the whole safety issue.

EJ: Can you address that, considering no one has wanted to touch implants since Wisper basically detonated the market?

RF: Well firstly, I know some of the R&D shop guys at Wisper and they're great guys. Smart people and really dedicated to evolving our knowledge of bioaccessories. But their corporate guys were not necessarily looking out for the best interests of the customer base and that's when things get screwy. We were told they did more than two years of testing on Think but as soon as it's released to the public people start developing symptoms? The hype was insane, their stock price was through the roof and some of their top guys were cashing out before Think even debuted. That's borderline shady.

EJ: It was reported they cut a lot of corners on testing...

RF: ...but made sure the quote-unquote testing phase was drawn out, right?

EJ: Right.

RF: So it looked legit. But it was maybe only drawn out - according to the lawsuit - to increase the hype and give certain guys the opportunity to bail as very rich men and women.

EJ: Was it tough to back up on that and announce that Klumbo is forming and developing its own implant? Literally the year after the Wisper suit was settled?

RF: Very tough. But I like tough. Also masochistic (laughter). No seriously, I think that was the best time to launch Klumbo to be honest. We had extensive contacts in the corporate world of course and also the world of sports and prominent entertainment people, and because the market was down on implants we only received interest from the die-hard, true believers. We put together an investment team and basically sat in a conference room and said, "We're doing this, we're going to launch this firm and put out a bioaccessory and it will be the safest and the best quality possible," and people cashed in and we knew our guys were in for the long haul.

EJ: It was a long haul. Comparatively speaking, for new tech.

RF: Well, it's almost old tech at this point, as far as the idea. It goes back decades. But yeah, we weren't going to rush this at all. We did two years of concept and proto before we even hit the government for permission to test on people. But to the public it looks like we're all nervous because of Wisper. Nah. We're not nervous and not slow. Just patient.

EJ: Can you contrast Neuree with Wisper's Think in terms of the safety aspect?

RF: Sure. We did this whole thing at the launch. For starters, people call them implants, but we're referring to Neuree as a bioaccessory, because - here's the thing - it's not an implant. It does not go inside your body. Period. Think caused cancer because the nanites in the pill were meant to find their way to your brain, congeal with the tissue, and then transmit with the receiver. Only they were outputting radiation at far beyond tolerable levels. Neuree does not do that because it does not go inside your body and does not emit any radiation.

EJ: I know you talked a little at launch about how Neuree works. Would you mind explaining that again?

RF: Sure. Neuree is a neural interface, is the best way to put it. Its exterior measures about one inch squared and about one eighth of an inch high and is constructed from organic material. On the inside is an Intel Briskly processor driving a fully architectured computer including omega-band wireless and a proprietary interface device we call Clarity, whose job is to communicate with your brain.

EJ: Can you elaborate on that?

RF: Traditionally, when you compute, ie when you use a device for computing purposes, you're looking at some sort of screen. Your computer, your phone, even your holoplayer, which now obviously we don't just use to watch TV. Also in order to compute, traditionally you use something to give instructions to the computer: a mouse, a keyboard, your hands, if you're using your phone or interacting holographically.

EJ: Right.

RF: What Neuree does is make much of that redundant because it can communicate very efficiently with your brain. It needs to be near your head to do this, so you can attach it to the inside of your cap or your hoodie, or you can attach it to your head - you need to either place it on a part of your head with no hair, or shave a one inch square. It comes with an organic adhesive which can be broken down easily with a solution we provide if you decide you don't want that.

EJ: So when you say it can communicate with your brain...

RF: Yeah, it can literally read your mind (laughter). Neuree is designed to detect your brain's electrical activity in very precise detail and also send information to your brain. If you imagine every thought you have is the neurons in your brain sending electrical signals, what we've done is decode those signals from the various parts of your brain and turn them into binary so that a computer can understand them. And vice versa.

EJ: Right.

RF: Now, you can use Neuree for two different things: control and display. Remember that Neuree is the computer.

EJ: Okay.

RF: So, say you still want to use your thirty-two inch 8K monitor, you can. Neuree can cast to your monitor, your phone, even a holo device. But to control what you see, instead of plugging a mouse or keyboard adapter into your head...

EJ: ...Which sounds awkward...

RF: (Laughter)...yes. Instead, you can control what's on the screen with your thoughts. So you imagine moving the pointer over there and clicking and that's what will happen on your screen. Neuree will pick up on the electrical activity from your motor cortex and send that information to your monitor. The same goes with typing. Imagine typing something, and you will see it appear. Want to draw a picture? Imagine opening the program and selecting a brush, and what you imagine painting will appear.

EJ: What if I imagine something inappropriate? (Laughter.)

RF: Well, Klumbo won't be held responsible for what people come up with (laughter).

EJ: So that's the control part. What about the display?

RF: Well this is where Neuree gets awesome - in my opinion. We had been working for a long time on the idea of decoding neuron activity, but then we had this idea: what if we could encode from binary to brain and transmit information back to the brain? Once we had gone brain to binary it was less hassle to get from binary to brain. So if you consider that what you see on your monitor when you compute all has to be absorbed as information by your brain, we basically figured, what if we could simply cast from Neuree back to the brain?

EJ: Sort of, cut out the middleman.

RF: Exactly. Neuree can literally, using a neural transmitter, send images, sounds, tastes, smells, touch senses, to your brain. Which when you think about it creates so many opportunities it blows my mind.

EJ: Pun not intended (laughter).

RF: Pun definitely not intended! (Laughter.) So instead of sending your display to a monitor, Neuree can send it to your mind so you see it in your head.

EJ: Kind of like something you imagine?

RF: So, there are three options you can choose with this. Firstly, you can choose to imagine the display and Neuree will show you in your mind the document you're working on. Through testing we found that this works best when people close their eyes. The second option is Neuree can have your mind see the display in a part of your vision, say in a box that takes up 40% of your visual field on the left hand side, or something like that. And thirdly, what we call overlay: Neuree can transmit the display to your mind and you can see it as you're going about your life. This presents amazing possibilities: imagine cleaning the bathroom and you want to listen to some music. Suddenly a list of your music appears on the bathroom tiles and you scroll through with your mind, select a song or playlist and imagine tapping one. Suddenly you hear crystal clear music with awesome bass and treble - and it's all in your head.

EJ: That's incredible.

RF: I've been touting for years what I have been calling a bio-integrated reality, and that's sort of what I have been talking about. Integrating your computing with your mind: devices are naturally clunky. You can make a panel monitor one millimeter thin but it still takes up thirty-two inches. Since all your mind is doing is interpreting the light signals it's sending out, why not keep it all in-house? (Filipano points at his left temple.) Let your mind be the display and the peripheral control devices and make it a thousand times more efficient. That's what Neuree is designed to do. And it opens up so many doorways. It will take decades for people to even come close to the full spectrum of potential life options Neuree offers.

EJ: It sounds amazing. Does someone using Neuree for the first time have to train their brain to adapt?

RF: Yes, in two ways. Firstly they have to learn to use their brains properly. Most people don't imagine themselves typing on a keyboard, they just do it. With Neuree you have to learn to imagine, and imagine to learn. That will take a little while but the more you practise, the better you get at it and it gets easier. The other way is Neuree has to actually get at your brain's signals and everyone's brain is different. If you remember - you might not, but when the first voice recognition software emerged, you had to train the computer to recognize your voice. And that took time. Neuree is a little smarter than that but the same principle applies.

EJ: With a device which can communicate with your mind, how do you guard against hackers? Say someone hacks your Neuree and convinces you to buy thirty thousand dollars worth of shoes and have them shipped to some guy in Russia?

RF: (Laughter) Well that's something we've been working on for a long, long time. Firstly, we've developed a next-generation anti-virus called Ironside, which I can't talk much about except to say this: no one's ever seen anything this sophisticated before. I don't want to say that it's bullet proof, but it's phenomenally protective. And it works hand-in-hand with software we're calling Implex which borrows parts of IBM's new Phariax AI to observe and identify trends. So, if something somehow got past Ironside, Implex would analyze your behavior and say, "Wait, he doesn't normally buy fluffy pink shoes and he doesn't know anyone in Russia, there's something suspicious here." And it would send signals to your amygdala to prompt a concern response, and also to your occipital cortex so in your field of vision you would see a flashing red warning prompting you to deal with a possible intrusion. And Neuree comes with a safe operative mode so in the event of anything suspicious you can use it with a monitor and a mouse if you need to, or bring it in to one of our stores and we can help you with it.

EJ: The word that keeps coming to mind is reality. As in, this product can make people's realities different.

RF: That's one hundred per cent. We're not - I mean we never had the intention of having Neuree simply beam in an alternative reality into people's brains, but integrating tech into people's lives in a way that makes their lives better is something we felt was a worthy goal. And, it was designed to be transformative: a way that alters how people do something. But not just altering the way they do one thing, the way they do everything. You can play a game in your mind on the cab ride to your dinner. You can browse sales online while you're on hold. You can write a best-selling novel with your eyes closed while in the bath. You can do anything. And when developers get hold of this tech, the world will really open up in ways we've never seen before.

EJ: Richard Filipano, thanks for your time today.

RF: My pleasure.
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