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Is XR the new VR?

Last year was dominated by Artificial Intelligence – and the year before by Big Data and IoT. But what about next year? How can local companies predict the next wave to ensure innovation and differentiation? One largely needs to follow the breadcrumbs of technology releases, and the ensuing innovators and influential early adopters who dictate the pace of consumption, with their followers lining up behind them.

Over the following 12 months a variety of Extended Reality (XR) products are coming to market that demonstrate a new era of human-computer interaction. Extended Reality is a broad grouping of technologies that change the way we experience digital content. This encompasses all the Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) technologies, enabling profoundly engaging experiences unimaginable a few years ago. From deeply immersive design, training and entertainment applications in VR, to informative or engaging digital overlays in AR, to integrated MR content that allows for digital and real-world interactions, the new realms of XR are set to change the way we experience the world.

Releasing later this year, all signs point to The Oculus Quest being the realisation of the Virtual Reality (VR) dream: affordable, relatively powerful, untethered VR with six degrees of freedom and top tier controllers. Hot on their heels, rumour has it that Apple Glasses will launch their AR headsets in 2020 (though, as yet, unconfirmed). Adding to the competition, Microsoft plans to release their new HoloLens toward the end of the year, promising a significant upgrade on their advanced technology.

The hype built by Oculus (and others) during the launch period of version 1 VR headsets sold a vision that was far removed from the product brought to market which led to VR being perceived as an expensive and complicated device with little content. But the reality in 2019 is quite different where there is an explosion of content on affordable devices. The reason? VR has built out its benefits steadily, beyond entertainment and simulation, into life-changing advancements, becoming widely used for cognitive-based therapy (CBT) – tackling anxieties and phobias around heights, spiders, or a fear of flying, through to social anxiety or body image. Known as Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) it allows patients to access cost-effective anxiety treatment, which can be implemented at home, and its immersive power potentially bypasses the use of medication in many cases, getting a nod too from the powers that be. The American Psychological Association (APA) outlined that VR is “particularly well suited to exposure therapy”, dispelling whatever doubt or criticisms may be looming.

That’s not all. While XR is already used in simulation (flight and military, among others), its usage is expected to dramatically increase within entertainment, museums and tourist attractions, education, and within the transformation of retail e-commerce, offering virtual shopping within various outlets.

Colin Payne, CEO of Sozo Labs, a part of the Alphawave Group, adds, “This presents global and local companies with a choice. Do they invest in the development of platforms that may be somewhat tired by 2022, or seize first-mover advantage as the innovators and owners of XR in their industry space? This next 12 months is the time to make that leap. Out of the ordinary brands really do see that, seeing the opportunity to develop and experience enhanced training or customer experience or even just generating publicity by being innovators in this new space.”

“VR will take centre stage within the next year. Affordability has improved and is pitched to be the next upgrade on social media or mobile phone gaming, arguably waning in our voracious appetite for novelty, and needing to re-invent themselves perpetually,” he says.

“Technology that was previously accessible to labs will soon be in homes and this has been worked on for years by these industry leaders. And the usage has dramatically shifted too – with price down to a few hundred dollars. Even headsets like the Samsung Gear VR that turn smartphones into virtual reality displays is already around $100.”


Sozo Labs has been engaged in the XR space for nearly three years, experimenting in each new iteration of technology. “We have applied these skills across a multitude of applications including data, property and environmental visualisation, as well as marketing experiences, game development, and education. Industry leaders ahead of the curve are already enquiring to ensure they remain the innovators in their respective field.”

Parent company CEO, Frans Meyer, concludes, “Alphawave Group has been building successful technology businesses over the past two decades, and has decided to invest in XR. Our goal is to understand the space and potential market opportunities by diving in and actually developing content and doing projects for customers. We’re convinced the market will grow and the applications will become apparent. We’re backing the team at Sozo Labs to lead this for us and look forward to seeing the growth as the real industry leaders step forward to assume first mover advantage.”

For further information visit Sozo Labs www.sozolabs.com

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Cisco gives pre-owned tech a Refresh

In a market of constant upgrades, Cisco Refresh aims to keep quality product away from landfills, writes BRYAN TURNER.

When one gets a new smartphone upgrade, the old device may be used as a backup or can be used by someone else. In business environments, equipment upgrades may not be conducive to keeping old equipment around, which may send older, working equipment to landfills.

This is where Cisco’s Refresh initiative comes in. At Cisco Connect in Sun City this week, Ehrika Gladden, VP and general manager of Cisco Refresh, lifted the lid on a little-known aspect of the company’s strategy. 

“Refresh is Cisco’s global pre-owned equipment business unit,” said Gladden. “It is certified to meet the quality and engineering standards of Cisco. It is licensed for software and it’s also inclusive of a services warranty.

“Our responsibility in 80 countries around the world is tied to both the recovery of assets and the ability to leverage those assets at a lower price point. This ensures our sustainability and proper usage of the Earth’s resources while providing access to small and medium businesses. The products are typically in the range of 20-40% cheaper. The products represent the entire portfolio for Cisco in some part, the majority of that product set is 2+ years in terms of generation.”

Cisco’s Circular Economy initiative ensures a sustainable loop through businesses willing to pay a premium for the latest, cutting-edge solutions, while Cisco markets older, working equipment for resale to those who don’t require the latest solutions. This ensures far less new components need to be used in a product range.

“We are leveraging the model of remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and reusing,” said Gladden. “Depending on the product set, there is a certain set of product yield that we expect. They vary from product to product, but we do have a percentage that doesn’t make it through.

“Those are always reused, meaning we will look at those products and decide to use them completely differently, leveraging the components, remanufacturing back into the overall build process. If that can’t be done, we will go into a recycle process where we melt those products down to reuse them.”

Repairing and refurbishing older products isn’t just that. Cisco is creating repair centres that are owned by third-parties to uplift local ownership.

“The repair centres, as a global manufacturer, is Cisco’s entree into local ownership,” said Gladden. “I want to be precise about what I mean by local ownership. It’s critical for us to have a localised presence, but doing that through ownership. When you look at inclusive economies, those that are participative, to be sustainable – not in the product set, but generationally.

“The ability as a global manufacturer through a local ownership model  isto create a repair centre where a product can be returned, screened, tested, and repaired, leveraging the talent that the Networking Academy is creating.”

Cisco is working closely with local governments to understand where it operates and how to leverage the skills in the market.

Gladden said: “We are also super excited about the National Development Plan and African Union statements which with we align: eradication of poverty, job creation, ownership, healthcare, education, it all fits in the model. So we were very excited to have the opportunity to come to Africa first to announce this. Over the next twelve months, we want to establish our first repair centres, and in the next 3 to 5 years, build that vision into a reality.”

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Why Data Privacy has become a Pipe Dream

If you’re active on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social platform, you’re not as safe as you thought, writes
AARON THORNTON, MD of Dial a Nerd

As you begin to read this, let’s perform a quick experiment! How many active conversations are you engaged in – right now – on WhatsApp? When was the last time you shared a picture or video on Instagram? Is Facebook currently open and active on one of your devices? And how many internet- connected devices are you using at this moment? Chances are, you have multiple devices running multiple applications most of the time. So what’s the problem, you ask? Since when did checking in with a high school buddy in Australia via Facebook become a dangerous act?  

In reply, we say, read on if you can stomach it!  

Nation-State Hacking & You  

It might seem like a laughably long shot to say that you are a key player in the increasingly sinister and sophisticated world of nation-state hacking. Well, you are. Given that individuals, businesses and governments are now constantly connected, round the clock, consumers and businesses have become fair game in cyber espionage. And as we create and share more and more data, both the value and accessibility of that data increases. According to a report by McAfee, IP theft now accounts for more than 25% of the estimated $600 billion cost of cybercrime to the world economy.    

With data having become the ‘new gold’, nation states are naturally pouring investment and key resources into building advanced cyber warfare tools. Indeed, entire divisions of armed forces as well as the upper echelons of corporate leadership are devising ways to harness data to gain economic, political and social power. At the highest level, tools and platforms are being developed with the specific aim of perpetrating cyber espionage and data theft. No surprise then, that the consumer and business environments are rife with increasingly advanced malware, ransomware and many other malicious hacking tools and methods.  

Still not convinced? Yes, we can smell the scepticism from here! So let’s take a moment to see how this has already played out, beneath our noses.  

Remember the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal of early 2018? For many, this was a watershed moment in the emerging war for consumer data – and the ensuing tensions between privacy, power and profit. Need a refresh? Well, in 2018, Facebook exposed data on up to 87 million Facebook users to a researcher who worked at Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. In essence, the data was harvested without user consent and used for political purposes.  

Another chilling but less direct example can be found in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, Russia launched a massive social media campaign to ‘sow discord’ leading up to the elections. The website reported that as early as 2014, an infamous Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency – a company linked to Russian president Putin – developed a strategy using fraudulent bank accounts and other fake identity documents to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” 

When referring to the Russian hacks and their impact on election results, one U.S. Representative sagely noted: “They didn’t just steal data; they weaponized it.” 

Ignorance is not bliss 

Okay, so data is being ‘weaponized’, and ordinary people and businesses are being caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. A little bit frightening, but the good news is that savvy individuals like you can take steps to protect personal data and actively combat the creeping influence of juggernauts such as Facebook and Google.  

To begin with, awareness is key. As you engage with various platforms and applications at work and at home, take time to understand how your data is being used and what the terms of use are. Is your data being accessed and sold to advertisers? Have you consented to this? In addition to scrutinizing your consent, also pay close attention to how much data you share online – and the nature of the details you are divulging. Always keep in mind that hackers are employing smart social engineering tactics and using the details of your private life (birthdays, holidays, pet’s names, etc) to trick you into opening infected emails and clicking on malware. Whenever you are online, you are a target – and vigilance at all times is critical. Beyond that, it goes without saying that you must commit to following basic security protocols with your devices. So always keep software up to date and keep your data backed up so that you can reboot or wipe a device if needed.   

Now that we’ve left you sufficiently spooked, you can get back to those demanding WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram notifications (same company, by the way)…albeit, we hope, with a slightly altered [cyber] worldview!  

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