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Gear VR goes beyong gaming

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Although the Samsung Galaxy Gear VR was initially launched mainly for entertainment uses, many companies are finding it useful in the restaurant, travel and hotel sectors.

The Samsung Gear VR, the virtual reality gaming and multimedia headset, is ‘gearing up’ to move into other realms. Users of the Gear VR are already comfortable with the plug-and-play device’s ability to transport users into new gaming arenas.

But, it turns out, the Gear VR has valuable uses over and above individual enjoyment.

“The Gear VR paired with Samsung devices delivers an entirely new level of immersive virtual entertainment,” says Craige Fleischer, Director of Integrated Mobility at Samsung Electronics South Africa. “Consumers can now download a collection of games, multimedia and movies in HD quality with a 360° view.”

The Gear VR is already bringing new entertainment dimensions in terms of home movies, games and numerous app capabilities. Where it really shows its flexibility is in the spheres of business and education.

The Samsung Gear VR is adding value to the business industry in sectors such as restaurants, travel agencies and hotels, while the possibilities for educational use keep rising. Giving students of all levels the opportunity to interact with content in 3-D learning environments can be enormously productive, whether looking at school-level science pupils ‘walking with dinosaurs’ in 3-D or medical students learning how to perform a delicate surgical procedure.

Futurists have been predicting the rise of immersive virtual reality headsets as instructional tool. The Samsung Gear VR, through its personal engagement with the student, helps to make learning even more meaningful. It can ‘bring the world’ to learners wherever they might be. Significantly, it also allows students to become creators of content and not only consumers.

The Samsung Gear VR has the ability to enhance business performance as well. For example, a major credit card company is discussing how it might use virtual reality technology to give customers insights into places they are considering visiting and hotels where they might like to stay. Similarly, this thinking can be extended into the areas of real estate and luxury brands, offering potential buyers a truly enhanced preview of property or items they might be interested in buying.

Another futuristic business opportunity lies in fine dining. By adding in a virtual reality facility, restaurants can enhance the sensory experience of dining even further. Instead of only enjoying the taste of a region’s food, you could enjoy a meal while ‘looking’ around the area from which it originated: Imagine eating French-inspired food while gazing at the vista of a Paris café setting, for example.

“The technology offered by the Samsung Gear VR offers more than simply individual enjoyment,” says Fleisher. “We are seeing that the possible scope is no longer limited to gaming and consuming multi-media. Today, we are becoming ever immersed in creating content and using virtual reality to provide business and education solutions as well.”

*The Gear VR is compatible with the Galaxy S7, S7 edge, Note5, S6 edge+, S6, S6 edge

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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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