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What if Darwin wore VR glasses?

Virtual Reality is set to changes business models via analytics, research and design, writes ROOSMARIJN CORNELISSEN of Oracle

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Today most people think of gaming, virtual reality glasses and video when asked about virtual reality. The concepts of virtual reality in these areas have been around for some years, but what if we look beyond the media space. Do you realise that the egg you’re eating will be created through virtual reality? Or quality of the meat will be derived by virtual reality?

Virtual reality is much more than gaming and video. Increasingly, it is being powered by predictive analytics and creating virtual data points to create virtual environments to help us see a whole new future of possibilities.  

For instance, researchers from Oxford have applied genetics data to virtual reality, to visualise how genes and strings of DNA sit within the chromosomes1. Their resulting 3-D presentation clearly showed how genes sit in relation to each other and how they interact with each other. And the purpose? Visualising such interactions helps us better understand how DNA works and develops.

As Stephen Taylor (2017), Head of the Computational Biology Research Group at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, stated: ‘being able to visualise such data is important because the human brain is very good at pattern recognition – we tend to think visually.’

While not all companies see the opportunity yet for virtual reality in their business model, most are engaging in data driven strategies to enable the storage and analytics of data, tomorrow. Little do they realise that this type of activity can lead them to a journey into virtual reality.

As a case in point, today companies in animal breeding are moving towards virtual breeding. In animal breeding, the creatures involved need to be continuously monitored so that a thorough understanding of their physiological and psychological conditions can be gained, given that what is desired are best in breed animals or dairy and meat products.

This can result in thousands of data points being continuously saved minute by minute, detailing room temperature, body size, body weight and the beast’s vital statistics, such as heart rate. Even in fish breeding, the fish are scanned by ultrasounds several times a day.

The explosive amount of data derived from the animals makes it possible to undertake advanced and predictive analytics. From the results, the breeding company can create virtual animals and breed animals virtually, creating what if scenarios around changes in feed and environmental conditions. By doing it virtually, they can create a far faster time to market as they no longer have to go through the process of raising the physical animals to see how they respond to different circumstances, which can take years.

Most importantly, it means far fewer real animals are needed and the ones that do ‘come to life’ experience less stress thanks to non-invasive appliances such as ultrasound. Additionally, the infrastructure to support such work in terms of breeding pens and laboratories, are reduced, resulting in a significant cost reduction on the R&D side.

As you can see, by just only considering how virtual reality can impact the animal world, a massive amount of opportunities can come to light for the agricultural sector, and related animal testing and fauna related educational sector. So it would be of little surprise for use to increasingly find that the quality eggs and bacon, will have been enhanced via virtual reality.

But what about business outside of this area? Although most companies might not see where virtual reality fits into their business, most are looking to what drives it: machine learning and data. As such, the more creative and visual organisations out there should start to look to the virtual world, to see how it helps them speed up time to market, reduce cost, lower risk, increase sustainability and so on. The opportunity is all around us, you just need to see the virtual reality for your business.

* Roosmarijn Cornelissen is director of IT Strategy & Cloud Insight at Oracle Cloud Insight for EMEA & JAPAC

1https://phys.org/news/2017-09-virtual-reality-tool-untangle-genes.html

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Tech promotes connections across groups in emerging markets

Digital technology users say they more regularly interact with people from diverse backgrounds

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Smartphone users – especially those who use social media – say they are more regularly exposed to people who have different backgrounds. They are also more connected with friends they don’t see in person, a Pew Research Center survey of adults in 11 emerging economies finds.

South Africa, included in the study, has among the most consistent levels of connection across age groups and education levels and in terms of cross-cultural connections. This suggests both that smartphones have had a greater democratisation impact in South Africa, but also that the country is more geared to diversity than most others. Of 11 countries surveyed, it has the second-lowest spread between those using smartphones and those not using them in terms of exposure to other religious groups.

Across every country surveyed, those who use smartphones are more likely than those who use less sophisticated phones or no phones at all to regularly interact with people from different religious groups. In most countries, people with smartphones also tend to be more likely to interact regularly with people from different political parties, income levels and racial or ethnic backgrounds. 

The Center’s new report is the third in a series exploring digital connectivity among populations in emerging economies based on nationally representative surveys of adults in Colombia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam. Earlier reports examined attitudes toward misinformation and mobile technology’s social impact

The survey finds that smartphone and social media use are intertwined: A median of 91% of smartphone users in these countries also use social media or messaging apps, while a median of 81% of social media users say they own or share a smartphone. And, as with smartphone users, social media and messaging app users stand apart from non-users in how often they interact with people who are different from them. For example, 52% of Mexican social media users say they regularly interact with people of a different income level, compared with 28% of non-users. 

These results do not show with certainty that smartphones or social media are the cause of people feeling like they have more diverse networks. For example, those who have resources to buy and maintain a smartphone are likely to differ in many key ways from those who don’t, and it could be that some combination of those differences drives this phenomenon. Still, statistical modelling indicates that smartphone and social media use are independent predictors of greater social network diversity when other factors such as age, education and sex are held constant. 

Other key findings in the report include: 

  • Mobile phones and social media are broadening people’s social networks. More than half in most countries say they see in person only about half or fewer of the people they call or text. Mobile phones are also allowing many to stay in touch with people who live far away: A median of 93% of mobile phone users across the 11 countries surveyed say their phones have mostly helped them keep in touch with those who are far-flung. When it comes to social media, large shares report relationships with “friends” online who are distinct from those they see in person. A median of 46% of Facebook users across the 11 countries report seeing few or none of their Facebook friends in person regularly, compared with a median of 31% of Facebook users who often see most or all of their Facebook friends in person. 
  • Social activities and information seeking on subjects like health and education top the list of mobile activities. The survey asked mobile phone users about 10 different activities they might do on their mobile phones – activities that are social, information-seeking or commercial in nature. Among the most commonly reported activities are casual, social activities. For example, a median of 82% of mobile phone users in the 11 countries surveyed say they used their phone over the past year to send text messages and a median of 69% of users say they took pictures or videos. Many mobile phone users are also using their phones to find new information. For example, a median of 61% of mobile phone users say they used their phones over the past year to look up information about health and medicine for themselves or their families. This is more than the proportion that reports using their phones to get news and information about politics (median of 47%) or to look up information about government services (37%). Additionally, around half or more of mobile phone users in nearly all countries report having used their phones over the past 12 months to learn something important for work or school. 
  • Digital divides emerge in the new mobile-social environment. People with smartphones and social media – as well as younger people, those with higher levels of education, and men – are in some ways reaping more benefits than others, potentially contributing to digital divides. 
    • People with smartphones are much more likely to engage in activities on their phones than people with less sophisticated devices – even if the activity itself is quite simple. For example, people with smartphones are more likely than those with feature or basic phones to send text messages in each of the 11 countries surveyed, even though the activity is technically feasible from all mobile phones. Those who have smartphones are also much more likely to look up information for their households, including about health and government services. 
    •  There are also major differences in mobile usage by age and education level in how their devices are – or are not – broadening their horizons. Younger people are more likely to use their phones for nearly all activities asked about, whether those activities are social, information-seeking or commercial. Phone users with higher levels of education are also more likely to do most activities on their phones and to interact with those who are different from them regularly than those with lower levels of education. 
    •  Gender, too, plays a role in what people do with their devices and how they are exposed to different people and information. Men are more likely than women to say they encounter people who are different from them, whether in terms of race, politics, religion or income. And men tend to be more likely to look up information about government services and to obtain political news and information. 

These findings are drawn from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 28,122 adults in 11 countries from Sept. 7 to Dec. 7, 2018. In addition to the survey, the Center conducted focus groups with participants in Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and Tunisia in March 2018, and their comments are included throughout the report. 

Read the full report at https://www.pewinternet.org/2019/08/22/in-emerging-economies-smartphone-and-social-media-users-have-broader-social-networks.

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Nokia to be first with Android 10

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Nokia is likely to be the first smartphone brand to roll out Android 10, after its manufacturer, HMD Global, announced that the Android 10 software upgrade would start in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Previously named Android Q, it was given the number after Google announced it was ditching sweet and dessert names due to confusion in different languages. Android 10 is due for release at the end of the year.

Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer of HMD Global said: “With a proven track record in delivering software updates fast, Nokia smartphones were the first whole portfolio to benefit from a 2-letter upgrade from Android Nougat to Android Oreo and then Android Pie. We were the fastest manufacturer to upgrade from Android Oreo to Android Pie across the range. 

“With today’s roll out plan we look set to do it even faster for Android Pie to Android 10 upgrades. We are the only manufacturer 100% committed to having the latest Android across the entire portfolio.”

HMD Global has given a guarantee that Nokia smartphone owners benefit from two years of OS upgrades and 3 years of security updates.

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