Tag Archives: Reality

Augmented reality can improve efficiency for retailers
May 21, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

Augmented reality (AR) is set to drive efficiency improvements in the retail workforce, according to a new report from ABI Research.

Some retailers have investigated using AR to help to make shopping more interactive, but Nick Finill, senior analyst at ABI, said: “For consumers in bricks-and-mortar stores, AR can disrupt the customer journey and provides little additional value overall.”

According to Finill, AR could deliver operational efficiencies and raise the quality of the service delivered within retail.

ABI Research said smart glasses from manufacturers such as Vuzix are actively targeting retail to assist with front- and back-of-store operations. It estimated that by 2022, more than 120,000 stores globally will be using AR smart glasses, with deployments evenly split across Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific.

This will be driven by the need for efficiency savings to compete with rival retailers and the online sector generally, it said.

ABI also predicted that, by 2020, 3% of e-commerce revenue will be linked to AR experiences, representing $ 122bn in revenue worldwide. “The relative ease of integrating AR into existing mobile-commerce platforms and the impact this can have on the user experience will largely drive customer demand,” said Finill.

In ABI’s Augmented reality in research report, Finill said that given the fundamental challenges facing bricks-and-mortar retail, experimentation with digital technologies offers the potential to drive sales while reducing operating costs.

He said the increasing buying power of digitally native consumers and growing customer expectations mean the quality of the digital customer experience can be a powerful differentiator in the highly competitive retail sector. Retailers and brands are looking to AR as one way to build brand loyalty, deliver value to the customer, and safeguard long-term profitability across channels.

But the benefits of using AR will not be able to overcome the barriers that exist in physical retail, which is inherently less reliant on the use of mobile devices, said Finill.

According to ABI Research, the challenge in retail is to change the perception of AR from a novelty gimmick into a technology that can truly engage customers online and improve the bottom line in-store.

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Facebook to use augmented reality to draw ads to Messenger app
May 1, 2018 6:02 pm|Comments (0)

MENLO PARK, Calif. (Reuters) – Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) Messenger app launched an augmented reality feature on Tuesday to allow people to see products they are shopping for as if they already have them, such as a car parked in a driveway, in a move aimed at drawing in potential advertisers.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook Inc’s annual F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S. May 1, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Although smartphone messaging apps are not known for displaying ads, Facebook has said that targeting the 1.3 billion people who use its Messenger service with ads will be an important part of the company’s long-term revenue growth.

Silicon Valley tech firms are pouring money into augmented reality, a mix of the real and digital worlds best known from the game Pokemon Go.

Facebook, at a tech conference that begins on Tuesday, is launching a new toolkit for software developers to make augmented reality features.

Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg arrives to watch CEO Mark Zuckerberg speak at Facebook Inc’s annual F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S. May 1, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

David Marcus, head of Facebook’s Messenger app, said in an interview that shoppers will be able to visualize and potentially test out products that advertisers have made available. Sephora, one of the first businesses that will use the feature, will let people virtually try on cosmetics.

Similar augmented-reality features have proliferated on the apps of retailers such Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and Ikea, which allow people to see how a toaster or couch would look in a room.

Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, has been encouraging businesses to use Messenger to talk with consumers, sometimes for customer service.

Having businesses using Messenger helps Facebook’s advertising business, Marcus said. Marketers can place ads directly in the service, and Facebook sells ads in its News Feed that connect to Messenger conversations.

Messenger and the News Feed create a feedback loop like a “flywheel” for ad sales, Marcus said.

Four businesses are participating in the launch: electronics company Asustek Computer Inc (2357.TW), automaker Kia Motors Corp (000270.KS), clothing company Nike Inc (NKE.N) and Sephora, a unit of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE (LVMH.PA).

WhatsApp, another Facebook-owned messaging service with more than 1 billion users, has sworn off advertising. WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum said on Monday he was leaving. The Washington Post reported he was doing so in part after conflicts about advertising, which he opposes.

Marcus said he was not worried about ads turning off Messenger users. People must opt in to talk with a business on the service. “People actually find it helpful,” he said.

Messenger is trying to attract businesses in other ways, such as automated chat “bots” that can reply to customer inquiries. There are 300,000 bots on Messenger, three times more than a year ago, Marcus said.

Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Frances Kerry

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Virtual reality coronation takes dementia patients down memory lane
February 23, 2018 6:02 pm|Comments (0)

HINDHEAD, England (Reuters) – For 93-year-old Daphne Padfield, a dementia sufferer in an English care home, the arrival of a virtual reality (VR) headset offered a window back to the day in 1953 when Britain crowned its new queen.

“Those things don’t happen too often, so we were very privileged that day,” said Padfield, casting her mind back to the coronation.

The VR film she watched is the work of a project called The Wayback, designed to trigger memories and emotions in people with dementia and help them re-engage with relatives and carers.

The first film in a planned series saw filmmakers and a 170-strong volunteer cast recreate a street party held to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s coronation on June 2, 1953.

Users can view the film by downloading a free app onto their smartphone, which they then insert into an inexpensive virtual reality headset.

“It was born of frustration, really. I wished there’d been something around at that time that would have helped me and my family through a difficult period,” said co-creator Andy Garnett, who lost a family member who suffered from dementia.

    “Using VR just seemed like a really interesting way to perhaps create a memory …and spark a bigger conversation.”

Daphne Padfield, 93, tries out a specialist virtual reality headset at the Langham Court Dementia Home in Hindhead, Britain February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Matt Stock

    Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by strokes or diseases such as Alzheimer‘s. People with dementia can suffer from memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.

There are over 850,000 people living with some form of dementia in Britain, with that number estimated to rise to one million by 2025, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, a charity.

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    At Langham Court Dementia Home in Surrey, The Wayback has been introduced for relatives and carers to use with some residents.

    Sarah Chapman, a director at the home, told Reuters that the film evoked detailed recollections in those who viewed it. “It was just amazing to see them so happy,” she said.

A senior researcher at a British dementia charity welcomed VR technology as a means of helping suffers, but cautioned the technology needed to be used with care.

“For instance, some people with dementia experience what are called misperceptions,” Dr Karen Harrison-Dening, head of research and publications at Dementia UK, told Reuters via email.

“…This can lead to confusion over which images are ‘real’ or not, and may prove unsettling for the person.”

The filmmakers are planning their next work around England’s 1966 soccer World Cup victory celebrations, and also hope to expand the project to other countries.

Reporting and writing by Matthew Stock and Mark Hanrahan; Editing by Tom Balmforth

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Artificial Intelligence Is Killing the Uncanny Valley and Our Grasp on Reality
December 13, 2017 12:40 pm|Comments (0)

There’s a revolution afoot, and you will know it by the stripes.

Earlier this year, a group of Berkeley researchers released a pair of videos. In one, a horse trots behind a chain link fence. In the second video, the horse is suddenly sporting a zebra’s black-and-white pattern. The execution isn’t flawless, but the stripes fit the horse so neatly that it throws the equine family tree into chaos.

Turning a horse into a zebra is a nice stunt, but that’s not all it is. It is also a sign of the growing power of machine learning algorithms to rewrite reality. Other tinkerers, for example, have used the zebrafication tool to turn shots of black bears into believable photos of pandas, apples into oranges, and cats into dogs. A Redditor used a different machine learning algorithm to edit porn videos to feature the faces of celebrities. At a new startup called Lyrebird, machine learning experts are synthesizing convincing audio from one-minute samples of a person’s voice. And the engineers at Adobe’s artificial intelligence research unit, called Sensei, are infusing machine learning into a variety of groundbreaking video, photo, and audio editing tools. These projects are wildly different in origin and intent, yet they have one thing in common: They are producing artificial scenes and sounds that look stunningly close to actual footage of the physical world. Unlike earlier experiments with AI-generated media, these look and sound real.

The technologies underlying this shift will soon push us into new creative realms, amplifying the capabilities of today’s artists and elevating amateurs to the level of seasoned pros. We will search for new definitions of creativity that extend the umbrella to the output of machines. But this boom will have a dark side, too. Some AI-generated content will be used to deceive, kicking off fears of an avalanche of algorithmic fake news. Old debates about whether an image was doctored will give way to new ones about the pedigree of all kinds of content, including text. You’ll find yourself wondering, if you haven’t yet: What role did humans play, if any, in the creation of that album/TV series/clickbait article?

A world awash in AI-generated content is a classic case of a utopia that is also a dystopia. It’s messy, it’s beautiful, and it’s already here.

Currently there are two ways to produce audio or video that resembles the real world. The first is to use cameras and microphones to record a moment in time, such as the original Moon landing. The second is to leverage human talent, often at great expense, to commission a facsimile, in this example by hiring a photo illustrator to carefully craft Neil Armstrong’s lunar gambol. (If Armstrong never landed on the Moon, you’d have to use this second alternative.) Machine learning algorithms now offer a third option, by letting anyone with a modicum of technical knowledge algorithmically remix existing content to generate new material.

At first, deep-learning-generated content wasn’t geared toward photorealism. Google’s Deep Dreams, released in 2015, was an early example of using deep learning to crank out psychedelic landscapes and many-eyed grotesques. In 2016, a popular photo editing app called Prisma used deep learning to power artistic photo filters, for example turning snapshots into an homage to Mondrian or Munch. The technique underlying Prisma is known as style transfer: take the style of one image (such as The Scream) and apply it to a second shot.

Now the algorithms powering style transfer are gaining precision, signalling the end of the Uncanny Valley—the sense of unease that realistic computer-generated humans typically elicit. In contrast to the previous sweeping and somewhat crude effects, tricks like zebrafication are starting to fill in the Valley’s lower basin. Consider the work from Kavita Bala’s lab at Cornell, where deep learning can infuse one photo’s style, such as a twinkly nighttime ambience, into a snapshot of a drab metropolis—and fool human reviewers into thinking the composite place is real. Inspired by the potential of artificial intelligence to discern aesthetic qualities, Bala cofounded a company called Grokstyle around this idea. Say you admired the throw pillows on a friend’s couch or a magazine spread caught your eye. Feed Grokstyle’s algorithm an image, and it will surface similar objects with that look.

“What I like about these technologies is they are democratizing design and style,” Bala says. “I’m a technologist—I appreciate beauty and style but can’t produce it worth a damn. So this work makes it available to me. And there’s a joy in making it available to others, so people can play with beauty. Just because we are not gifted on this certain axis doesn’t mean we have to live in a dreary land.”

At Adobe, machine learning has been a part of the company’s creative products for well over a decade, but only recently has AI started to solve new classes of longstanding problems. In October engineers at Sensei, the company’s AI research lab, showed off a prospective video editing tool called Adobe Cloak, which allows its user to seamlessly remove, say, a lamppost from a video clip—a task that would ordinarily be excruciating for an experienced human editor. Another experiment, called Project Puppetron, applies an artistic style to a video in real time. For example, it can take a live feed of a person and render him as a chatty bronze statue or a hand-drawn cartoon. “People can basically do a performance in front of a web cam or any camera and turn that into animation, in real time,” says Jon Brandt, senior principal scientist and director of Adobe Research. (Sensei’s experiments don’t always turn into commercial products.)

Machine learning makes these projects possible because it can understand the parts of a face or the difference between foreground and background better than previous approaches in computer vision. Sensei’s tools let artists work with concepts, rather than the raw material. “Photoshop is great at manipulating pixels, but what people are trying to do is manipulate the content that is represented by the pixels,” Brandt explains.

That’s a good thing. When artists no longer waste their time wrangling individual dots on a screen, their productivity increases, and perhaps also their ingenuity, says Brandt. “I am excited about the possibility of new art forms emerging, which I expect will be coming.”

But it’s not hard to see how this creative explosion could all go very wrong. For Yuanshun Yao, a University of Chicago graduate student, it was a fake video that set him on his recent project probing some of the dangers of machine learning. He had hit play on a recent clip of an AI-generated, very real-looking Barack Obama giving a speech, and got to thinking: Could he do a similar thing with text?

A text composition needs to be nearly perfect to deceive most readers, so he started with a forgiving target, fake online reviews for platforms like Yelp or Amazon. A review can be just a few sentences long, and readers don’t expect high-quality writing. So he and his colleagues designed a neural network that spat out three-to-five-sentence, Yelp-style blurbs. Out came a bank of reviews that declared such things as, “Our favorite spot for sure!” and “I went with my brother and we had the vegetarian pasta and it was delicious.” He asked humans to then guess whether they were real or fake, and sure enough, the humans were often fooled.

With fake reviews costing around $ 10 to $ 50 each from microwork services, Yao figured it was just a matter of time before a motivated engineer tried to automate the process. (He also explored using neural nets that can defend a platform against fake content, with some success.) “As far as we know there are not any such systems, yet,” Yao says. “But maybe in five or ten years, we will be surrounded by AI-generated stuff.” His next target? Generating convincing news articles.

Progress on videos may move faster. Hany Farid, an expert at detecting fake photos and videos and a professor at Dartmouth, worries about how fast viral content spreads, and how slow the verification process is. Farid imagines a near future in which a fake video of President Trump ordering the total nuclear annihilation of North Korea goes viral and incites panic, like a recast War of the Worlds for the AI era. “I try not to make hysterical predictions, but I don’t think this is far-fetched,” he says. “This is in the realm of what’s possible today.”

Fake Trump speeches are already circulating on the internet, a product of Lyrebird, the voice synthesis startup—though in the audio clips the company has shared with the public, Trump keeps his finger off the button, limiting himself to praising Lyrebird. Jose Sotelo, the company’s cofounder and CEO, argues that the technology is inevitable, so he and his colleagues might as well be the ones to do it, with ethical guidelines in place. He believes that the best defense, for now, is raising awareness of what machine learning is capable of. “If you were to see a picture of me on the moon, you would think it’s probably some image editing software,” Sotelo says. “But if you hear convincing audio of your best friend saying bad things about you, you might get worried. It’s a really new technology and a really challenging problem.”

Likely nothing can stop the coming wave of AI-generated content—if we even wanted to. At its worst, scammers and political operatives will deploy machine learning algorithms to generate untold volumes of misinformation. Because social networks selectively transmit the most attention-grabbing content, these systems’ output will evolve to be maximally likeable, clickable, and shareable.

But at its best, AI-generated content is likely to heal our social fabric in as many ways as it may rend it. Sotelo of Lyrebird dreams of how his company’s technology could restore speech to people who have lost their voice to diseases such as ALS or cancer. That horse-to-zebra video out of Berkeley? It was a side effect of work to improve how we train self-driving cars. Often, driving software is trained in virtual environments first, but a world like Grand Theft Auto only roughly resembles reality. The zebrafication algorithm was designed to shrink the distance between the virtual environment and the real world, ultimately making self-driving cars safer.

These are the two edges of the AI sword. As it improves, it mimics human actions more and more closely. Eventually, it has no choice but to become all too human: capable of good and evil in equal measure.

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Microsoft Research shows off its augmented reality glasses
July 17, 2017 4:40 pm|Comments (0)

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Because we’re spoiled and don’t appreciate amazing technology unless it’s immediately convenient, some tech pundits are dismissing VR in favor of AR, but the fact is that we’re still years away from easy to use AR glasses. For now, mainstream AR is limited to your smartphone, like most other apps. 

However, a team at Microsoft Research is looking to speed up the progress on wearable AR devices and have introduced a prototype as proof. 

Before Snap can turn its Spectacles wearable camera into a vehicle for its augmented reality app filters, Microsoft’s team presented a pair of glasses on Friday that use near-eye displays to produce holograms to the wearer.  Read more…

More about Virtual Reality, Vr, Wearable Tech, Augmented Reality, and Ar


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Microsoft Research shows off its augmented reality glasses
July 6, 2017 2:40 am|Comments (0)

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Because we’re spoiled and don’t appreciate amazing technology unless it’s immediately convenient, some tech pundits are dismissing VR in favor of AR, but the fact is that we’re still years away from easy to use AR glasses. For now, mainstream AR is limited to your smartphone, like most other apps. 

However, a team at Microsoft Research is looking to speed up the progress on wearable AR devices and have introduced a prototype as proof. 

Before Snap can turn its Spectacles wearable camera into a vehicle for its augmented reality app filters, Microsoft’s team presented a pair of glasses on Friday that use near-eye displays to produce holograms to the wearer.  Read more…

More about Virtual Reality, Vr, Wearable Tech, Augmented Reality, and Ar


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In Defense of the Reality of Time
June 9, 2017 3:20 pm|Comments (0)

In Defense of the Reality of Time

Time isn’t just another dimension, argues Tim Maudlin. To make his case, he’s had to reinvent geometry. The post In Defense of the Reality of Time appeared first on WIRED.
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The Paris Climate Agreement Is Now One Step Closer to Reality
September 22, 2016 9:20 pm|Comments (0)

The Paris Climate Agreement Is Now One Step Closer to Reality

UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, predicts global climate deal will be fully ratified by the end of the year after 31 nations officially sign up in New York The post The Paris Climate Agreement Is Now One Step Closer to Reality appeared first on WIRED.
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Qualcomm Extends Support For Google Tango Augmented Reality Technology To More Snapdragon Processors
June 29, 2016 11:00 pm|Comments (0)

Google’s Tango Augmented Reality technology could one day be as ubiquitous as standard smartphone cameras. If you haven’t heard of Tango, it gives compatible / capable devices the ability to overlay virtual objects and / or have information appear on top of actual physical objects visible on the device’s screen – and within range of the necessary cameras and sensors.


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This game that’s like SimCity for making your own MMO RPG needs to become reality
March 11, 2016 3:50 pm|Comments (0)

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What do you get if you cross SimCity with Minecraft? Well, MYMMO, probably. This game, which is being single-handedly built by Aaron John-Baptiste, a Web developer in London, needs to exist.

The game lets you design the world of your massively-multiplayer role-playing game, then fill it with AI-controlled characters who will complete quests, improve their equipment and take each other on automatically.

You get to design the actual layout of the world, then place things that you’d expect in an MMO, like shops, inns, markets and arenas for players to use. You’re also able to design things like quests, monsters, fighting areas and balance the difficulty on your own.

Once it’s ready, you can throw the switch and do the simulation of your MMO in action.

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John-Baptiste has kept a development log and occasionally streams the under-development game on Twitch, so that others can see what he’s working on.

In the development log, he says that “terraforming in old SimCitys was one of the most exciting parts of creating your city and everyone knows how fun it can be in games like Minecraft.”

MYMMO is built using Unity and John-Baptiste has hinted in the past that he hopes to release the game widely as an alpha for anyone to play in the Spring, but he holds a day job so it’s only worked on during nights and weekends.

Perhaps what’s coolest about MYMMO is that it’s being built in public, on Twitch, YouTube and Twitter – even if it’s somewhat unintentional.

An early GIF showing AI characters jumping in
An early GIF showing AI characters jumping in

Streaming under-development games that are side projects is fascinating, because you get an insight into how someone actually goes about building something like this.

I wouldn’t know the first place to start on a game, let alone designing graphics like those in MYMMO, but it shows just what can be done with your spare time.


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