Technology ain’t what it used to be, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence have dominated the tech landscapes in recent years and as these technologies become more commonplace, consumers from across the spectrum are beginning to see the benefits they can offer. Although the foundations of these technologies have been around for decades, the growth of the internet and increased processor speeds means that the reality is starting to become very much real.
From virtual cinemas and automated customer service bots, to image recognition software and augmented reality restaurants, the possibilities for increased efficiency and accuracy is greater than ever. But what exactly are these new technologies and how are people putting them to use?
VR & AR
Simply explained, Virtual Reality uses digital software to simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtually generated landscape that users can access through a headset or mobile device. Augmented Reality, VR’s older brother, on the other hand is all about seamlessly adding virtual elements into the real world, blending the realms of the real and the virtual. Pokémon GO is probably the most famous recent example of AR and works by imposing a digital representation of the series’ eponymous characters into the real world with the users mobiles acting as something of an intermediary looking glass.
So how are consumers using this tech? For most, VR is currently limited to video games, virtual tours, artistic concepts and experiential entertainment, but many users are now looking to this tech to make ground-breaking changes to their personal and professional lives.
The medical sector for example is using virtual simulations in sync with cognitive behavioural therapy to treat patients with social anxieties or phobias of things like flying, public speaking, or heights, allowing them to meet their fear head on without any actual risk. The British military also recently made the announcement that it would incorporate Oculus Rift into its training of war zone trauma medics and Coldplay highlighted the wonders of VR during their recent ‘A Head Full of Dreams Tour’ by offering virtual reality users the ‘best seats in the house’ and allowing them to live-stream the concert via a VR headset.
The VR and AR industries show little sign of letting up and with the shrewdly named ‘V-commerce’ market looking set to revolutionise the way people find, engage with and purchase products and services, virtual and augmented technology is beginning to move from the realm of science fiction into a very palpable reality (pun very much intended).
AI or artificial intelligence, refers to technology which mimics processes normally associated with human intelligence; things like visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, reasoning and translation. At its core, AI must involve some level of learning, being able to solve problems by attributing retained knowledge to new situations just as the human brain does.
One of the most interesting (or creepy, depending on how you see it!) uses of AI, is online behaviour predictions and analytics. By sifting through huge amounts of data, automated software is able to use complex algorithms to compare, contrast and predict online behaviour and habits in the hope of creating something of a virtual profile based on your online activity. Facebook is famously good at this and has been utilising user information to develop advertising strategy for years.
Ever noticed adverts for tickets to your favourite football team’s matches, or holiday offers based on locations you’ve recently searched for popping up on your feed? Your social footprint is being tracked, recorded and monitored to better understand who you are and what you are looking for.
These technologies are ‘game changers’ on their own, but when joined together, can create experiences that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Steven Spielberg flick. Imagine walking into a restaurant 10 years from now; the venue’s integrated AI system uses facial recognition to compile data on previous visits and sends an instruction to the kitchen team to start preparing your favourite tipple. A member of the waiting staff, now aware of who you are, greets you by name and leads you to your table. You sit down and place a headset on to begin viewing an interactive virtual menu with 3D representations of the available dishes. Using information from your phone, AR tech highlights dishes on the menu that your social media contacts have recommended while also signalling any which don’t fit with your dietary requirements. After placing your order and enjoying your meal, you pay using biometric recognition that verifies you via your retina and simply walk out.
Of course every consumer utilises technology differently, but the possibilities are exciting to say the least. With advancements in VR, AR and AI occurring all the time, we should be looking forward to the redesigned reality of the future.