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Virtual Reality for the Real World

Tech and Innovation

Posted on February 22, 2017

5 min read

Its immersive nature and ability to transport the mind elsewhere has seen virtual reality (VR) take the entertainment space by storm, but just what purpose does it have beyond play for us? Rick Molinsky takes a look.

There are already 43 million active VR users worldwide and, by 2020, the market is expected to hit a cool $30 billion, but to do so, VR needs to gain a reputation beyond solely gaming. With more affordable headsets in the market its purpose has shifted from transporting users into fantasy worlds, to improving our own real world experiences in a move set to see VR become a familiar feature in our personal space. It’s been a major focus for a huge mix of brands and organisations, with the results steadily emerging across every area of our lives.

Travel

Transforming travel is Marriott Hotels’ 4D virtual journey, Teleporter, and travel story series, VR Postcards, which use a combination of 360° imagery, immersive storytelling and that all-important VR headset to give customers a preview of their next potential holiday destination. Both experiences enable customers to travel thousands of miles in minutes, whether it’s to road test a half-hour honeymoon in Maui or get a taste of Africa by kicking back with an ice cream in Rwanda.

Shopping

IKEA too has capitalised on the notion of ‘try before you buy’ with its VR Kitchen Experiences. Giving people the chance to trial their dream kitchen before committing to the reality, customers can alter the visuals to view the space from a child’s perspective allowing parents to spot any hidden dangers, in a play that takes the trend of personalisation yet another step further.

The ongoing development of these experiences shows just how VR could revolutionise our buying decisions, as it becomes integrated across the full spectrum of communications tools, bringing everything from TV ads through to printed brochures, quite literally, to life.

Ikea VR

Education

Google, on the other hand, is focusing its VR efforts on creating ‘money can’t buy’ experiences. Bringing context to the classroom, its Expeditions tool takes students on interactive field trips around the world – and beyond. Think voyages to Mars and similarly stellar travels back in time, designed specifically to act as a physical extension of classroom learnings, with heaps of relevant educational materials built into the 360° panoramas.

Healthcare

Gaining serious props in the healthcare industry, VR is being used as a core training tool for medical students. In the first real-time VR surgery, more than 13,000 students watched a live operation through the eyes of the surgeon, while the launch of Alzheimer’s Australia’s Educational Dementia Immersive Experience (EDIE) is being used to offer carers unprecedented insight into dementia. In the multi-sensory experience delivered via the EDIE app and a Google Cardboard, viewers are placed directly in the shoes of a dementia sufferer as they battle the disease’s symptoms, including severe visual distortion, in a bid to complete the seemingly simple journey to the bathroom.

Patients too are benefitting from the application of VR in the care system, with pioneering institutes like Cedars-Sinai Hospital exploring its potential to improve pain levels, reduce recovery periods and lower the overall cost of care. Through the Samsung Gear headset, patients take part in traditionally calming activities, such as painting or swimming, to see whether the experience affects the patient’s overall wellbeing in a positive way.

Such research will likely form the foundations of our future healthcare, opening the door to consultations that take place in virtual surgeries; surgeries that are carried out on virtual patients prior to the real thing, and patients whose recuperation takes place in an environment found to carry the same therapeutic benefits as a hospital, but which swaps the ward for an ocean on the other side of the world.

In the media

In an ever changing media landscape it was only a matter of time before VR was used to bring a totally new perspective to digital storytelling. With video footage now viewed as an essential part of online news stories, VR is the next step on, demonstrating a capacity to place us, the readers, at the heart of breaking international news stories.

Striving not to replace traditional written content, but to add to it, The New York Times’ decision to issue 1 million Google Cardboard headsets to online subscribers back in 2015 set the tone for the role VR will play in journalism moving forwards, causing a ripple effect across the media, which saw the likes of CNN launch a VR specific app, designed for use with Google Daydream.NY Times VR App

Photo Credit: The New York Times

And so, while our morning routines may soon involve plugging into a headset as we contemplate the day’s headlines, and our children’s homework may see us join them on a journey into the rainforest, from the comfort of the couch, this impending normalisation of VR is sure to be nothing short of extraordinary.

This is a personal post and is not an endorsement of products or services by Telstra.

Tags: innovation,

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Video: #CES2017 gets a (virtual) reality check

featured Telstra News

Posted on January 7, 2017

1 min read

You can always count on CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas for gigantic televisions, awesome gadgets, cool concept cars, VR/AR and drones.  Rick Molinsky caught up with Freddie Jansen Van Nieuwenhuizen, Director in Technology, Innovation and Strategy, for a quick chat on what tech is going to change the way we work, live and play.

 

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Review: Two weeks with Pixel, a phone by Google

Devices

Posted on November 15, 2016

4 min read

Michael Eva spent two weeks with the Pixel, a phone by Google. Here’s why he’s now an Android™ convert.

The reviews for the Pixel™, a phone by Google, have been glowing with pundits labelling it the best Android phone to date and the camera being rated as the best a smartphone has seen yet. Stacked with features that include advanced video stabilisation, the Google Assistant voice recognition service with serious AI smarts and more, this is a serious smartphone from Google.

Caught up in the hype and excited by the promise of an exciting new mobile phone experience I decided to swap back to Android and give the Pixel a whirl. I’ll confess, my experiences with Android phones in the past have sometimes been patchy. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some amazing Android devices already on the market it’s just that I jumped in early on in Android’s life and was left feeling that I was experiencing an operating system that still had some maturing to do.

The Pixel has well and truly put to bed any doubts I had about Android devices. It’s incredibly fast, has one of most impressive smartphone cameras ever and is really lovely to hold and look at. That’s only the beginning though. Here’s just a few of the reasons why I love this phone:

For the record I road-tested a ‘Quite Black’ 5”, 32 Gig version of the phone. It also comes in a larger (XL) 5.5” which I’ve now set my sights on.

It’s fast:

After two weeks of solid use, a stack of apps downloaded and used the Pixel shows no signs of slowing down. It’s such a pleasure to swipe down your notifications or click on an app and have it load almost instantaneously.

Fingerprint scanner:

Google have done something really simple that makes a really big difference. They’ve put the fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone. For me this has turned it from being a novelty feature to something I use literally every time I turn on my phone.

The best camera:

The Pixel has transformed my shaky video and blurry photos into something worth keeping. Double-clicking the power button to pull up the camera also makes it really quick and easy to capture a snap before the moment’s gone. There’s some cool camera features too like the panoramas and photoshpere which are fun and easy to use.

If you've got any doubts about the camera's quality check out the images some of Australia's best Instagram photographers took with the phone below.

Unlimited storage for photos and videos in the cloud:

There’s not a lot to say about this except for ‘YES’!

Battery Life and Fast Charging:

The battery power is great. It easily lasts a day. The best bit is that you can get a day of charge with 15 minutes on the charger thanks to the Pixel’s fast charge technology. I can personally vouch for the value of this quick charge tech having rushed the phone onto the charger a number of times before running out of the front door.

It looks and feels good:

The aero-space grade aluminium (I kid you not) and polished glass make this phone look and feel great. I’ve had a lot of fun handing it around at barbeques and seeing people’s surprised reactions as they turn the phone over in their hands.

Brag-factor:

Because it’s the new kid on the block Pixel is still pretty special and unique. In a market full of familiar devices, it is nice to have one that feels completely new. It’s also the first device I’ve had that other people are keen to get a look at when I pull it out.

The Pixel, a phone by Google, is a big win for Google and Android in the mobile phone stakes and definitely a phone worth considering next time you are looking at upgrading.

*Android is a trade mark of Google, Inc.
# Pixel is a trade mark of Google, Inc.

 

Tags: Android,

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A guy’s guide of what to watch on Foxtel in December

Telstra News

Posted on November 15, 2016

3 min read

The festive viewing season is a marathon, not a sprint, gentlemen, and we’re well aware festive fatigue can set in way before December 25 rolls around.

Whether you’re already a Foxtel from Telstra convert, or you’ve been a good lad and asked Santa for your very own subscription, we’ve sifted through the guides to bring you the cream of December’s viewing crop.

For the sporting junkie

If you’re the type of guy who loves his sport and doesn’t discriminate between the codes, then you’re not going to be disappointed by December’s sporting lineup.

December means summer and with summer comes cricket. For many, a Boxing day well spent is one spent parked on the couch in front of the Test, but the action kicks off well before then with New Zealand vs Bangladesh and South Africa vs West Indies all live over on FOX Sports.

If NBA is your real MVP, ESPN shows all games live over December, kicking off on the 1st with the Lakers vs the Bulls. If cricket doesn’t tickle your couch potato fancy for Boxing Day, ESPN will be showing five back to back games, with the first opening tip happening nice and early at 4am.

For those out of the viewing loop

With so many social gatherings over the next month, you’ll inevitably be asked whether you’ve seen the year’s most talked about shows. When a “no” answer is more often than not the precursor for an awkward silence, Foxtel Anytime is here to save your bacon.

With thousands of movies and box sets available at the touch of a button, you can stream shows from your package anytime, anywhere on your TV or device. We’re talking the full gamut; world class drama like The Wire.

If cinephile is a better descriptor for you, your Movie pack subscription is your ticket to a vast collection of over 1,200 movies, anytime. With new recent releases being added every month to the library, you’ll always have something new to watch.

Similarly, if you’re keen on catching up on old comedy faves like Family Guy and Seinfeld but don’t have time to be sucked into a binge watching void, Fox 8 and 111 Very Funny run episodes sometimes in triple shots back to back daily.

For the shark lovers

Forget Christmas. One of the most important weeks in many calendars is about to roll around: Shark Week is coming guys, and you can only see it on the Discovery Channel.

For those of you asking “What’s Shark Week?” It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like; an annual week-long schedule of nothing but shark themed documentaries. Running since 1987, it’s become somewhat of a tradition for many and only a Foxtel subscription gets you a ticket to the action.

There you have it; plenty of sporting, binge watching and doco action to get you through the festive season and into the new year – what’s not to love about a Foxtel subscription. Hang tight guys, we’re nearly there.

This holiday season’s hottest Entertainment Bundle comes with Foxtel Entertainment Package included. Plus, you get to choose your bonus gift of 3 months free Sports HD or Drama and Movies Package.

Things you need to know: Foxtel from Telstra: Service not available in all areas or homes. Non-standard installation fees apply. You need an eligible Telstra Home Phone, Post-Paid mobile or home broadband service on a Single Bill or active Telstra Pre-Paid Mobile or Mobile Broadband Service.  

Image: NBC Universal Television 

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Telstra’s first Work-Life Index launches today

featured Telstra News

Posted on November 10, 2016

1 min read

Today, Telstra is launching the inaugural Work-Life Index. Over lunch, guests will be delving into some of the insights uncovered in the Index.

Leading the panel discussion is Mamamia Co-founder and director, Mia Freedman, who is joined by Valerie Khoo, CEO of The Australian Writers’ Centre, Scott Pape from The Barefoot Investor, Telstra’s Executive Director of Global Talent Katherine Paroz and demographer Dr Kevin Johnson, who each have had a sneak peek of the Index and turned it into some seriously interesting future gazing.

Mia commented that there are so many thought-provoking findings in this research. It explores everything from productivity gains for business through to family and life goal gains for Aussie employees, a company’s ability to attract top talent and the barriers might be in our way. Most importantly, only one in four Aussies are taking advantage of the life balance benefits available through working at home, when one in two employers support it.

So exactly what did the Index discover? Check it out for yourself here.

Check back here on Friday for a full event wrap and pictures.

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