Industry Insights with Antonio Grasso

Appearition was very fortunate to have the opportunity to chat with the insightful and thought-provoking Antonio Grasso to chat about all things digital transformation, digital technology adoption and the rapid development of technologies enabling it’s users to perform powerful tasks.

Antonio Grasso is the founder and CEO of Italian company Digital Business Innovation srl. Antonio is a expert in the digital technology world and highly regarded as one of the top digital transformation influencers on Artificial Intelligence, cyber security, digital transformation, Internet of Things, and blockchain. He is an advisor, enterprise and public sector consultant and mentor to numerous startups.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All About Blockchain

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

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

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

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

– Banks and finance

– Medical sectors – patients medical records

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

– Law firms where client details need to be stored securely

– Property ownership and management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. How do you see blockchain aiding digital transformation?

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

Learn More About Blockchain

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

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Education Digital Transformation Trends

Education Digital Transformation Trends 

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

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

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


Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality / Mixed Reality  

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

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

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

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Artificial Intelligence 

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

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

The importance of Easter eggs

Introduction

The process of adding Easter eggs inside projects is about creating informal inside jokes very well hidden, which aren’t usually revealed to clients or users. Most often, those do find about them by themselves after doing unexpected actions on the application, such as going through fake walls, series of key presses, opening the application at a specific location and/or time, etc.

Many companies, even the biggest ones out there, have been implementing Easter eggs in their products. One of the latest examples of this is Google’s Easter egg at the release of the Marvel Studio’s Avengers: End Game. Upon searching for Thanos and clicking on the glove, a script will run and automate the destruction of most of the web page, as shown on the video below.

Why are they so important?

Even before getting released, those have a clear impact on development. Towards the end of development, employees are usually feeling burned out, in need of both sleep and laughter. Easter eggs easily help brightening the mood of the office, since those are often created out of jokes or silly ideas which grew out of proportion.

After release, they usually are a fun way to tease your users and clients, depending on the type of person you have in front of you. Telling them “there’s an Easter egg in the app, have you found it yet?” make them curious and most often will get them to search the application and use it a lot more often. Additionally, asking your client to add an Easter egg themselves is something we would recommend. For instance, on a project we’ve worked in the past had put their initials on their main 3D model on the production build. Later, they could ask their users whether they’ve found it or not and have it as a joke.

Lastly, years after developing the project, rediscovering them is one of the best feeling. Easter eggs usually creates a lot of memories and good times, and often are associated with the core of the project while being a very discrete and pointless feature.

Example of Easter eggs

One of our developers really likes secrets and Easter eggs in general, and secretly stuffs every project with those without telling the rest of the team. While a lot of trust must be involved in this process, depending on the culture of your work environment, those can be well received.

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One example of something they did, was to add one of their character inside a secret room in one of our demos and removed the collider on the wall so you can walk right past through it. That kind of harmless detail can easily make somebody’s day.

Another example is adding additional needless information in the repository commits descriptions. It’s important to ensure that all the commit information is self-explanatory and accurate but adding a little weird sentence here and there can’t do any harm (unless the repository is meant to be transferred to the client).

Sample from one of our repositories commit list.

A very common type of in-company Easter egg is the misuse of code comments. While most of the comments are either formal and useful, some may include screams of agony or just plain weird content. Those are usually picked up during project review or project de-dusting, and often catches developers off- guard. A silly example of this type is this type of comment.

One of our developer hates series of clothing curvy brackets.

Conclusion

In short, based on the type of culture present in your company and the context of the current project, there is no reason why you shouldn’t add Easter eggs here and there. Do keep in mind that those should remain harmless for the sake of staying a joke rather than becoming a source of problem or arguments.

Have a wonderful day!

Designing Intitutive UX for AR

Introduction

The AR (Augmented Reality) technology is constantly improving with a host of new technologies like big data, machine-learning, IOT, Artificial intelligence, etc. The digital experience has been radically transformed by coalescing the physical and digital worlds, where the user interface has extended beyond the screen with a flexible immersion level.

Jared Spool famously wrote “Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done

poorly that we notice it.”

Applications based on Augmented Reality adopt a series of well-defined user experience design principles that are generally consistent, although there are scenarios where there is a need to make design decisions according to the associated industry, style and objective of the application.

Environment

One of the biggest challenges of the UX design in an AR application is determining the environment in which the application intends to run. Some applications are built to interact with the user’s entire body, such as a retail application that allows the user to virtually try on clothes. Similarly, there are many AR applications which are meant to be used in public spaces.

The key is to keep the environment familiar and intuitive. AR provides users, experiences that traditional applications cannot. A new axis is introduced to our digital experiences — we are integrating the physical world through cameras of the various devices. Digital and physical interaction provides an opportunity to explore a dimension where the boundaries are blurred.

As such, user testing is critical in order to predict how different environmental factors will enhance or inhibit the positive user experience. Environmental factors which are pivotal for a positive user experience are the user’s vantage point, colors, sizes of objects, lighting and shadows, moving objects, living beings, and walls.

Interactions

The interaction of the user with the objects, media, and the UI is in the social sphere by default. When considering how to interact with the environment, it is important to primarily consider what hardware the users will be engaging with. The interactions through mobile are different than HoloLens interactions. The interactions should always be designed to align with the goal of the immersive application’s experience.

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Developing empathy for the users enables the designer to preemptively address the limitations that certain users might encounter during their experience. By virtue of taking the time to envision the user’s needs, the designer can make the interactions holistically accessible and useful for all the users.

Presence of cues

Cues play an important part in developing a strong UX experience, as they offer direction for users. Simultaneously, cues are designed to hide or reveal certain features dependent on gestures made by users. Visual cues present the users with off-screen elements such as buttons, which the user can hover over for additional features. Cues are simple clues that inform the user what elements of the UI are designed to be interacted with, and how to interact with them.

Audio cues are useful as well, allowing users to command the application to do something just by speaking. Similarly, an application could be created to recognize certain sounds which can trigger it display hidden features.

Color and text

Vuforia Chalk app

The science of Color theory works the same way in AR, just like how it influences us in print, mobile, web, and the other elements of our life. Consider the environmental context, the culture of the users, and the psychological effects of certain colors while selecting the theme of the application. Lighting is an integral characteristic which defines the effectiveness of the immersive experience to the user, if the users are enjoying the experience or leaving them unconvinced. Projection of shadows from the objects enhance the visual effects and brings them to life. For text, it is important to ensure it is relatively large and easy to read, but not overpowering. Choosing a font that works well with the color scheme and environment is important.

Why content is key for AR platforms

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

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

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

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

  1. Access to information

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

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

  1. Contextualising information

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

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

  1. Delivering a good user experience (UX)

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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.

The changing face of a workplace

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

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

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

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

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

The why

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

The How

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

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

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

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

Designing for a difference – Part 2

Deepa Umesh, Head of Delivery, Appearition India, talks on how design makes a difference in Branding, Digital Transformation and more:

– How to achieve branding using design?

Consistency is the key to branding. We drive the end user to build a perception of our brand through design. If there is a disconnect in a medium or between digital and physical communication or design, the ability to identify our brand is lost.

A repeated systematic approach will provide the solution to business branding. It is a journey not a process that is definitive.

Imagination + Creativity + Empathy + Innovation results in Value creation.

Along with these components, conducting a SWOT analysis will help in market segmentation and identifying targets. It gives an outline to a pragmatic and holistic approach.

Semiotics – the study of symbols opens more avenues in terms of design as these are based on language and culture. Human Psychology + Semiotics lead to solution building – a spot where design plays a pivotal role.

In recent years, symbols have replaced text. Symbols indicate, designate, and process the visuals. This results in creating a likeness, providing an analogy and acts as a metaphor for the objects that symbol represent.

A culmination of the above-mentioned aspect(s) leads to clarity, consistency and credibility of branding.

Thus, Branding is automatically achieved when we focus on the solution as opposed to the problem.

– Digital Transformation: What will be the role of a design in this next big thing?

As we know, design facilitates that oneness in tone and thinking. To me, being able to change what we do and how we do forms the crux of digital transformation. Design plays the crucial role in being able to set the tone, track and deliver it.

Design is constantly evolving with time and technology-your task is to take puzzle pieces and make the final picture without knowing how it should look. The key isn’t gathering a lot of pieces, it’s gathering all the right pieces.

Mapping and analysing, an activity reliant on design, is the underlying factor that lets you take stock of the direction you’re moving toward. Furthermore, demographics and psychographics play a key role in deciding how we go about designing change.

People might think design to be as simple as creating fancy logos with Photoshop or any other software you can get your hands on but what they don’t realize is all the back-end work that goes into the final product which conveys the innate depth of a company’s mission and vision.

– According to you, what are the factors to consider when balancing content and design to deliver the best product? 

Content dictates the design form. We are amid multitudes of communication channels such Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest etc. Each of these mediums have developed a form of presentation and content for itself. So much so that when we colloquially say, ‘write a tweet’, people understand that it is within 280 characters. Thus, social media has given a whole new meaning to the term ‘in a nut shell.’ And design wise, 1080 x 1080 has become the new informal standard for pictures on Facebook and Twitter whereas WhatsApp and Snapchat are a whole new ball game.

Freedom and the kind of work we do decides what we design or how we design. A newspaper design depends on the content, an advertisement can be designed to be bold and bright. In the same scenario, content will be in-depth in a newspaper and very minimal for an ad. The best of both worlds can be achieved when we know the end product we are working towards delivering.

Also, they work in tangent to one another and cannot function independently.

To be able to deliver quality content, we need to accurately plan out how we convey what we convey – should the design be bold and represent our company culture or should it play second fiddle to text which will drive the background design.

As long as we are clear on this aspect, we can always deliver the best of both worlds. Like I said, content and design are very much interdependent.

Designing for a difference

Deepa Umesh, Head of Delivery, Appearition India, talks on how design makes a difference in Branding, Digital Transformation and more:

– Design: why it is a key element to present anything

Design crisps down and presents what we want to convey aesthetically. It communicates ideas that inspire, inform, or captivates consumers. A brand or an advertisement is just another name till you design a logo and a tagline to go with it. From selling products to services, designs, their colours, shapes are what defines and differentiates one from the other. Brand recall happens because of design.

Design outlines 3As – Appeal, Address, Associate.

It attracts (appeal) the attention and gives an introduction about a Brand and thereby creating the FIRST IMPRESSION.

Furthermore, it promotes (addresses) the 5 P’s Product, Price, Place Promotion and Packaging.

Association means positioning and differentiating through a unique value proposition. (Who we are, who are our target audience, and how we can cater to their requirements)

How has design evolved over the past few years?

The fundamentals have always been the same. These days, however, designers are going bold, experimenting with spacing and usage of images, shapes etc. Amongst this metamorphosis, balance has been the constant. Technically, typography, especially negative space typography (space behind the text) is being greatly used, a disruption of basic design principle. Learning to unlearn helps designers greatly because design evolves constantly.

In today’s world, design must appeal in a specific time frame. People consume everything on the move and hence dynamic data design is essential. Design should reach them quickly and efficiently and this can be achieved when we understand human psychology.

Earlier, few brands and few products were there. Now, with the advent of huge retailers and the saturation of the market with innumerable brands and products, bold, bright and minimal designs win.

Not just many brands, but also many social media channels through which ads are being posted.

However, in the enterprise space, corporates prefer black and white to keep it subtle. These two colours reflect any other colour thrown at them. Google’s logo design and layout is one of my personal favourites. They thwarted the idea of more the merrier in terms of design.

Interactive design in terms of UI (User interface) and UX (User experience) seems to be the current. This is due to a largely mobile-first mindset of consumers.  Bright colors plus a 3D composition is an absolute winning combo these days. Custom hand-drawn illustrations are always on the wave of popularity.

– (Generally) what are some key challenges that design can convert into an opportunity?

In my view, creative people provide the skeletal framework – which leads to actual solutions. For instance, designs provide that clarity of thought during a brain-storming session, provides a demo or outline of what is expected.

Innovation creates an opportunity – Brings out customer centric solutions. Ideation unfolds the hidden opportunities. When initiating change management, alteration in design is usually a breakthrough in visual appeal. It sets the new tone.

Design also facilitates in making a roadmap. Numbers, plans of action, goals, activities, time – you name it, design is the one key factor that helps you visualise and provide a sense of direction. This design has evolved over years to PPTs, brochures, goal setting apps or data analytics.

– Visual retention: How people perceive pictures

Studies suggest that people process a visual scene within 0.01 seconds! That is how powerful the visual medium is. This is essentially why people say design speaks volumes. Everything from colour, to the font, to accompanying design or layout, sets a tone to what we try to say.

For instance, red is generally perceived as flashy. So, it is usually used in abundance for emergency response related work or sale – two places where it is necessary to be catchy.

Whereas, blue, white and black for text is considered to be very professional for enterprise communication.

Design drives the tone of the content, and the end user drives the idea of design. It is a small, sort-of vicious circle.

Follow this space for Part-2 of the interview.