19-21 Aug 2020
International Convention Centre Sydney

How business is joining the AI dance

At lightning speed, immersive technologies such as AR and VR are moving beyond proof of concept to proof of value. They’re shortening learning curves and improving business outcomes. Is your business capitalising on this change?

Without a shadow of doubt, the 20th century philosopher Alan Watts sparked thought across many plains when he said: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance”. 

Now in 2019, quite a different space and time, reality may be even farther flung than Watts himself imagined, who set out to marry eastern philosophy with western thought. 

We have come that far and gone much further.

Change, at first, usually seems very strange. 

Take Apple, whose late founder Steve Jobs was born in Watts’ heyday. 

Eastern philosophy, specifically Zen Buddhism, equally inspired Jobs to ‘think different’. That line of thought became the mantra of Apple, at the core of all its products, and has helped it become one of the world’s most valuable companies. A company named after a fruit, founded by an artistic technocrat. On the surface, it all seems like a misnomer.

That’s the beauty of it. When at first something doesn’t quite make sense, but there seems to be something in it even if you don’t know what—you can’t quite put your finger on the pulse —keep feeling your way through. As Watts would suggest, plunge into the idea, move with it, and join the dance. 

At least that’s what the world’s brightest leaders and best companies are doing, with the advent of augmented reality and virtual reality.

A new reality

In the four decades since Watts has passed, we’ve seen personal computers become ‘very personal’ computers and virtual experiences overtake physical ones. It may be strange to think that all this has changed in a little over one generation.

Appearition, however, doesn’t find these realities all too strange. The business develops and delivers augmented and virtual reality solutions that bring together business and technology.

As Rod Smith, head of sales at Appearition, says, these technologies aren’t solutions in themselves.

“Every project we’ve been involved in had a business outcome of some sort because augmented reality is really just visualisation of data,” says Smith.

“We’re seeing more and more artificial intelligence and organisations wanting to look at AI to supplement AR. Data is data, if the data is better through machine learning or artificial intelligence, that’s going to be more compelling.”

Appearition’s singular aim is creating immersive technology for business. The addressable market is bigger than one might expect. By 2022, Gartner has predicted that AR and VR technology will be deployed by about 70 per cent of companies, in one way or another.

Smith believes these technologies will increase productivity and become catalysts for organisational change.

Initially, much of this change will be centred around conversational platforms, with use-cases being virtual personal assistants and chatbots. Across large organisations, language barriers in meetings will become a thing of the past, with technology translating in real time. Confusion will be categorised before it becomes something more, with platforms able to detect emotions based on small changes to facial expressions alone. 

Education driving enterprise 

Among the early adopters of these technologies is the education sector. Locally, Appearition has partnered with Emergent Technologies at Deakin University to incubate immersive technology with practical applications for students. There’s a view that education can drive enterprise.

One such example is OculAR Sim, an application designed and developed for Deakin’s School of Medicine through the partnership. Using AR, optometry students will be able to explore the eye’s visual system and all its components.

While it’s a supporting tool for students, Veronica Moran, project manager at Emergent Technologies, says the app welds great power on its own. 

Although it may be too early to quantify the impact, there’s a point-of-need training associated with AR that shortens learning curves and leads to better outcomes. Moran and her team, none of which optometry experts, can attest to this firsthand.

“In the past you have a textbook where you have to label the eye, and you do get to dissect a cow’s eye, but besides that it’s pretty boring,” says Moran.

“In this 3D animation world, students can manipulate the eye and zoom into the cornea, isolate the muscles, layers and very specific sections. When it comes to the assessment section, it’s like a gamified quiz, where you’re given feedback as you go through the quiz on sections of the model.”

Moran says the muscular movement was hard to describe to developers, which highlights the current barrier in widespread adoption of these technologies. 

As Appearition’s Rod Smith says, at this point in time, OculAR Sim had to be anatomically correct even if it wasn’t 100 per cent precise in terms of measurement. 

From concept to value

These are the challenges in dealing with technology that’s still at proof of concept stage. 

Heading in the right direction, Smith references a partnership between Epson and Mercedes-Benz that lets those in the market for a new car simulate experiences on the showroom floor. Getting immersive technologies in front of more end consumers is the goal. 

Tony Nguyen, a research associate at Appearition, says these technologies are currently “transitioning from proof of concept to proof of value”. Right now, more projects are being taken on as experiments and trials, but they are becoming better linked to business objectives and investment. 

Innovators and early adopters have taken to these technologies, with the early majority starting to come on board. While inching closer, we’re not quite yet at the tipping point for widespread adoption of AR and VR. 

How do we accelerate adoption? It comes down to business weighing up the complexity of developing the technology against the potential value add.

At the research level, Nguyen is focused on finding evidence-based methodologies to reduce risk. 

“On the human practice side, we can map out all of the jobs and tasks into cognitive components—how the job is done, the decision is made, how much information is required to do the task, the granular stuff—so we can apply the right AI to that particular job or problem,” he explains.

“On the change management side, we can assess whether an organisation is ready to engage with us by identifying culture and leadership capabilities within, what is lacking, and providing a better roadmap effectively for first adoption.”

Simply put, teaching businesses the steps so they too can join the dance.

Rod Smith and Tony Nguyen presented on behalf of Appearation at this year’s Integrate Expo at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. If you would like to find out more about AV industry trends, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Convergence.

 

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