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Tag: virtual-reality

More CEOs named Joan than John? How VR may tip the balance

Tech4Good

Posted on January 25, 2018

3 min read

There’s a reason why the Remarkable Accelerator has such a bold name. In part it’s the Remarkable ideas behind each of the program’s tech4good startups. But mostly, it’s the Remarkable people making these ideas a reality. With applications closing soon for the 2018 program, we want to share these Remarkable Stories. This is Annie’s.

Annie Harper isn’t someone you could easily forget. In Silicon Valley, she was known as the blue-haired hacker (not to mention a feisty cage fighter). Now based in Sydney, she’s a surfing, salsa dancing, rock-climbing tech entrepreneur.

But there are one or two times even Annie has felt invisible.

“I remember sitting in an audience last year while our co-founder Brennan was presenting on our startup Equal Reality,” Annie explained. “During the presentation, Brennan pointed me out in the crowd as his co-founder while talking about my virtual reality graphic animation.”

“Straight after the presentation, a man came bounding up and shook the hand of the man next me – congratulating him on his work and wanting to learn more. It hadn’t occurred to him that it was the 5’5″ blonde girl to his right who was the animator,” Annie laughed.

It’s ironic that this was exactly the type of unconscious bias experiences that had inspired the 32-year-old alongside partners Brennan Hatton and Rick Martin to create Equal Reality – the world’s first interactive diversity and inclusion training using high-end virtual reality (VR) technology.

Annie met Brennan three years ago while both working in Silicon Valley. She’d taught herself to code and was at Intel’s RealSense lab building brain-computer interface prototypes. At the same time Brennan was pioneering augmented reality (AR) technology, creating virtual worlds and communities, and founding his own companies in AR and VR.

Equal Reality - Remarkable Tech VR startup

The pair connected through their passion for adventure and the outdoors – on weekends you’ll find them canyoning, rock-climbing or even abseiling from bridges. But there was something deeper that brought them together. They both possessed a niggling feeling that they could use technology and their skills for social change. And it was a feeling they couldn’t let go of.

“When I first said to Brennan that sexism exists in our industry, he was surprised – he hadn’t seen it,” Annie said. “We talked about the unconscious biases people don’t even realise they bring to the workplace, stereotyping various groups of people, such as people with disabilities or those from different ethnicities, and yes, male-to-female biases.”

“We know these biases lead to discrimination, but how do you prevent them? How do you prevent something that people don’t even know that they do? We realised that VR technology was the perfect way to make an impact.”

There’s no doubt understanding personal unconscious biases can be hard through a PowerPoint presentation or corporate seminar. But through the immersive experience of VR, Equal Reality allows users to step into someone else’s shoes and feel the impacts of unconscious bias.

“We want to help companies shape their culture through high-end VR technology and experiential learning,” Annie said. “Equal Reality gives people the lived experience of different ethnicities, ages and physical impairments, helping them to understand their own prejudices through the eyes of others.”

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, an experience is worth a thousand pictures.”

Virtual reality: the future of content

Tech and Innovation

Posted on January 18, 2018

4 min read

The blend between our virtual existence and the physical world has become a normal part of our lives. We are living life through a screen already, so the jump into virtual reality (VR) is not as large a leap as one would expect.

With all of the big tech players pushing hard in the VR race, it’s only a matter of years until we see people sitting next to us on the train with their headsets on. Technology is moving at such a rapid pace in the VR industry, product releases are coming thick and fast, and everyone is trying to be the first past the post to bring a full VR experience into a simple, comfortable, standalone device.

The future of VR

The future of the headset will be one where augmented reality (AR) is the minimum and one can transition into VR or “full immersion” with ease. Microsoft has termed this mixed reality (MR), and with the advent of inside-out tracking has lead the way in making standalone headsets that enable not only looking around the virtual world, but also walking around too.

The ‘full’ VR experience will continue to expand with the release of haptic clothing and gloves, allowing for virtual touch to be included into the development of the VR experience. As VR developers start to utilise these haptic touch devices, the beauty of MR will come into its own and the physical-virtual blend will be truly immersive.

The reason why VR development is moving at such a rapid pace is because of the synergy between hardware and software development. All of the large players are releasing their own platforms to view VR content – and as it stands now, the pathway to content is quite sporadic and device-dependent. This will likely change, with the first company to create a great customer experience at all touch points going a long way to being the ‘Netflix of VR’.

But this will most likely have a shelf life as technology advances, and smart device manufacturers start to adapt their offerings into the MR space. One thing that won’t change is the need for a super-fast network to deliver the content and experience – however it is offered.

Taking VR into the mainstream

Virtual Reality at CES 2018

As VR becomes more mainstream, it will move from the ‘gamer’ space via film-making, and eventually into advertising and public relations (PR). The marriage between VR and PR is quite a simple one, as it makes a lot more financial sense to create a PR activation that can then be taken into the virtual world and experienced by the masses.

No longer is a PR or advertising opportunity going to be bound by the laws of physics or geography; in the near future, utilising AR, ads will be able to be generated into each of our mixed reality experiences for both our entertainment and the company’s ROI.

“Surfing” the web will move from being a nice analogy into reality, with companies like Web VR already playing with the idea of virtual websites. VR for websites has always been what we’ve imagined the best user experience on the Internet to be, and this will enable mass adoption of VR – bringing with it new rules for UX design and web design alike.

The virtual desktop will enable people to work in even tighter spaces, with an unlimited number of screens and at a larger scale than ever before. Productivity will increase, and people will truly be able to immerse themselves in their work.

VR will invade many different industries from both a consumer and enterprise perspective regardless of history. There are already no limits to where someone can take their experience inside the virtual world – and as technology keeps advancing, the limits to how VR can interact with the physical world keep expanding.

There are a few questions that will arise as VR is widely adopted: will one company be able to truly “own” VR? How will ethics become a part of VR development practices? How will VR start to affect us as humans – as we start to interact more with the virtual world, is it inevitable that our physical interactions will decline?

The tech at CES 2018: The good, the bad, the mildly confusing

Tech and Innovation

Posted on January 16, 2018

5 min read

Fresh off the plane back from Las Vegas, our Chief Technology Officer Hakan Eriksson reflects on what he saw and heard at CES, the world’s largest consumer electronics show.

With Telstra working at the forefront of many different technologies, CES was a timely reminder for us to constantly think about how we can bring innovation into our customers’ lives. 2018 promises to be a big year, with 5G on the near horizon and our advancing work in areas such as IoT, big data and new technologies making great progress.

Home

The smart home is becoming smarter, and maturing from only being a network of independent smart devices to becoming a complete ecosystem – including artificial intelligence (AI) to help make your interactions with your smart home more effective.

At the same time, this means that many players that earlier had their niche in the home are now in competition, with all devices containing a microphone and a speaker, and becoming part of a meshed network.

Some companies are even starting to think about how their smart home solutions can deliver indoor coverage for 5G mobile networks.

5G

Predictably, there were still a lot of discussions around the use cases for 5G, with most ideas gravitating towards applications with short latency, and the follow-on opportunities presented by the distributed cloud and the potential for edge compute.

All across CES there were many references to 5G, with some major players making 5G the key theme of their show – and that’s not only the usual suspects like Ericsson and Qualcomm, but also companies like Intel. 4G is still going strong, with Qualcomm showing a Gigabit LTE Maserati at their stand.

Cars

Connected, driverless and electric cars have now made CES their home – separate to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which is the place for traditional vehicles with big muscle cars as the main attraction.

This year at CES, the latest concept cars from the big players like Toyota were shown, but also electrical and driverless “F1” cars that will take the battle of car-controlling software to the next level.

Drones and robots

Drones and robots were more impressive than ever at CES this year, coming in all shapes and sizes from palm-sized selfie stick competitors to helicopters. Drones are now also going underwater and can even catch fish for you. There was also a table tennis-playing robot that adjusted its skill level to its human opponent to make the game more interesting.

AR and VR

AR/VR and mixed reality was a bit of a disappointment. VR headsets are still big and heavy, and the resolution is still not really where it needs to be. It’s a very immersive feeling, but after a few minutes you still want to get out of the headset.

As for AR, the interaction with the applications was still quite clumsy – the best sign around the show floor that there was an AR demo going on was seeing someone trying to pinch the air in front of them in a desperate attempt to get the just-rebooted app to work.

Sight and Eye Control

A relatively new area, at least for consumer applications, is technology that can detect where you are looking. With more and more devices having integrated microphones, the devices now know when you are talking to them – but still don’t know when you are looking at them.

This technology has evolved from helping people with a disability to type by looking at the keys on the keyboard, and can now be used for better understanding how we read a web page including its ads, as well as assessing how alert a driver is.

The next step could very well be our devices at home – we will soon get tired of saying “OK Google, turn down the TV volume”, when it would feel more natural to just look at the TV and say “could you please be quiet”.

Health

The health sector was basically two segments – one focusing on all kinds of devices to monitor your health at home, mainly for those who already have an existing medical need, as well as various ways to make you sleep better.

One of the more odd devices at CES was an inflatable pillow combined with a microphone. It detected when you were snoring, then changed the shape of the pillow – with the assumption that you would stop snoring in the new position.

The other sector focused on a healthy lifestyle, mostly using different kinds of wearable devices and clothes with integrated sensors. An example was a smart helmet with built-in lights, microphone, and speakers – but also a G-force sensor that detected if you had fallen off your bike, and then called an emergency contact. There was also some connected sports underwear, which I still don’t understand.

And, of course, CES would not have been complete without the gyro-stabilised selfie stick…

CES 2018: Consumer trends that will shape the enterprise industry

Business and Enterprise

Posted on January 12, 2018

3 min read

At CES this week, more than 180,000 visitors will flood through Las Vegas to check out the 4000 exhibitors showcasing the latest and greatest technology of 2018.

Whilst typically CES has been a consumer show, we can’t ignore the tech trends demonstrated on the floor ground that will inevitably shape the enterprise year ahead.

As we’ve seen time and time again, it is the consumer trends that influence enterprise software – experiences in mobile, social, cloud, analytics and video have all started in the consumer world but ultimately transformed how businesses operate and employees interact.

Here are three technologies at CES 2018 that are already making a mark on the enterprise industry:

Smart cities

The term ‘smart cities’ is used to describe how the use of information and communication technologies can transform the social, cultural and urban development in cities. Smart cities have rapidly evolved in numerous ways over the last few years, and with this evolution there has been a shift from a technology focus to a smart city that puts the focus back on the citizen.

This year, CES will deliver this concept, including a comprehensive program with key thought leaders in the industry and a dedicated exhibit area. The marketplace will showcase technologies that will shape smart cities, featuring artificial intelligence systems, sensors, transportation and other devices.

We’ve already seen progressive examples of Australian smart cities. More and more, local governments and councils are innovating and embracing technology to create better cities for the next generation.

Augmented and virtual reality

Pokémon Go was a game changer, and it was inevitable that the explosion of AR and VR in the consumer world would shift the way businesses interact with the technology. This year, we will see AR and VR continue to become more mainstream. Everyone from brand marketers, content producers, sports technologists and healthcare professionals are using AR and VR to create immersive experiences.

Companies like Microsoft and Readify are already using mixed reality devices to transform customer experience, for example with construction company Laing O’Rourke.

Digital team collaboration

Our culture has shifted. Social networks are often the first and most trusted source of information. Whilst social networks have traditionally been consumer facing technology, businesses too are embracing intuitive collaborative tools.

Alternatives to email have been created by eager start-ups and are now becoming entrenched in enterprises, for example with Microsoft Skype for Business and Teams, or Salesforce.com’s Chatter. All of these enable teams within an enterprise to send messages to other team members in ways that overcome issues with email, and are particularly suited to desk-based workers like software developers.