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Ericsson launches AR software for sports broadcasts

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Ericsson has launched Piero Augmented Reality, a software system that gives broadcasters the ability to enhance sports programming and create more immersive viewing experiences.

Ericsson’s Piero Augmented Reality enables broadcasters to overlay 3D graphics in real-time during live studio productions and sports games. Sports analysis graphics can be produced instantly either by a system operator or by a presenter using a tablet device. The graphics are then projected onto the studio floor in 3D allowing broadcasters to illustrate the analysis sequence without cutting away from the studio environment. The software is currently being tested by the BBC for its iconic football highlights TV program, Match of the Day.

The market-leading technology, which makes its global debut at NAB 2016 in Las Vegas, integrates easily with major studio tracking systems including Motion Analysis and nCam and popular sports information service Opta. In addition to the effects already available in Piero Sports Graphics system, some new ones include:

·         3D Virtual Replay – visualize a replay of the match on the studio floor

·         3D Heat Map – a customizable heat map based on Opta touch data

·         Goal Build Up – visualize the passes sequence to a goal or a shot

·         Pass Map – visualize a team’s passes map during a game

·         Actual game footage projected in 3D on the studio floor

·         3D Shots on goal – visualize shot trajectories and attempts on goal

·         Penalty Heat Map – customizable heat map based on Opta penalty shots data

Thorsten Sauer, Head of Broadcast and Media Services, Ericsson, says: “When sports programming was first broadcast on TV, data visualization was confined to basic statistics reporting, separated from the actual sports clips, and relied only on expert commentaries to make data understandable. Piero Augmented Reality allows broadcasters to go beyond rudimentary, pre-built 2D graphics and bring events to life through data-driven stories for even more compelling viewing and create deeper engagement through stunning artistry. With some major sporting events on the horizon in 2016, we’re confident that this industry-first technology will really elevate sports programming to an even bigger stage.”

Piero Augmented Reality is a part of Ericsson’s Piero product suite. Piero is Ericsson’s world-leading real time sports graphics software specifically designed to enhance and analyze sports for broadcasters and TV service providers. Offering a user-friendly and reliable system, Piero is used by over 50 broadcasters around the world to deliver stunning, fast and accurate analysis graphics of sports programming and to enhance broadcast presentation of international sporting events such as the Olympic Games.

Using image recognition and state-of-the-art graphic overlays, Ericsson’s Piero enhances sports video media with visually engaging and informative illustrative effects and statistics. The Piero platform enables a wide range of graphical effects to be added to video; from simple markers and counters to more sophisticated effects such as heat maps, formations and 3D flyarounds that can be used for live productions or highlight shows. Piero offers bespoke modules for a wide variety of sports, from football and tennis to hurling and handball.

Every day, people on all continents watch television programs prepared, managed and broadcast by more than 2,500 Ericsson staff based in Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and the US. Ericsson is the largest provider of content discovery services in Europe, delivering metadata, images, search and recommendations on more than 3,000 TV channels in over 30 languages. Every year, Ericsson Broadcast and Media Services distributes more than 2.7 million hours of programming in more than 90 languages for more than 500 TV channels worldwide. In addition, we provide more than 230,000 hours of captioning each year – over 100,000 hours of which is live.

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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