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"These jobs are difficult to mechanize or to perform with greater efficiency. Convalescents cannot be trained to eat more quickly. A phlebotomist cannot draw blood from two arms at once. Robots, as yet, cannot change diapers. Moreover, consumers may have an emotional investment in seeing this caring work performed by people rather than machines. They may be willing to pay for a personal touch."
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Never before have businesses been able to build billion-dollar valuations in so little time. Never before have incumbent enterprises been able to go out of business so quickly. Disruption is now commonplace, and augmented reality (AR) is emerging as yet another avenue to turn industries on their heads. But what direction will this new technology take?
AR overlays digital information on the physical world using a smartphone (think Pokémon Go) or a headset. In its simplest form, AR is simply a rectangular display floating in front of the eyes, à la Google Glass. More advanced forms will drop video game characters or useful information seamlessly onto physical objects, from homes to industrial warehouses.
While virtual reality is moving into a more commercial phase, AR is a little earlier in its development. But AR’s potential practical applications are significant. So, what’s in store for AR in the coming years?
Most business leaders today are making their projections based on what we know today—a perspective that runs the potential risk of being too linear and possibly missing the point. By digging deeply into trends, cycles and clues from technology disruptions in the past, we can create frameworks to help us better strategize for how capabilities may unfold in the future.
Today, standard market projections focus on how AR will become smaller and faster, or they extrapolate on how existing capabilities could impact the enterprise once implemented. However, past technology disruptions demonstrate that this view is too narrow, and doesn’t consider the impact of converging technologies—for example, in the way mobile technology has converged with the internet.
Augmented reality (and to some extent, virtual reality as well) is on a collision course with other emerging exponential technologies—for example, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing and machine learning, to name a few. Businesses that prepare themselves to capture the value that can unfold when they converge are more likely to find themselves as industry leaders in the resulting economy.
Past innovations can provide insights for our future
Mobile technology may be one of the largest technology disruptions to happen in the past 20 years. However, the mobile industry didn’t just happen on its own.
Analysts thought that these devices would become smaller, gain longer battery life and that costs would fall—and even predicted a slow, linear growth. In fact, McKinsey predictions were that the total market for cell phones would be around 900,000 by the turn of the century. The phone would indeed become smaller, faster and cheaper, but no market prediction would come close to predicting what happened next.
Mobile technology became disruptive when it converged with the internet, introducing a slew of new consumer and enterprise use cases. The smartphone was born, and it took the ceiling off the cell phone market potential, unlocking billions of dollars of value that simply did not exist before.
"Those who focused on the mobile handset and what it could do missed a seismic shift in the technology paradigm."
Crowdsourcing was the next convergence as smartphones tapped a worldwide developer community. Traditionally, software companies made applications for mobile PDAs in a small, niche marketplace. By hosting a crowdsourced marketplace on the App Store online store, Apple initiated what would become an estimated $143 billion market opportunity for mobile apps in just 8 years.
Mobile converging with data analytics became another landmark example. As user adoption for smartphones and mobile apps began to skyrocket, the collection of user data to fuel business insights became very relevant. Today, mobile user data has an estimated value of $50 billion, across multiple layers of user data that are collected, sold, aggregated and analyzed.
The point is, “mobile” is a mega-billion-dollar market, but those who focused on the handset and what it could do missed a seismic shift in the technology paradigm.
Technologies expected to converge with AR
Similar to the mobile revolution, AR’s future will likely not be dictated by falling prices, smaller form factors or faster performance. They may help in the ubiquitous adoption of AR, but relying on these metrics to predict the future of AR will likely miss the greater market opportunity. It’s only when we start to imagine what the combination of AR and industrial IoT, machine earning and 3D printing, among others, that we can begin to truly see its future potential.
Industrial IoT. Augmented reality and the industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) will most likely be the first to converge. AR device adoption is happening in the enterprise space at a faster pace than the consumer space (with the exception of Pokémon Go). And similar to how consumer connectivity created value with the smartphone, enterprise connectivity will provide an information layer that’s expected to extend the value of AR devices.
As enterprises begin to rapidly develop connected infrastructure, from manufacturing to logistics, and ultimately to the consumer, massive amounts of data are being collected and used for analysis. AR can provide a “data to human interface,” allowing workers, managers and executives to see the world augmented with a rich dataset.
Enterprise resource planning, warehouse management and even electronic health record systems will be able to connect a workforce to its surrounding environment, whether a factory, warehouse or hospital—workers will be able to see information projected onto their environment. Eventually, the value will likely be driven upstream, as well into concepting, design, layout and other knowledge worker tasks, connecting the digital world to the physical one through connected data ecosystems.
Machine learning. Machine learning is expected to be an important convergence for AR, as well. We’ll need to figure out the best user interface for what amounts to a more hands-free experience. Just as the keyboard was an important innovation in desktop or laptop computing and touchscreens were the key to mobile devices—machine learning may play a big role in AR interfaces.
Moving from type to touchscreen is a great example of how new interfaces require novel UI. Machine-learning-enabled speech-to-text, as well as text-to-speech, could become important innovations in AR.
Our devices should understand the way we move, talk and touch. Data around user behavior will likely be extremely valuable, opening up markets to capture, transmit, store and utilize.
3D printing. 3D printing is an exploding market in industrial manufacturing, with unique potential benefits for complexity, performance and physical properties. However, specific 3D printing tools for modeling can be confusing for engineers trained on traditional design software for 2D monitors.
Often, the unique design requirements of complex 3D structures are not well suited for existing software tools. Crafting, editing and visualizing models with AR will help bridge the cognitive gap between engineer and design, removing the degrees of separation between designer and product that currently exist today (i.e., keyboard, mouse, 2D screen, interface), and enable the designer to directly interact with the product in an intuitive, creative way.
Don’t get caught underestimating AR’s potential
While there are technological hurdles to cover in stereoscopic processing, display technology, form factor and even social stigma, the future of AR does not lie in the headset, but the “headset and…”
Simply looking at AR and hypothesizing about its value is not sufficient.
Most of the opportunity around hardware innovation lies in emergent value. How AR technologies interface, integrate and converge with other future innovations will help unlock the multi-billion-dollar potential of what may initially seem like just a clunky device.
Image Credit: Shutterstock
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Smart-television maker Vizio agreed to pay a penalty this month for spying on 11 million customers. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the company captured second-by-second information on what customers viewed, combined it with their gender, age and income, and sold it to third parties.
How much was the fine for Vizio, which has sales in excess of $3 billion? It was $2.2 million — barely a slap on the wrist.
These kinds of privacy breaches are increasingly common as billions of devices now become part of the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Whether it be our TV sets, cars, bathroom scales, children’s toys or medical devices, we are already surrounded by everyday objects equipped with sensors and computers. And the companies that make them can get away with being careless with consumer security — and with stealing customer data.
Vizio has been accused of exposing its customers to hackers before. In November 2015, security researchers at Avast demonstrated how easy it was for hackers to gain complete access to the WiFi networks that Vizio’s TVs were connected to and that it recorded customer data even when they explicitly opted out of its terms of service.
On Black Friday in 2015, hackers broke into the servers of Chinese toymaker VTech and lifted personal information on nearly 5 million parents and more than 6 million children. The data haul included home addresses, names, birth dates, email addresses and passwords. Worse still, it included photographs and chat logs between parents and their children. VTech paid no fine and changed its terms of service to require that customers acknowledge their private data “may be intercepted or later acquired by unauthorized parties.”
Regulations and consumer protections are desperately needed.
One option would be to hold the manufacturers strictly liable for these hacks, to financially motivate them to improve product security. In the same way that seat belt manufacturers are responsible for the safety of their products, IoT device makers would be presumed to be liable unless they could prove that they had taken all reasonable precautions. The penalties could be high enough to put a company out of business.
But this would be inequitable. One of the factors enabling such hacking is that users don’t use sufficiently complex passwords and thus leave the front door unlocked. It could also stifle innovation, with the big players avoiding the possibility of extreme penalties by becoming averse to innovations, and small players avoiding entering the market because they lack the resources to handle possible litigation.
Duke School of Law researcher Jeremy Muhlfelder says that copyright law has a history of Supreme Court cases that have ruled on this exact principle, of not wanting to curb the “next big thing” by holding innovators liable for their innovations. Innovators themselves wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, be liable for how carelessly their innovations are incorporated into new products. But imposing strict liabilities on manufacturers, since it would lead indirectly to canceling the rewards of innovation, might not be legally realistic either.
"IoT devices would be deemed inherently dangerous, and thus the producer would be strictly liable for faults unless an independent agency certifies the devices as secure."
A more reasonable solution may be along the lines of what attorney Matt Sherer recommends in a paper on regulating artificial intelligence systems that was published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology: Impose strict liability but with the potential for pre-certification that removes the liability. IoT devices would be deemed inherently dangerous, and thus the producer would be strictly liable for faults unless an independent agency certifies the devices as secure. This would be similar to the UL certification provided by Underwriters Laboratories, a government-approved company that carries out testing and certification to ensure products meet safety specifications.
Equipment certification is also one of the recommendations that former Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler made in a letter to Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) regarding the government’s response to the October 2016 attack on the Internet. He proposed a public-private partnership that creates a set of best practices for securing devices, the certification or self-certification of products, and labeling requirements to make consumers aware of the risks. Wheeler proposed “market-based incentives and appropriate regulatory oversight where the market does not, or cannot, do the job effectively.”
As Wheeler also noted, addressing IoT threats is a national imperative and must not be stalled by the transition to a new president. This is beyond politics. It is a matter of national security and consumer safety.
Image Credit: Shutterstock
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‘Tis the season for ants
Changing weather and the impending arrival of spring means that local exterminators have been receiving a lot of calls about ants lately, specifically the large black buggers that seem to be finding their way into everyone’s kitchens. Michael Beaulieu …
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Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Ants feeling urgency to regroup, end losing skid
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
The Mad Ants bring a season-worst losing streak of four games into today’s game at Memorial Coliseum against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. “Our chemistry just isn’t where it needs to be right now and I think that happens with every D-League team.
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What Is This, A Battle-Bot For Ants?
Instructables user [Team_Panic] — inspired by the resurgence of robot battle arena shows — wanted to dive in to his local ‘bot building club. Being that they fight at the UK ant weight scale with a cap of 150 grams, [Team_Panic] built a spunky little …
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