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Using Machine Learning to leverage the power of Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) in its current definition is the overlay of digital information on a real-world view. In practical terms, it is the process of recognising specific physical objects in a device’s camera and superimposing digital content such as video, audio or 3D models.

Visual recognition is one aspect of AR which encompasses image, object, scene and facial recognition. Computer vision technology is used to identify shapes and patterns through a complicated set of mathematical models. These models and processes are all facets of Machine Learning (ML) that drive Artificial Intelligence (AI).

ML is the science of “teaching” the system to look for commonalities and patterns and assessing the probability that a match is found. Effectively, with a set of mathematical models in place, the system is fed a collection of information that represents a positive match. For instance, if we want to teach the system to identify a cat, we provide thousands of images of cats and let the system process and find common visual patterns across all the images.

This is known as deep learning where the outcome is a system that can recognise and track almost any pattern. With this capability, we can inject a virtual projection into the area that is being recognised and tracked to deliver, what is called, an augmented reality experience.

The power of AI and ML is being able to make decisions based on the real-world scenario. Let’s consider its application in a security surveillance system. A machine that has been trained to detect weapons, such as knives and guns, can be used to observe CCTV security vision. In real-time, it can look for patterns in the scene that resemble its definition of a weapon. If identified, a notification alarm could be raised for someone to act.

Pattern recognition is not limited to visual only. Auditory, gesture and other data patterns can also be “taught” using ML. Continuing with our security surveillance example, a trained machine could be used to listen to sounds in the environment and detect patterns of shouting or offensive language being used.

The challenges

One of the hurdles in training a machine to identify patterns is sourcing enough material that is deemed a “positive match”. In these cases, systems are designed with feedback loops to allow machines to “learn by experience”. If for some reason the machine fails to detect what it is supposed to, it can be taught what was missing in the initial dataset and be trained to act on it the next time it occurs. All this is supported by an aspect of ML called “convolutional neural networks”. Different nodes that perform specific mathematical functions on the dataset are interconnected to achieve the specified outcome.

The opportunities

In a time when vast amounts of information is available at our fingertips, being able to recognise the world around us and decipher what is relevant will become critical. Whether at work, at home or in a social setting, successful real-world augmentation will rely on AI and ML observing and recognising our environment and adapting information to match our situation.

As hardware technology improves and wearable, handsfree devices become a reality, ML and AR will become an integral, yet ambient part of our lives.

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

Augmented Reality – A snapshot of the market

Augmented Reality for Enterprises

Augmented Reality has been changing the face of enterprise sector. From enhancing work efficiency to improving skills, AR does it all. Take a look at some game-changing numbers:

 

Frontier technologies – Future beckons

Mouli Ganguly, Member, Board of Advisors, talks on Industry 4.0, Digital Transformation, Frontier Technologies and more:

  1. What are some technologies that you think will play a huge role in Digital Transformation and why?

All of them play a role in terms of Digital Transformation. So, let us take an industrial example. Dump trucks used in mining have huge tyres. Their worth is about a million odd dollars and some of their tyres cost up to $100k. Now it is important to see the level of productivity an application can deliver. The benefits are already clear & compelling.

Every modern piece of truck has got transponders all over the place. That kicks in the IoT element. This enables us to track what it is doing by tracking the signals received. With AI and insights, what we can do with the data coming through is, collect and put them in a place. We can decide here is what I want to get the data or do something about it.

With AR, VR and MR, you render the whole application to how the user can best use it, with data and insights. For example, you could present the same information that you’re collecting via transponders to the truck drivers in a manner where he can see the whole environment around him. You can set it up, such that language is not a barrier. In India, for instance, truck drivers driving cross-country speak different languages. Irrespective of whatever language one speaks, they can all see an image, interpret & take decisions. Every driver knows what a boulder is. Or what are the factors that may damage the dumpster or damage the tyres or something else. Whilst sitting inside the dumpster, they may not be able to view everything through naked eye.

“Seeing the information presented through Virtual or Augmented reality enables him to make better decisions.”

Another way to grasp all this up – you see a control room can observe the movements of a dumpster. They receive the information from transponders and visualise the data and interpret the implications that arise from it. They can then come up with solutions like specific risk issues or actions that need to be taken. A team from the customer & Appearition has to plan this out.

In terms of Blockchain, it makes sure that a certain event, transaction or data, is stamped as authentic. It is not widely used yet. There are restrictions on its usage or application. But for transactions of high value, this technology not only gives you an experience but also makes the transaction very safe and auditable. It also facilitates to build a record as to who did what at exactly when. This can also act as an audit trail for any purpose required. It is a foul-proof way to keep track of things. The transaction can be financial or otherwise.

So that is how all the technologies can play a role in Digital Transformation. Often a combination of these technologies that answers / solves a business problem.

  1. What will be the road-map of early adapters vs cautious players?

Typically, early adapters are an organisation’s visionary. They are in the very senior position. Also, in a generational sense, say between gen X, gen Y or the middle aged people, there are several technology gaps. Kids born after 2000 basically grew up with screens. Just like millennials grew up with the PCs. Every time a new technology is introduced, you think of things in a very different way. For example, in my generation of baby boomers, , people would write text for a power point presentation. Whereas, these days, a presentation is far more experiential.

In an organisational context, the gap is often at thinking through the process change or adaption for an idea.  If the plan is not backed by experience or relevant subject matter expertise, it will fall through.

As an early adapter, the visionaries come up with ideas. The cautious players are the ones who go through the practical things. So, they go through factors like business use case, defining what will change, how will it work, the change management and integration part of it, how to get data out of organisational system that exists, make sure that the data is accurate, quality is good.

Early adapters are analytical thinkers/dreamers. Cautious people on the other hand, achieve dreamers’ dreams. This kcan take a very long time. Now, where an organisation is driven by a visionary, often, you get things moving simply because he has got an idea that he wants to make it happen. And he (CEO/COO) will tell somebody typically that, ‘look I just want to make it happen. Work as a team and make it happen’.

Facebook phenomenon

For an early adapter enterprise, if you get the vision right, you get a first mover advantage over others. For instance, the Facebook phenomenon. They have created an entirely new business. Whereas sometimes, early adapters who did not plan well have gone bust. Because, they have placed some bets that have gone awfully wrong. And this has sort of impacted their existing business, customers and whole the lot. Cautious players tend to be thoughtful followers. They let others experiment and use those learnings in their business. They try to keep their profitability high and ensure quality, risk management & repeatability, so thatcustomer engagement does not take a hit.

  1. In this process, how can an enterprise build its internal and external stakeholders’ digital IQ?

There are whole lot of methodologies. In my view really simple. The agenda very much is a COO/CFO/CIO/CMO/CPO idea. The CEO says this is what we need to do. The CMO then says, this is how we want to market it. This is the experience we want to provide. The CPO Says here is the culture or context in which I want my people to operate. Those are the three elements – the customers, the culture, the strategic direction and somewhere in between there is an elephant in the room, the digital space. Compliance, security, all those kinds of things. All this has to hang together be funded effectively and provide return to the investors, That is why you need a special type of CFO for the digital businesses. That is very important in terms of creating the digital IQ.

You drive the innovation, which is the business agenda. Secondly, you need to be agile. Agility is where you can own up to your mistakes quickly when needed and at a low cost.  The whole team, not just some champions  must work together on an agile manner. We need collaboration within the organisation and with the suppliers & customers. Within the compliance ecosystem the regulatory authority, and any number of agencies are there, because the laws haven’t caught up in Digital yet. And the next comes the partners. Because no one organisation can do everything by themselves. It is very, very important for the partners to work together. Again, look at what Appearition is doing. They work with a whole lot of partners to deliver what must be delivered. And, at another level, the IQ is built through great culture of innovation and risk taking.

The first question you ask is why are you doing it? What is the innovation? Why am I doing it? What difference will it make? And the ability to execute, in my mind is the other side of the equation. The CIO, the guy whom implements the technology. The CFO, the guy who checks out the money, burning millions of dollars, putting things at risk. Those kinds of functions become responsible of every action. So, the whole thing is a question of balance.

The ability to execute the vision is possibly the biggest challenge of the Exec team.

  1. What will the role of data analytics be in this revolution?

If you take the first thing that comes out in the digital world, it is data. There is so much data in every aspect of our life, every moment. We are being absolutely bombarded with data. Our memory spans have reduced. In today’s mindset, I don’t think people have the patience to read a booklet. This data is compressed and made consumable through AI and Analytics. This is turned into information. But then, to turn it into information, you need to know, what information you were after. You need to take the data in a certain way. From information, comes knowledge. Then you personalise it. Then you look at the information and say, I’ve read the report, what I’ve learnt out of the report is this, this and that. And then, beyond that comes very, very content specific, decisions.

For instance, if you are an insurance company and you want to know the information on who are the people who do not have an insurance and are most likely to become my customers? And if there are certain attributes that you identify, you may decide whether it is important or not and do something with it.

2/2 of his exclusive interview. Click here to read the first part.

Industry 4.0 – Time to reassess business plans

Mouli Ganguly, Member, Board of Advisors, talks on Industry 4.0, Digital Transformation and more:

  1. How has market reacted to digital transformation so far? What are some factors that seem to aid it/ factors that act as a barrier?

Introduction of computers in the 80s and internet in the 90s were digital transformations (DT). These transformations speed up an existing process in their own way.

Currently, with Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data etc, we are heading to the third wave in digital change. With this change, content reach has become faster and more specific to the user’s individual & specific context.

There is a question of what is the hype and what is the reality? The hype is often an expectation that Everything will turn digital from day one. But the reality is it takes a long, long time.

Digital disruption is when the whole user experience changes. When you look at the current technologies like AR-VR, you are in an immersive environment. The second thing that changes in a business is convenience. It gets faster and better. Take for instance YouTube, people are not wholly dependent on it for video services. We have now got other video streaming options. From being costly and time-consuming to produce a video, now they’ve become so simple.  Within a span of five years, existing technologies have changed so much.

In the residential space, AR-VR is already there. If you look at smartphones or movies, almost every movie has a VR effect in it. Whereas in the enterprise phase, it is happening far more slowly due to change management issues. There are a whole lot of processes, policies, rules that play out. These multi-factor influences act as barriers, at times.

Take a look at this scenario:

On a personal level, if you see a 3-D glass that you fancy, you just go ahead and buy it and try it and see. But in the enterprise phase, we cannot change what we do on a day-to-day basis, immediately. It is a gradual process to adopt changes and involves formal change management. Enterprises don’t have individual decisions like personal buyer choices. A new technology adoption must act in a certain business standard. In an enterprise space, one person cannot just act on it or start using something. There are other people involved. This is a huge barrier in adopting or initiating digital transformation.

  1. If you were to chart a blueprint for an enterprise’s digital transformation, what actions would it typically involve?

Adopting new technologies to businesses happen if there is a clear benefit. Unlike personal choices, a business cannot adopt a technology or a process without a defined benefit. There should be a strategy or a growth plan that cites the benefits.

Benefits can be divided into three: Either the customer or staff experience the product or service delivers is much superior leading to increased loyalty and willingness to adopt from them. Since organisations measure customer satisfaction, this is an inclusive environment.

Next one on the list is Product or process improvement. Take for instance claims processing in an Insurance company. It is quite difficult organising in person, especially if the person has availed trauma insurance. In a digital world, you can have a number of different tools from virtual assistance to people working in collaborative environments to remote diagnostics with telemedicine, all of these improves the overall process.

Enterprises must include the market & customer in its product development. It is easier to create a digital product. One can quickly create a product and launch it and test it as a POC (proof of concept), before scaling up or canning it all together.  Therefore, the whole product cycle in the market is faster than before. Through failure, you learn, Fail fast and fail without incurring a high cost or brand damage and you will innovate with successful offerings.

Finally comes the cost reduction factor. Basically, several things drive digital adoption. You grow the experience, generate customers, grow staff loyalty and therefore get more market opportunities. You get market opportunities to get new products by reducing the cycle time to market, your process has changed, you change the format quickly. And as your cost reduces, you become more productive. This sort of drives some of the opportunity.

Now, what is the big risk that you face while doing so?

Benefits, use cases & training/change management needs are not clear. For instance, when we say I’ll improve the claims processing experience in an insurance company, one needs to clearly articulate what is the use case. What is the customer roadmap of the journey? How the customer uses the new digitised transformational services that you provide. Then one has to map it all the way. At each point, you have to state what is different. How or where will I be delivering this service and how will the business be using it. It is not a technology or process issue. Business must very clearly define the benefits they will get.

Now, how do you do it?

Firstly, create a simple proof of concept. And these concepts have been around for a long time, but very, very quickly you spin something up like Appearition is doing at the moment, we can create an experience for the customer to show them the actual benefits very quickly.

The next thing that comes is change management. You have to say, if we are going to do things differently, digital is to be applied on a day to day basis, how do you make sure that when either our customers or suppliers or staff use it, how’d they be trained, accept it and use it. And most importantly, everybody in the eco-system, i.e. the staff, customers, suppliers should be able to deal with the change. This change management leads to a fully functional prototype. Proof of concepts at a very low price, say 30-50k dollars, roughly, you show them how it is done, from there we move to a fully functional prototype. From the prototype, we get a use case development.

In our design, we use tools like machine learning, artificial intelligence, data from the Internet of things and analytics to continually improve the experience.

The last one, which must be designed in terms of the blueprint, is integration. Every organisation has a whole lot of legacies. Because nobody is working in a vacuum. The new systems have to interwork with the legacy in most cases. This becomes a difficult, costly & cumbersome process.

3. What are some of the opportunities and risks that enterprises will face whilst adopting it?

Whatever digital services one provides, one must draw the data from those existing legacies. One of the elements to add to the risk is realisation. Because, sometimes, some firms do not have a clear strategy on how they want to go digital. They just dump and start an initiative without a strategy. So, if you get an application up and running, it will look very nice and appealing to whoever designed it and they will think this will change the world. But if there is no change management to support it, the customers, the staff are not wedded to it. It hasn’t been well thought through.

 

Follow this space for Part-2 of this interview.

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.

Immersive Technologies – Museum visits made interesting

We have seen that use of immersive technologies enhances productivity, aids emergency response situations, makes education interactive and simplifies shopping. Augmented Reality and museum visits – sounds like chalk and cheese isn’t it? Well, it no longer is.
Several museums across the globe have successfully incorporated Augmented and Virtual Reality in their channels.

Museums have been using AR-VR to their advantage to bring exhibits and artefacts to life. Let’s look at how this has changed museum visits:

Promotes easy learning

The ‘Story of Forest’ art, in Singapore museum, had about 69 giant murals, housed in the museum’s glass rotunda. Visitors use an app and hunt for flora and fauna within the drawings. After hunting various drawings, the photos are added to a collection. Visitors can use this collection to know more information on the plant or animal variety. These kind of fun exercises and over-lay learning helps them understand on an animal’s dietary plans, species and other general information.

Brings display to life

Smithsonian Natural Museum of History, Washington D C, utilised Augmented Reality innovatively. They launched an app called ‘Skins and Bones’, which brought animals to life using AR technology’s super-imposed pictures. Users can scan and point the app at an animal bone in display and view it in flesh and movement. These kinds of activities enable visualisation of extinct animals or artefacts.
Virtual Museum visits

Furthermore, the app also provided an immersive experience to users who were unable to visit the museum. They provided enthusiasts with ‘trigger images’ (See picture below) that they can aim at and experience the same picture from home comfort.

Image Courtesy

Hologram – Immersive walk-throughs

The Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, USA, brought former astronauts to life and enabled an immersive experience with them. Interactive pieces located throughout the building allow early astronauts and NASA legends to tell their stories.

Image Courtesy

Hologram – Immersive walk-throughs

The Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, USA, brought former astronauts to life and enabled an immersive experience with them. Interactive pieces located throughout the building allow early astronauts and NASA legends to tell their stories.

Image Courtesy

Interactive Learning

England’s Historic cities app serves as one-stop-AR interactive view of over 12 cities from Durham to Salisbury. This app is an example of learning while viewing. Users can know more on each city by clicking on the Augmented information on display.

Image Courtesy

This is blog is a re-written excerpt from Smithsonian.com

The Oodl story

Impressive Advertising is a leading advertising and branding enterprise, based out of Adelaide, Australia.  They produce print, online, video and audio advertisements and campaigns for their clients.

Advertisements are of many forms these days. From simple print ads to social media campaigns, there are plethora of brands targeting the consumers. However, today’s audience prefer more visuals, concise and innovative ads. An ad these days is not just consumed, but shared, liked and discussed about on social networking sites, more often than before. This form of ad consumption has paved way for more innovative presentation.

Adapting to changes in Digital Transformation has been the order of ad campaigns in the last decade. If everyone is doing the same, how does one stand out?

Met with one such need for innovation, Impressive Advertising decided to improvise using Augmented Reality (AR). The idea was to bring an image to life by augmenting it. Thereby, enabling the best of both mediums for a campaign – print and mobile.

Oodl it

Generally, while skimming through ads, extensions or teasers grabs one’s attention. Bearing that in mind, the team used Appearition’s 8AR platform to create an image recognition app called Oodl.

Oodl is an image recognition browser tool, delivering informative and relatable content embedded in everyday surroundings.

The Oodl app cloud technology allows one to visualise digital information in a completely new way, taking you from a one-dimensional experience into a whole new world of exciting discoveries.

A holistic AR experience

To build their audience engagement goals they have produced adverts that include AR experiences throughout, created full page Oodl experience newspaper adverts and produced promotional card campaigns to entice consumers to download the app.

These posters and ad campaigns contain the Oodl icon, which when scanned through the app projects augmented information.

AR allows us to create computer-generated enhancements in video or animation atop of existing reality which is very exciting, says Trevor Worley, Managing Director, Impressive Advertising.

The 8AR platform

8AR is a SaaS based platform, therefore is highly extensible and can be easily customized and monetized. It does not require any coding, making it easy for enterprise to augment.

Customer response

We expect Oodl to develop in AR as it has easier consumer reach, i.e. anyone with a smartphone, says the team.  The UI designed is simple and attractive. Upon logging in and scanning an object, there is an auto-pop video and further information that appear alongside.

Customer response to the Oodl AR/VR feature app has always been met with a ‘wow’ beams the team. “AR market is where we see Oodl developing as AR is less intrusive and is accessible to every person that has a smart phone. It allows us to create computer-generated enhancements in video or animation atop of existing reality which is very exciting,” adds Trevor.

As more and more media options developed, Impressive Advertising was looking to combine the best of all worlds and found the answer in AR.

 

Stand out with AR. Get in touch with us to know more about launching your own 8AR platform!

Augmented Reality – The future of retail industry

Home delivery, telephone order and e-commerce. What do these things have in common? They changed the way we shopped. Introduction of these technology/ideas, enhanced our shopping process. Similarly, Augmented Reality (AR) is set to alter the face of retail industry.

AR is highly scalable and has multiple uses across this industry. A look at some interesting ways in which AR is expected to grow:

Trial/testing of a product:

AR helps to bridge the gap between a customer’s perception of the product and the reality. This is the quintessential need for physical shopping or trial for a product.

Furniture: In 2013, IKEA – the Swedish retailer tested the ropes of AR, by launching an AR-based app. It used AR-overlay of 3D models of IKEA’s products on the real-time feed of the camera. It helps visualise how a product would look at a given space.

Shoes: Sneaker-maker Converse created an AR app in 2010. When one points a camera at their feet, the app overlays a projection of the shoe on their feet.

Clothing: Ever stood in a never-ending queue ahead of the trial room only to find the dress doesn’t fit you? Well, AR is about to change the game in clothing trials using overlay.

Japanese retail store – Uniqlo tried to address this concern by enabling an augmented trial room. This room had a mirror with an LCD screen that let you choose the apparel you wish to try. The app then overlays different colors of the clothing to help you make the best choice possible.

Virtual makeup trial: Sephora, the makeup retailer launched an app – ‘Sephora Virtual Artist’ that enabled overlaying different makeup looks. Once the customer scans the face using a camera, the app detects the different organs like nose, lips, eyebrows, skin etc and allows you to try a shade.

 

Product information:

When shopping at a busy super-market, we are often sceptical of a product’s ingredients. The aisles are long and nearest assistant is pre-occupied. What if one had a personal assistant to share further information on every product? AR does just that, acting as your personal shopping assistant. Several retail big-wigs like Walmart, Tesco, Carrefour have been testing and experimenting with AR in shopping.

Chinese e-commerce retailer – Yihaodian, opened virtual stores across the country. This enabled consumers to shop on the go. The app has virtual shopping aisles; customers can select and arrange for a home delivery.

AR is already booming in several such retail verticals. Add the magic of AR to your business. To know more, drop us a message.

This blog is a re-written excerpt from an article first published in the Augment.com

Image Courtesy (in the order of images used): 1, 2, 3, 4

The Role of Management in the Changing Paradigms in Service

A look at the highlights of 2017 USA Field Service Benchmark Report:

Technology and Digital Transformation continues to shape the service industry. Most of the respondents said, their strategy was ‘mobile first’. Growing emphasis on mobiles and abundance of data is enabling organisations to focus on mobile technology and transformation.

 Key take-aways from the report

  1. Breed-solutions are the fad, as opposed to single platform solutions. The idea is to achieve maximum efficiency to embrace digital transformation.
  2. Most respondents said – they’ve been prioritising a mobile first mindset due to the increasing accessibility and growth of mobiles.
  3. To bridge the gap between knowledge and digital transformation – seems to be the quintessential need of the hour for enterprises.

Technology adoption

Among many booming technologies this year, 72% respondents said they’ve adopted or planning to add the ropes of cloud to their business. 30% of the businesses have added or planning to add the ropes of Augmented Reality (AR).

“I was quite surprised to see that technician adoption of new solutions ranked so highly as a challenge. With today’s technology, equipment comes to consumers, employees, and to businesses more and more without a real need to instruct on its use. The perception of complexity is really what holds technicians back. We invest a lot of time and energy into making technology easier to understand, and we deploy tools in the field that are as easy to operate as common applications you can run on IOS, Android, or a Windows device,” says Martin Knook, CEO Gomocha

 Need to evolve digitally

Surprisingly, 42% of the respondents said they initiated/ adopted digitisation and automation of field service activities to reduce costs. 34% of them wanted to go digital to increase transparency and ensure viability as a business.

Digital transformation trends

Technology is ever evolving. There is constant need to adopt to these innovations. The question here though, is how adoptive are businesses? 35% of the respondents said they’re agile enough to adopt an innovation cycle every three years. While, 28% of the enterprises preferred to work with solutions that were scalable and relevant for at least ten years.

This article is a re-written excerpt from the 2017 USA Field Services Benchmark Report. The graphs were sourced from the same report.

AR Digital Transformation and the Indian Market

Ravichandran Lakshminarayanan, Member, Board of Advisors, Appearition India speaks on Augmented Reality, Digital Transformation trends and the Indian market and more:

Your take on the AR/VR market in India.

Though AR/VR arrived, so to speak, maybe about three years back, significant impact or adoption (usage) is yet to be seen, be it in the consumer space (though we have VR centres in some malls or VR headgear sold with smartphones) or in the enterprise space.

AR/VR is certainly going to be a game changer for industries like retail, real estate, entertainment, and tourism in India.

Education is another area where we will see significant AR/VR adoption. (I foresee not only schools & colleges taking advantage of the power of AR/VR, but many other formal and non- formal fora including corporate/industrial training will take advantage of these frontier technologies).

The mobile market in India – Smartphones undergo constant metamorphosis. What features do you think they need to adapt to stay abreast with the AR/VR tech?

India is a price sensitive market. Today there are more than 300 million mobile phone connections, in India. Mobile phone sales literally skyrocketed, only because device prices came down drastically.

Mobile phones are going to drive AR/VR usage and it is very important that the AR/VR capable phones are priced right for the Indian market.

Next is content in local languages like Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada. For AR/VR to drive mass usage/adoption, local language content will be a key.

Last but not least, the devices(phones) will have to be more user-friendly than they are now.

 Your take on digital transformation for businesses these days.

Today there is no business that can shun or stay away from digital transformation. The degree of transformation or rather what percentage of the business is digital versus non-digital may vary from business to business but there’s not a single business that’s 100% non-digital.

In the Indian context, this is so particularly after the introduction of GST.

Though it has taken time, businesses have understood the benefits of digital transformation.

How has the Indian market reacted to digital transformation so far? What are some factors that seem to aid it/ factors that act as a barrier?

The Indian market was quite reluctant to accept/embrace digital transformation, initially.

The reasons were:

  • the market did not understand what digital transformation is.
  • the market could not see value in digital transformation immediately
  • digital transformation was taking firms/players out of their comfort zone
  • firms were unsure of the payback period if they opted for digital transformation.

Slowly but surely as a few early adopters took hesitant steps towards digital transformation and started ‘seeing’ the benefits, more and more firms followed. Today, I dare say, there are very few firms, if any, that have not been touched at all by digital transformation.

Today everybody understands that digital transformation is not only inevitable but benefits all. Firms are still evaluating their ROI and hence the pace of adoption is not ideal yet.

There are obstacles and challenges, the foremost being connectivity not only in terms of speed and price but in terms of reach. There are still many areas in the country where connectivity is very poor or non-existent.

Technologies like 5G and other indigenous technologies and solutions, will hopefully, address this issue.

What are some barriers that companies face while venturing to a new geography?

In my opinion, the most important barrier is the culture. The culture in each geography is unique and the sooner companies understand the local culture the better for them. The next important challenge is to understand the local laws, business environment. There could be challenges in effective communication besides language differences. The pace at which things move, including the pace of business negotiations, can vastly vary. Distance and time could be a challenge, too. Finding and hiring people who are trustworthy and competent can be a challenge. Establishing franchises, signing up agents and other business associates may take longer than what companies ‘back home’ is used to.

What sort of obstacles did you face while setting up your e-commerce venture and how did you overcome them?

The very first challenge was not being able to register a domain name, from India.

(Internic was the only share registry and for registering any domain one had to pay $100; the only way to pay was online; this was not possible from India. I had to take the help of my sister in the US, who paid this $100 and we registered chennaionline.com on Aug 15, 1997.)

One of the foremost challenges for a startup in a sunrise industry, which the online space was, way back in 1997, was getting the right people to come on board. We leaned on friends and other contacts to get the initial few hires.

The next challenge was funding –VC/Angel funding culture, back then, was literally nonexistent. Raising capital as equity was very difficult if not impossible. Debt funding or in Indian parlance, a bank loan was the only option.

Banks lend against tangible assets – land, building, plant & machinery – and also insist on security for the loan. Here was a business that had no tangible assets (except some PCs and servers and switches and modems – assets that depreciated faster than the mercury rising in Chennai summer) and a business model that was at best vague (actually from the bank perspective, it was all Latin and Greek).

The Bank Manager professed he understood nothing but said he was impressed with my sincerity of purpose and sanctioned the loan. (“As a breed, we are risk averse, but if we do not take some risk to support highly qualified technocrats, when we get an opportunity, then we do not deserve to be sitting here”, he said!)

Though the potential of the web/online was fairly well established globally, India was slow to adopt or embrace this ‘new economy’ and hence every ‘pitch’ had to be from ‘ground zero’. One of our (founding team) important roles was to evangelise Internet & e-commerce; evangelise we did with passion and enthusiasm. This not only got us noticed but became a competitive advantage, too.

There were many more challenges including getting the right office space, etc.

There were so many Foreign Exchange rules & regulations that receiving or sending money out of India was a huge task. We did $ transactions wrestling with a plethora of forms and multiple agencies.

Do you see similar obstacles for firms these days, despite a bridge that filled the knowledge gap?

Certainly not. Thanks to information/knowledge available in one click, for anyone, and the more business-friendly environment, many of the earlier day business challenges do not exist. However, each new firm (or old firm) has a unique challenge. It is much like a baby’s growth – from conception to infancy to childhood to adolescence to adulthood – at every stage in the life of a firm, there are unique challenges. A successful firm is one which understands this and also understands every challenge is a possible opportunity.

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
 

Staff blog: Entrepreneurial energy – the significance of a pit-stop at Stanford.

The energy of an entrepreneur in pursuit of a vision, harnessed, could potentially power a household for a week. In life, it’s not uncommon for one to face a dip in motivation, gusto or focus – and as I learned recently in my experience at Stanford, there is little as revitalizing as sitting in the midst of a room full of hungry entrepreneurs (budding and successful, alike).

blog-entrepreneur-imgThe atmosphere was electric – charged with a burst of energy I soon came to realise must be common-place for students at this historic institution. Notably, there was little whinging, no challenge seemed difficult and no task menial in group discussions. Common fact as it may be, the lecturer reminded us of the 1% chance of start-ups succeeding and the even smaller chance of attaining VC funding. The class gleaned over his words as a challenge to be overcome, rather than a reason to back down.

Almost like a veteran’s ball, students exchanged war stories ranging from soaring close to the sun and having strategic discussions with the likes of Google, to stories of struggle and the pain of failure. The emotion is very real here, as these lucid tales of incredible inspiration are sandwiched with equally detailed sagas of administrative challenges – such as printing and photocopying in colour on a budget. Such is the aura of true entrepreneurial spirit!

In this world – introductions go beyond where one grew up and awkward confessions of obscure hobbies – instead, every introduction is a snap at an elevator pitch, a practise outing before the big game. If there’s one thing entrepreneurs are innately aware of – it’s that every conversation and every moment, is the opportunity to get feedback and test the viability of an idea.

introductions become passionate pitches and conversations become networking. Interestingly, everyone had a story that took the listener somewhere – and 99% of the time it was not a pursuit of dollar bills. Money was not motivating these entrepreneurs; finance was more of the means to an end. The end game almost always is making their dreams come true by solving a problem they set out to solve!

Everyone in that room talked about connecting with people, the more dialogues they had the more they learned. No one spoke about the long hours it takes to have these dialogues the impact it has sometimes on their morale – to them it was simply again an avenue of discovery – another opportunity to learn and think in an exciting new way! Each and every conversation was important to them, regardless the product or industry their conversation partner was engaged in. The conversations were true in every sense as they really listened and asked questions to learn, not just to respond.

It didn’t matter what your idea or product is, the atmosphere here at Stanford is one of encouragement and belief in pursuit of a dream. Everyone suggests ways to think through challenges, and builds a support network that empowers you to be positive in whatever you choose to do. This was a revelation to me, away from the stories of cut-throat entrepreneurship that swirl around Silicon Valley as we, as a cohort, came together to learn, not just about funding strategies, but about each other as well – from crunching numbers, to crunching mindsets.

 

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Innovation and Augmented Reality

Innovation and Augmented Reality is driven by creativity and fed by knowledge. Without taking risks and altering routines, we stick only to what we know, stagnate as a result. Creativity is founded in inspiration and expresses what we have learned. If to learn is through making mistakes, it is important to let go of the fear of failing and have an open mind. And who knows, an accidents can lead to discovery, like when the founder of Kellogg’s left his wheat sitting out and found them flaky and crunchy – giving us Kellogg’s corn flakes!

Here’s how I see innovation: Whether in business organizations or rebuilding relationships with family or friends. When I came across a problem or something that could be done better, that is innovation coming alive. My process begins with brainstorming as many ideas I can think of. Secondly, I plan the idea and how I could go about implementing it. Finally, action – and testing it out to see if it works. If it doesn’t work, always remember to try the other ideas! It might sound simple, but that’s one of the ways to do it. With the help of great World Wide Web, the information out there are limitless, in my opinion.

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The biggest tool in innovation today is the internet. Innovation projects are booming more and more these years. Personally, I get more messages through online apps than regular SMS, for instance through Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger or Snapchat. Of these, Snapchat is probably the social media platform that promotes augmented reality faster than any other social media platforms. The app uses filters that transform faces to animal ears or scary faces and it is becoming one of the most popular use with youngsters. One other thing that is popular these days, is the Pokemon Go game. Pokemon is a Japanese game where players have to catch Pokemon creatures and teach them to battle. The game was popular in the beginning of 2000 and played using physical cards. The Pokemon Company released a modernized Pokemon game on a smart phone, and called it Pokemon Go. The game is located based augmented reality mobile game. Within three days after being released it was the most downloaded app in the US.

Augmented reality was first mentioned in 1901 by the author who wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He had an idea of an electronic display that overlays data onto life, naming it ‘character marker’. But the term Augmented Reality was attributed first time in 1990 by a former Boeing researcher Thomas P. Caudell. Today, augmented reality is being more used in exhibitions, galleries or a simple guide through a city by using an app on your smartphone. And of course in games and social media too!

 

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Staff blog: Innovation and processes

Innovation are more than just ideas that create value. These ideas need to be aligned with an organization’s strategy and create value to be an innovation. Processes help take this idea and systematically helps analyze its strategic fit, build on the hypothesis, test it and help roll out the changes necessary to make the innovation a part and parcel of the operations. Processes also help measure the success of such changes with appropriate metrics through various project and program management frameworks.

blog-disabilities-imgOften innovation may arise from one of two knowledge domains, explicit domain and the tacit domain. True breakthroughs happen when both these converge – where we leap into a completely new way of doing things through scientific- technological means by directly addressing tacit things -like consumers’ needs and wants. Facebook and Google have pioneered in this type of innovation both fueled by technology and the changing psyche of the consumer. Innovations of this nature challenge traditional methods of working and organizing and typically create new markets. Whilst process design and flows are key to a sustainable organization are they effective where innovation of such capacities are concerned? The answer lies in how flexible and agile are these processes.

Processes may prove to be rigid and provide challenges in situations where technology and requirements are volatile. It also makes supporting integrated and unstructured work efforts difficult. With our play in the AR/VR space we understand how quickly technical and delivery milestones change. We realize that context is king – when it comes to processes. The dynamic nature of the market, and the growth curve that these technologies currently experience means are we need to use processes to set some boundaries and guide our mental models but not limit them. Often pre-built process models can be used as a baseline to build or dynamically amend to suit the context we are in. For best results and enabling innovation at the speed it needs to be in today’s market – Process needs to be driven by the context – Goals to be met, time at hand and resources available. Dynamic processes are challenging to conceive as it breaks the traditional thinking of process as a rigid way of working.

To be valid (let alone grow and thrive) we need to break through this structured flow chart driven process methodologies and thinking to one where processes are semi structures guidelines, driven by business events and require embedded decision making. I am sure as we are poised to ride the wave of augmented and virtual technology innovations – the related frameworks and support processes will also need to be reinvented.

 

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