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If it keeps on rainin, the levee’s gonna break.

It is common knowledge that as technology evolves, individuals are becoming more informed and driven to create content aligned to their passions. Think about the content you are seeing in your social feeds – your colleague’s oddball memes, Aunt Sue with puppy’s ears and your old school mate Trevor Lam and his latest “work of art” – everyone around us is getting more and more able to express their creativity and publish it too. Facebook Augmented Reality (AR) is going to allow people to express themselves a whole lot more.

 

Give everyone the power to share anything with anyone.

– Mark Zuckerberg

 

What is F8 – and why should you care?

The Facebook Developers conference (F8) was first hosted in 2007 – where the team at FB presented the social graph – or a rendition of the concept of a social network. Subsequent editions of F8 hosted similarly theoretical principles behind the evolution of the behemoth that FB is today. Essentially, this is the conference where they announce their next plans, and given how integrated FB is in our lives today – you might want to be aware of what’s ahead.

 

F8 2017: Facebook Augmented Reality

Earlier this week, at F8 2017, Mark Zuckerberg (Zuck!) shared an update on the next phase of FB’s 10-year product plan, originally shared in at F8 2016. Commencing with some warm up jokes about the release of Fast and the Furious 8 (the “other” F8 ) this week, Zuck proceeded to give us a snapshot of how FB plans to integrate AR into camera functions in their apps.

 

Click to read: Business Insider’s article on the release of the FB 10-year plan

Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote from Day 1 of F8

 

FB, AR & Cameras – how do they come together?

In recent times, the FB family of apps (FB, Messenger, Instagram & Whatsapp) have seen the integration of camera icons across the board – enabling functions such as video conferencing. While these changes have gone unnoticed by some, it is estimated that the FB messenger app has 1.2 billion monthly users.

 

Facebook-Messenger-Video-Calling

FB Messenger with camera Icon (Source: Forbes)

Click to read: Forbes article on Facebook Messenger passing 1.2 billion users

 

And how does AR fit into this equation?

Zuck went on to share a common understanding that AR is essentially used for three key purposes;

  • The overlay of data onto the physical reality around us – such as messages or information
  • The ability to add digital objects into our surroundings – like a virtual television or gaming avatars
  • Enhancements to physical objects around us – like buildings or human faces.

Facebook Augmented Reality will work by aggregating these tools – the cameras within FB apps will allow users to create AR “experiences” – and they will seem quite familiar once you see them. AR is not rare – we’ve all seen it in one form or the other – quite possibly most recently in the form of Pokemon Go.

Now, we all know that Pokemon Go was a huge driver in bringing AR to the mainstream – even if it was little more than a temporary fad for most. You’ve also undoubtedly heard us go on about how the popularity of the game was influential in the voluminous cash injection industry players received in 2016. But this could very well be, to quote Led Zeppelin, when the levee’s gonna break.

 

Where might you have seen AR in action?

Some use cases we’ve found interesting

 

So how does it all work exactly? (A splash of technical jargon)

This vision comes to life with the incorporation of some technological building blocks;

  • Simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) – a technique borrowed from Artificial intelligence – enabling users to integrate digital elements into the reality in front of them
  • 3D effects – capturing and interacting with scenes that you can explore and effects that you can adjust
  • Object recognition – technology that can identify items around you, that can then be targets for the overlay of digital content

 

What about Virtual Reality?

AR and Virtual Reality align quite well, and in that vein, FB is launching a platform called Facebook spaces – where you can interact with people in a virtual environment through the Oculus Rift.

 

Facebook spaces (from F8 2017)

Meanwhile, we’ve been doing our own experiments with the Rift too!

image1 (1)

 

 

Early days in terms of adoption – and the plan for an open platform

Zuck reiterated a key message around AR: It is yet in a rudimentary phase of development – and most of the use cases around us are still evolving too. Don’t expect the world to change overnight.

That being said, in offering an open platform and leveraging the huge universe that lives on FB – users will be able to create AR experiences on their own, and share them online. In doing so, new users will have access to parallel creations by fellow users from around the internet.

This spike in available content will invariably help everyone around us find AR experiences that fit their fancy – especially if this punt from FB is a good one – and at Appearition, we certainly believe Facebook Augmented Reality is going to be something special for all of us.

 

The Magic that is AR – QnA with Tomi T Ahonen

Over the past few years – you would have heard us refer to Tomi T Ahonen – a thought leader in the tech space with a distinct passion for AR and author of 12 books on mobile. We are delighted to share a brief QnA that Tomi was kind enough to do with us – 5 questions, 5 minutes (and a bit) – Enjoy!
 
1. How do you think augmented reality/virtual reality industry has evolved over the past 5 years and where would you like to see the industry in the next 5 years? 
 
AR is in an exploratory phase right now. The things that made Pokemon Go such a big hit last year, the individual elements had all been done already before, only Nintendo and Niantic managed to put in the ‘right mix’ of the right elements. But I do believe the future of AR will have us looking at Pokemon Go of 2016 as the ‘early dawn’ and the service be to the industry similar to what MySpace was to social media before Facebook. An initial successful ‘proof-of-concept’ vehicle but others will emerge far bigger and more successful than even this – bearing in mind that Pokemon Go was the most successful new game launch in gaming history. 
 
For the industry I think the next five years will see more validation of various business concepts that will be seen as viable and steady. I think the Ikea furniture catalog AR application is one of the most sustainable on a retail/commerce side; various user-assistance uses of AR in say the Audi user-manual for cars, are an obvious big area that can now get a boost when AR has been ‘validated’ by Pokemon Go. But in 5 years AR will have a Billion consumers using it, AR will be as normal for most users on their smartphones as going to Facebook or Whatsapp or Skype might be today.
 
TV is old news, mobile is now, but AR is the next big thing
 
2. Who, in your opinion, are the more influential players in this industry, and where do you see the most potential for development?
 
I think the big driver for AR is entertainment at least initially. It is a very ‘fun’ type of use of mobile, especially if you compare to say ‘payments’ and mobile money, which is far more ‘useful’ than strictly fun (who loves paying?). I would think that again, the Pokemon Go experience will drive other brands from Disney to Hollywood and TV, to start to deploy AR into their brand experiences. Imagine the next James Bond movie (isn’t it time 007 visited Australia?) – I could very well imagine a Bond-themed adventure ‘game’ with AR that included elements from the movie and set ideally in locations that the movie itself was shot. Or take any of the big action hero movies, the Iron Man, Superman, Spiderman, Batman etc type of movies – these would seem like naturals to go to AR soon. Any strictly animated movies and various currently-popular TV shows – they should already have some kind of AR concept under development to ‘be the next Pokemon Go’ haha..
 
If we think of tech companies, I don’t see anyone moving ahead of the pack so far. And on AR specialist firms, Layar had an early head-start but they don’t seem to (at least yet) have gotten to that ‘Google front-runner’ status of what we typically see in tech like Amazon in retail or Facebook in social media etc.
 
3. Everyone has been talking about AR extensively, particularly post Pokemon, but in your opinion, what are the top 3 benefits of this technology?
 
First off, AR is truly magical. As such, it appeals remarkably strongly to young people. I would guess that once the big ‘youth brands’ figure out that TV is old news, mobile is now, but AR is the next big thing – we will see news like Adidas made last week, when they said they will end TV advertisements because the youth are on their smartphones. I can foresee a time when especially youth-targeted brands start to set AR as their primary media/advertising channel. Secondly AR is ‘illustrative’ and by this I mean it can show us what to do, and how to do it. In any kind of learning situation, AR can project the video of the optimal performance and that can be incredibly powerful in helping illustrate how to do things. User guides and manuals will soon all be AR-enabled. Don’t make me read a manual. Show me how to do it. And the third big benefit is that AR is inherently digital AND inherently mobile. That means it is fully ready for the future digitally-converged world when our money and communciations and media and consumption and behavior and preferences etc will all be done through mobile and using digital means. AR could become ‘the next thing’ after video on mobile. This would be on the progression that mobile was first voice, then text, then pictures, now videos, and next… AR. But we have to see if that comes to be.
 
4. Given the relative ease of implementing the technology, what are some challenges faced by companies looking to adopt AR at an enterprise level?
 
A big problem for most businesses is to find a suitably frequent behavior that could be enhanced or expanded via AR. So if you bought your new car, and once had a problem changing the oil, and used the AR guide once – you will pretty much forget its even possible and won’t get the chance to explore and ‘enjoy’ it. Even as the car company may have built many dozens of AR use-cases to assist the car-owner. But in the case of Pokemon Go there is a lot of ‘repetitive’ behavior and ‘returning’ behavior, so you have to come back and nurture the eggs, and walk the distance to hatch the eggs, and so forth. They have done a lot of thinking on the human ‘addiction-building’ repetitive behavior. I often tell the story of cinema vs bus ticket in mobile payments. Most people go to the cinema only a few times per year. We don’t really ‘learn’ or ‘remember’ that we could pay for that ticket on our mobile phone. But if we commute to work or school every day by bus, we’ll learn in a few days how much more convenient it is to pay by mobile.
 
AR is truly magical. As such, it appeals remarkably strongly to young people.
 
5. Any final thoughts/advice to newcomers in the industry or people wanting to learn how it all works?
 
I do look for the magical. A Disney birthday cake that has Cinderella in it to sing to the 5 year old princess that special day. A penguin at a Tokyo zoo who shows the path how to get from the train station to the zoo, and the penguin waddles exactly like a real penguin, as it walks. This is the kind of magic we can experience in AR and we should seek more of that. And make sure the consumers can share and spread the fun with their friends, through social media etc.
 
Note: Check out Tomi’s Tedx Talk on Augmented Reality being the 8th Mass Medium
 

Top Tech Trends for 2015

Technology changes as quickly as the weather these days, and can be just as difficult to predict.
Luckily Gartner are on hand to do the predicting. Earlier this month Gartner Analyst, David Cearley, presented their top technology trends for the coming year at the firm’s annual expo. Their list shows that the focus is on merging the real world with the virtual one, the implications for analytics and the type of IT needed to deal with it.

The Internet of Things, and everything associated, including smart machines, pervasive analytics and 3D printing, all feature on Gartner’s horizon for 2015.

Let’s take a look at the trends:

Computing Everywhere
As mobile devices continue to proliferate, Gartner predicts an increased emphasis on serving the needs of the mobile user in diverse contexts and environments, as opposed to focusing on devices alone.
“Phones and wearable devices are now part of an expanded computing environment that includes such things as consumer electronics and connected screens in the workplace and public space,” said Cearley. “Increasingly, it’s the overall environment that will need to adapt to the requirements of the mobile user. This will continue to raise significant management challenges for IT organizations as they lose control of user endpoint devices. It will also require increased attention to user experience design.”

The Internet of Things
The combination of data streams and services created by digitizing everything creates four basic usage models—manage, monetize, operate and extend. These four basic models can be applied to any of the four “Internets.” Enterprises should not limit themselves to thinking that only the Internet of Things (IoT) (assets and machines) has the potential to leverage these four models.

3D Printing
Worldwide shipments of 3D printers are expected to grow 98% in 2015, followed by a doubling of unit shipments in 2016. 3D printing will reach a tipping point over the next three years as the market for relatively low-cost 3D printing devices continues to grow rapidly and industrial use expands significantly.

Cloud/Client Computing
“Cloudis the new style of elastically scalable, self-service computing, and both internal applications and external applications will be built on this new style,” said Cearley. “While network and bandwidth costs may continue to favour apps that use the intelligence and storage of the client device effectively, coordination and management will be based in the cloud.”

Advanced, Pervasive and Invisible Analytics
Analytics will take center stage as the volume of data generated by embedded systems increases and vast pools of structured and unstructured data inside and outside the enterprise are analysed

“Every app now needs to be an analytic app,” said Cearley. “Organizations need to manage how best to filter the huge amounts of data coming from the IoT, social media and wearable devices, and then deliver exactly the right information to the right person, at the right time. Analytics will become deeply, but invisibly embedded everywhere.”

Context-Rich Systems
Ubiquitous embedded intelligence combined with pervasive analytics will drive the development of systems that are alert to their surroundings and able to respond appropriately. Context-aware security is an early application of this new capability, but others will emerge.

Smart Machines
Deep analytics applied to an understanding of context provide the preconditions for a world of smart machines. This foundation combines with advanced algorithms that allow systems to understand their environment, learn for themselves, and act autonomously.

Software-Defined Applications and Infrastructure
Agile programming of everything from applications to basic infrastructure is essential to enable organizations to deliver the flexibility required to make the digital business work. Software-defined networking, storage, data centers and security are maturing. Cloud services are software-configurable through API calls, and applications, too, increasingly have rich APIs to access their function and content programmatically.

Web-Scale IT
Web-scale IT is a pattern of global-class computing that delivers the capabilities of large cloud service providers within an enterprise IT setting. More organizations will begin thinking, acting and building applications and infrastructure like Web giants such as Amazon, Google and Facebook. Web-scale IT does not happen immediately, but will evolve over time as commercial hardware platforms embrace the new models and cloud-optimized and software-defined approaches reach mainstream.

Risk-Based Security and Self-Protection
The path to the digital future leads through security. However, in a digital business world, security cannot be a roadblock that stops all progress. Organizations will increasingly recognize that it is not possible to provide a 100% secured environment. Once this is acknowledged, they can begin to apply more-sophisticated risk assessment and mitigation tools.

This will lead to new models of building security directly into applications. Perimeters and firewalls are no longer enough; every app needs to be self-aware and self-protecting.

 

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The Internet of Things – Augmented Reality’s role

The digital world is moving increasingly into the physical and ideas, which at one time seemed futuristic and revolutionary are now possible. But with the benefits come new issues.

Technology Growth

Technology is a fast growing market, with many people now owning multiple Wi-Fi-enabled devices. 1 billion new smartphones were shipped in 2013[1], and there will be more than 7 billion new Wi-Fi enabled devices in the next 3 years [2]. Research reports[3] have estimated that the number of devices connected to the Internet of Everything by 2020 will be between 26-30 billion.

With this increase user habits and expectations are changing, the amount of information consumed and shared by individuals during their day-to-day life has increased exponentially, in addition to new location service platforms being developed. Take the increase in geographical information. Users globally are sharing, tagging and creating points of interest on a day-to-day basis. People, places, maps and buildings are being pin pointed by location-based services.

One of the first examples of added-value location services was the Semapedia Project, created in 2005 with the goal of connecting objects and locations in the physical world to their respective Wikipedia entries using QR codes. More recently location-based services have grown in popularity with platforms such as Foursquare, creating a competitive element to location sharing, and Facebook’s location tagging function. These services provide us with an interesting perspective into the life and behaviours of users, and the way they are incorporating environments together.

Ubiquitous Computing and the Internet of Things

Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp) is the idea of a constant presence of technology in the world, unrestrained like desktop computing and therefore able to appear in any number of devices and formats from washing machines and fridges, to glasses.
The advancement of Ubicomp means that the Internet of Things (the interconnecting web of these computer-like devices) is technologically possible. While feasible, there is still a lack of any effective, unquestionable solution on how to help successfully link smart environments and individuals, as such circumstances demand a greater level of accessibility for each device without compromising functionality.

Ubiquitous Computing and its recognition via the Internet of Things brings with it an enormous flow of geography-based information. Ubiquitous Computing allows inanimate objects to become smart devices themselves. These ‘smart devices’ therefore become sources of potential services for users close to them. This new progress is adding large amounts of geographical data to that currently handled by users daily.

Interaction Challenges

With the growth of interaction technology also comes the problem of an information overload. The complex, global geographically referenced information is already proving to be a strain on the current system, and with a growing numbers of users connecting, this problem will only increase.

Gartner [4] predicted that by the end of 2012 machine to machine communication would account for 20% of non-video Internet traffic – a huge amount of networked data being sent via the Internet. For such information to be delivered efficiently, on a proper interfacing framework, location-services must become more powerful.

The key linking these may lie within augmented reality; to develop user interfaces with the specific interaction requirements of the Internet of Everything.

The Introducing of Augmented Reality

An obvious collaborator to this increase in geographical technology and popularity is Augmented Reality. Augmented Reality has been gaining traction as one of the most promising uses of the concept known as ‘Computer-mediated reality’. Although this concept also contains the already well-known Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality (AR) is rapidly becoming the hottest technology growth area. Augmented Reality is a combination of systems and experiences where the physical environment is an essential element of the experience. With AR a direct or indirect view of a real world situation is overlaid by computer-generated elements, rather than computer generated entirely.

The interaction capabilities of Augmented Reality interfaces provide a possible solution to the previously mentioned problems. The transition from Graphical to Tangible User interfaces will improve Human-Computer interaction in Smart Environments, and this is aided by the Augmented Reality approach with the physical world providing the environment and technology adding the relevant information by creating layers.

Further assets such as data mining, inference engines, multimodal interaction and a standardised approach (such as HTML5) will allow Augmented Reality interfacing to perform at its full potential.

References
[1] IDC
[2] Sys-Con
[3] Gartner – 26 billion, ABI Research – 30 billion.
[4] Gartner

 

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