MWC17 Big Themes: Platforms: AI, AR & VR

The third in our series of theme reports is ‘Platforms: AI, AR & VR’. Read on to discover how this topic has influenced the Mobile World Congress agenda and what track sessions will be covered by it.

In an era where we have become accustomed to seeing innovative new technologies deployed and scaled at unprecedented speeds, we can be forgiven if we forget that not all technologies have enjoyed a similarly rapid route to mass market adoption. This can certainly be said of some of the key enabling technologies to have emerged in the last couple of years such as Artificial Intelligence and Virtual and Augmented reality.

Artificial Intelligence

With its origins dating all the way back to the dawn of computing, we have had to wait until computing power and IT infrastructure could finally scale up to match the demands of AI before Turing’s insights could finally be properly tested. Today, the global AI market is already valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars and this is only set to grow as more researchers, businesses, products, services, devices, robots and more come to rely on AI solutions and applications.

AI Assisted Society

The amount of data generated by our connected societies is already proving to be a challenge to traditional big data analytics methodologies and this trend will only be compounded as data volumes grow exponentially. AI will greatly enhance our ability to extract meaningful insights from these overwhelmingly large datasets and will provide the catalyst for radical changes in how we address some of the most important challenges facing the world today. From scientific research to solving important practical problems, our societies will increasingly be assisted and enhanced by AI. Today, some the most compelling examples of these changes to come can be seen in medicine and clinical research, but as we further develop AI technology, we can expect its critical assistance in tackling climate change, critical resource management and population movements to name just a few. What insights can existing efforts in this space provide and how can future research into AI be directed to better assist us in addressing our shared challenges?

Artificial Intelligence – Chatbots and Virtual Assistants

Natural language processing has reached an important milestone. Sophisticated chatbots are now available as white label and open source offerings while larger technology companies are releasing Virtual Personal Assistants capable of performing complex tasks via voice commands, from ordering goods and services to acting as a smart hub for smart homes.
These new categories of products and services are set to revolutionise customer care, search and discovery, and the provision of goods and third party services. Join pioneers from this exciting new space to learn how AI is set to radically transform how we interact with the world around us.

Artificial Intelligence – Automation & Robotics

Robots are already taking over the world, efficiently and successfully replacing humans to build, defend, heal, explore and entertain. These advanced technology solutions require a range of AI applications working in conjunction with each other over high capacity and low latency networks. Image recognition, machine learning, gesture control and context aware computing are just some of the elements needed to power this highly complex technology revolution.
How are these technologies evolving and where are they being applied most successfully today? What insights into the future of robotics can they afford us and what can existing deployments teach us about some of the challenges we will face in transitioning more of what humans do to machines, both from a technology and ethical point of view?

VR & AR

Virtual Reality and shortly thereafter Augmented Reality, were first developed in the late 80s and early 90s respectively and are another example of technologies that initially captured the imagination but had to wait for Moore’s Law to be able to deliver the kind of processing power needed to provide the right level of user experience. The road to successful mass market adoption however doesn’t follow such a predictable trajectory as Moore’s Law. Two sessions will explore how software will play a critical role in defining success for these revamped platforms and how to overcome remaining hardware challenges.

The AR/VR Hardware Challenge

2016 has been a breakout year for both VR & AR, the former grabbing all the headlines, the latter quietly but quickly growing in value.
Forecasts for the total value of the VR/AR hardware market vary wildly: conservative estimates (such as CCS Insight) value the market at $4 billion by 2018 with 24 million units sold in that year while more ambitious forecasts (ABI Research) put the value at $61bn by 2021.
Experts agree however that while AR will account for most of the value due to its enterprise focus, reaching scale in both the AR and VR device space will remain a key challenge in the coming years. With so much technology crammed into these devices, reaching a tipping point for consumer uptake that won’t overly compromise on capabilities and the user experience will be key to the future success of these platforms.
Will AR headsets become a mass consumer product? Will VR ready smartphones cannibalise the VR market or will fully mobile VR headsets help drive mass adoption?

The AR/VR Software, Platforms and UIs

As with most emerging hardware platforms, success and uptake is dependent on a number of software centric issues such as: quality of developer tools and platforms, UI and the user experience it dictates, quality of content supported. AR and VR will share a number of common solutions in this field due to the similar nature of their function. The melding of AR and VR will further contribute to the interoperability of software solutions. The AR/VR software market will overtake the hardware market in terms of value in the next few years. That being said, the different segments each market serves (enterprise and consumer) will demand very different functionalities and requirements from a software and content point of view. In addition, emerging UIs that fully leverage the medium, such as gesture control and spatial computing will create new challenges and opportunities for software, product and service developers.

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