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How companies can get it right with young talent

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As more millennial workers assume management positions, they will shape future workspaces and they already have solid ideas of what that the workspace looks like. VIDESHA PROOTHVEERAJH, Intel Country Manager for Southern Africa, highlights three key ideas on how organisations can retain millennials.

Millennials – those born between 1980 and 2000 – will soon outnumber Generation X workers and will form 50% of the global workforce by 2020. As more than one-fourth of millennial workers assume management positions, it’s fair to say that they will shape future workspaces and, based on the findings of the recent Dell and Intel Future Workforce Study, they already have solid ideas of what that workspace looks like – and the poor office dog does not feature.

This shift is forcing companies to relook how they do business and how they integrate technology into their operations if they want to attract and retain millennials, who get bored quickly and who value work-life balance and the latest technological solutions to help them get the job done.

The Future Workforce Study highlights three key ideas on how organisations can get it right:

1.       Keep up with global technology trends

The study found that if businesses want to attract quality talent, they need to create smart workspaces that meet employees’ technological needs. Millennials and remote employees were found to be the most future ready when it came to smart technology, with 63% of those surveyed in South Africa expecting to work in a smart office in the next five years.

What is a smart office? It’s one that incorporates technologies like the Internet of Things, virtual and augmented reality to not only improve productivity and collaboration but also for smart office planning, like directing new employees to the nearest printer or maintaining office temperatures at optimum levels.

Millennials are always on the go but they identified slow and ‘glitchy’ technology as their biggest time wasters. While most respondents said technology within their companies was satisfactory, they also said it was not cutting edge and, in some cases, was not on par with the technology they use at home. Millennials expect technology to help them work smarter and faster, not slow them down.

Bottom line: If you want to attract and retain the best millennial workers, aim to replace workplace technology every three to four years. You’ll also save money as PCs older than four years have 25% higher repair costs than newer PCs.

2.       Offer flexible/remote working arrangements for work/life balance

Given the fact that we are living in an ever increasing mobile environment, working remotely will continue to become more prevalent.  Therefore, technology is a major deciding factor for many millennials when it comes to accepting job offers because it supports remote/flexible working arrangements. While two thirds of remote workers and half of office workers say their jobs are becoming part of their core identities, they still view their work and social lives as mostly separate – at 73% and 81%, respectively.

Millennials want to be able to work from anywhere, at times when they are most productive, which is not conducive to the ‘nine to five’ workday. For this to be a feasible option for employees, they require access to smart technology, as it has a big impact on their decision to either join or stay at a company. This has become apparent through the research, with 30% of workers saying that they will quit their jobs if the technology does not meet their standards and 80% saying that the technology available influences their decision on whether to take a new job.

In fact, 75% prefer high-tech perks over low-tech perks like a ping pong table, free food and an office dog, and most would choose working remotely over a promotion and a fun office culture. The biggest concerns with remote working, however, were the potential for work to encroach on their personal lives as well as not having a relationship with colleagues.

Bottom line: The future workforce will be mobile, supported by an array of digital technologies that enables employees to securely work and collaborate from any location, at any time. The ‘nine-to-five’ grind is slowly giving way to the best time for productivity, which is different for each individual and is further fuelled by a growing mobile and global workforce. Millennials are more adept at working remotely and have linked this to happiness at work, presenting an opportunity for businesses to empower and retain employees.

3.       Use smart technology smartly

Smart workspaces embrace new technologies that make it easier for people to connect, collaborate and better accomplish workplace goals. The majority of South Africans are open to the idea of virtual and augmented reality in the workplace with the biggest selling points being training on new skills in realistic virtual environments, problem solving with 3D visualisation, presentation, collaboration and communication.

While millennials are more likely to use augmented and virtual reality products – with 60% seeing a potential use for augmented reality in the workplace – they are also wary of the potential of these technologies to lead to unemployment through job automation.

Bottom line: Allay fears of job redundancy by encouraging staff to use new technologies to innovate and come up with new products and ways of working. Fifty-nine percent of South African respondents – 72% of them remote workers – already believe that augmented and virtual reality will make their jobs easier, and they are already expecting a shift – 75% believe they will be working in a smart office that uses the Internet of Things in the next five years. Businesses can address the challenges of a changing workplace with the latest tools and technologies to gain a competitive advantage. The key is to focus on experiences that are enabled by these new technologies.

Technology is driving massive change within organisations today, affecting everything from how workers attract and retain the best people, to where and how they do their jobs, to how they communicate and collaborate. Those that use the latest technology will ensure the highest levels of productivity and be better able to compete effectively.

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Why your first self-driving car ride will be in a robotaxi

Autonomous driving will take longer than we expect, and involve less ownership than the industry would like, writes Intel’s AMNON SHASHUA

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As we all watch automakers and autonomous tech companies team up in various alliances, it’s natural to wonder about their significance and what the future will bring. Are we realizing that autonomous driving technology and its acceptance by society could take longer than expected? Is the cost of investing in such technology proving more than any single organization can sustain? Are these alliances driven by a need for regulation that will be accepted by governments and the public or for developing standards on which manufacturers can agree?

The answers are likely a bit of each, which makes it a timely opportunity to review the big picture and share our view of where Intel and Mobileye stand in this landscape.

Three Aspects to Auto-Tech-AI

There are three aspects to automotive-technology-artificial intelligence (auto-tech-AI) that are unfolding:

  1. Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS)
  2. Robotaxi ride-hailing as the future of mobility-as-a-service (MaaS)
  3. Series-production passenger car autonomy

With ADAS technologies, the driver remains in control while the system intervenes when necessary to prevent accidents. This is especially important as distracted driving grows unabated. Known as Levels 0-2 as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), ADAS promises to reduce the probability of an accident to infinitesimal levels. This critical phase of auto-tech-AI is well underway, with today’s penetration around 22%, a number expected to climb sharply to 75% by 2025.1

Meanwhile, the autonomous driving aspect of auto-tech-AI is coming in two phases: robotaxi MaaS and series-production passenger car autonomy. What has changed in the mindset of many companies, including much of the auto industry, is the realization that those two phases cannot proceed in parallel.

Series-production passenger car autonomy (SAE Levels 4-5) must wait until the robotaxi industry deploys and matures. This is due to three factors: cost, regulation and geographic scale. Getting all factors optimized simultaneously has proven too difficult to achieve in a single leap, and it is why many in the industry are contemplating the best path to achieve volume production. Many industry leaders are realizing it is possible to stagger the challenges if the deployment of fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) aims first at the robotaxi opportunity.

Cost: The cost of a self-driving system (SDS) with its cameras, radars, lidars and high-performance computing is in the tens of thousands of dollars and will remain so for the foreseeable future. This cost level is acceptable for a driverless ride-hailing service, but is simply too expensive for series-production passenger cars. The cost of SDS should be no more than a few thousand dollars – an order of magnitude lower than today’s costs – before such capability can find its way to series-production passenger cars.

Regulation: Regulation is an area that receives too little attention. Companies deep in the making of SDSs know that it is the stickiest issue. Beside the fact that laws for granting a license to drive are geared toward human drivers, there is the serious issue of how to balance safety and usefulness in a manner that is acceptable to society.

It will be easier to develop laws and regulations governing a fleet of robotaxis than for privately-owned vehicles. A fleet operator will receive a limited license per use case and per geographic region and will be subject to extensive reporting and back-office remote operation. In contrast, licensing such cars to private citizens will require a complete overhaul of the complex laws and regulations that currently govern vehicles and drivers.

The auto industry is gradually realising that autonomy must wait until regulation and technology reach equilibrium, and the best place to get this done is through the robotaxi phase.

Scale: The third factor, geographic scale, is mostly a challenge of creating high-definition maps with great detail and accuracy, and of keeping those maps continuously updated. The geographic scale is crucial for series-production driverless cars because they must necessarily operate “everywhere” to fulfil the promise of the self-driving revolution. Robotaxis can be confined to geofenced areas, which makes it possible to postpone the issue of scale until the maturity of the robotaxi industry.

When the factors of cost, regulation and scale are taken together, it is understandable why series-production passenger cars will not become possible until after the robotaxi phase.

As is increasingly apparent, the auto industry is gravitating towards greater emphasis on their Level 2 offerings. Enhanced ADAS – with drivers still in charge of the vehicle at all times – helps achieve many of the expected safety benefits of AVs without bumping into the regulatory, cost and scale challenges.

At the same time, automakers are solving for the regulatory, cost and scale challenges by embracing the emerging robotaxi MaaS industry. Once MaaS via robotaxi achieves traction and maturity, automakers will be ready for the next (and most transformative) phase of passenger car autonomy.

The Strategy for Autonomy

With all of this in mind, Intel and Mobileye are focused on the most efficient path to reach passenger car autonomy. It requires long-term planning, and for those who can sustain the large investments ahead, the rewards will be great. Our path forward relies on four focus areas:

  • Continue at the forefront of ADAS development. Beyond the fact that ADAS is the core of life-saving technology, it allows us to validate the technological building blocks of autonomous vehicles via tens of new production programs a year with automakers that submit our technology to the most stringent safety testing. Our ADAS programs – more than 34 million vehicles on roads today – provide the financial “fuel” to sustain autonomous development activity for the long run.
  • Design an SDS with a backbone of a camera-centric configuration. Building a robust system that can drive solely based on cameras allows us to pinpoint the critical safety segments for which we truly need redundancy from radars and lidars. This effort to avoid unnecessary over-engineering or “sensor overload” is key to keeping the cost low.
  • Build on our Road Experience Management (REM)™ crowdsourced automatic high-definition map-making to address the scale issue. Through existing contracts with automakers, we at Mobileye expect to have more than 25 million cars sending road data by 2022.
  • Tackle the regulatory issue through our Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS) formal model of safe driving, which balances the usefulness and agility of the robotic driver with a safety model that complies with societal norms of careful driving.

At Intel and Mobileye, we are all-in on the global robotaxi opportunity. We are developing technology for the entire robotaxi experience – from hailing the ride on your phone, through powering the vehicle and monitoring the fleet. Our hands-on approach with as much of the process as possible enables us to maximize learnings from the robotaxi phase and be ready with the right solutions for automakers when the time is right for series-production passenger cars.

On the way, we will help our partners deliver on the life-saving safety revolution of ADAS. We are convinced this will be a powerful and historic example of the greatest value being realized on the journey.

Professor Amnon Shashua is senior vice president at Intel Corporation and president and chief executive officer of Mobileye, an Intel company.

1Wolfe Research 2019.

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Sea of Solitude represents mental health issues through gaming

It’s a game that provides a tasteful visual representation of mental health issues. BRYAN TURNER dives into the Sea of Solitude.

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Disclaimer: This review is based on four hours of gameplay.

Sea of Solitude, the latest adventure game by Jo-Mei Games and EA Games, takes a sobering look at loneliness. It represents this loneliness visually, using light and dark environmental changes, as well as creatures players must encounter. The main character, Kay, must make it through the sea without finding herself trapped in a sea of loneliness. She meets fantastical creatures along her journey, and she must help them solve their challenges while keeping herself in a sane environment.

The game is systematic in the way it represents its important aspects. It starts with a striking visual art style and a soft storyline, which gives characters a chance to absorb the beauty of the game. As one gets a hang of the controls and used to the art style, the story kicks it up a few notches to reveal the harrowing backstories of the creatures that reside in the sea Kay must travel.

In particular, it features a creature that keeps flying away from Kay. This was frustrating because the previous chapter of the game presents a backstory for the creature that was not only devastating to the main character, but also to the player. Once Kay meets this creature, players must be ready to cry. It’s a brilliantly crafted story and hats off to Jo-Mei Games for being great storytellers.

Cornelia Geppert, CEO of Jo-Mei Games, told EA: “Sea of Solitude centres on the essence of loneliness and tugs on the heartstrings of its players by mirroring their own reality. It’s by far the most artistic and personal project I’ve ever created, written during a very emotional time in my life. Designing characters based on emotions was a deeply personal achievement for our team and we’re so excited for players to soon experience Kay’s powerful story of self-discovery and healing.”

Generally, I steer clear of games that are metaphors about mental health issues because they tend to be crass in how they address mental health. Sea of Solitude is quite different because of its level of relatability. Other games about mental health tend to be about a specific disorder that not many people experience, while loneliness is something that so many of us experience. Additionally, the representation of how loneliness affects Kay in the real world is sharp but tasteful. The combination of relatability and respectful representation is what makes the game’s story so brilliant.

Another great aspect of this game is the music scoring. It uses sound and the absence of sound very carefully to invoke the right feelings expected from players. The game wouldn’t be as good with the sound off and subtitles on, so future players are recommended to turn up the volume or put on headphones.

The game is long for an indie game, at around three or four hours of gameplay until the end is reached. Several sources say there is a hidden ending, so players can look out for that in a second playthrough.

The game’s story isn’t perfect, though. The eventual sameness of creature encounters is a little disappointing. This may be down to the expectation of being extremely devastated by all the stories of the creatures, especially when one is less than devastated by the subsequent stories. One of the most affecting creature stories was also presented at the beginning of the game, which set the bar very high for the rest of the creatures.

One creature, in particular, tries very hard to have the greatest emotional impact, but this comes across as blunt and dampens the meaning of what it was supposed to represent.

While I didn’t mind sharp representation, the perception of themes like bullying, estrangement, and suicidal thoughts may vary in appropriateness from player to player. Prospective players with existing painful mental health issues should consult gameplay videos, like the one below, before purchasing the game, to gauge appropriateness.

Overall, the game is incredible at connecting with what it is to be human and what it means to be lonely. Dealing with issues as physical creatures is a great touch, as the main character tends to resolve the problems of the creature by understanding what the problems mean.

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