At CES in Las Vegas, 28 companies announced the Virtual Reality Industry Forum, a non profit company designed to further the widespread availability of high-quality audiovisual VR experiences, for the benefit of consumers.
The Founding Members of VRIF are Akamai Technologies, ARRIS International plc, b<>com, Baylor University, CableLabs, Cinova Media, Dolby Laboratories, DTG, DTS, EBU, Ericsson, Fraunhofer, Harmonic, Huawei, Intel, Irdeto, Ittiam, MovieLabs, NABPILOT, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., Technicolor, TNO, Sky, Sony Pictures, Vantrix, Verizon, Viaccess-Orca and Orah.
The Forum has grown out of a series of informal meetings, initiated by the DTG, and held over the past 12 months, which involved over 200 people from a large group of companies. The group discussed how to advocate consensus around industry standards for the creation of an interoperable, end-to-end ecosystem presenting high-quality audio-visual VR services. These are services where users can experience audiovisual content, live or on-demand, through VR headsets but also on traditional “2D devices” such as tablets.
“We hope to ensure that the VR industry avoids the fragmentation of standards and formats that has plagued audio-visual media in the past,” said David Price, Vice President, Business Development at Ericsson. “We expect that many of those involved in the original informal discussions will join VRIF shortly.”
Chris Johns, Chief Engineer, Broadcast Strategy at Sky, said: “VRIF will seek to establish best practices to ensure a high-quality user experience, and we believe this is crucial for the market to take off. We all expect that 2017 will be the year when intense consumer interest in VR spurs a quantum leap in the user experience.”
The goals of VRIF include:
- Advocating voluntary industry consensus around common technical standards for the end-to-end VR ecosystem, from creation to delivery and consumption
- Advocating the creation and adoption of interoperable standards (VRIF will not develop standards itself); promoting the use of common profiles across the industry, and promoting and demonstrating interoperability
- Developing voluntary guidelines that describe best practices, to ensure high quality VR experiences
- Describing and promoting the use of VR services and applications
VRIF is open to all parties that support its purpose, and is complementary to other industry organizations in that it will focus on the end-to-end ecosystem for media and entertainment VR.
ME and Africa Consumer tech spending to hit $149bn
Reaching $130bn this year, consumer spending on technology in the Middle East and Africa is expected to grow just 4% a year.
Consumer spending on technology in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) is forecast to total $130.8 billion this year, a year-on-year increase of 4.1%. According to the latest Worldwide Semiannual Connected Consumer Spending Guide from International Data Corporation (IDC), consumer purchases of traditional and emerging technologies will remain strong over the 2019–2023 forecast period, increasing at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.5% to reach $149.4 billion in 2023.
86.3% of all consumer technology spending in 2019 will be on traditional technologies such as mobile phones, personal computing devices, and mobile telecom services. Mobile telecom services (voice and data) will account for 68.7% of this amount, followed by mobile phones which will account for 26.6%. Spending growth for traditional technologies will be relatively slow, with a CAGR of 2.4% for the 2019–2023 forecast period.
“Faster connectivity, combined with declining data service costs from telecom service providers and the need for end users to use telecom services for an increasing number of devices, will ensure that consumer spending on traditional technologies will continue to grow,” says Fouad Charakla, IDC’s senior research manager for client devices in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa.
Emerging technologies, including AR/VR headsets, drones, on-demand services, robotic systems, smart home devices, and wearables, will deliver strong growth with a five-year CAGR of 10.2%. This growth will see emerging technologies account for 17.1% of overall consumer spending in 2023, up from 13.7% in 2019. Smart home devices and on-demand services will account for around 93% of consumer spending on emerging technologies by the end of the forecast period.
“The low penetration of smart home devices in the region, combined with growing efforts from market players to educate home users on the benefits and usage of these devices, will serve as an engine of growth for consumer spending on emerging technologies,” says Charakla. “A large portion of end users are already looking to invest in devices that will improve their productivity and quality of life, two key demands that smart home devices can be positioned to fulfil.”
On-demand services represent a new addition to IDC’s Worldwide Semiannual Connected Consumer Spending Guide. “On-demand services enable access to networks, marketplaces, content, and other resources in the form of subscription-based services and includes platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify, among others,” says Charakla. “As connected consumers juggle multiple services across their devices, it is essential for technology providers to understand how the adoption of these various technologies and services will impact their customers’ experiences in the future.”
Communication and entertainment will be the two largest use case categories for consumer technology, representing more than 79% of all spending throughout the forecast. More than 70% of all communication spending will go toward traditional voice and messaging services in 2019. Entertainment spending will be dominated by watching or downloading TV, videos and movies, as well as listening to music and downloading and playing online games. The use cases that will see the fastest spending growth over the forecast period are augmented reality games (49.5% CAGR).
The Worldwide Semiannual Connected Consumer Spending Guide quantifies consumer spending for 22 technologies in ten categories across nine geographic regions. The guide also provides spending details for 23 consumer use cases. Unlike any other research in the industry, the Connected Consumer Spending Guide was designed to help business and IT decision makers to better understand the scope and direction of consumer investments in technology over the next five years.
Could robots replace human tennis players?
While steeped in tradition, tennis has embraced technology on multiple fronts: coaching, umpiring and fan experiences. Since the early 2000s, the Sony-owned Hawk-Eye system has been assisting tennis umpires in making close calls. At Wimbledon, IBM’s Watson AI analyses fan and player reactions in real-time video footage from matches to create highlight reels just minutes after the end of a match.
Meanwhile, at the ATP Finals in London, similar data analysis is being carried out by digital services and consulting firm Infosys.
GlobalData’s Verdict deputy editor Rob Scammell hears the future of tennis discussed at a recent panel discussion about the use of data analytics and technology in the game.
Scammel writes: “Infosys has been partnered with ATP for five years, providing features such as its cloud-based platform, which leverages artificial intelligence to analyse millions of data points to gain insights into the game.
“Players and coaches can also make use of the Infosys’ Players and Coaches Portal, allowing them to “slice and dice” matches on an iPad with 1,000 data analytics combinations. This is data crunching is vital according to Craig O’Shannessy, strategy analyst for the ATP World Tour and a coach for 20 years – including for the likes of Novak Djokovic.
O’Shannessy says: “Video and data analytics is crucial for giving players an edge. It’s about finding out of 100 points, the 10 or 15 that matter the most, and explaining that these are the patterns of play that you want to repeat in these upcoming games to win those matches.”
However, although Chris Brauer, director of innovation at the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, asked whether the “inevitable conclusion” of technological innovations in tennis was removing humans from the game entirely. ATP chair umpire and manager Ali Nili suggested that while there could one day be robot players adjudicated by robot umpires, it would be an entirely different sport.
Nili told GlobalData: “At ATP, we’re most proud of our athletes. It’s our athletes which make the tennis exciting. It’s how fast they are, how strong they are being. As humanbeings, we compare them to us and we’re fascinated by the things that they’re able to do. They’re the number one attraction for anyone who comes in, watches tennis, and everything else is secondary, you know, all the data and everything else, because we try to make our athletes more appealing.”
Could robots replace human tennis players?
Raghavan Subramanian, associate vice president and head of Infosys Tennis Platform, says it’s a “very philosophical question” and that we can look to the precedent set by other ‘man vs machine’ face-offs.
“In chess, we had [Garry] Kasparov play against the computer. So I think the natural first transition will not be two robots playing against each other, but one robot, possibly playing against the best player today. That’s the first possible bridge before two robots play.”