Wearable Technology Show explores the future for AR and VR

4th April 2019
Anna Flockett

The Wearable Technology show never fails to disappoint and this year was no different, with a new location and lots of new innovating technologies the potential products that left visitors feeling excited for the future. As well as a number of exhibitors, conferences and seminars this year’s show also consisted of an innovation zone that showcased startups from the UK, Canada, Korea, France, Belgium and the US, and a dedicated KTN (knowledge Transfer Network) area.

Exploring a number of different areas within wearable technology such as VR/AR, health, performance sports, smart textiles and AI the show missed nothing out. Christophe Mallet, Co-Founder of Somewhere Else, an immersive technologies innovation agency, gave an interesting talk on how to train for the future, as the company has a mission to generate commercial and operational value through augmented, mixed or virtual reality.

He asked the audience: “If you were to train in a profession, the best one to train in today would be a priest, as 80% of jobs are being taken over by automation, but for now the priest hood is safe.” But if you think about it this is true, taxi drivers, shop assistants even factory workers – all could easily be replaced by automation, so how do we learn to work together with tech instead of against it?

Mallet asked us to look back at Industry 1.0 and to challenges we thought that would bring, and additionally look at the difference between Industry 1.0 and Industry 4.0 - a lot has changed but there are similarities, as he shared a quote by Irving Wladawsky-Berger: “The transitions will be very challenging – matching or even exceeding the scale of shifts out of agriculture and manufacturing we have seen in the past.”

For the future to work, ability is the new currency and therefore we need to learn how to learn, and learn how to adapt. VR provides humans with a number of qualities:

  • Danger: It allows you to try dangerous things you never could in real life and VR allows you to ‘die’
  • Rarity: Doctors can train on certain diseases and procedures that are so rare they don’t get the chance to normally
  • Cost: VR allows you to recreate expensive simulation and live a life you could not afford
  • Impossibility: You are able to step into the body of someone else

Mallet explained that too many companies are using VR to do something they can already do, just marginally better. “VR has so much more potential than this. The power of VR can hold improved learning performance, in which people remember and learn a lot more from VR (doing something) than just text or visuals. The power of VR also includes behaviour altering, and an increased knowledge base.”

VR holds a power that is extremely overlooked. Humans don’t need things to look like humans to be attached to it, tamagotchis are examples of this. Lots of people think for VR to be effective it needs to be as human like as possible, but it is more about the speech and movement rather than the visuals.

Following on from VR, AR and mixed reality will soon become platforms just as common as VR. Augmented reality is something that is not just visionary, but that is already a thing of the present – and this is what people need to realise.

George Jijiashvili, Senior Analyst at Ovum said: “Soon keyboards and screens will not just be the only way to work, I mean we already have touch screens and voice recognition.”

Depending on how far you went into the future you will see products disappear, believe it or not the mobile phone will soon be obsolete, landlines are already becoming that way.

Andy Norton, App Developer of Graham and Brown said: “The problem isn’t always with technology, it’s the human mind and how open we are with technology and AI. Cameras record the present and show you the past. I want a camera that is able to show us the future.”

Jijiashvili agreed and said: “However, if we go too far technology will be able to get into your life. There does need to be some sort of regulation, otherwise things that were once private will be open to the world.”

It is interesting listening to the experts and seeing the technology first hand at the show to see how far VR/AR/AI has come and is developing, and to also see the lack of imitative or worry that people have.

Norton added: “There is that idea that nothing is private anymore. Which is actually the biggest barrier for technology, as it’s the social impact that people act differently when they are being filmed or recorded, but at the same time how do we ensure there isn’t 24 hour cameras on us?”

Arguably cameras being integrated into smartphones was a big mistake, especially when you look at it in terms of AR and VR. When you use drones often the cameras with it need to be separate.

One huge hurdle to capturing reality is consent. AR and VR will soon be an everyday platform that will make life easier, especially when it comes to consent.

Norton expressed we would be in a much better place right now if we had started using machine learning a lot earlier. “We spent far too long working on hardware and neglecting the software, look at phones for example. Now software companies are spending a lot of time trying to keep up with the hardware.”

For the future of tech and especially wearable tech, there are gaps that we need to address, and there will be gaps that no one has yet discovered. In these gaps lies brand new disruptive technologies, but first these gaps need to be found and need to be colonised.

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