IFA In­sights 2017

As IFA 2017 draws to a close, we take a quick look at the over­ar­ch­ing tech trends from the show and what they might mean in our near fu­ture.

HWM (Singapore) - - Feature - By Mar­cus Wong

Mi­crosoft hopes their Mixed Re­al­ity plat­form proves to be the one that uni es Vir­tual Re­al­ity.

IFABer­lin or In­ter­na­tionale Funka­susstel­lung is eas­ily one of the largest in­dus­trial ex­hi­bi­tions in Europe, and ev­ery year it draws a large crowd of com­pa­nies look­ing to show off their lat­est and great­est. Here’s what hap­pened this year.

Power got smaller

Just when you thought smart phones couldn’t get any smarter, Huawei an­nounced a new Kirin 970 pro­ces­sor that has a ded­i­cated Neu­ral Pro­cess­ing Unit along with an 8-core CPU and 12core GPU. This al­lows it to de­liver up to 25 times the per­for­mance with 50 times the power ef­fi­ciency com­pared to pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion chipsets.

Huawei says they ex­pect th­ese new chips to im­prove the Arti cial In­tel­li­gence (AI) ca­pa­bil­i­ties of mo­bile de­vices of the fu­ture greatly be­cause more pro­cess­ing can be done by the de­vice it­self. Con­trast this to the cur­rent state, where most of the in­for­ma­tion gath­ered by the on-board sen­sors has to be sent up to the Cloud for pro­cess­ing, and it’s easy to see how th­ese chips will al­low mo­bile phones to do much more.

Mi­crosoft jumped into the Vir­tual Re­al­ity fray

And their ver­sion is Mixed re­al­ity (MR). How’s that dif­fer­ent from Aug­mented re­al­ity (AR) and Vir­tual re­al­ity (VR)? Well, Win­dows Mixed Re­al­ity head­sets have a sys­tem of front-mounted cam­eras that al­low the de­vel­op­ers the op­tion of bring­ing real ob­jects into the vir­tual world, or vir­tual ob­jects into the real one. Hence, “mixed” re­al­ity.

For ex­am­ple, bound­aries can be drawn in the vir­tual world to pre­vent you from knock­ing into the ta­ble that’s right in front of you in real life. Like­wise, vir­tual ob­jects can be pro­jected onto an empty desk­top. PC mak­ers like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Len­ovo also showed off their own ver­sion of MR head­sets. And MR con­trollers have also been de­vel­oped with the req­ui­site sen­sors and Win­dows but­ton. Th­ese are tracked by the head­set, mean­ing there’s no need for ad­di­tional sen­sors or ca­bles.

Gamers will be pleased to note that Mi­crosoft have also an­nounced that it’s work­ing with a number of de­vel­op­ers on con­tent; in­clud­ing game ti­tles on Steam. Early de­vel­oper head­sets from

Acer and HP also seem to be rel­a­tively af­ford­able at US$299 and US$329 re­spec­tively, so there’s a chance this may be the one uni ed plat­form that vir­tual re­al­ity re­ally takes off on.

Vir­tual as­sis­tants play nice

From re­frig­er­a­tors to tele­vi­sions to portable wa­ter­proof speak­ers, the rise of In­ter­net of Things (IoT) seems to have been fol­lowed by the rise of the vir­tual as­sis­tant.

Vir­tual as­sis­tants aren’t new of course. Ama­zon’s Alexa, Ap­ple’s Siri, Mi­crosoft’s Cor­tana and Google As­sis­tant have all been show­ing up on a vast as­sort­ment of de­vices through the years. Alexa in par­tic­u­lar is steadily gain­ing steam as it’s mak­ing its pres­ence felt on all man­ner of de­vices like speak­ers, head­phones and even pi­anos.

Be­yond that, what’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing this year is the part­ner­ship Mi­crosoft and Ama­zon have just an­nounced. Cor­tana and Alexa will be able to com­mu­ni­cate (and send com­mands to) with each other by the end of the year, so you will be able to get the bene ts of both plat­forms with­out hav­ing to switch de­vices.

Both com­pa­nies will cer­tainly also get the ad­van­tage of tap­ping into each other’s con­sumer bases, hence in­creas­ing their reach. This in­crease in reach goes be­yond just who the smart as­sis­tants can ac­cess though, but also where.

Cor­tana lives mostly in your Win­dows de­vices – i.e. your smart phones, tablets, desk­tops and lap­tops. Whether it’s to check on your ap­point­ments for the day, or just to get di­rec­tions to a meet­ing while you’re driv­ing, Cor­tana prob­a­bly has you cov­ered for work.

Alexa on the other hand, has been in­te­grated into so many dif­fer­ent prod­ucts lately that it quite fea­si­bly re­sides in ev­ery part of your home. From the orig­i­nal Ama­zon Echo to the lat­est Yamaha pi­ano, Alexa is there, so put the two to­gether and you ba­si­cally have a frame­work for vir­tual con­trol over most of your life. Now that’s a space that you can bet both Ama­zon and Mi­crosoft would love to dom­i­nate.

For now, get­ting the sys­tems to work to­gether will be a lit­tle awk­ward. If you’re work­ing on an Alexa de­vice, you’ll have to say “Alexa, Open Cor­tana” fol­lowed by your com­mand, and vice versa, so it’s not quite a seam­less ex­pe­ri­ence. Ama­zon CEO Jeff Be­zos hopes that in the fu­ture each de­vice’s as­sis­tant can de­fer the task to the ap­pro­pri­ate as­sis­tant, so you’ll only have to talk to the one de­vice, and ev­ery­thing else will work in the back­ground.

Now, if only Ap­ple and Google would come on board too; the idea of a smart home might just be that much closer to com­ing true.

Vir­tual as­sis­tants talk­ing to each other is the next phase of de­vel­op­ment The lat­est smart­phone chips will de­liver up to 25 times the per­for­mance

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