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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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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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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Augmented and Virtual Reality Education – The future of classrooms

In our last series on AR-VR in Education, we touched on the basics of these technologies in education, how teachers’ roles can be shaped to make them better educators and how students can benefit from immersive technology.

Augmented and Virtual Reality are no longer in their stages of infancy. They are widely being used across multiple verticals.

A Lenovo research found that almost 50% of teachers estimate VR will be commonplace in schools in the next five years.

(Image Courtesy: thinkmobiles.com)

AR and VR in education boosts learning from a multi-fold perspective:

  1. increases student engagement
  2. increases knowledge retention
  3. facilitates holistic learning
  4. reduce classroom disruption
  5. encourages collaborative and individual learning
  6. enables teachers to better prepare lessons
  7. creates an immersive environment
  8. easily explain abstract content

AR-VR apps used at classrooms:

  • Wynn Middle School, USA has successfully tested the uses of AR for cross-curricular projects where students created AR posters to demonstrate physical activity using the ACES method (answer, cite, explain, summarize) for written responses. This student centric activity has made learning more engaging and fun say teachers.
  • Dubai British School, UAE has been using VR to facilitate virtual tours to aid students in learning. For instance, travel to Africa to explore the African desert is near to impossible to arrange. Or viewing the Mars orbit line in a Geography class. VR has been bridging this gap in imagination and enables students visualise them, thereby enabling comprehensive learning.
  • Magic Mirror pilot – A group of anatomy specialists tested an interactive and personalised AR system to facilitate learning in medical school. This system behaves as a “magic mirror” which allows personalized in‐situ visualization of anatomy on the user’s body. Furthermore, the app displays medical images, and 3D models of organs that the user can interact with. The results showed 91.7% approval for the capability of AR technology to display organs in 3D, and 86.1% approval for the educational value of the technology.
  • University of Rochester, USA simulated reactions in a chemical plant using an AR table-top developed in-house. They are using AR to create new types of STEM undergraduate labs that were not possible earlier. Students used coffee mugs and popsicle sticks to simulate reactions in real-life, sprawling chemical plant.
  • University of Nebraska Medical Center, USA They have been using head mounted AR glasses and large 3-D video displays to simulate realistic body parts for med school students. Sensing huge potential in this space, the university is building a state-of-the-art dedicated 3-D simulation centre which is expected to have the world’s first five-sided laser cave.

Studies suggest students can absorb a visual scene within 0.01 seconds! Moving towards a fully digital world, AR and VR act as the window to this visual sense. Students get a first experience and wholly understand a concept. This method of teaching promotes visual learning beyond just kinder-garden.

Immersive technologies are set to change to completely revamp future ways of learning and teaching by bringing the world inside the four-walls.

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Benefits of Immersive Technology in Education

[avatar user=”Prosper” size=”thumbnail” align=”left”]Prosper Cumps-Ruelle, Developer, Appearition[/avatar]

In the past few years, many new types of technologies have emerged to help us embrace new ways to learn, view content and interact with it. By consequences, existing technologies and techniques are getting reviewed for their efficiency, reliability and cost.

Some game changing innovations that can revolutionize learning and teaching are the three main immersive technologies: Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR).

When it comes to studies, VR and MR can make a difference in a student’s learning by providing it more engagement with the material, a more immersive interaction (and in turn, less distraction), advanced and more relevant testing as well as getting the students hands on simulations early on. Each aspect of those immersive technologies can add a major improvement on almost every milestone of a student’s journey.

Interactive theory

Theory modules could be improved using VR by granting the student a broader look of its study material, as well as ways to interact with it. In the case of medical studies, students learning the details about bone and joint structure would gain the ability to view a given 3D object of an articulation, move around, twist and deconstruct the joint to have a better understanding of how it truly works. It would also make the understanding of specific diseases on certain body parts easier to visualize by animating the body part deterioration, which wouldn’t be as easily done with either objects or videos. The biggest challenge with theory modules is that students struggle a lot keeping themselves engaged with constant intensive learning, which is where immersive technologies and gamification can come in to help.

Technology in practice

Practical modules could be improved with both VR and MR by letting the student manipulate objects either in virtual space using VR, either in real space while being given additional information using MR. For engineering students, a MR workflow would let the student interact with objects with either virtual labels tracking real objects being manipulated. Furthermore, extra tutorial information for an experiment, such as the current step, the rules, safety precautions, will be available. For some potentially risky practical experiments, VR could help out by providing the student a realistic environment without risks, allowing the student to learn by trying without the fear of failing.

Creative Reality

Creative students could also benefit a lot from those technologies on both theory and practical sides. When it comes to creative fields, such as design and art, communication could be greatly improved by having hands on easy-to-use immersive devices. In design, prototyping is one of the most constraining bit because of the need to provide accurate information within a limited time. Certain fields of design, such as game design and 3D modeling/animation often requires the students to either go through a lot of writing or a lot of work to express a simple idea; while tools such as Tilt Brush (by Google) could provide a quick visual (perhaps animated) understanding of the idea.

A holistic learning environment

Immersive technologies could help testing students’ knowledge more properly than paper tests or most assessing methods currently used. When applied properly, VR/MR can create an environment suited for series of testing specific to the material: In the field of medicine, it can simulate an accurate stressful situation where a patient is going through an emergency while its family is screaming in the corridor, an electric engineering student can experience diagnosing an electric installation on a rough and windy day, architecture students could experiment structure design against various natural catastrophes or crowd simulations, design students could spend less time accurately brainstorming a prototype before getting started with the production, etc.

Using the growing Immersive Technologies, there’s a possible improvement in every field of study, in various aspects, allowing students to have a more engaging, smoother and fun learning.

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Shaping the role of educators with technology

 

Digital transformation will impact job roles in future. Hence, it is important to shape the role of an educator. Market leaders predict that Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) will change the basics of how teachers teach.

E-Learning

Immersive technology will enter e-learning and classroom learning in near future, making teachers mentors first, says Michio Kaku, Physicist and Author. A recent Technavio study predicts that online higher education market in the US is set to grow at a compound annual growth (CAGR) rate of 20% until 2021.

If teachers start using technology as a medium of instruction whilst teaching, it will enable students to learn the ropes of this at an early stage.

Some ways in which teachers can use AR/VR technology in classrooms:

  1. Smart class: Moving away from traditional projectors or picture projects, teachers can use AR to overlay an animal or forest picture for a social science class or produce a square or hexagonal shape for geometry.
  2. Presentation skills: Adding fun to Powerpoint, teachers can promote the use of AR/VR and prompt students to learn further by pointing at an object.
  3. Beyond classrooms: AR/VR can be used anywhere with just a small, handheld device. This can enable teachers to make field trips and lab visits even more interesting with prompters and overlays.

The Technavio report further says AR in education market will grow steadily at a CAGR of more than 82% by 2021. Educationists say, students are increasingly interested in learning things that are aided with an augmented overlay or e-vision. In such an environment, the students are completely engrossed in the space around them. These enhance students’ cognitive and interactive skills.

Based on an article published in Edtech and EdSurge.

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Strategic Technology Trend for 2018: Immersive Experience

A peek into some of the trends that Gartner has identified for 2018:

Almost two decades since the millennium, the evolution of intelligent technology has reached a stage where Augmented and Virtual Reality has become accessible reality.

AR/VR/MR boom

AI is set to feature on all digital platforms, apps or device this year, a trend that saw a boom last year.

AR/VR acts as the merger for multiple stand-alone technological things to an immersive technology, using the best of both worlds. Along with some conversational platforms, AR, VR, and MR will bring a fundamental shift to user experience, resulting in an immersive experience.

For example: From ‘Googling’ on specific information manually to just scanning an object and getting complete information on the object in front of us.

Appearition adds the ‘human’ element to AR/VR. ‘VR will change the way we shop, travel, learn and even create an informative platform in healthcare. AR/VR will create an immersive brand awareness changing the way businesses market,’ says Vivek Aiyer, Founder and CEO, Appearition.

Intelligent Apps and Analytics

AI will run unobtrusively in the background of many familiar application categories while giving rise to entirely new ones, predicts Gartner. For example, AR combined with analytics in a machine/app automates data preparation, insight to share with a broad business user and operational workers.

Digital Twin

These twins are digital ‘soft-copies’ of a real-world entity or system. A Gartner study says, with an estimated 21 billion connected sensors and endpoints by 2020, digital twins will exist for billions of things in the near future.

This aspect of technology will come in handy while studying or manufacturing heavy machinery, construction and to a great extent in healthcare. By overlaying digitally-created content into real-world environment, it enables everyone to view a replica of the project and sharing an almost-actual insight.

For example, Digital Twins can be created for an internal organ, so that one can view exactly where and what procedure they are expected to go through medically.

 

Watch this space for exciting AR/VR/MR/AI related content!

 

Reference: Gartner – Top Tech trends for 2018

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