The Worlds of Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence in 2017


Augmented reality really exploded in 2016, thanks to a certain group of collectible "pocket monsters" and the legions of fans looking to capture and train them. However, it seems that this exciting medium has already surpassed the application that put it on the mainstream map.

Image via Pixabay

While Pokémon Go has steadily lost momentum – daily revenues, while still strong, have halved since the initial launch – other applications of augmented reality have been heating up the market. Anyone visiting this year's consumer electronics show will already be well aware of this. 

This year's CES, held back in January, was awash with exciting pieces of augmented reality software and hardware, and really showcased how versatile and effective this relatively fledgling medium is going to be. Much of the upcoming developments in AR software technology look likely to be delivered via sophisticated smart eyewear, so, as expected, there were several pieces of this tech on display at CES, including the ODG R8 and R9 smart glasses - each powered by an impressively powerful Snapdragon 835 - and the Microsoft Hololens.

Devices like this, while undeniably great for gaming, are in fact taking AR beyond the realms of leisure and placing it squarely in the fast paced world of modern life. Expect 2017 to be the year that transposes the excitement, fun and supreme capability of a set up like Pokémon Go into the fields of business, science and other spheres.

Using AR delivered across a cloud based connection to access files remotely, holding virtual meetings wherever you are in the world; this is the true power that AR can provide, and it's not so far away.

AR or VR? The Future of Data Visualisation

Another area in which augmented reality is seriously impressing is data visualisation (DV). In this data-centric landscape of business and life, understanding is key, and that understanding cannot be achieved without good old DV to draw us deeper into the narrative.

Image via Pixabay
So, DV is in rude health, but what is the next step for the discipline? For some, augmented reality is the future of visualisation, providing, as it does, a way to relate data directly to the world around us. For others, virtual reality is the way forward, as it gives visualisers the opportunity to really get to grips with the data at hand, and to take their audience on a journey. Perhaps 2017 will be the Year that this question is answered. Or, at least the year in which both media show that they are equally as vital to the development of DV.

Whichever of these two forms of DV turns out to be the victor is, in a sense, not so important. Both are taking data visualisation into new and exciting places, and are operating on the bleeding edge of current technological capability. Take a look at The Wall Street Journal’s stock market DV journey to get a taste of what this sort of approach can provide. By turning and twisting their device, the user can delve into a world of data, adding a whole other dimension to the insight delivered. The experience is augmented even further when VR goggles are used.

Fans of augmented reality point to the effectiveness of overlaying and transposing data onto a real environment when it comes to data-storytelling. Being able to view an object in the real world, and then access information and data pertaining to that object via augmented reality, will open up a world of different possibilities for data visualisers and for the users that rely on their work.

AI in the Battle for Cyber Security

Artificial intelligence and cyber security are not phrases often placed side by side. However, in 2017, that looks set to change. Artificial intelligence is now part of the spearhead in the fight against cyber crime and data fraud, and it is helping digital security experts to stay one step ahead of the game.

Artificial intelligence has become so sophisticated that it is now able to ‘learn’ and to ‘understand’ the behaviours of online criminals and recognise the tools and bots they use to gain access to secure systems. This is accomplished via the process of user entity behaviour analytics – or UEBA – which is a set of machine learning techniques aimed at second guessing unscrupulous activity. 

When UEBA is deployed, the smart computing system simply monitors traffic and activity on any given network or any particular area of that network. The idea is that, when the system encounters an instance of suspicious behaviour, it is not because it has been programmed to recognise this behaviour, but because it has learned what such patterns look like. 

The result is a system which operates in perpetuity. It does not need to be told about new behaviours or activity that could pose a risk; it will know this ahead of time. For perhaps the first time, AI is giving us a direct advantage over hackers and other unauthorised users.

Real Intelligence: AI for Tomorrow

UEBA is certainly an exciting development in AI, but it is not the whole of the story. The technology of artificial intelligence grows more sophisticated each and every day, and the applications of such advancements in smart systems and in machine learning are numerous. 

Publishers O’Reilly predict that 2017 is the year in which many of these applications – which have been in various stages of development for the past several years – finally make it to full realisation. This means we can expect the real-world impact of AI to greatly increase over the next twelve months.

Melding this with the Internet of Things – or IoT, the concept of connecting otherwise inert objects via wireless internet – enhances this impact even further. AI may have come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years, but it is only just getting started in terms of what it can offer in the long term. Watch this space and prepare to be amazed.

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