Another Mobile World Congress has come and gone, with over 2000 exhibitors and over 108,000 attendees. This year I found that attention had moved away from the topic of connected devices and to the trilogy of AI, VR and AR.
While virtual reality headsets completely take over your vision to give you the impression that you’re somewhere else, augmented reality adds to your current vision, projecting info on top of what the consumer is already seeing.
Both have seen impressive growth, with the global AR market set to grow nearly 81% from 2016 to 2024 (Global Market Insights).
Samsung used MWC to announce a new version of their Samsung Gear VR, with a controller powered by Oculus. The touchpad will allow easier selection and interaction, with more virtual motion like the ability to point, drag and drop, tilt and shoot. Rumour has it that they were also giving select partners a demonstration of a prototype VR headset which doesn’t need a smartphone or PC to function, incredibly carrying their own processing power.
Mobile carriers investing in new experiences doesn’t end with Samsung. Korea Telecom (KT) offered a 5G, VR experience for attendees, which gave participants to party with the huge Korean pop band, Twice. One journalist write up described it as ‘a well-executed experience that had me in tears of overstimulation.’
After being strapped into a hamster-wheel contraption, participants were passed through a multitude of environments, from ski slopes to rollercoasters, spun back and forward, with wind blown into their face.
While they’re currently using graphics, eventually they’re looking to deliver VR with photographic images, which will enhance the experience further.
AI dominated at MWC, with Chris Velazco, the Senior Mobile Editor at Engadget stating: ‘if it’s mobile, there’s probably machine-learning or an intelligent assistant at work.’ There’s a huge interest in it, as our recent announcement of $10 million in further funding illustrates.
This year saw more than just mobile operators announce their foray into AI, including Olay, who announced an online service which uses AI to analyse user’s skincare needs and give product recommendations. It’s not a product for myself, however, it’s a great example of how companies are starting to see the value of AI – it’s not limited to tech!
Off the back of Ford’s acquisition of the driving start-up, Argo AI for $1 billion, they unveiled an electronic, self-driving delivery van that can launch a fleet of drones to pick up and drop off packages in hard-to-reach places, such as cities with limited parking.
Meanwhile, AI powered platforms were here to compete with Alexa. Along with Google rolling out their Assistant to further operating systems, and Telefonica’s AI Assistant, Aura, Japan’s largest messaging platform, Line, have launched their AI platform. At the heart is ‘Clova’, which is set to rival the likes of Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. Unlike Alexa, Line is designed with the Asian markets at its heart. It’s expected to launch in the next few months, but only time will tell how it will impact against other larger platforms.
Nexshop Training, from Samsung SDS is an AI-powered virtual assistant that will teach retail workers how to manage customers and their space. It will help staff learn more about products (for example, ‘what are the features of the latest XYZ’.)
As Rob High, an IBM fellow and CTO told TechCrunch: ‘Everybody and their mother is out to create their own specialized voice-activated devices.’
Whether all of these innovations take off, it’s too early to say. What is certain is that MWC has again grabbed centre stage as the platform for word-class technology developments.