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How VR saves lives

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Innovation and technology play a big part in the South African mining industry, but now it has moved on to a new era. ETHEL NYEMBE of Standard Bank explains how to maintain production and reduce cost using new technology like virtual reality.

South Africa is world-renowned for clawing mineral wealth from the earth, often at depths that are unequalled anywhere else in the world. Working at these great depths means physical discomfort and danger – all risks that have to be considered and planned for. Ultimately, it is the combination of innovation and technology that save lives and ensures that miners return safely to the surface.

Because safety is taken so seriously by mines, millions of rands are spent every year on products and services designed to keep miners safe. Not many people would believe, however, that some of the most important and advanced technological safety solutions have their origins in the world of computer gaming.

“Innovation and technology are game changers in the mining sector. Minimising risks means maintaining production and reducing lost-time incidents,” says Ethel Nyembe, Head of Small Enterprise at Standard Bank.

“Given that mining companies are operating under many constraints, it is to their credit that they have adopted all the technology they can to protect their people. Achieving this has meant investing in computer-generated, advanced visualisation techniques and tools that have crossed-over from the world of video gaming.”

A recent episode of the Standard Bank-supported The Growth Engines series, highlighted how major mining company, Anglo American Platinum, works with specialised SME, The Cyest Corporation, to reduce risks and drive bottom line performance through 3D visualisation technology.

Anglo American Platinum is a key player in the global platinum market, and produces about 37% of the world’s platinum in the Bushveld complex that is home to about 70% of the world’s known resources of the mineral.

However, various factors such as a platinum price that has dropped by about 35% in the last five years, and reduced global demand, have placed a strain on the sustainability of platinum mining. Responding to tough times demands innovative strategies.

Says Ms Jeannette McGill, Head of Technology and Innovation at Anglo American Platinum:

“Innovation and technology in the mining sector is exceptionally important, particularly to companies like Anglo American Platinum.

We look at how we can increase our global competitiveness in terms of being able to produce sustainable operations and create maximum value for our shareholders. This requires a certain level of innovation and/ the application of technology both in underground and open-pit environments.

With shallow resources being depleted, we need to mine deeper. There are significant challenges involved with this, including being able to supply our mines with ventilation and support through a variety of applications. It is about mining safer and meeting our corporate objective of causing zero-harm.

Achieving this involves driving discontinuous change. Our need has been to stop making small continual changes in technology, by bringing about change that leapfrogs us into a different space. This is about being collaborative and comparing ourselves not only with other mining companies, but also about seeing what impacts other sectors as far as technology is concerned.”

Keeping pace with the demand for change led to The Cyest Corporation bringing different  technologies – including advanced visualisation technology – to Anglo American Platinum.

It is in this visual discipline that they are making a majoring impression. The technology is being used in the training arena, where virtual reality software is used to drive home the realities of working underground and making the intrinsically hostile environment as safe as possible for all workers.

Visualisations are used to simulate scenarios that can produce life-saving improvements in the mining industry. The relevance of gaming technology to business technologies is acknowledged by the company – particularly when it comes to promoting safety underground.

Andreas Cambitsis, Director of The Cyest Corporation, says:

“There is so much that technology can do in empowering people and making them more effective at their jobs. Whether it is advanced visualisation or beneficiatiating data to make better decisions, we are only touching the tip of the iceberg. Innovation and technology are the bridge to taking companies forward.

It is important to keep an eye on innovation and the bottom line. You must be clear on how the innovation is going to benefit profitability. It is also something that should be considered as a long-term objective. Great ideas are often stifled because they don’t meet short-term needs.”

* Ethel Nyembe, Head of Small Enterprise at Standard Bank

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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