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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

Malcolm Tan, Founder of Gravitas Holdings

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Malcolm Tan is an ICO/ITO and Cryptocurrency advisor. He sees this new era as similar to when the internet launched.

What’s your story?
I’m a lawyer entrepreneur who owns multiple businesses, and who is now stepping into the Initial Coin Offering/Initial Token Offering/Cryptocurrency space to be a thought leader, writer (How to ICO/ITO in Singapore – A Regulatory and Compliance Viewpoint on Initial Coin Offering and Initial Token Offering in Singapore), and advisor through Gravitas Holdings – an ICO Advisory company. We are also running our own ICO campaign called AEXON, and advising 2 other ICO’s on their projects.

What excites you most about your industry?
It is the start of a whole new paradigm, and it is like being at the start of the internet era all over again. We have a chance to influence and shape the industry over the next decade and beyond and lead the paradigm shift.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m Singaporean and most of my business revolves around the ASEAN region. Our new ICO advisory company specialises in Singaporean ICO’s and we are now building partnerships around the region as well. One of the core business offerings of our AEXON ICO/ITO is to open up co-working spaces around the region, with a target to open 25 outlets, and perhaps more thereafter.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, since it is my hometown and most of my business contacts originate from or are located in Singapore. It is also a very open and easy place to do business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Be careful of your clients – sometimes they can be your worst enemies. This is very true and you have to always be careful about whom you deal with. The closest people are the ones that you trust and sometimes they have other agendas or simply don’t tell you the truth or whole story and that can easily put one in a very disadvantageous position.

Who inspires you?
Leonardo Da Vinci as a polymath and genius and leader in many fields, and in today’s world, Elon Musk for being a polymath and risk taker and energetic business leader.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Early stage bitcoin investors would have made 1,000,000 times profit if they had held onto their bitcoins from the start to today – in the short space of 7 years.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Seek out good partnerships and networks from day one, and use the power of the group to grow and do things together, instead of being bogged down by operations and going it alone from start.

How do you unwind?
I hardly have any time for relaxation right now. I used to have very intense hobbies, chess when I was younger, bridge, bowling, some online real time strategy games and poker. All mentally stimulating games and requiring focus – I did all these at competitive levels and participated in national and international tournaments, winning multiple trophies, medals and awards in most of these fields.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket – nature, resort life, beaches, good food and a vibrant crowd.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Richard Kiyosaki

Shameless plug for your business:
Gravitas Holdings (Pte) Limited is the premier ICO Advisory company and we can do a full service for entrepreneurs, including legal and compliance, smart contracts and token creation, marketing and PR, and business advisory and white paper writing/planning.

How can people connect with you?
Write emails to [email protected], or [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@malcolmABM

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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Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Pam Weber, Chief Marketing Officer at 99Designs

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Pam Webber is Chief Marketing Officer at 99designs, where she heads up the global marketing team responsible for acquisition, through growth marketing and traditional marketing levers, and increasing lifetime value of customers. She is passionate about using data to derive customer insights and finding “aha moments” that impact strategic direction. Pam brings a host of first-hand startup marketing experiences as an e-commerce entrepreneur herself and as the first marketing leader for many fast-growing startups. Prior to joining 99designs, she founded weeDECOR, an e-commerce company selling custom wall decals for kids’ rooms. She also worked as an executive marketing consultant at notable startups including True&Co, an e-commerce startup specializing in women’s lingerie. Earlier in her career, Pam served in various business and marketing positions with eBay and its subsidiary, PayPal, Inc. A resident of San Francisco, Pam received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and MBA from Harvard Business School. Pam is a notable guest speaker for Venture Beat, The Next Web, Lean Startup, and Growth Hacking Forum, as well as an industry expert regularly quoted in Inc., CIO, Business News Daily, CMSwire, Smart Hustle, DIY Marketer, and various podcast and radio shows. You can follow her on Twitter at @pamwebber_sf.

What makes you do what you do?
My dad always told me make sure you choose a job you like because you’ll be doing it for a long time. I took that advice to heart and as I explored various roles over my career, I always stopped to check whether I was happy going to work every day – or at least most days :). That has guided me to the career I have in marketing today. I’m genuinely excited to go to work every day. I get to create, to analyze, to see the impact of my work. It’s very fulfilling.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I had a penchant for numbers and it helped me stand out in my field. This penchant became even more powerful when the Internet and digital marketing started to explode. There was a great need for marketers whose skills could span both the creative and the analytic aspects of marketing. I capitalized on that growth by bringing unique insight to the companies I worked with, well-supported with thoughtful analysis.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup?
I’m not sure this is relevant to my situation as I had been a marketing leader in various start-ups and companies. I took on the role at 99designs because I was excited by the global reach of the brand and the opportunity the company had to own the online design space. I especially liked the team as I felt they were good at heart.

The challenge I’ve faced in my time at 99designs is how do I evolve the team quickly and nimbly to address new challenges. The work we do now, is very different than the work we did a year ago and even the year before that. There is a fine line between staying focused on the goal ahead and being able to move quickly should that goal shift.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industry or did you look for one or how did that work?
There is no one I’ve sought out or worked with over my entire career as my “mentee” needs have changed so much over the years. There are many people who have helped me along the way. For example, one of my peers at eBay, who was quite experienced and skilled in marketing strategy and creative execution, taught me what was in a marketing plan and how to evaluate marketing assets. As I have risen to leadership positions over the years, I often reach out to similarly experienced colleagues for advice on how they handle situations.

How did you make a match if you and how did you end up being mentored by him?
I learned early in my career that it rarely hurts to ask for advice. So that is what I have done. Additionally, there are people that are known to be quite helpful and build a reputation for giving back to others in advisory work. Michael Dearing, of Harrison Metal and ex-eBay, is one of those people. I, as well as countless others, have asked him for advice and guidance through the years and he does his best to oblige. Finding mentorship is about intuiting who in your universe might be willing and whether you are up for asking for help.

That being said, generally, I have found, if you are eager to learn and be guided, people will respond to the outreach.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I generally look for a good attitude and inherent “smarts”. A good attitude can encompass anything from being willing to take on many different types of challenges to working well amongst differing personalities and perspectives. Smarts can be seen through how well someone’s done in their “passion areas” (i.e. areas where they have a keen interest in pursuing).

I try to hire those types of people because in smaller, fast-growing companies like many of the ones I’ve worked in, it’s more often than not about hiring flexible people as things move and change fast.

Once those people are on my team, I try to keep them challenged and engaged by making sure they have varying responsibilities. If I can’t give them growth in their current job or in the current company, I encourage them to seek growth opportunities elsewhere. I’d rather have one of my stars leave for a better growth opportunity than keep them in a role where they might grow stale.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously support diversity. When I am hiring, I am constantly thinking about how to balance the team with as broad a range as possible of skill sets, perspectives, etc. to ensure we can take on whatever is thrown at us, or whatever we want to go after.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
I’m going to assume a great leader in my industry to mean a marketing leader in a technology company. I think a great leader in this industry is not afraid to learn new tricks no matter their age – it’s the growth mindset you may have heard about. I have a friend who inspires me to do this – she purchased the Apple Watch as soon as it was available, and was one of the first people I knew to use the Nest heating/cooling system. She’s not an early adopter by most definitions, but she adopts the growth mindset. This is the mindset I, too, have sought to adopt. In my field of marketing, it most recently has meant learning about Growth Marketing and how to apply this methodology to enhance growth. Independent of your industry, I think a growth mindset serves you well.

Advice for others?
I have been at 99designs for 3.5 years. During that time we’ve invested in elevating the skills and quality of our designer community, we’ve rebranded to reflect this higher level of quality, and have improved the satisfaction of our customers. Our next phase of growth will come from better matching clients to the right designer and expanding the ability to work with a designer one-on-one. We have the best platform to find, collaborate, and pay professional designers who deliver high quality design at an affordable price, and it’s only going to get better. I’m excited to deliver on that vision.

Pam Webber
Chief Marketing Officer of 99designs
Twitter: @pamwebber_sf

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