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Is XR the new VR?

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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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Jaguar drives dictionary definition

Jaguar is calling for the Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries to update their online definition of the word ‘car’

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Jaguar is spearheading a campaign for the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and Oxford Dictionaries (OxfordDictionaries.com) to change their official online definitions of the word ‘car’.

The I-PACE, Jaguar’s all-electric performance SUV, is the 2019 World Car of the Year and European Car of the Year. However, strictly speaking, the zero-emission vehicle isn’t defined as a car.

The OED, the principal historical dictionary of the English language, defines a ‘car’ in its online dictionary as: ‘a road vehicle powered by a motor (usually an internal combustion engine) designed to carry a driver and a small number of passengers, and usually having two front and two rear wheels, esp. for private, commercial, or leisure use’.

Whereas the current definition of a ‘car’ on Oxford Dictionaries.com, a collection of dictionary websites produced by Oxford University Press (OUP), the publishing house of the University of Oxford, is: ‘A road vehicle, typically with four wheels, powered by an internal combustion engine and able to carry a small number of people.’

To remedy the situation, Jaguar has submitted a formal application to the OED and OxfordDictionaries.com to have the definitions updated to include additional powertrains, including electric vehicles (EV).

David Browne, head of Jaguar Land Rover’s naming committee, said: “A lot of time and thought is put into the name of any new vehicle or technology to ensure it is consumer friendly, so it’s surprising to see that the definition of the car is a little outdated. We are therefore inviting the Oxford English Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionaries to update its online classification to reflect the shift from traditional internal combustion engines (ICE) towards more sustainable powertrains.”

The Oxford English Dictionary is widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of 600,000 words – past and present – from across the English-speaking world.

Jaguar unveiled the I-PACE, its first all-electric vehicle, last year to deliver sustainable sports car performance, next-generation artificial intelligence (AI) technology and five-seat SUV practicality.

Featuring a state-of-the-art 90kWh lithium-ion battery, two Jaguar-designed motors and a bespoke aluminium structure, the I-PACE is capable of 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds and a range of up to 470km (WLTP).

While both the Oxford English Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries review the application, Jaguar is encouraging people to get behind the campaign by asking how the word ‘car’ should be defined. Contact Jaguar on TwitterFacebook and Instagram using #RedefineTheCar with your thoughts.

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How Internet blocks visually impaired

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Picture: Amelie-Benoist / Getty Images

A pervasive “digital divide” inhibits blind people from accessing the Internet, according to a study conducted by Nucleus Research for Deque Systems, an accessibility software company specialising in digital equality. This results in visits to websites being abandoned, further resulting in a missed market opportunity for the websites in question.

The study, which conducted in-depth interviews with 73 U.S. adults who are blind or have severe visual impairments, revealed that two-thirds of the Internet transactions initiated by people with vision impairments end in abandonment because the websites they visit aren’t accessible enough. Ninety percent of those surveyed said they regularly call a site’s customer service to report inaccessibility and have no choice but to visit another, more accessible site to make the transaction.

The Nucleus study also scanned hundreds of websites in the e-commerce, news and information and government categories and found that 70 percent had certain “critical blockers” that rendered them inaccessible to visually impaired users.

“Besides the moral dilemma and legal risk, businesses with inaccessible websites are missing a huge revenue opportunity by ignoring an untapped market,” says Preety Kumar, CEO of Deque Systems. “Among internet retailers specifically, two-thirds of the top ten online retailers had serious accessibility issues, meaning they are leaving $6.9 billion in potential North American e-commerce revenues on the table.”

Web accessibility refers to the ability of people with disabilities to independently gather information, complete transactions, or communicate on the Internet. Most visually impaired Internet users rely on assistive technologies like screen readers or screen magnifiers to render sites perceivable and operable. However, these assistive technologies require that websites be built with accessibility in mind and optimized to interface with assistive technology, in order to convey information in an accurate and understandable manner.

Critical accessibility blockers can vary across industries. In e-commerce, problems include issues like missing form and button labels (thereby making forms or the “checkout” button invisible without context). Amazon, Best Buy and Target were found to be accessibility leaders in this space. Additionally, the study found:

  • Eight out of ten news sites had significant accessibility issues.
  • Seven out of ten blind persons reported being unable to access information and services through government websites, including Medicare’s site.
  • Fewer than one in three websites have clear contact information or instructions for blind persons to seek help if they encounter accessibility issues, meaning many have low levels of success in reporting and solving these problems.

“A focus on accessibility needs to be a core part of the website design and development process,” continues Kumar. “Considering accessibility as early as the conception phase, and proactively building and testing sites for accessibility as they move towards production, is significantly more effective than remediating it later, helping organizations save significant time and resources while avoiding unnecessary customer grievances.”

To download the report, visit: https://accessibility.deque.com/nucleus-accessibility-research-2019

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