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Why VR will drive the next wave of change

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Virtual reality is set to start moving into the mainstream of the technology market this year creating the next wave of growth for the industry, says ERNST WITTMANN, Regional Manager for Southern Africa at Alcatel.

Smartphone manufacturers rather than games console makers or VR specialists hold the key to mainstream consumer acceptance of VR devices. Smartphone manufacturers will unlock affordable VR for the average consumer. In much the same way as smartphones have put an affordable camera, GPS and powerful computer in our pockets, they will give most of us our first taste of VR.

According to market researcher IDC, shipments of augmented reality and VR hardware will grow sharply to 9.6 million units this year and to 110 million units by 2020. The VR category has been relatively small until now, but the technology is maturing. We’re starting to see excitement for its potential from businesses and consumers alike.

Premium VR devices will represent most VR revenue in the next few years but only a small portion of the shipments, according to numbers from Strategy Analytics. The research firm projects that more affordable smartphone-powered devices will account for some 87% of VR devices shipped this year.

This makes sense since the premium devices are aimed at an early adopter audience, primarily the gamer, that doesn’t mind spending at least $500 on a new gadget. Smartphone manufacturers will offer a lower entry price and tie their VR offerings to a device that their customers already own.

VR is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment, presented to the user on a screen housed in a helmet or a pair of goggles. The user feels as if he or she is present in a three-dimensional space, able to interact with the virtual world through equipment such as a glove fitted with sensors.

The initial application for VR is creating immersive videogames, where the user feels as he or she really is sitting in the cockpit of a race car, navigating a dungeon filled with monsters, or trying to survive a night in a haunted house. But there are endless other business and entertainment applications for VR as well.

For example, some hospitals already use VR to simulate surgery after getting a 3D image of the brain using an MRI scan. Training applications are also becoming more sophisticated, offering risk-free ways to help people to practice or learn skills as diverse as surgery, flying an airplane, or surviving in a combat zone.

Art students or tourists could wander simulations of the world’s great art galleries without leaving home, offering new experiences to people who cannot travel for financial or health reasons. And films and televised sports events could be made more immersive by making you feel like you’re in a theatre or a stadium rather than your lounge.

For many people, VR still sounds like a fanciful idea. But as smartphones become more powerful and the VR display technologies become cheaper and more mature, VR will become a fixture in our lives.

Many analysts believe that VR is in its growth cycle today where smartphones were in 2007 – so we can expect to see VR really take off by 2020. The technology has great potential to enrich our lives, create new ways to learn, offer exciting entertainment options, and deliver powerful new experiences.

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Load-shedding leads
local searches

South Africans are searching in the dark, according to the latest Google Search trends.

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With more 1 million search queries generated in the space of 76 hours, load-shedding was by far the top trending search on Google South Africa this week.

Valentine’s Day came a distant second.

After news emerged last Sunday of the impending stage 3 load shedding, South Africans had generated more than 1-million load-shedding search queries by the time Tuesday came around:

  • “Loadshedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Eskom load shedding” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding Cape Town” – generated more than 50k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 400k on Monday
  • “Load shedding Johannesburg” – generated more than 20k searches on Monday
  • Load shedding schedule” generated more than 200k search queries on Tuesday

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, South Africans generated close to 300k search queries related to the romantic festival, including searches for quotes and gift ideas:

  • “Valentines Day” generated more than 100k search queries on Thursday
  • “Happy Valentines Day Images” and “Valentines Day Images” generated more than 10k search queries each on Thursday, with “Happy Valentines Day 2019” generating more than 20k search queries on Wednesday
  • “Valentines Day Specials 2019” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Love quotes” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Valentines Day quotes” generated more than 100k search queries and “Valentine messages” generated more than 50 000 search queries on Wednesday

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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Showmax invites
student films

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Thanks to the growing popularity of video-on-demand services, there’s a new opportunity to help kickstart the careers of local filmmakers.

Numerous Hollywood blockbusters (District 9Tomb Raider 2018, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron to name a few) have featured substantial shoots in Johannesburg and Cape Town. While providing great opportunities for SA’s production talent, aspiring writers and directors don’t get the same benefit.

So where can local creatives showcase their work? Broadcast TV isn’t a natural home for unknown short films, and while self-publishing platforms are readily available hosting options, it’s tough to get noticed and get traffic when competing with videos from across the planet.

But with the emergence of video-on-demand services into the mainstream, there’s now a solution. The African film school AFDA has teamed up with the streaming service Showmax to give local talent a much larger platform than ever before. From 18 February, eighteen of the best recent short films made by AFDA students from their Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth campuses will be live on Showmax. Drama, documentary, fantasy, and animation are all represented, in pieces running from under eight minutes to almost half-an-hour long. The full list of movies is included below.

Teresa Passchier, CEO of AFDA, said: “AFDA, Africa’s number-one school for the Creative Economy, is proud to kickstart this exciting and meaningful journey with Showmax and AFDA students, ensuring emerging young African filmmakers’ voices are heard and given a platform. It’s ground-breaking to share young, local, culturally relevant content on the same platform as Hollywood blockbusters. I am certain that this unique initiative will serve to boost and develop the African film industry and the careers of many young South African and African students alike.”

Included in the short films coming to Showmax are the award winners Junior and O-PunchaJunior, directed by Bert Dijkstra, picked up the Audience Award in the Made in South Africa Competition at the shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival Awards 2017. O-Puncha, directed by Adam Hansen, won two awards at the 5th annual Eldorado Film Festival: Best Student Made Short, and Best Editing – Alexander La Cock.

Another celebrated film is Sicela Amanzi directed by Mlu Godola, which talks to the subject of water shortage. The film’s heroine Zoleka is a mild-mannered young woman forced to go to extreme lengths when a small community’s only source of water unexpectedly collapses. The power of films like this is they shine a light on critical topical issues in new ways.

Speaking about working with the film school, Candice Fangueiro, Head of Content for Showmax, said: “There’s immense depth of filmmaking talent in Africa and it’s a privilege to be able to give that talent a home and a platform. Showmax is becoming part of the fabric of film and TV production in Africa, and importantly we’re doing this as a partner rather than just as a consumer. This is a key competitive advantage of being local and something we aim to continue to work on.”

AFDA is an Academy Award-winning institution, founded in 1994, and the first and only African film school to win an Oscar – for the Best Foreign Student film in 2006, the postgraduate film Elalini, directed by Tristan Holmes.

The full list of AFDA short films coming to Showmax is as follows:

Film titleDirectorGenre
Lullaby from the CryptKeenan Lott & Raven DavidsAnimation
Ko Ga CherenyaneSibonokuhle MyatazaDocumentary
IzilwaneKyllian RouxDrama
MallemeuleJaco Van BoschDrama
Canal StreetBrodie MuirheadDrama
On the FenceWarrick BewsDrama
The Righteous FewLindo LangaDrama
Hlogoma PeakLuke AhrensDrama
Frozen FlameCameron HeathmanAnimation
WolfBrett van DortFantasy
The Walk HomeSisanda DyantyiDrama
BearWesley RoodtDrama
JuniorBert DijkstraDrama
O-PunchaAdam HansenDrama
UmngenoSiphosethu NdungeDrama
DoreenLuvuyo Equiano NyawoseDrama
ForeverLindo LangaMusical
Sicela AmanziMlu GodolaDrama

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