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Augmented reality gets ready for business

Lenovo has revealed details of an augmented reality system for businesses. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK explores the potential.



Virtual reality (VR) gets all the attention, because it promises consumers not only a whole new world, but many new worlds. By comparison, augmented reality (AR) is the poor relation. Yet, this is where we are likely to see the real evolution, product ranges and use cases emerging in the five years.

Ironically, AR may even save VR, as it allows for several levels of immersion, from basic text overlaid on whatever one is viewing in the real world, all the way through to near-total VR.

It is this versatility of AR that is seeing it invading industries, organisations and enterprises globally. From teaching anatomy in a class to performing surgery, from repairing an aircraft engine to in-vehicle navigation, the use cases are becoming well-established. And where there are business use cases, manufacturers and developers quickly fill in the gaps identified by users.

For this reason, an AR device is being developed by Lenovo, best known for its ThinkPad laptops and Yoga two-in-one laptop-tablet combination. At the Transform 2.0 conference hosted by the Lenovo Data Centre Group in New York this month, it revealed not only a headset, but also a computing device and a software platform. At first sight, it may even appear to be a VR headset. This means that it can cover the full spectrum of AR experiences.

“I don’t think there’s a super hard line between AR and VR,” said Christian Teismann, senior vice president and general manager of Lenovo Worldwide Enterprise Business, at the event. “If you think of the AR you put over real reality, you start with 1% virtual. When you get to 100%, it’s become VR. 

“However, the use for VR is limited to experience. I don’t think for commercial applications VR has a lot of use cases, but the amount of AR overlaid on reality will vary a lot. In some cases, most reality will be augmented, in others only very little.”

Two great examples that encapsulate the issue is the use of augmented reality in cars versus its use in surgery.

“When you’re driving a car, how much augmented reality is reasonable?” asks Teismann. “It can only support you, as when your speed or turn-by-turn navigation is projected onto the windscreen in front of you. In other uses, AR becomes critical. Think of the scenario where a surgeon is doing microscopic surgery and is operating via a computer. The surgery is being done with laser technology, and you can no longer see inside the body in the same way as when you cut it open. As a result, most of the procedure will be augmented.”

Because the use cases of AR in commercial environments are so specific, he says, “It will never go to the entire extreme of virtual, because you lose the aspect of reality being part of the value proposition.”

For this reason, most VR is focused on the consumer space, and most of it is gaming or entertainment oriented. 

Continue reading to find out more about Lenovo’s AR technology.

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Homemation creates comfort through smart homes

Home automation is more than just turning the lights on and off, Homemation’s Gedaliah Tobias tells BRYAN TURNER



The world is taking interior design notes from the Danish, in a style of living called hygge (pronounced hoo-gah). Its meaning varies from person to person: some see hygge as a warm fire on a cold winter’s night, others see it as a cup of hot coffee in the morning. The amount of “good feelings” one gets from these relaxing activities depends on what one values as indulgent.

But how does technology fit into this “art of feeling good”?

We asked Homemation marketing manager Gedaliah Tobias to take us through a fully automated home of the future and show us how automation creates comfort and good feelings.

“The house is powered by Control4, which you can think of as the brain of the smart home,” says Tobias. “It controls everything from the aircon to smart vacuum cleaners.”

The home of the future is secured by a connected lock. It acts like other locks with keypads and includes a key in the event of a power interruption. The keypad is especially useful to those who want to provide temporary access to visitors, staff, or simply kids who might lose their parents’ house keys.

“The keypad is especially useful for temporary access,” says Tobias. “For example, if you have a garden service that needs to use the home for the day, they can be given a code that only turns off the perimeter alarm beams in the garden for the day and time. If that code is used outside of the day and time range, users can set up alerts for their armed response to be alerted. This type of smart access boosts security.”

Once inside, one is greeted with a “scene” – a type of recipe for electronic success. The scene starts by turning on the lights, then by alerting the user to disarm the alarm. After the alarm is disarmed, the user can start another more complicated scene.

“Users can request customised scene buttons,” says Tobias. “For example, if I press the ‘Dinner call’ scene, the lights start to flash in the bedroom, there’s an announcement from the smart speakers, the blinds start to come down, the lighting is shifted to the dinner table. Shifting focus with lighting creates a mood to bring the house together for dinner.”

Homemation creates these customised scene buttons to enable users to control their homes without having to use another device. In addition to scene buttons, there are several ways to control the smart home.

 “Everything in the smart home is controllable from your phone, the touchscreens around the house, the TV, and the dedicated remote control. Everyone is different, so having multiple ways to control the house is a huge value add.”

We ask Tobias where Homemation recommends non-smart home users should start on their smart home journey.

“Before anything, the Control4 infrastructure needs to be set up. This involves a lot of communications and electrical cabling to be run to different areas of the home to enable connectivity throughout the home. After the infrastructure is set up, the system is ready for smart home devices, like lighting and sound.”

“For new smart home users, the best bang for their buck would be to start with lighting once the infrastructure is set up. Taking it one step at a time is wise.”

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Face App grabs SA attention



South Africans generated more than 100 000 search queries for “Face App” on Wednesday, while only generating 50 000 for “Mandela Day”. The Internet wentcrazy over the two-year-old app, which uses artificial intelligence to create a rendering of what users might look like in a few decades. Face App went viral as users posted their aged likenesses on social media in the #faceappchallenge. Privacy experts, however, warned that the app (made in Russia) may pose a threat to users’ privacy as it stores photos on its servers, with US Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, appealing to the FBI to investigate the app. 

In other top searches on Google this week, “Johnny Clegg” garnered more than 500 000 search queries on Tuesday as the news of his passing broke. The ‘White Zulu’ of Juluka and Savuka fame was an internationally acclaimed musician who was also an important figure in the fight against apartheid. Tributes to Clegg have been flooding media and social media over the past couple of days. Clegg succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 66.

More than 200 000 search queries were generated for “Mark Batchelor” on Monday after the former soccer star was brutally gunned down outside his Olivedale home in Gauteng. Investigations into the shooting are still ongoing. Batchelor played for Orlando Pirates, Wits University, Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns, Moroka Swallows and Bafana Bafana. 

“Jacob Zuma” also garnered more than 100 000 search queries on Monday as he made his first, much-anticipated appearance in front of the Zondo Commission on state capture. 

On Sunday “Macdonald Ndou” picked up more than 10 000 search queries after reports of theMuvhango actor’s arrest made the rounds. Ndou was held on various charges including extortion and kidnapping. The Hawks have reportedly provisionally withdrawn charges against the TV star, but a spokesperson said the decision to withdraw does not mean the charges will not be reinstated.

“Serena Williams” garnered more than 50 000 searches on Saturday as the tennis superstar suffered a 6-2, 6-2 defeat against Simona Halep in a Wimbledon final that lasted just 56 minutes. Williams later told Agence France Presse, “She [Halep] played out of her mind” and “I was like a deer in headlights”.

Last Friday, South Africans produced more than 20 000 search queries for “Duduzane Zuma” as the Randburg Magistrates Court found the former first son not guilty of a charge of culpable homicide. In February 2014, Zuma was involved in a car crash that took the life of Phumzile Dube when his vehicle crashed into the taxi she was travelling in.

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 

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