If you want to get a jump on the latest developments in machine intelligence, head down to where Manhattan’s Lower East Side borders Chinatown, a still-gritty but gentrifying neighborhood where hip coffee houses are springing up next to industrial-supply outlets and wholesale stores.
The location, an area in the midst of transition and modernization, is a fitting spot for Fast Forward Labs, a startup founded to help companies innovate and compete using what founder and CEO Hilary Mason calls “recently possible” machine intelligence techniques and technology.
Fast Forward Labs has an unusual business model. It produces quarterly reports on emerging — or what Mason calls “near future” — technology, builds prototypes to demonstrate the technology, and offers advisory services. The business is based on a subscription model: For an annual fee, clients get access to the reports and prototypes plus time with Mason and her colleagues, who guide them on how to apply the technology to their own businesses. “The role we play here is basically we’re their nerd best friend,” Mason says.