Tapping the Potential of Augmented Reality in Education

“Kids these days.” How often have you heard that disparaging assessment of today’s generation of children – a tech-savvy but tech-dependent generation that lives and breathes video games, smartphones and brightly lit screens? It’s almost a cliché to talk about the purported negative impact that certain gadgets have on young minds, but when one thinks […]

Staff blog: EMS Data Integration al dente.

It is a rare chance that we can compare the joy of fine cuisine to the rawness and relevance of data in our EMS. How can the culinary art of a top hat restaurant be linked to data integration in the EMS? Well, aside from the fact that it is too close to lunch and I am hungry, the two concepts aren’t too distant from each other.

17.11.2013 ZDJECIA WIZERUNKOWE DLA RESTAURACJI BURGER KITCHEN TOMKA WOZNIAKA , FOT. MARCIN KLABAN

Let’s see… restaurants must cater for their hungry customers. Dumping raw produce on a plate and presenting it to them simply won’t cut it. So, the kitchen must clean and prep the produce, add a combination of sauces, spices and herbs, apply heat and eventually present a meal worthy to the paying customer. Produce arrives from a supplier to the back door and the kitchen will convert that produce into something palatable for the customer at the front of the restaurant.

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Data integration follows the same paradigm. Think of the EMS as the kitchen, data providers as the suppliers and users as the paying customers. So, users make requests to the EMS for information. The EMS requests raw data from various data providers and will aggregate, sort, filter and deliver a result set to the user. Splunk is an example of a data provider, which offers an extensive and powerful service for gathering, collating and filtering vast amounts of raw data. From the user, the EMS can collect information such as their identity and their location, and with that (and more)  the EMS (i.e. kitchen) can craft a tailored query to search that raw data in Splunk (i.e. supplier).  From then, contextually relevant information can be fed back and presented to the user (i.e. paying customer)  in a palatable format.
…mmm saucey data.

Image source: (x) (x)

 

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Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality in Rio Olympics 2016

We’ve come a long way from television broadcasts of sporting events where inclement weather, bad lighting or overexposure often resulted in dull, poor quality images. We now enjoy crisp, crystal clear footage of our favourite sporting events, on demand, in high definition.

With innovations in technology, the viewing experience of watching a sports broadcast is becoming increasingly just that, an experience.

The recent Rio Olympics was one such example. Not only was it broadcast in high definition (HD), some events were broadcast in the latest 8k Ultra high definition.

But more than clear images, the adoption of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and 360 degree imagery is what really set this olympics apart.

Significant portions of the Rio Olympics were broadcast in HD in VR. From the opening and closing ceremonies, to selected events such as track and field, beach volleyball and gymnastics, approximately 85 hours of VR footage from Rio was made available for viewing.

Specially developed, custom-made cameras were rolled out specifically to capture this footage in all its glorious, ultra high-definition. Using compatible headsets and their mobile phones, for the first time, viewers could enjoy and experience portions of the Olympics, as if they were there.

blog-rio-img1No longer was the opening ceremony something to watch from one point of view on a screen. With a VR headset, your entire visual field became the screen, and the ceremony was not just in front of you, but behind and to the sides. It’s almost like you were there. And this is exactly what Production Manager for Olympic Broadcasting Services, Karen Mullins, wanted from this unprecedented method of sports broadcasting.

“VR is not about viewing in a traditional sense,” said Mullins. I’s about an ‘experience’ and we always tend to describe it as that, rather than as coverage.”

And what an experience it was. To watch the world’s top athletes go for gold on a flat screen is one thing. But to experience it as it happens around you, while in the comfort of your living room, is quite another. Even for those without compatible headsets, numerous providers had uploaded 360 degree videos of Olympic teasers, events and interviews on YouTube.

All one needed was to cue up a video and use a mouse pointer to scroll around for a complete 360 degree view. Even without a headset or VR goggles, it’s quite an arresting visual experience.

But technological innovations at the Olympics didn’t stop at virtual reality. A host of studios and companies employed heavy use of augmented reality in their presentation.

AR graphics seemed to dominate televised broadcasts of the Olympics. From simple graphics of data and stats, to touchscreen tables in front of TV presenters where Olympic basketball events appeared to be played out live and in miniature.

There was even a memorable 3D capture of sprinter Usain Bolt, who seemed to came alive in the studio, right next to TV presenters.

The Olympics were a notable testing ground for these new technologies, but it didn’t stop at just broadcasting.

The events themselves utilized a host of technological improvements, such as underwater lap counters, video referees for certain sports, real time GPS tracking for canoe sprints and rowing (to name a few).

There were also drones streaming images live from stadiums.

All things considered, “watching” a sports broadcast, in the traditional sense, might soon be a relic of the past. Increasingly, with technological advancements in VR and AR technology, sports broadcasts are becoming things to experience more than just watch.

The recent Olympics were most likely just a taster, a testing ground that showed us what was possible – that being a passive viewer is giving way to being an active spectator.

You no longer have to view a sporting event, you can virtually be there, look around and experience the action unfold around you, in dazzling 360-degree perfection.

 

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Wearable technology to win

There has been speculation about whether wearable technology gave English Premier League (EPL) team Leicester City the edge it needed to win the Premier League last year. This is especially impressive, considering that the season prior, and the ten years before that, Leicester City was not even in the Premier League to begin with. They had been relegated to the lower divisions and were languishing there for some time.

blog-wearable-technology-img1The type of wearable technology used by sports teams is slightly different from AR and VR simulations and headsets. Their wearable technology gives team coaches a unique insight into a player’s overall fitness. It measures heart rate, position, direction, speed and distance covered. It can even go as far as measuring the force and angle of a tackle. Using all this data in concert with complex algorithms, wearable technology can accurately predict the level of a player’s health and energy, in other words, match fitness.

Approximately 8% of top-tier teams employ the use of wearable technology, and Leicester City is one of them. On a scale as large as the EPL, a star striker’s match fitness could mean the difference between victory and defeat. It’s no coincidence that Jamie Vardy, Leicester’s striker, played every game, while Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney had to sit out more than a third of the season due to injuries.

In a sporting context like the EPL, where players are bought and sold for tens of millions of Pounds, and wins and losses translate into huge fluctuations in the bottom line, an edge like the ability to reduce a player’s injury rates, makes a huge difference.

blog-wearable-technology-img2Wearable technology has also had a significant impact on Rugby League, where data from wearables can clearly show the drop-off in work rates of certain players who need to replaced, and timely substitutions can be game changers. Wearables are also used in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) where they gather data such as the force produced from certain strikes, heart rate and distance covered in the octagon. The Australian Footy League (AFL) employs the use of wearable technology to keep tabs on players’ health, fitness and work rates. It seems like wearable technology, augmented reality and virtual reality have come from relative obscurity and are all of a sudden seamlessly woven into the fabric of sports. From development laboratories to the world stage, what was not so long ago viewed as a gimmick is now a crucial tool in the performance of athletes and sports teams.

 

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Staff blog: How does team diversity contribute when things do not go to plan?

As it does in life, at times even the best laid plans go astray and at Appearition, we believe that if there are no bumps along the way then we are not moving forward. A mix of age groups bring to the table a mix of thought patterns and reactions in crisis. In addition to this, varied backgrounds, thought processes and internal value systems curate a unique “team voice”.

This collective perspective enables different cognitive models for looking at and understanding issues. Individual mental models are driven largely by assumptions and personal belief systems. When aggregated – these give the team a common sense of value and perspective, which become particularly useful when approaching complex business decision. Consistently, we have found teamwork to result in more efficient solutions with clearer directives for all involved.

blog-diversity-img1However, we mustn’t forget that too many cooks spoil the broth – and within the diversity that we strive to incorporate into building our teams, clear leadership becomes a critical to success.

Another critical factor is education and training. The knowledge that a team is diverse and people come from different backgrounds needs to be inculcated as a strength – and team members should be comfortable enough to identify each other’s strengths (and weaknesses) as well as their own while developing solutions.

Encouraging conversations and dialogues with an emphasis on people’s backgrounds as well as celebrating shared milestones and personal triumphs lead to an increased awareness in times of conflict, enabling objectivity.

Here at Appearition problems are thrown at us daily and we strive to use our diverse team strengths to provide sustainable solutions for these. Be it a simple decision regarding the coffee machine in our office pantry or identifying the best solution to a customer challenge – the team brings our best to the table.

 

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Staff blog: Silicon (something)

In the tech-world, there is little one can do to avoid constant references to Silicon Valley. My initial research provided little insight, so I turned to a colleague in pursuit of clarity. In typical tech-marketing fashion, he spared no word or phrase, providing me with a detailed insight into his understanding of the term.

Still seeking more understanding, I put the task to Great Aunt Google. My initial research provided the following – SV is in California – geographically this posed a significant challenge, considering I was at my desk in Australia. I began exploring terms that I had come across, “Sending winners of an entrepreneurship competition to SV” (I have recently been volunteering in managing this event) and the incessant #hashtags that circled this term within the twitter-sphere, and discovered that SV is/was in fact the beating heart of this industry.

SV is located in Santa blog-silicon-imgClara Valley and the city of San Jose. The “Valley” refers to the Santa Clara Valley and the word “Silicon” referred to the numerous innovators and manufacturers of silicon chips in the area. The term was introduced in 1971 by a reporter who started a column entitled “Silicon Valley in the USA”. Through the 80s, the term caught like wildfire and became the norm it is today.

Some tech giants in Silicon Valley include Netflix, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Tesla Motors, Adobe Systems, San Disk, Intel, Apple Inc., eBay, Cisco Systems, Google, Facebook, Visa Inc. and much more.

As I journeyed further through, I looked around at my colleagues and wondered what it meant to be be in SV, and conversely, being not being in the Valley for a tech start up like ours. Were there opportunities we could be missing as our USA office is in Portland, Oregon and not the valley itself. Exploring the initiatives we have launched in the past year, I came across some facts that connected us to the valley by association. Appearition is a member of AREA – the Augmented Reality Enterprise Association – an industry body led by thought leaders who are paving the way for this industry to grow in coming years, headquartered in Santa Clara. We were also sponsors and presented at the Augmented World Expo 2016 – hosted in Santa Clara.

As for a physical presence, Appearition may not be in Silicon Valley, but we are certainly in the vicinity. Further research revealed Portland to have a moniker of its own – the “Silicon Forest” – another leading hotspot of tech development and related industry activity. The term Silicon Forest was first used in a Japanese company’s press release in 1981, although Lattice Semiconductor trademarked the term in 1984 and are often accredited with establishing the term. This area is more known for companies that focus on hardware, computer chips, electronic displays and printers.

Companies in Silicon Forest include Airbnb, Macafee, Mozilla, Nike, SurveyMonkey, Xerox, Yahoo and many more.

This co-existence of multiple silicon localities is apparently merely the tip of the ice-berg, as I discovered a number of other pockets globally who had their own term for aggregations of tech companies and innovation. To name a few;

  • Singapore (Asia’s Silicon Valley) – Because of its popular location to set up an international business
  • Bangalore (India) – Often referred as “Silicon Plateau” (At Appearition India, we have two offices, including Chennai, also in the South of India and just off said plateau)
  • Cambridge (England) – referred as “Silicon Fen” and sometimes “Cambridge Cluster”
  • Dublin (Ireland) – This location is increasingly becoming the “Europe’s Silicon Valley” and also sometimes called “Silicon docks”
  • Berlin – in early 2000s Berlin earned being the location for start-up companies
  • Zhongguancun (China) – Known as “China’s Silicon Valley” located in Haidian District, Beijing

Thinking back to my home in Greenland, I would guess the capital Nuuk would be best primed to have our own silicon (something). While advanced technology is still on its way to Greenland, the speed of westernization is rapidly increasing back home and I don’t think we are a long way away from companies realising the opportunity in Greenland. Click here to learn more about Greenland’s technology story line from one of our previous blog entries.

 

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