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When Augmented Reality Converges With A.I. And The Internet of Things

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The confluence of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things is rapidly giving rise to a new digital reality.

Remember when people said mobile was going to take over?

Well, we’re there. Some of the biggest brands in our world are totally mobile: Instagram, Snapchat, Uber. 84% (!) of Facebook’s ad revenue now comes from mobile.

And mobile will, sooner or later, be replaced by augmented reality devices, and it will look nothing like Google Glass.

Not the future of augmented reality.

Why some predictions fail

When viewing trends in technology in isolation, it’s inevitable you end up misunderstanding them. What happens is that we freeze time, take a trend and project the trend’s future into a society that looks almost exactly like today’s society.

This drains topics of substance and replaces it with hype. It causes smart people to ignore it, while easily excited entrepreneurs jump on the perceived opportunity with little to no understanding of it. Three of these domains right now are blockchain, messaging bots, and virtual reality, although I count myself lucky to know a lot of brilliant people in these areas, too.

What I’m trying to say is: just because it’s hyped, doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve your attention. Don’t believe the hype, and dig deeper.

The great convergence

In order to understand the significance of a lot of today’s hype-surrounded topics, you have to link them. Artificial intelligence, smart homes & the ‘Internet of Things’, and augmented reality will all click together seamlessly a decade from now.

And that shift is already well underway.

Artificial intelligence

The first time I heard about AI was as a kid in the 90s. The context: video games. I heard that non-playable characters (NPCs) or ‘bots’ would have scripts that learned from my behaviour, so that they’d get better at defeating me. That seemed amazing, but their behaviour remained predictable.

In recent years, there have been big advances in artificial intelligence. This has a lot to do with the availability of large data sets that can be used to train AI. A connected world is a quantified world and data sets are continuously updated. This is useful for training algorithms that are capable of learning.

This is also what has given rise to the whole chatbot explosion right now. Our user interfaces are changing: instead of doing things ourselves, explicitly, AI can be trained to interpret our requests or even predict and anticipate them.

Conversational interfaces sucked 15 years ago. They came with a booklet. You had to memorize all the voice commands. You had to train the interface to get used to your voice… Why not just use a remote control? Or a mouse & keyboard? But in the future, getting things done by tapping on our screens may look as archaic as it would be to do everything from a command-line interface (think MS-DOS).

There are certain benefits to command-line interfaces… (xkcd)

So, right now we see all the tech giants diving into conversational interfaces (Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Facebook Messenger, and Microsoft, err… Tay?) and in many cases opening up APIs to let external developers build apps for them. That’s right: chatbots are APPS that live inside or on top of conversational platforms.

So we get new design disciplines: conversational interfaces, and ‘zero UI’ which refers to voice-based interfaces. Besides developing logical conversation structures, integrating AI, and anticipating users’ actions, a lot of design effort also goes into the personality of these interfaces.

But conversational interfaces are awkward, right? It’s one of the things that made people uncomfortable with Google Glass: issuing voice commands in public. Optimists argued it would become normalized, just like talking to a bluetooth headset. Yet currently only 6% of of people who use voice assistants ever do so in public… But where we’re going, we won’t need voice commands. At least not as many.

The Internet of Things

There are still a lot of security concerns around littering our lives with smart devices: from vending machines in our offices, to refrigerators in our homes, to self-driving cars… But it seems to be an unstoppable march, with Amazon (Alexa) and Google (Home) intensifying the battle for the living room last year:

Let’s converge with the trend of artificial intelligence and the advances made in that domain. Instead of having the 2016 version of voice-controlled devices in our homes and work environments, these devices’ software will develop to the point where they get a great feeling of context. Through understanding acoustics, they can gain spacial awareness. If that doesn’t do it, they could use WiFi signals like radar to understand what’s going on. Let’s not forget cameras, too.

Your smart device knows what’s in the fridge before you do, what the weather is before you even wake up, it may even see warning signs about your health before you perceive them yourself (smart toilets are real). And it can use really large data sets to help us with decision-making.

And that’s the big thing: our connected devices are always plugged into the digital layer of our reality, even when we’re not interacting with them. While we may think we’re ‘offline’ when not near our laptops, we have started to look at the world through the lens of our digital realities. We’re acutely aware of the fact that we can photograph things and share them to Instagram or Facebook, even if we haven’t used the apps in the last 24 hours. Similarly, we go places without familiarizing ourselves with the layout of the area, because we know we can just open Google Maps any time. We are online, even when we’re offline.

Your connected home will be excellent at anticipating your desires and behaviour. It’s in that context that augmented reality will reach maturity.

Augmented reality

You’ve probably already been using AR. For a thorough take on the trend, go read my piece on how augmented reality is overtaking mobile. Two current examples of popular augmented reality apps: Snapchat and Pokémon Go. The latter is a great example of how you can design a virtual interaction layer for the physical world.

So the context in which you have to imagine augmented reality reaching maturity is a world in which our environments are smart and understand our intentions… in some cases predicting them before we even become aware of them.

Our smart environments will interact with our AR device to pull up HUDs when we most need them. So we won’t have to do awkward voice commands, because a lot of the time, it will already be taken care of.

This means we don’t actually have to wear computers on our heads. Meaning that the future of augmented reality can come through contact lenses, rather than headsets.

But who actually wants to bother with that, right? What’s the point if you can already do everything you need right now? Perhaps you’re too young to remember, but that’s exactly what people said about mobile phones years ago. Even without contact lenses, all of these trends are underway now.

Augmented reality is an audiovisual medium, so if you want to prepare, spend some time learning about video game design, conversational interfaces, and get used to sticking your head in front of a camera.

There will be so many opportunities emerging on the way there, from experts on privacy and security (even political movements), to designing the experiences, to new personalities… because AR will have its own PewDiePie.

It’s why I just bought a mic and am figuring out a way to add audiovisual content to the mix of what I produce for MUSIC x TECH x FUTURE. Not to be the next PewDiePie, but to be able to embrace mediums that will extend into trends that will shape our digital landscapes for the next 20 years. More on that soon.

And if you’re reading this and you’re in music, then you’re in luck:
People already use music to augment their reality.

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About the Author

This article was written by Bas Grasmayer. Bas is the Product Director at IDAGIO: streaming, reinvented for classical music. He write about trends and innovation in tech and how they may impact the music business. see more.

Callum Connects

Mikyung Kim, TV Commercial Producer

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Mikyung Kim is a savvy producer who runs her own TV and print production business, based in Hong Kong.

What’s your story?
I am a TV commercial and print producer working with advertising agencies and brands to bring their communication needs to the screen. My background is in film production and I started my career in Hollywood working with Oscar winning directors Michel Gondry and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Before starting my own company last year to produce content directly with agencies and brands, I was with Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong for nearly five years as the Senior Producer and Head of TV running the film production department.

What excites you most about your industry?
How it’s constantly evolving! Every day is different and it’s certainly never boring. I love that it’s a creative industry and that my job involves talking to people with creative minds on how we can bring a story on paper to life. It’s exciting that the advertising industry places high value on the creativity and effectiveness of content. I’ve produced a few commercials that creatively push the envelope with fun and sometimes wild ideas that have converted into positive brand awareness. Ever heard of KFC Finger Lickin’ Good…Nail Polish that yes, tastes like chicken? https://www.adweek.com/creativity/kfc-just-made-edible-finger-lickin-good-nail-polish-yeah-tastes-chicken-171245/

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Seoul and raised in Hong Kong until graduating from high school at HKIS. I spent my university years in Boston at Emerson College and worked in Los Angeles at Anonymous Content and Partizan Entertainment. But on a brief visit back to Hong Kong in 2010, I decided to move back and continue my career here, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is my home so it will always be my favourite city for business and for me personally. What I love about Hong Kong is that while I am based here, I can actually work with agencies and brands from anywhere in APAC. If I need to attend an important meeting, I can just hop on a quick flight easily. I spent most of 2017 working in Seoul with Korean agency Cheil and Samsung, and currently I am working with Japanese agency ADK and Toyota based in Singapore.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Fake it until you become it,” from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. Worth a watch. This helped me early in my career when I felt like I was under qualified for the job I was in. I learned to fake my confidence and fake a powerful body language until I truly felt that confidence became something real. It was nerve wracking at first but it worked and now I don’t have to fake it.

Who inspires you?
My friends. Noelle who worked part time jobs while being a full time student to pay her own tuition while we were in college together. Osti who is a lawyer focused on supporting developing nations and a board member of Redress, an environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry. Vanessa who runs a real estate company, co-owns the gym Crossfit Asphodel, started a health foods business called Quo and NGO The Keep Moving Project to promote wellness in our community. Cathy who will be the first Asian woman to direct a big budget superhero film starring Margot Robbie with Warner Bros and DC. And too many more to name!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
5.2 million plastic bottles are thrown away in Hong Kong every day. Plastic pollution is a major issue for the environment and we as responsible citizens can do our small part by reducing our consumption of unnecessary plastic. I do mine by having a water filter at home and carrying my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go. I love the brand Hydroflask because the stainless steel material keeps water hot or cold for hours, so I don’t feel tempted to buy a cold water at 7-11 on those hot, humid days we have here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
About five years ago I purchased my very first stock and put one month’s salary into it, which at the time was a lot of money for me. Knowing how that stock has performed now, I would have put all my savings into it.

How do you unwind?
Exercise is essential in my daily life to help clear my head and de-stress. My go to is a workout at Crossfit Asphodel, running outdoors, yoga and hiking. But a glass of red wine and live music at Soiree in Soho on Sunday night works pretty well too!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
One of the best trips I ever took was to the island of Lombok in Indonesia. Two girl friends and I did a 3 day 2 night hiking and camping trip to summit the Mount Rinjani Volcano. It was physically challenging but mentally relaxing. There was no cellphone reception, no distractions, we had the company of nature and nights with skies full of shooting stars. It was pretty magical. We then went to the Gili Islands for a few days of scuba diving, yoga and sitting on the beach doing nothing but sipping on coconuts. That was pretty relaxing too.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” by Lois P. Frankel and “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Essential reads for every working woman and/or man who wants to know how to support the working women in their life.

Shameless plug for your business:
I am a TV commercial and print producer that can plug into an existing advertising agency or brand team to produce their communication needs. Many advertising agencies these days are scaling down so they have creative directors and account services but may not have an in-house producer, so I can fill that gap by becoming a part of the existing agency team. For brands that want to produce content directly without involving an agency, I can also bridge the gap by bringing my production knowledge in-house and working as part of the marketing/brand team and liaising with the other departments in the company such as product team and ecomm.

How can people connect with you?
They can email me at [email protected]
or visit my website at mkimproducer.com

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Renne Ballard, Owner of Renée Ballard Communications

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Renne Ballard runs a social media agency working with business women, helping them find their business’s voice.

What’s your story?
I began my career in PR/communications ten years ago in Australia, after arriving home from two years in Dubai. In Dubai I was working for Emirates Airlines as a flight attendant and flying around the world non-stop for two years. This really sparked my interest for how people communicate. I started out as a community manager for an online advertising company, then moved into the corporate world of outdoor advertising, managing internal and external PR and communications. After having a baby four years ago, I decided to leave the safety net of corporate, and stride out on my own. I now run a social media agency and I specialise in working with business women, helping to find their business’ voice so they can use social media to achieve their business goals.

What excites you most about your industry?
I love the open accessibility online provides. It’s free for businesses to get online and connect with their target audience. Twenty years ago, advertising and PR was insanely expensive and quite elitist, but through incredible platforms like Facebook or Twitter, any business can connect with who is looking for their product/solution. Social media is particularly effective for small businesses because they have the edge when it comes to authenticity and a clear voice.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m in Hong Kong because I’m a trailing spouse. I know it’s such a daggy term, but I love it, it makes me sound so dedicated to my husband! Alas, we came to Hong Kong for my husband’s work. He’s the Design Director of Asia for an international retail design agency. We’ve been here for almost two years and it’s been a huge learning curve in terms of business and culture. We love the fast-paced nature of Hong Kong and the fact that everything is open late – it suits me perfectly because I’m nocturnal.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
That’s easy, Hong Kong. It’s the perfect blend of start-ups and mothership-sized institutions. I love the small business side, watching the collaborations between workshare spaces with galleries, networking groups and foodies; it’s a hothouse of creative partnerships here.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
When you’re are feeling scared about your next step, lean in and feel the difference. Is it fear mixed with excitement? Or fear mixed with dread? Always go with the former and cut loose the latter.

Who inspires you?
I love Tamara Mellon (Jimmy Choo founder). She has created multiple empires and she never stops trying new business models and pushing her limits. It helps that I love shoes too.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I just turned 40 years old. At best, I’m probably halfway through my life. It makes me constantly question, “Am I where I want to be?”

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have asked more questions to the people I looked up to, and listened less to the people telling me I won’t achieve my goals.

How do you unwind?
In this day and age, it’s scandalous to say, but I love sunbaking. At any chance, you’ll find me poolside, laying in the sun in a trance-like state.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Northern Danang in Vietnam. We were there at Christmas, at the foot of the mountains and it was beautiful. Heaps of wildlife and jungles and enough five star resorts that I was never parched once.

Everyone in business should read this book:
‘The E Myth’ by Michael Gerber. It’s an oldie but a goodie because it succinctly outlines how to transition from a one person operation to a global business like McDonalds. Once you see how important systems and processes are, you can recognise shambolic companies a mile off.

Shameless plug for your business:
Renée Ballard Communications is a social media agency that works with business women who are ready to make social media work for them. We create effective, powerful social media strategies that are tailored to the people who will be breathing life into them. We hand on heart promise to never use annoying, marketing buzzwords and that we value laughter above everything else.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected] or www.reneeballard.com or +85296670115

Twitter handle?
@ballard_comms

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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