Industry Insights with Antonio Grasso

Appearition was very fortunate to have the opportunity to chat with the insightful and thought-provoking Antonio Grasso to chat about all things digital transformation, digital technology adoption and the rapid development of technologies enabling it’s users to perform powerful tasks.
Antonio Grasso is the founder and CEO of Italian company Digital Business Innovation srl. Antonio is a expert in the digital technology world and highly regarded as one of the top digital transformation influencers on Artificial Intelligence, cyber security, digital transformation, Internet of Things, and blockchain. He is an advisor, enterprise and public sector consultant and mentor to numerous startups.

The following Q&A has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

A: Antonio, tell us a little bit about how you’ve been spending your time during lockdown. Unfortunately in Melbourne we have just been placed into further lockdown measures. Italy faced challenges early on in the pandemic. What was this experience like for you?

AG: I am very fortunate because so much of my work and documents is stored in the cloud, so it has not been so much of a change whether I work from the office or home. Although some activities stopped, the majority of my activities were performed and fulfilled as normal.  Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was travelling and attending events and suddenly everything has moved online. In terms of my work I consider myself a very lucky guy as I have been able to continue as usual, however many others have struggled due to the closure of shops, restaurants, recreational activities and entertainment. So, yes I am very lucky in this context as it has not changed too much for me.

A: You are well known in the digital technologies space and highly regarded for your work and advice. What drives you to play in this space and what brought you to work in this exciting area?

AG: I have always had a strong passion for technology. 37 years ago when I was a software developer, I began to feel a strong link with my work and the desire to explore. About 10 years ago, digital technology began to emerge thanks to digital infusion like the introduction of iPhones. No longer was it just a mobile phone, but now a computer – small yes, but very powerful. About 3 years ago, I started to share information on my social media channels and that was amazing because it was a shift in my job. Now, I split my time between running my company and online activity with my followers, 50:50. I publish educational posts, I create infographs, I try to give other people something to think about, something to discover. My relationship with technology, it’s a passion, it’s something that I have in my heart and in my mind.

A: When you were growing up, was there a certain turning point in your life that influenced your passion for technology?

AG: In the 1970’s when I was young, we had no digital technology. I was always interested in machines; so I pulled apart and destroyed every machine I played with to discover the inner mechanisms. In the 80’s and 90’s, I began to work with many other types of technologies. At the time computers and hard disks were very big compared to now. So it was different, but the relationship was the same every time – always keen to discover what was happening inside.

“My relationship with technology, it’s a passion, it’s something that I have in my heart and in my mind.”

 

A: You have worked in the digital technology space for many years now. Across your years in the technology space, what has been the greatest piece of digital technology advice you have been given?

AG: When I started 37 years ago, computers and software were a lever – you know a lever helps you do your task better and faster. If you need to do reports, accounting, invoices, payments, you can begin to do this all very fast with the software. That was the previous technology, but now we are starting to see a shift. The role of technology is changing, it is no longer just a lever that helps you do your tasks better but an enabler. So, my advice is to think about the role of technology, not only, does it leverage you to do things faster, but also, what it can enable. What new product can enable you to do something you could not do before. When we think of digitalisation, it allows your product or service to become digital. For example, the streaming of video is changing the entertainment movie market, as it is creating something that before did not exist. This is possible thanks to digital infusion.

Digital infusion is phenomenal at bringing technology to our fingertips. Not only is it bringing technology as a lever but also as an enabler. An enabler for new things, new markets, new opportunities. So the approach needs to be holistic, a 360 degree approach. With purchase automation you can fulfil the customers purchase very quickly due to new technologies. It is creating new opportunities; new sources of revenue, new products, it’s amazing.

 

“The role of technology is changing, it is no longer just a lever that helps you do your tasks better but an enabler.”

 

A: How consumers interact with your business has changed. With that, traditional product development methods need to change. A world class digital experience is expected. What should business leaders consider when it comes to product development? What technologies should be at the forefront of consideration?

AG: It depends on the industry, one side does not fit all in this case. When we talk about product development, one thing that comes to mind is one of the latest developments of the digital twin. The digital twin is something that is unbelievable, it really helps the product development stage. When you develop a product, you need to also develop a prototype, this prototype is usually physical. The digital twin is a technology that you can create a digital representation of your product. This type of technology in product development is unbelievable and once again we come back to the leverage in technology to do better and enable you to do something you could not do before. Augmented reality is something that can aid in customer service or workforce. This enables you to give a workforce a different kind of training. With AR you can put the necessary knowledge at the fingertips of others when needed, right there, right now.

A: At the moment, what do you think is the most interesting trend in digital technologies?

AG: One very important and exciting thing is confluence. This requires bringing together two or more emerging technologies to create new outcomes. If we talk about emerging technologies, we have some technologies that are horizontal or AI that can work on all kinds of industries with different approaches and different outcomes. There is also blockchain security. If you say AI adoption in my company has a value of 2 and the blockchain has a value of 3.  But if you put the two together these two technologies would not equal 2+3=5, the result is more like 7. This is because they work together to create more than just the single technology. It is something that is happening now, but in the future it is something that will be happening with even more integrated technology.

I wrote an article about confluence robotic optimisation and the confluence of AI  that explores the software that can do so much more than just reading emails. It can read the emails but also send the invoices. It is programmed so if ‘this’ then ‘do that’ or ‘if that’ then ‘do this’. But, if you inject this model with deeper learning it can use technologies such as AI to do it. So, when you inject the technology with another emerging technology you create something bigger. This is an area of technology I’m very passionate about.

 

If you would like to read more from Antonio Grasso and his work in the technology industry you can find Antonio at:

Twitter  Facebook  LinkedIn  Blog

 

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All About Blockchain

Blockchain technology allows digital information to be distributed but not copied’. It’s a  growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked using cryptography. Outside of the widely known ‘Bitcoin’ application, blockchain as a technology has lots to offer for several industries. Appearition’s Developers Simon Galanakis and Sujanth Sebamalaithasan talk about the technology, its application and the future:

  1. Blockchain – as a technology seems scalable. What are the sectors that can adapt to it?

Blockchain as a technology is useful when you keep an open and transparent record and history of data. This is so that people can look at the history and trust it if it is true. No one can manipulate it if that is the case.

Blockchain will be able to benefit sectors that require large data sets to be stored with a high-level of encryption. Some industries include:

Banks and finance

Medical sectors – patients medical records

Industries using copyrighted content or sectors like film or software where patent plays an important role.

Law firms where client details need to be stored securely

Property ownership and management

  1. Blockchain and AR – do you see a plausible future? If so, how?

There is definitely a future (for blockchain and AR). There are a number of areas that we need to explore where blockchain could work with AR. If AR is treated as an object or a commodity, for example, an AR experience in a bottle – in which you can scan for a promotional video. If you consider that to be one package/entity, something that people want to share or retain ownership and for that to be genuine, you can employ blockchain. It is possible to record the particular details (eg. who created it, when it was created) that make up an AR experience in that blockchain.

  1. AR and blockchain – is it possible to keep the AR data/commodity, private/free from misuse?

Yes, it is possible. Conceptually it is a block – and if the block is used to play a video (An AR experience) and suddenly shows only a picture – it is a change in experience. If someone tries to tamper with the history of this block saying it was originally designed to showcase a picture – that’s a situation when blockchain can come into the picture and vouch for what was originally planned.

When used privately blockchain is not very useful. It will gain value when people start creating Augmented Reality (AR) products and begin to own them, share them and want to track its usage.

For instance, people create and upload videos on YouTube, which only YouTube can control and view the analytics and claim its accuracy. Whereas, if you want to de-centralise a control – it can be done by allowing every AR experience to be posted into the blockchain record. This is potentially a way in which we can track it. The concept of blockchain application needs to be considered here. Its power is very useful when you want to ensure that records are not tampered with; especially publicly visible records, that are available to others.

The idea of the blockchain is that it is an ever-growing ledger. Think of it as one big file, which continues to grow as blocks. The data is out into the blocks. In the example of Bitcoin, it is close to 160 gigabytes now. It is how big the blockchain is. As more and more transactions occur, it is going to have problems as it continues to grow. So, I think it is going to become a technological issue that needs to be solved. There are some solutions being proposed currently. Like, Hard Fork – decentralised ledgers, Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) – digitised version of cryptocurrency rather than the crypto version.

Right now, the scalability for blockchain with all the services around the world (for Bitcoin), when a new node/server wants to come on board, they must download 160 gigabytes of data for the first code. Then it is going to work on just partial data received all over the internet. The rise of the internet and email system in the 90s, meant people could only send a few emails and can only have a few contacts or a few hundred megabytes in their inbox. These days, some email servers offer unlimited storage for these data. I think the role of technology is evolving to keep up the demands of blockchain. It needs to be seen as not really the kind of one-stop solution kind of tool, it is just another tool in the tool world that can potentially solve a particular business problem.

  1. What are some things one needs to be cautious about when using this technology?

If an individual or an organisation tries to build their own blockchain, then they need to create their own node/service. The idea of the system or its integrity is the fact that you have more than 51% of all nodes of the network belonging to a particular chain or block is valid or correct. If you’re constructing your own blockchain, you need to manage your own nodes. Again, that kind of defeats the purpose of decentralised responsibility. You’ll still own the blockchain, you’ll still manage the nodes, so it kind of defeats the purpose. I’d question whether it is useful. When many people acknowledge this technology and start to use this in their day to day life then blockchain technology will become more stable.

  1. Business IPO and blockchain – Can you please elaborate?

Business IPO means initial public offerings. Companies who need capital to expand their business, usually do the IPO and distribute the company’s shares to the public. Likewise, in the Cryptocurrency environment, companies who are involved in this technology use ICO (initial coin offerings) to collect their capital before starting the project. The public who backed these projects will get cryptocurrencies and some useful benefits if that project successfully implemented

  1. How do you see blockchain aiding digital transformation?

Digital transformation is driven by four main factors, Internet of Things, big data, business platform models and collaborations between businesses. Using blockchain technology we can easily improve the above factors. Blockchain is increasing the trust between the unknown participants which can give a more collaborative environment to businesses. It helps to secure data and protect from anonymous access. Securing information is the major challenge in the digital world so blockchain will take a major role in digital transformation in the near future.

Learn More About Blockchain

Want to learn more about blockchain? Check out this TED Talk by Bettina Warburg

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Education Digital Transformation Trends

Education Digital Transformation Trends 

There is no doubt that digital technologies make our life easier. Up until now, digital technology has been dominating every aspect of our lives, except for education. Times are changing, and digital technology is advancing to change the education sector for all the right reasons. The traditional learning environment is now enhanced due to the digital transformation that’s available.

In the 21st century, digital transformation in education is a necessity and the need of the hour. The benefits of technology in the classroom is valued by all educators across all levels of education.

The current digital trends are making rounds in the education sector and making a name for themselves. Digital transformation in the educational sector is already leading teachers to make drastic changes in the way of planning lessons, the physical appearance of the classrooms, and assigning assessments, at a much faster rate than expected. Or one might say, it was unexpected for educators to adapt to digital transformation so quickly.

Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality / Mixed Reality  

Today, it is hard to expect our students to sit quietly in the classroom and pay attention. Gone are the good old days, when students used to sit quietly and follow instructions. Teaching is evolving and is beginning to focus on a more interactive way of learning. Classes are beginning to become more collaborative and interactive with the introduction of educational technology.

Examples of transformative technology include; Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality. These technologies enhance the students’ experience of receiving instructions from the teacher, which helps in creating immersive lessons that are a lot more fun and appealing for the students. 

The idea of Immersive technologies is to bring the outside world inside and take the inside world outside. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technologies have the capability and potential to do the same. There are educational apps that allow students to travel to Greece of ancient times, while others apps allow students to go ahead with sharing the respective virtual creations with the outer world. Immersive technologies as a learning tool increases technological literacy, visual literacy, and attention skills, potentially transforming every classroom and enhancing the learning experience for students.

Artificial Intelligence 

The use of Artificial Intelligence in ChatBots ensures that students answer all the questions related to the set homework, and can help in the case of urgency to understand the process of paperwork – such as financial aids and paying bills. Also, the use of Artificial Intelligence helps in easing the workload of the people, who otherwise have to go through the tedious process of explaining the same thing, individually to each student, whenever they have a query. 

These new technologies and opportunities are a fun and exciting way for students to learn. These advanced learning opportunities offer endless possibilities, in which otherwise would not be possible for the students to experience.

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Why content is key for AR platforms

Content in the context of Augmented Reality (AR), is defined as the presentation of existing information in a format applicable to the current world-view. This takes the form of visual and/or audio but can also take on other sensory formats such as touch or even smell.

This distinction between content and information is important to understand when considering the functional applications of AR platforms. In simple terms, an AR platform will not create information but rather consume it from existing sources and create, package and deliver it as AR content.

AR platforms such as Appearition’s Experience Management System (EMS), rely on the availability of information to create and deliver contextually relevant content to connected clients. AR platforms should, therefore, be regarded as mediums for connecting to existing data stores and aggregating and formatting that information based upon the context of the intended audience.

There are several challenges facing AR platforms today. At the outset, any effective platform must provide an intuitive user interface that is accessible and available to non-technical users. More often, it will be business staff who will be interacting with the platform to manage and create information and content.

  1. Access to information

A key concern of AR platforms is access to information. This demands connection and integration to various types of data stores. It comes with adherence to security and authentication protocols, data privacy laws and compliance and the support of various types of data formats such as CSV, XML and JSON.

With this concern comes the fundamental need of having a scalable, robust and highly responsive infrastructure for reliable functional performance.

  1. Contextualising information

Once information is available to the AR platform, it is important to be able to classify and group it. This will become an integral step in content creation as it will be important to link the context of the audience with the context of the information.

Meta-data is a common concept used in IT systems to help with classification. You can apply meta-data to existing information and then filter and query that when creating content.

  1. Delivering a good user experience (UX)

A well delivered UX has these two common properties: relevance to what we are doing and is quick to load. The former is something we have already touched on above. The latter is about network latency and is best understood when we think about today’s websites. According to studies, more than 40% of users bounce from websites that take more than 3 seconds to load. This is directly related to internet connectivity speeds and the amount of content being delivered to the browser. The same principle applies to AR experiences, however, instead of the latency concerns of HTML, AR is concerned about the speed of recognition, the stability of tracking and the download and rendering of immersive content such as 3D models or 360-degree videos.

A critical factor for AR is a reliable and fast wireless network connection. Whilst the current 4G technology does enable us to watch videos and images seamlessly, when it comes to immersive AR experiences, content is much bigger and heavier than standard website content. As such, we eagerly look forward to 5G which aims to revolutionise our world again with quick access to immersive content.

Whilst the promise of 5G is very much a future aspiration, there are strategies today that can be considered when designing and building AR solutions with latency in mind. Can you anticipate and pre-download AR content before the user has asked for it? Can you place content closer to the user to minimise too many hops around the world? Can you break up the content into smaller chunks and stagger how and when it’s presented?

Conclusion

In many respects, we are exposed to information all the time and in different ways. Since the dawn of humanity, we have exchanged information by communicating and interacting with each other. We then became exposed to printed information in the form of books, newspapers and magazines. In more recent times information has emerged in the form of TV and radio. Finally, the invention of the internet and social media has exploded our access to information at our fingertips. We use information all the time to make important decisions at work, school, home and in social settings. Filtering and deciphering this information in a way that is relevant to what we are doing now, has always been and will continue to be a struggle.

AR content is the means to access and view contextually relevant information in our world.

Simon Galanakis is a passionate advocate of effective AR experiences and is currently Appearition’s Platform Architect and Senior Solution Designer.

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Young AR creators: Appearition’s workshop for school kids

Industry 4.0 is redefining the future of work. Technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics are changing the future ways of working. For today’s students, it is vital to understand how these technologies work, for they are the future workforce, who are set to engage with these technologies.

We at Appearition believe that it is important to shape the thoughts of these future workers. As a part of our EdTech outreach series, Brendan and Arindam from our team conducted a workshop for school students in partnership with Real Time Learning (RTL). RTL is a social enterprise that provides students with the opportunity to learn from industrial partners.

Brendan and Arindam enabled the students to understand the basics of AR technology and its application in the industry. Using 8AR platform, the students got to create their own AR experience. Luke Kerr, Programme Director of RTL feels it is important for students at a young age to get an appreciation for how quickly things change. ‘Students in school are exploring AR content but very few have the opportunity to develop and create content. With an industry partner, it is so good for students to hear of the different use cases that the companies are partnering with their customers. This helps our students think more creatively on how they could use AR in the future,’ he adds.

Overheard at the workshop, a conversation between 14-year-old Gemma and 12-year old Ethan:

Gemma: ‘I thought AR technology would be like Tony Stark’s visor. This is actually very simple to use.’

Ethan: ‘Look, Gemma. I created my own AR experience using 8AR. Scan this image of my wallpaper and see what happens.’

(Gemma scans)

‘Nice! I wish we can scan all our favourite images to trigger an experience.’

‘If we can augment 3D overlay onto physical things, we can look at an image of an engine and see all the different components of how it works and instructions on how to build all the components into an engine. Using an AR headset, we can see the instructions alongside our actual work in progress in real time.’

Ethan: ‘When Brendan and Arindam showed us some demos, I realised that AR will help train people to do risky things. If they fail, they won’t hurt themselves whilst training!’

Students pick-up the ropes of technology faster than we imagine. Within an hour, Gemma and Ethan understood the enterprise application of the technology and how AR can impact workflow.

Appearition along with EdTech champions like RTL are making students future ready, one step at a time! True to our motto, enabling these students to succeed at creating their own AR experience made our day. We are already looking forward to hosting the next set of students!

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IAMAI – Augmented and Virtual Reality committee

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) recently formed an industrial expert committee to develop and promote immersive technologies – Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) ecosystem in India.

‘The committee was formed to identify opportunities and challenges to help India’s AR/VR ecosystem, in partnership with government, industry and startups,’ says Kalyan Biswas, Associate Vice President, IAMAI.

This initiative will help to promote the fast-growing technology to drive economic growth, jobs and skill development in the country.

The committee is chaired by Namrita Mahindro, Senior General Manager, – Digital Transformation, Mahindra Group and co-chaired by Satyajeet Singh, Head –Strategic Product Partnership, India & South Asia, Facebook.

Committee’s agenda:

While speaking to Appearition about the committee’s plans, Biswas said they aim to:

–    nurture India’s AR/VR technology and talent ecosystem, particularly, skill development

–    engage with business, industry and government to evangelise acceptance of the technology

–    help drive training workshops, to familiarise potential users with technology and build use cases in key sectors

‘Currently, we have formed two sub-groups of 4-5 members each. The sub-groups would help in planning and guide IAMAI in executing the plan as agreed by the committee, building Ecosystem and help in the interaction with Government,’ explains Biswas.

The Indian AR-VR market is set to grow at a compound annual rate of 76% in the next five years. [1] With immersive technologies redefining the future of the workplace, such a committee with an agenda to drive the adoption is a welcome move.

Source: [1] https://bit.ly/2OZdrTj

 

 

 

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Register your Interest for our Unity SDK Beta Test Program

Appearition invites users to join closed beta testing group for Enterprise SDK – here’s how to sign up.

Appearition is looking to recruit about 50 people to a closed, private group of beta testers to help in early builds of software for the EMS Enterprise Unity SDK. Eligible users would need to, be active in the Unity developer community, be willing to give feedback, and also sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Closed Beta program is an opportunity for us to listen to your feedback and refine or revise our product strategy based on that. It also helps us to find major bugs at an early stage and release more stable Open Beta and official builds.

The Closed Beta Group is the closest group to Appearition staff. Given the privacy aspect, you are required to sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) with Appearition to be part of this program.

Register your interest here. Simply fill out the information required.

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Augmented Reality for Retail and Marketing

Retail and Marketing sectors have reached a tipping point in 2018 for innovation with new technologies. That’s where this Info graphic can help – all the key data relating to Immersive Technologies in the Retail and Marketing sectors.

 

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The changing face of a workplace

Disruptive technologies like Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are redefining the workplace. Several jobs’ skill sets are constantly evolving, and several others’ scope has been widening.

Appearition and its team of researchers are always working towards solving tomorrow’s problems, thereby enabling others’ success. One such area of our research includes a project on drawing on immersive games experiences to develop tools for workplace support in the digital economy.

It is a collaborative research project between Appearition Pty Ltd and the Swinburne University of Technology. The project combines AR and AI informed by decades of game design, to develop a support platform for future modes of collaboration, workplace learning, and decision making.

‘Appearition is very committed to this research partnership with Swinburne University. Research and Development is one of the three main arms of our company. All our platforms and services have been developed after years of rigorous research and testing. We are also constantly working towards upgrading them to fit evolving technology and people needs,’ shares Vivek Aiyer, Founder, CEO, Appearition.

A transdisciplinary research team from Games and Interactivity, Immersive Experiences, and Data Visualisation are working with us, and the Swinburne Smart Cities Research Institute, to develop a prototype platform for supporting future workplace models in urban environments rich in IoT technologies.

The why

As technologies reshape our workplace, it will require a new understanding of work to support these changes. Ventures such as Airtasker, Uber, and Airbnb are challenging traditional workplace models. They are predicated on fast-paced real-time interactions between employees, often geographically remote from each other. Although relatively simple, the core concepts of these new business structures can be applied within enterprises and between enterprise and external clients. Network connectivity, rapid exchange of data, and mobile display technologies are some of the well-established characteristics of smart city environments in which this work takes place. New platforms are needed to support these new work models, because they require employees to share and respond to real-time data quickly and collaboratively, in an improvisational construct.

The How

Online multiplayer and location-based AR games provide a readymade platform for investigating how to achieve new interactions between employees. Multiplayer games host complex ecosystems of thousands of players with distinctive attributes and experience levels. Location-based AR games embed information within urban environments ensuring data is ready-to-hand. ‘Our project aims to develop a prototype platform to support the needs of workers in the digital economy using proven methods from these game design platforms. Collaborative task attainment, group formation, decision support, environmental information overlays, role management, inventory and setting of goals are key features that the prototype system will benefit from in drawing on game design to enable smart citizens to respond to change in the workplace,’ explains John McCormick, Lecturer in Interactive Media, Swinburne University.

Games are familiar to a large percentage of next-generation work seekers and therefore do not pose a huge cultural shift. The innovation in this project is to integrate widely understood methods for player organisation and interaction with a new approach to integrating AR and AI. These technologies are changing the nature of smart cities to work beyond data collection and IoT networks to explore how these can be made tangible and relatable to those living and working in urban environments.

AR does this through the real-time integration of data with the user’s environment and context. AI filters and connects the rich data of the IoT environments of smart cities to manage interactions between players, non-player characters, and the urban environment. While integrating AI and AR is not in itself new, our project will address how the relationships between users within a company can be supported and facilitated within this type of platform. However, these technologies can be disruptive in the workplace. Drawing upon game design methodologies this project will generate a new approach to the management of dynamic, timely information displayed fluently in the workspace.

Watch this space to know more on Appearition’s research projects. Get in touch with us to know more on using AR for your business!

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Education: Then versus Now

Technology has evolved so much in the past few years that computers and have tablets have virtually replaced the traditional teaching aids.

Take a look at how it has changed in the past few years:

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