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How the Internet of Medical Things is Improving Healthcare for Patients and Professionals

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The medical sphere is undergoing rapid transformation with the introduction of connected technological solutions. Known as the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), this system of interoperable devices is improving data-informed actions. It’s also alleviating time-consuming tasks for professionals and offering greater autonomy and customization for patients. Here is how the internet of medical things is improving healthcare for patients and professionals.

Currently, there are more than 500,000 medical technologies available. Yet, the power of connected technologies has swiftly been realized amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Stationary medical devices implanted medical devices, and external wearables are driving forward the ability to collect, analyze, and transmit health data. In fact, predictions state that by 2026, the IoMT market will be worth $142.25 billion.

Companies like Johnson & Johnson, Siemens, and IBM have already invested in IoMT solutions. Other brands are also contributing to innovation at an unprecedented pace. Here’s how the Internet of Medical Things is improving healthcare for patients and professionals:

Advantages for healthcare professionals

Streamlined processes

Estimates state that IoMT will save the healthcare industry $300 billion annually in expenditures through remote patient monitoring and improved medication adherence. Even before COVID-19 struck, 88 percent of care providers invested in remote patient monitoring solutions that allow professionals to meet with patients and review their cases at a distance.

These devices have significantly reduced the burden on healthcare systems by lowering readmissions and giving professionals more time to dedicate to consultations and other pressing tasks.

Surgical Setting and Robotic Devices

In a surgical setting, connected robotic devices have improved precision levels for professionals. A smart drill links with a screen to recommend how and where to drill screws in bones depending on the density and resistance. Surgeons can carry out procedures faster and with greater certainty; the effects are long-lasting because the drill offers directions in real-time.

IoMT additionally simplifies logistics as it tracks medication inventory, ensures compliance in drug storage facilities, and validates access to medical storage. Some hospitals use connected video cameras and wireless ID wristbands or cards to manage the flow of admission to specific areas.

There is greater transparency in how the medication is transported because daily activities are intertwined with technology that automates and records such access. There’s equally a smaller window for error and fewer expensive losses.

Hospital equipment itself can benefit from IoMT capabilities too. X-ray machines and MRI and CT scanners can be integrated with solutions that monitor their performance and create diagnostic reports. On top of that, they can predict when maintenance is due and even upgrade equipment software remotely.

Big Data Analytics

According to researchers at IBM Watson, the average person is likely to generate more than one million gigabytes of health-related data in their lifetime. Electronic health records, omics data, and biomedical data all contribute to this figure. The collective volume of data from patients, therefore, helps medical professionals make more informed decisions about treatment and next steps.

Naturally, vast amounts of data need to be processed in a way that doesn’t create unnecessary tasks for professionals and is compliant with HIPAA rules. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Deep Learning algorithms organize and present torrents of data. This empowers doctors to detect patterns or anomalies more easily. As a result, they can filter health trends and risks from large groups of patients. They can also make sound predictions about future developments.

For instance, the outbreak of COVID-19 was first reported by BlueDot, a platform that aggregates medical datasets. Using AI algorithms, the company discovered a cluster of unusual pneumonia cases around a market in Wuhan and informed the authorities.

On a smaller but equally significant scale, IoMT promotes big data analytics in clinical trials. Participants can be reminded of specific regimes and progress updates via mobile devices. These then send quantitative and qualitative information to a comprehensive database. Some trails have even gamified the data collection, so reward users submit details or confirm that they have followed protocols.

IoMT solutions standardize processes and ensure that the tests are fairer and the results are more representative. Moreover, data can be captured in real-time and shared between research groups, clinicians, pharmaceutical companies, and research organizations. Findings are then published much faster and treatments have a shorter time to market.

Advantages for Healthcare Patients

Greater autonomy for patients

Going for a check-up can be challenging and uncomfortable for many people who suffer from chronic pain or limited mobility. Rather than accept that they can only access treatment in-person, IoMT lowers the need for human intervention and empowers patients to take control of their health.

For example, biosensors can track patients’ movements in a non-intrusive manner. People with Multiple sclerosis (MS) can attach devices to their ankle, wrist, or hip and track activity like footsteps, sleeping patterns, tremors, and vital signs. Data from these devices can then be transferred to computers to determine the best course of treatment on a case-by-case basis.

Elsewhere, smart prosthetics have integrated with platforms to not only share data but also to exchange control information. For instance, a leg prosthetic could use microprocessors alongside situational awareness sensors to create wholly natural and reactive movement.

The limb can record how the wearer moves, how fast they move, and detect what kind of environment they are in. It then adjusts the leg in real-time according to these criteria. Changes are stored via a connected app, where the user can automate or tailor settings. As a result, users don’t have to visit medical professionals to alter their prosthetics.

First introduced in 2018, smart pills have microscopic sensors that, when ingested send data to devices like tablets or smartphones. The sensors enter patients’ guts and measure core temperature, pH levels, and check that recommended medication dosage is followed. Meanwhile, smart monitors and sensors on bedding, clothing, or skin can keep track of patients’ movements, even involuntary ones.

For example, Apple has developed a Movement Disorder API for people with Parkinson’s disease that monitors tremors and dyskinesia. The API can be integrated with a range of software and can highlight if a patient has negative side effects to treatment.

Optimized user experience

For IoMT to have the biggest possible impact, it has to be accessible for all people. Furthermore, if IoMT is to see sustained growth, users require positive interactions with the tech. As the remote revolution occurs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, connected healthcare devices can be inclusive for every user segment.

Notably, IoMT solutions can help develop positive habits in older generations who aren’t familiar with new technology. For example, smart pillboxes are synced with patients’ phones to remind them when and how much of their medication to take.

The benefit of IoMT is that there is greater agility to optimize the user experience based on user feedback and behavior. For instance, companies can learn about user difficulties and experiment with changes that better cater to patients by collecting data from in-device surveys, chatbots, and heatmaps.

What’s more, IoMT also offers a level of personalization that isn’t always possible during face-to-face doctor visits. Text size can be increased for visually-impaired persons, and flows can be shortened for people with short attention spans. There’s also the possibility to enable voice-recognition and virtual reality (VR) features.

Well-designed user experience (UX) aligns with people’s desire to stay informed about their health from their homes. As users seek digestible information quickly, IoMT can provide regular updates, advice and provide a direct line to medical professionals if needed.

While there are clear advantages of IoMT, there are still some obstacles to be overcome to see wider adoption. High infrastructure costs, potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and a lack of interoperability are yet to be resolved. Nonetheless, audiences will become accustomed to technology as health organizations commit to IoMT models. This will spur cheaper, safer, and regulated IoMT options.

Already, IoMT has proven that it is a necessary and valuable step forward for healthcare. As it continues to scale and improve lives, both patients and professionals will feel the effects – quite literally.

Image Credit: gustavo fring; pexels

The post How the Internet of Medical Things is Improving Healthcare for Patients and Professionals appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Virtual Dressing Room to Increase Sales During COVID-19

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COVID-19 has changed the way people worldwide behave daily, and nowhere is this felt more keenly than in bricks-and-mortar retail. For decades, retailers have been trying various customer engagement strategies to bring people in and let them browse samples and linger to their heart’s content. But the pandemic has made nearly all those experiences risky and undesirable. Personal safety wins out of the desire to try on clothing, jewelry, makeup, and other wearable products.

Increasingly, with COVID-19, retail businesses are turning to virtual dressing rooms as an alternative for their customers.

A virtual dressing room allows a user to upload a video of themselves and then renders an Augmented Reality image of the person modeling their perspective items.

Certain sectors of the retail industry have already been embracing Augmented Reality dressing rooms, most notably the cosmetics and jewelry industries. But many more retail sectors are adopting virtual dressing rooms, and the pandemic has accelerated the process greatly.

Artificial Intelligence in Virtual Dressing Rooms

Like many digital business applications, virtual dressing rooms are driven by recent advances in technology, from AR and VR to Artificial Intelligence. In fact, technology is advancing so quickly that one of the barriers to adoption is simply that many people don’t realize how good virtual dressing rooms can be if they’ve never tried one before.

But more and more consumers are trying them and generally like their experiences. As a result, the virtual dressing room market looks to have staying power even after COVID-19 becomes less of a clear-and-present threat. By 2027, the virtual dressing market is projected to be a $10 billion industry.

Virtual Dressing Rooms Becoming Mainstream

For several years, certain retailers have toyed with virtual dressing room solutions and related apps, although frequently, these have been limited in scope and with mixed results. However, the combination of technology-driven increases in quality and the pandemic driving customers away from physical store locations has led to a significant uptick in virtual dressing room adoption.

Global retail giants like Macy’s and Adidas have led the way in virtual dressing room implementation, with many smaller retailers following suit.

Amazon is also involved in virtual dressing room development, as its online retail model continues to gobble up market share.

For many retailers, embracing virtual dressing rooms is a necessity right now. They’ve blocked off their physical dressing rooms and forbade customers to handle merchandise like they once did out of fears that these behaviors will spread COVID-19. And many customers simply aren’t coming out to stores regardless.

In today’s retail landscape, the virtual dressing room represents an opportunity to recapture some of the lost business that’s crushing most retailers’ profit margins.

How Virtual Dressing Rooms Work

From a technical standpoint, the two broad technologies pivotal to the virtual dressing room are Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence. These are huge domains that stretch far beyond the scope of a virtual dressing room solution, and it’s useful to understand just how these technologies apply here.

The virtual dressing room process begins with video capture of the person who will be trying on the virtual item. Often, the recording device is a mobile smartphone. A smartphone is an ideal vehicle because it contains both the camera to capture video and a screen to display the AR image of the person/body part with the wearable item modeled.

The video is parsed by human pose estimation algorithms that identify a range of key points or locators on the human body, which allow the application to understand the contours, size, and spatial location of the person. Often, AI deep learning routines are used to make these determinations. The accuracy of these AI-driven processes can be far superior to a human programmed process, allowing for far greater fidelity in virtual dressing room development.

Once the body’s dimension and location are fixed, the application then appends the item of clothing or accessory to the image on the screen, allowing the user to model that item virtually in a 3-D, photorealistic display.

Pros and Cons of Virtual Dressing Rooms

Like any business or technological innovation, virtual dressing rooms have their advantages and disadvantages when compared to the traditional model.

It’s important to grasp that virtual dressing room technology continues to develop and evolve, and as the process continues the industry will change. Former drawbacks may be mitigated, and advantages may heighten as supporting technology improves.

But even as some problems may fade in relevance, others may develop. The following pros and cons represent a snapshot of the short — and medium-term projections for the virtual dressing room landscape.

Benefits of Virtual Dressing Rooms

The most obvious benefit to a virtual dressing room is giving the customer the ability to sample and model products remotely. But for this to be worthwhile, the AR rendering has to be realistic enough to be useful. If a user doesn’t feel comfortable with the image they’re seeing, a virtual dressing room is a failure.

Fortunately, the science of capturing the human body and rendering it in a virtual environment is one that engineers and developers are devoting massive amounts of time and resources to. While virtual dressing rooms aren’t the most important or lucrative application of these processes, we reap the rewards of that development and innovation.

The real game-changer is the implementation of artificial intelligence in the video capture and rendering process. Deep learning algorithms can estimate and display the user’s full body, face, head, hands, feet, or any other specific body area with rapidly increasing clarity and accuracy.

This is taking us toward the point where the average shopper regards a virtual dressing room as roughly equivalent in quality to the physical experience. Once we’ve achieved that benchmark, the traditional dressing room is nearly entirely obsolete.

Potential Drawbacks to Virtual Dressing Rooms

Many of the current drawbacks to virtual dressing rooms are temporary issues likely to be addressed in the coming years.

People are excellent judges of the human form, especially their own. If a virtual dressing room image has minor imperfections, this can detract from the immersive experience and leave a customer uncertain about whether they can trust what they’ve seen.

In some cases, virtual dressing room solutions are close but to quite up to the highest standard, meaning that customers would prefer traditional ones if given a choice.

During this pandemic, virtual dressing rooms receive a bump simply by being the only realistic option for people looking to minimize their COVID-19 risk. However, at some point in the next year or so, countries will begin to get the pandemic under control via the release of vaccines.

At this point, the question is whether virtual dressing rooms will offer a seamless and accurate experience, one good enough to keep people using them when life can return more to normal. This is where the industry will be continuing to focus.

One final potential drawback worth mentioning is that virtual dressing rooms can pose a data security issue. The process captures users’ face and body data and background images from wherever the user is filming.

It would be possible for a developer to engineer a virtual dressing room solution that pulls biometrical data and geolocation data from its users. That data could then be used to create profiles of those users, allowing third parties to use this info in a variety of ways.

This particular concern is a universal one in our increasingly digital world, far from unique to virtual dressing rooms. But the video data captured here is particularly intimate, and users may have special concerns.

In 2020, the advent of COVID-19 has reshaped the retail landscape in a seismic way. Consumers avoid stores and businesses find the physical process of trying on and sampling wearable items riskier. In this environment, virtual dressing rooms are being adopted more and more.

But the virtual dressing room concept is more than just a quick-fix workaround for the pandemic. Hand-in-hand with the rise of online retail, virtual dressing rooms have the potential to supplant the traditional dressing room. As AI technology matures, a larger group of consumers will likely find themselves using virtual dressing rooms even afterlife returns more to normal.

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How Virtual Reality is Transforming the Future of Work

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In 2019, more than 4.3 million people in the U.S. worked remotely. During 2020 that number increased significantly due to COVID-19. Most companies, because of the quarantine, had to implement working from home policies. But taking the pandemic aside, remote work was already growing at full speed. Recent studies show that many benefits come along when people have the flexibility to work from their homes or in the place they enjoy most. Here is how virtual reality is transforming the future of work.

Although there are many proud defenders of the remote work movement and all the wonders it has, there is still one main issue most virtual teams face. Remote companies, and overall distributed teams, often feel that the levels of connection are not the same as in an on-site office. 

We are not in the 1900s where there was no internet, and traveling through an airplane was still a fantasy. Remote teams have the necessary tools to strengthen their company’s culture and collaboration levels. And as time passes by, these tools are upgrading to a whole new level. And we haven’t even mentioned the effects of COVID this year or what may happen this next year.

Technology is taking one step further to power and transform the future of work with Virtual Reality (VR). The way distributed teams connect and collaborate is changing forever. 

An Overview of the Virtual Reality Industry 

Many companies are making considerable investments in virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI). They say it’s the future of everything. Even though VR developments started in the early 90s, its market has received significant growth in the past years. The market size of consumer virtual reality hardware and software increased from 6.2 billion dollars during 2019, and it’s expected to be valued at more than 16 billion dollars by 2020. 

The gaming and the entertainment industry are the ones who, at the moment, are taking more advantage of this technology. Companies like Samsung, Google, and PlayStation sell goggles, gloves, and other tools for consumers to purchase and take video gaming to a whole new level. 

However, VR is increasing in the educational industry also. For instance, medical schools are starting to implement this type of technology to train surgeons. Artificial Intelligence is also used to help scientists understand complex problems and investigate deeper aspects.

Virtual Reality and Remote Work

Is the future of work part of the VR panorama?

Most of us who run remote companies and sometimes have a blast during meetings wish deeply to soon reunite in person with the whole company to share drinks! I love working remotely, but it’s a fact that the human connection is not the same in a digital environment. Yes, there are many communication tools, but the fundamentals of communication are different from in-person interaction. This is when the magic of virtual reality helps to deal with these kinds of challenges.

Think about it this way; most of the downsides and disadvantages of working remotely are related to how teams interact and connect. For example, several studies prove that many remote employees have felt isolated and even left out of the company. Other teams have had bad experiences working remotely because they felt their collaboration levels were not the same.  

Virtual Reality offers such an immersive experience when managing a remote workforce. You and your team will feel you are in the same office space! But instead of commuting, drinking horrible coffee, and having to wake up earlier, you’ll be working from the comfort of your house. You’ll feel you are physically there with your team in the same meeting room while brainstorming ideas or solving a problem. Most of the “cons” you see in many anti-remote work articles will disappear once teams start applying VR as their primary remote work tool. 

Here are some of the many applications VR will offer to companies:

1.  Better interviews with remote candidates

 Most of us have experienced how remote interviews are. In the first place, for those who are not accustomed to cameras, it might be even an uncomfortable experience. And for employers, virtual interviews are harder than regular ones because you miss out on important aspects such as body language. With VR interviews, you’ll feel you are doing a regular interview because there will be no camera barrier, just you and the candidate. 

2.  Better talent

Throughout these years managing a remote company and recruiting top tech talent to other companies, we’ve realized how much people want to have the opportunity to work from their homes. It’s one of the best strategies to recruit the best talent worldwide.

People are not longer seeking fancy offices with creative spaces. People want the flexibility of having a job that allows them to enjoy the things they love the most. Imagine adding remote work, plus virtual reality, to your showcase. You’ll attract even more talented employees who want to connect with their co-workers while working remotely. 

3.  Strengthen your company’s culture

This is probably one of the most significant benefits of implementing VR in your company. Culture means connection. When your employees enjoy working with each other, distance barriers are broken. However, it’s not the same (and it will never be) laughing on a video call than feeling you are physically there hanging out with them. With VR, you’ll be able to organize birthday parties, happy hours, gaming nights, and other fun activities to make stronger bonds. 

4.  Better onboarding

Onboarding is a crucial step in your company. If you don’t share your passion with new employees or explain to them carefully how the company works, with your vision, mission, and more about your company’s culture, they won’t feel attached. With no explanation, a team member won’t understand why their work will be valuable in the company.

Unattached employees are likely to leave the job faster because they don’t feel connected or passionate about what they are doing or the company they are working for.

With VR, the onboarding process is much easier. You can even walk them through a virtual office experience while explaining to them how everything works. You can introduce them to the team, and they will feel as if they were in the actual office building, meeting everyone.  

5.  Change the way you test technical abilities

Some job positions require specific technical skills that candidates must have. Testing tech talent, specifically technical skills, and doing it remotely is a challenge.

Although there are online platforms or even video calls where testing candidates is a possibility, VR takes video calls to a whole new level. For example, if you need a dev on your team — with VR, you’ll be able to see how your candidate solves a specific technical problem. Using only regular video calls — you cannot see well — and could miss some vital information.

Are you ready for the VR Reality Scenario? 

We still have a long way to go until VR is as common as having a phone. Many companies are selling their VR products to a more narrow audience. Prestigious academic institutions are starting to see VR as a tool to help them achieve better research. Even the army has started using this to simulate battlefield situations.

Taking an audience and expanding its focus and view to the whole world’s workforce isn’t easy. It requires a lot of investment, and not all companies are in the position of spending millions of dollars to make the magic happen.

Still, with remote work taking over 2020 and technology improving as time passes, this could be the last year where people drive 2 hours to get to an office. When VR becomes common at companies, there will be no need to spend money renting fancy buildings and other significant expenses because everyone will work from their homes. Or a great amount of work will take place anywhere in the world that has reliable wifi. 

Remote work is ready to embrace virtual reality. What about you? 

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Extended Reality and the Convergence of AR and VR

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Pandemics and economic downturns are always times of innovation as we try to navigate our way forward through difficulties. We have had the benefit of technology to help us get through this unprecedented time in history, and that has salvaged much of our daily lives that could have been destroyed. Here is extended reality and the convergence of AR and VR.

The internet kept us connected to work, each other, and school, preventing even more devastating future issues.

Can you even imagine what this pandemic would actually look like right now if, Globally, we had been shut completely down with ZERO technology helping us? The devastation is unimaginable to us at this point in time. No school, no phone, no doctors, –no Netflix binging? Yes, the internet has kept us connected to work, each other, able to buy necessities online, and able to conduct our schools.

Throughout this COVID pandemic — new ways of using established technologies have emerged, paving the way to the future past the pandemic and economic recovery.

Working from home.

Working from home has been one of the catalysts for progress. As companies chose between shutting down and trusting employees to work from home, people began to experiment with VR meetings, virtual conferences, and more.

Virtual reality and augmented reality have been a lifeline for people who want to get out of their environment and experience something “normal� for a change. Now, these technologies are starting to converge with artificial intelligence and other technologies to create extended reality or XR technology.

What is XR?

Extended reality technology mixes virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and artificial intelligence technologies to create an immersive experience that adapts to user inputs. The technology uses biomechanical modeling to both input and model human movement in a more natural way. It uses motion tracking to reduce the need for too many sensors to detect player movements.

The adaptability to machine learning presents gameplay to a player’s abilities in order to provide a stimulating and challenging environment. With all that is involved in the tech of XR — the student need not be alone in their learning challenges. And these types of tech will stick with children, where the parents and teachers don’t have the time or patience.

Interacting with XR includes a lightweight headset that blends the surrounding environment with the virtual one. Programs monitor and record movements of the human player as well as any equipment they are using in gameplay. A physics engine monitors inputs and simulates real-world reactions to every action.

Practical Everyday Uses for XR Technology

For work, many of us are tiring of video conferences, and in fact, there’s even an emerging phenomenon known as “Zoom Fatigue.�

Extended reality technologies give us a new way to experience meetings and conduct business that feels more like an in-person meeting, thanks to the ability to appear in different scenes. The enhanced technology is also proving useful for virtual conferences and continuing education applications.

What about your personal life?

When it comes to our personal lives, many of us have given up on traveling for the duration of the pandemic. But this doesn’t mean we can’t experience new places. Thanks to extended reality technology, we can travel to far off destinations and even ancient locations.

History lessons.

Oculus Quest has been a popular interface for teaching history as well as to travel to faraway locations throughout the pandemic.

You can visit everywhere from Machu Picchu to the ancient ruins of the City of Petra to modern-day locations like Portugal and Switzerland. You can even go virtual scuba diving or climb virtual mountains when you just need to get away from the reality of social distancing.

You are provided with more physical activity than you thought.

Physical activity is another area where extended reality is innovating. On Oculus Quest, games like Beat Saber and The Climb allow you to get physical activity in a virtual formal.

Beat Saber involves “cutting� blocks to the beat of dance music and can be set to different difficulty levels depending on your physical prowess.

The Climb allows you to experience a virtual outdoor rock climbing adventure from the safety of your own home while getting you up off the couch to participate.

XR and COVID-19

These technologies have been invaluable throughout the pandemic, giving people new opportunities to experience remote work, remote play, and remote exercise.

The WHO has recommended that people get daily physical activity, which has proven difficult. When we have been expected to remain indoors for the duration of the pandemic — it’s tough on body and soul.

Scientists say this winter could be brutal again — can we stand it? To be quarantined and only leave to walk or run in our neighborhoods or to get necessary supplies?

XR has allowed us to stay fit and connected to one another despite the COVID-19 outbreak, preventing pandemic couch potatoes. For a few of us building up our COVID-19 ten pounds, it’s time to get it off now and keep it off with an inplace system.

XR Meets AI and Sports

One of the experiences people have been missing during the pandemic is competitive sports. For most sports, it hasn’t been safe to play in person with others. Some sports have opened up — but for how long?

For close contact sports, the reason is obvious – respiratory droplets spread further and more readily when people are exercising, and contact just exacerbates this issue. But even with sports where there is little physical contact, there are still balls that travel back and forth between people.

Real gameplay is important to most people who play competitive sports.

Already there are XR and VR training simulators for games like golf and tennis. In an extended reality format, people can use real golf clubs and practice their game at famous golf courses all over the world. Sensors are outfitted on the golf clubs to give players a realistic feel for the game they are playing.

Artificial intelligence plays a big part in these games.

AI learns how a player plays and adapts gameplay to be challenging and engaging. High-speed cameras, sensors, and artificial computer vision all converge to create a realistic experience. The AI also predicts whether a movement will be successful and projects that prediction into the game as a resulting reaction to a player’s action.

AI can even be used to recommend better actions and techniques, thus improving a player’s game as they would with the help of a coach.

XR Sports and Social Distancing

Realistic experiences for golf and tennis are one thing, but many people who play sports regularly are missing a key component – competition. But not just the competition — the interaction with other human beings. We all thrive on interaction with each other.

Cybersports is a portable XR sports training and entertainment simulator AI biomechanical modeling and smart balls with embedded sensors to generate online gameplay with the help of a cyber portal.

The portable XR can be used for training and recreation. Sure, artificial intelligence can provide some level of competition in such games, most serious competitive sports players will find they would rather compete with real people. But these games are providing serious relief from being stuck in the house. Yes, you know you aren’t on your regular schedule of hitting the gym — but this XR will save your sanity.

Physical venues for XR sports.

Emerging XR technology such as Sportstacular takes place in a physical venue where people can compete against others. The competition takes place in a socially distanced pod, and leaderboards track winners across multiple locations.

The physical venue sports-technology gives people a safer way to play sports during the pandemic. As with many of the innovations that have come about because of the pandemic — XR sports have been so successful, they are likely here to stay.

Is XR the Future of Sports?

Just like remote work proved to be no big deal and is likely to stick around post-pandemic, the technological advances made in extended reality technologies are equally likely to stick around.

Traveling using VR is a valuable learning tool that can be used in classrooms once in-person school returns to a baseline of normalcy.

There will always be times when going somewhere in person just isn’t feasible. The XR technology is being adopted en masse because of the pandemic, but now, people have started to figure out how useful it can be elsewhere.

There are a number of reasons why extended reality will continue to be popular after the COVID safety aspect passes. For sports — innovation in technology has always been successful — and fun.

Competitive sports are subject oftentimes to being rained out, and extended reality offers a guarantee against that downer.

It can also be difficult to find competitors on your level, and being able to compete with people in far off locales can mitigate the boredom that sets in with a serious lack of sports acumen. But, seriously, I tell my friends to level up — and they usually take the challenge.

What’s more, AI is, sometimes, the only thing that can really compete against top athletes, giving them the opportunity to become even better at their sport through the use of XR.

The Future of XR Post-Pandemic

The pandemic has shown us what technology can do, and has come out with incredibly innovative and creative ways to use it long after it stops being a necessity post-pandemic.

From education to remote work to sports, extended reality opens up a world of possibilities.

Are you ready to start playing real sports with real competition on a virtual platform?

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6 Futuristic HR Technology Trends Amid COVID-19 Crisis

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Businesses are quickly adapting to the COVID-19 reality where HR technology has made the greatest influence to do so. COVID-19 has accelerated the evaluation, training, and implementation of HR tech trends in businesses of all sizes.

The HR team is actively involved in adopting innovative technologies at all levels like – recruitment process, employee engagement practices, and management processes. An emphasis has been laid on mobile connectivity and visual communication as employees started working remotely. The traditional management approach may not address the new challenges and complexities to keep the employee cycle moving.

Also, HR professionals are turning toward more strategic roles. They are catering to business needs like structuring organizations, strengthening the workforce, and managing talent. So, the repetitive tasks are handled through tech tools paving the way to use their potential to spot trends, decision-making, and becoming the true business partners.

In the survey, we can find how HR projects are delivered on their expected business value as said by employers.

Let’s deep dive into the technical aspects of the HR domain and how best HR leaders are cruising through this storm in the ocean. Here is a quick primer on some of the popular HR tech trends that are developing at an unimaginable speed.

Popular HR Tech Trends Amid COVID-19 Crisis

There is a quick shift in HR functionalities amid the COVID-19 crisis. Here are the HR tech trends that are raising the bar and helping the team to make informed and innovative decisions for the organization.

Artificial Intelligence in HR

AI in HR is on the limelight to lessen the administrative burden on the HR team. Artificial Intelligence can be used for various purposes in HR functionalities like screening, recruiting, online and offline training of employees, managing leaves, detecting anomalies, resolving queries, reviewing performance, absenteeism, exit metrics, and initiating retirements. AI use cases include digital coaching, development planning, recognition, and wellness as per ISG reports, 2019.

In brief, AI can streamline redundant and time-heavy tasks. It can quicken the tasks like surfing hundreds of resumes and cover letters, compiling and analyzing survey data, and many more tasks. Also, it removes human bias or error while evaluating candidates. However, one has to take care that there is no built-in bias while programming the algorithms, as this will continue the issue and may not get noticed upfront.

It is essential to train the systems with the right data and algorithms that are easy and transparent to understand. AI-enabled workplace still requires human skills and that’s where leadership in HR shines.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in HR

RPA includes robotic skills like natural language processing (NPL), machine learning, chatbots, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). It helps the HR team to increase productivity as it can speed up communications. Many of the modern HR systems have chatbots that can provide answers to employee inquiries. 50 percent of companies will have HR chatbots by 2022, Chatbot News Daily reports.

RPA has a wide range of applications in HR processes, Deloitte reports. RPA can contribute in many aspects like strategic processes, talent management, operation, and total rewards.

  • The strategic processes include workforce planning management, also, employee satisfaction, organization design, establishment, and implementation of HR policies and programs.
  • Similarly, talent management processes involve recruitment, onboarding, employee development, employee training, performance, competency, global employment, career graph, and succession planning.
  • Likewise, operation management involves data administration, management of payrolls, reports, employee health, employee separation, labor, and employee relations.
  • And, total rewards include salary compensation and other related employee benefits.

As per Deloitte studies, RPA tools are best suitable for processes with repeatable and predictable interactions with improved efficiency and effectiveness of services.

Employee engagement tools in HR

Employers today are concerned with the employees’ financial well-being and health. As a solution, they are providing financial and employee wellness apps like budgeting apps, fitness trackers, wearable apps for health, and more. They are given access to many other apps and platforms for child care too.

Moreover, there are apps provided by healthcare providers that maintain the privacy of health data. Given the pandemic situation and raising remote work culture, there are self-service employee experience portals that facilitate employees to handle HR functions all by themselves. Likewise, remote tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are also used in maximum while engaging with employees, interviewing, hiring, and recruitment at the remote. This paves the way for the HR team to focus on people more than processes.

Cloud-computing in HR

Cloud computing streamlines the recruitment process and is capable of transforming the whole HR functions. To mention a few trends are omnichannel models, the Internet of Things, employee wellness, learning culture, agile workforce, and data security.

  • Cloud computing ensures streamlined functions and benefits organizations that have implemented it.
  • IoT acts as the perfect tool through greater connectivity. It can be used to transform data into information at a faster rate. And, storage of this humongous data will not be a hurdle due to the cloud.
  • Cloud communication is much better and fills the missing links in the communication facilitating managers to review, communicate, or provide feedback and all through a single platform.
  • As firms encourage e-learning and online training for employees to upgrade their skills, cloud computing enables employees to meet industrial requirements in a comfort zone.
  • Cloud computing connects the workforce from various geographical locations and profiles easily and gives instant communication facilities.
  • Cloud computing is more reliable for data security as the security measures protect the data to the core.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in HR

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) can be used as a tool in HR toolkit. They help in the recruiting and onboarding process by setting up a simulated environment to test candidates’ specific skills, share a virtual tour of the office, create a personalized work-space environment, improve efficiency, save costs and make engaging recruitment process that helps in branding, training employees in new techniques.

It enables the HR professionals and supervisors to identify key areas of improvement, understand elements of concern for accomplishing goals by scanning people’s faces through sentiment analysis. 49% of Gen Z employees in Singapore believed that VR would revolutionize their work, while 45 % in the US confirmed the same. AR and VR have the potential to elevate a team collaboration levels. Though it is not implemented in an appreciable strength, it is more likely to be the top trend in the near future.

Blockchain in HR

Blockchain technology is poised to manage HR capabilities in different ways. The HR industry is envisioning the use cases of blockchain in their arena vowing to its characteristic features like immutability, transparency, trust, security, and decentralization. A few of the use cases could be –

With its security capabilities, blockchain can handle sensitive employee data like their pay, healthcare, banking, performance records, and expense reimbursement. Blockchain will prevent internal and external hacks of sensitive records as there will be authorized persons only.

It is difficult to determine the employees’ work and education history with the current facilities. With blockchain, the HR team can improve recruiting processes, verify the qualifications of the prospect, and make background checks. All records of the candidate will be present in a block that will get accessed through authorization.

Further, blockchain eliminates time lags in payroll systems even when the company goes global. The blockchain ledger helps to track invoices, facilitate distribution, billing, and reporting of all kinds of transactions. Payroll processing will occur in a timely fashion. It also assists in automating taxes, reimbursement system, mitigate audit risks, and give better access to benefits and packages.

To conclude

HR technology is helping the industries to sustain amid the prolonged lockdown led by the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to these technology implementations, an increased focus toward the people aspect will drive the HR domain toward new work habits and its success.

Image Credit: pexels; pixabay

The post 6 Futuristic HR Technology Trends Amid COVID-19 Crisis appeared first on ReadWrite.

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@HomeVR modality AR/VR AR/VR surgery training FundamentalVR Healthcare healthcare education medical school AR/VR orthopedic training Richard Vincent SaaS healthcare Software surgeon training Tech

Improving Surgical Performance and Physician Proficiency With AR/VR Simulations

AR/VR surgery proficiency

Here is ReadWrite Q&A with FundamentalVR. 

*Many thanks to Richard Vincent, CEO, and co-founder of FundamentalVR, for his time, responses and answers in this interview.

 

Can you give an overview of the Fundamental Surgery platform and the problem it solves?

Multiple studies have shown surgical simulations can improve physicians’ cognitive, psychomotor, and technical performance. However, less than 0.5% of the world’s surgeons currently have access to surgical simulations; not surprising when they can exceed $100K to purchase and cost over $25K a year for medical institutions to maintain.

What is Fundamental Surgery?

Fundamental Surgery is the world’s first SaaS-based education platform using HapticVRTM technology that combines high fidelity virtual reality with the sense-of-touch. The platform allows surgeons to experience the same sights, sounds, and feelings they would result in an actual procedure in a controlled, safe, and measurable way.

Fundamental Surgery was created to democratize access to immersive education, putting this tech within arms reach of every surgeon in the world through off-the-shelf equipment that can be bought and operated anywhere.

The SaaS-based platform offers a flight simulator type experience for trainees and qualified surgeons at a fraction of the costs of traditional education tools and for less than the price of a single cadaver.

Fundamental Surgery is a multimodal solution and is also available on standalone VR headsets, such as Oculus Quest and HTC Vive Focus, through its @HomeVR modality.

Both @HomeVR and HapticVR modalities provide educational simulations accredited by professional surgical bodies in the US and UK (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Royal College of Surgeons in London), and this multimodal approach is specifically designed to be for the different stages of the learning process.

What about traditional surgeon training?

The training of surgeons hasn’t changed much over the past 150 years with classroom-based theory, operating room observation, and theater-style viewing of cadaver-based still primary ways students are taught.

While these methods certainly have their benefits and place in curriculums, they don’t allow trainees to continuously practice their skills and develop muscle memory. These methods also don’t offer instructors with in-depth insights into how their students are progressing.

Our platform allows students and surgeons to practice procedures an unlimited amount of times, and develop muscle memory due to our haptic technology. Additionally, we can offer an unparalleled amount of data on how users are performing and progressing in an objective way.

How does the platform differ from other VR simulations solutions?

While VR has been used in hospitals to help trainees acquire technical knowledge, Fundamental Surgery takes it to a different level using HapticVR that mimics the physical cues of surgical actions, medical tools and tissue variations.

Practicing in this way goes beyond knowledge acquisition of talent and competence, and allows students also to develop the muscle memory that develops the skills necessary for surgical proficiency.

We are able to mimic real-life sensations of numerous medical tools and tissue variants within a submillimeter accuracy of resistance. That allows surgeons and medical students to develop muscle memory and get real-time feedback on what they are doing.

How and when is this platform used?

Between our HapticVR modality and our @HomeVR offering that allows users to practice from anywhere with a standalone VR headset, we offer users multiple options to practice their skills. A single user login ensures a seamless experience with the same high-fidelity graphics, content, and data tracking capabilities across each modality.

We recently rolled out a multiuser feature that allows users to practice and learn alongside their peers and instructors. Our multiuser capability has really become critical during COVID as instructors and professionals have been working to find ways to meet with their students and peers from multiple locations.

Our platform is also hardware agnostic, which makes it more accessible and affordable to medical institutions.

Can your solution and procedures be scaled?

Ultimately, we’ve created a solution that can be scaled rapidly to help many groups within the medical community train, meet, and learn anywhere in the world and at any time.

Additionally, our simulations are created, validated, and refined by experts in their respective fields. We have partnerships with the likes of Mayo Clinic and UCLA, along with our Global Medical Panel to make sure our solution is as realistic and helpful to the medical community as possible.

One last point is that our orthopedic simulations are accredited by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the Royal College of Surgeons in London. This means that by using our platform, surgeons can earn credits to use towards their maintenance of certification.

Why is haptics important for surgical training?  What studies or evidence are there to show their usefulness?

Haptics technology is important because it helps surgeons develop muscle memory that is critical for performing surgery. Using haptics allows the user to have a fully immersive training experience where they can experience the same sounds, important visuals they would during a real procedure.

Tell me about your validation studies.

We’ve conducted validation studies with the British Orthopaedic Training Association and The Royal London Hospital with surgeons at various levels of training and found that overwhelmingly participants found the simulation and its haptics technology useful.

Our simulations have also been accredited by the Royal College of Surgeons and AAOS, allowing the use of Fundamental Surgery to count towards a surgeon’s ongoing professional development. These accreditations validate our technology from an industry standpoint and show Fundamental Surgery’s training benefits.

Can you explain what the new @HomeVR modality is, how it helps residents and surgeons, as well as the difference between it and the HapticVR modality?

@HomeVR is an extension of our HapticVR platform. The HapticVR allows users to access our accredited educational simulations on standalone VR headsets such as Oculus Quest and HTC Vive Focus.

The difference between @HomeVR and our HapticVR platforms is the level of haptics used. With the HapticVR modality, users can gain muscle memory and really experience the feelings they would during surgery.

With this modality, people use haptic arms, which provide them with the force feedback and position, also known as Kinesthetics, they would encounter during a procedure.

The @HomeVR modality complements HapticVR well by bringing our VR simulations to standalone VR headsets so they can continue their practice anywhere and hone or master any skills needed.

Together, the modalities fuse Cutaneous (tactile vibration) and Kinesthetics (force feedback & position) haptic technologies in a single system to provide a more powerful, flexible, and cost-effective education platform.

Fundamental Surgery also expanded with a multiuser function. What is that and how does it work?

Our multiuser feature allows an unlimited amount of users to step inside a virtual OR and participate in lessons alongside their supervisors and team members. The majority of experience and knowledge among surgeons and students is gained via face to face encounters, which isn’t always possible.

The multi-user capability of Fundamental Surgery allows for the same hands-on, collaborative experience people would have during an in-person training session. Additionally, it lets supervisors monitor work, provide feedback, and answer questions in real-time anywhere in the world.

In addition to being used for lectures or one on one learning, it’s also great for team-based learning, as surgical teams can practice together and build team chemistry.

What type of data are you able to collect while residents and surgeons are using the platform?

We are able to measure and record every user interaction, such as surgical gaze, respect for tissue, and efficiency of movement, which are widely connected with surgical proficiency.

All measurements and recordings are provided in real-time, all within a single display that can be accessed anywhere by any device. The data collected is also compliant with CME (AAOS) and CPD (RCS) specifications allowing the use of either modality to count towards a surgeon’s ongoing professional development.

What equipment is needed to use the Fundamental Surgery platform?

We made our platform hardware agnostic to ensure that it is accessible and affordable. It also allows the user to pick the equipment they are more comfortable with or already use.

To use the HapticVR system, there are three elements needed; a laptop or desktop, two haptic arms, and a VR headset such as the Oculus Rift or the Dell Visor.

For @HomeVR, all that’s needed is an untethered VR headset like Oculus Quest or an HTC Vive Focus Plus.

Who benefits from VR training tools? Educators? Residents? Students?

We find that immersive training and education technologies, like Fundamental Surgery, benefit many groups in the medical community.

In reality, medical professionals at any level can benefit from VR training tools.

For educators, immersive VR training tools not only allow instructors to provide their students with more training options, but the level of data they can access from tools like Fundamental Surgery provides them with unparalleled insights into their students’ capabilities.

For residents, simulations allow them to hone skills and maintain proficiency at their convenience. Finally, for students, surgical VR training tools allow them to practice skills that they observe during lessons, perfect a move they learned during cadaver training as well as gain muscle memory by repeating a simulation.

Medical Device and Pharma companies are finding great value in the platform and often for a much more advanced user. Their use cases include for remote proctoring and education as well as bridging the physical divide by allowing them to conduct demos and meetings via our virtual multiuser capability.

Who currently uses Fundamental Surgery?

We are proud to say that Fundamental Surgery is being used worldwide. To name a few places, the Mayo Clinic and UCLA in the U.S., Sana in Germany, and the UCLH in the U.K. are a few medical institutions using our platform.

NYU Langone is also trialing @HomeVR with its residents as they work to navigate self-isolation restrictions.

Furthermore, a number of leading medical device companies and Pharma companies have adopted the platform to aid education.

Please comment on how COVID-19 has impacted medical training and how Fundamental Surgery can help?

The pandemic has caused medical institutions, hospitals, and universities to quickly adjust how they train and teach students and residents.

In-person training is severely limited, with universities moving to virtual teaching, elective surgeries are rescheduled, and doctors are turning to telemedicine visits. These changes have taken place quickly in this pandemic and have required organizations to find new ways for their students and residents to get the vital hands-on experience they need to practice and learn skills.

Fundamental Surgery is a beneficial tool for the medical community. With our platform, residents and trainees can practice their skills in a safer environment, and their supervisors can monitor their capabilities and growth remotely through their dashboard.

What are examples of ways Fundamental Surgery is currently working with institutions during COVID to continue their surgical training efforts?

Currently, we are working with NYU Langone and St George’s Hospital London to give their residents and students access to @HomeVR so they can continue their training remotely.

We are also speaking with new universities and programs regularly on how Fundamental Surgery can help them and look forward to helping as many students and residents during this trying time.

What feedback have you received from trainees and educators who are using Fundamental Surgery to train now?

Very positive! Both from trainees and their supervisors as well as experienced surgeons learning new techniques. Trainees primarily enjoy the flexibility of being able to practice on their own time or repeating a simulation as many times as they want.

From educators, we are hearing that the data they receive from Fundamental Surgery is helping them better understand the abilities of their trainees, where they can use improvement and how they are progressing.

Additionally, we’ve received helpful insights into new features users would like to see us add to Fundamental Surgery. We are always working to expand and enhance Fundamental Surgery so we always enjoy hearing directly from our users on how we can continue to grow the platform.

Moving forward, what do you think curriculums and resident programs will look like for the remainder of the year and beyond the pandemic? Will programs rely more on immersive training tools?

I think we will see several changes implemented now that will last beyond the pandemic. In a webinar series we facilitated with faculty and surgeons from around the world, we had this discussion and a few great points were brought up.

First, the use of immersive training tools will allow programs to move towards competency-based curriculums instead of chronological. The change will mean that residents will be able to move forward in their studies once they prove they have competent skills in what they are studying instead of completing their studies based on time studying.

For example, if a student was scheduled to learn a certain skill set in five months but learns to perform that skill proficiently in three months, they will be allowed to move forward in their studies instead of having to wait for the end of the classes. We are already seeing this transition take place in Australia and the UK.

Additionally, this move to remote learning and incorporating technologies into curriculums has started discussions around organizations and professionals pooling resources to allow trainees to learn from leaders and experts worldwide no matter their location.

In theory, if a program is using immersive tools to teach trainees, they can easily have experts in their field host virtual lessons and guide simulation training — even if they live in a different country.

Why do you think immersive technology is being accepted now in the medical field and why do you think it has staying power?

Right now, the medical field is looking for answers to the problems the pandemic has caused. One of the most effective solutions they’ve turned to during this time is immersive technology.

Before the pandemic, organizations were starting to adopt immersive training tools, but the current need for resources that allow students to continue their education remotely has amplified the need and acceptance of solutions like Fundamental Surgery.

I think immersive technologies definitely have staying power beyond the pandemic. Although the pandemic has sped up the adoption rate for these technologies, organizations and trainees alike are seeing their lasting benefits as they use simulation tools.

What are hurdles that need to be overcome for immersive training tools to be widely adopted?

I believe it’s simple — decision-makers need to be put in front of the technology and experience it for themselves. The decision-makers, also need to see their students and residents use this technology. Once they watch the process, it’s an uncomplicated course to sell them on the benefits and usefulness of immersive training tools — because they have witnessed it for themselves.

Though, because of the pandemic, we are seeing immersive training tools being accepted on wider bases as medical institutions need new ways of delivering ongoing education and bringing remote individuals together quickly. Immersive technology is perfect to accomplish this needed training.

Now that they’ve experienced it, we think it’s going to lead to a fundamental change in how medical institutions teach surgery going forward. It will be similar to the way the aviation industry has embraced using simulations.

Ultimately, the more organizations utilize immersive training tools the more we will see better-prepared surgeons, a better understanding of a surgeon’s capabilities and better patient outcomes.

What are the next evolutions of AR/VR in healthcare in your opinion?

I believe the use of haptics will be more widely used in healthcare training as the industry more widely understands the benefits of incorporating the sense of touch into immersive solutions.

Paradoxically, this could cause an issue for the industry if every procedure or medical tool requires a hospital to sign up for a different VR solution.

How will the healthcare industry find the information they need about the AR/VR?

We believe a channel delivery system for medical education will begin to immerge that will provide a single interface and access point for hospitals and medical students — a veritable “Netflix” of medical education if you like!

What about robots?

We also believe in the near feature we will see increased use of robotic, remote surgery using immersive and haptic feedback interfaces.

Isn’t everyone or every “body” different?

One of the things we are interested in looking at further with our partners is the development of patient-specific modeling through AR/VR.

Using the patient-specific model will allow a virtual model of an individual to be created, and surgeons will be able to practice virtually on that person and carry out the procedure multiple times before they attempt to do so for real in the operating theater.

What about the GPU and why is it important?

Developments in the area of improving the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) are ongoing. GPU handles the graphics operations and uses 1/10 the processing power of traditional CPU. The capabilities of GPUs will be utilized to visualize real-time procedures even on smaller devices. These are expected and will also enhance experiences.

Image Credit: Павел Сорокин; Pexels

The post Improving Surgical Performance and Physician Proficiency With AR/VR Simulations appeared first on ReadWrite.

Categories
AI AR/VR artificial intelligence Connected Devices Fintech gaming livestreaming visual AI Web

It’s Time to Shift Digital with Visual AI

visual ai

A seamless digital experience has long been the focus of product teams and technologists. From disruptive startups to the leading brands in technology and media, an emerging question is now top of mind. How can visual AI-based inspection technology help to eliminate the mundane tasks associated with quality assurance? It’s time to shift digital with visual AI.

The visual quality of digital experiences results in positive customer experience and offers a compelling competitive advantage for those who have put a focus on quality. After all, it only takes 50 milliseconds or less (that’s 0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your website that determines whether they’ll stay or leave.

digital customer experience
The visual quality of digital experiences results in positive customer experience.             Image Credit: Pexels

Don’t Jeopardize your Future by Using Outdated Methods.

In coming to grips with the new normal, users now expect quality digital experiences across all aspects of their lives. The quality has to be in how they stream media to how they order groceries, delivery, take-out, and even contactless dine-in.

McKinsey notes that even before COVID-19, 92 percent of companies thought their business models would need to change given digitalization. The new reality is to shift-digital or risk becoming irrelevant overnight.

Businesses that deprioritized digitalization now rush to shift-digital, are realizing the effort is daunting, and they need help. Businesses are making this transition with fewer resources and newly distributed teams, making the challenge much more difficult.

The typical digitally transformed brand has on average 28 applications, each with roughly 98 unique screens. These apps are required to be visible on an average of 5 screen sizes and 6 languages.

The varying sizes and languages amount to roughly 90,000 pages and screen variations that need to be visually perfect. 90,000 ways a company delivers the customer’s digital experience.

Traditional automated testing methods are slow and prone to false positives. Additionally, the design of these frameworks does not detect visual defects. Undetected visual defects detract from the seamless experience and can cost R&D teams between $1.75m and $6.9m annually to fix.

Visual AI to the Rescue.

Artificial intelligence and its use cases realize a growth trajectory that no one could have predicted. Visual AI is an example of how technology helps create an advanced approach to visual quality testing.

By replicating the human eye and brain, Visual AI is able to detect differences in a screenshot against a baseline image. This process is completed with incredible speed and accuracy and also creates a system that is becoming increasingly sophisticated as more businesses adopt it.

This technology is now so widespread that one Visual AI platform recently crossed over 1 billion images analyzed. With so many images analyzed for global companies, it’s hard to imagine someone who has not benefited from it.

The sheer amount of images analyzed also means  AI algorithms grow increasingly intelligent in identifying defects and eliminating false positives.

visual AI

How you have Benefitted from Visual AI (and didn’t even know it).

Visual AI positively impacts digital experiences for customers in many ways. It is a bit of an unsung hero, in that when it does its job – you don’t know it, you just enjoy the experience.

From popular day to day business apps to binge-watching your favorite show on a rainy weekend, AI is behind the scenes, improving quality.

E-COMMERCE

Many people spend a good amount of time putting together a curated grocery list for the week. When ordering online, you select your items, choose your delivery time, and proceed to check-out.

But at checkout, you cannot find the “Submit Order” button. There’s no way to buy what you want so you end up seeing if another grocery store has delivery available. Or worse, have to drive to the store’s physical location. This is a very real issue, one I have personally experienced. It’s incredibly frustrating, not only does it damage the grocers brand, but naturally impacts its revenue.

When ordering a new pair of noise-canceling headphones, a new phone, fresh new kicks, a Friday evening pizza delivery, or your weekly groceries, you are likely interacting with an application tested by Visual AI.

Forbes recently reported that the US and Canadian e-commerce orders are experiencing 129 percent YoY growth. Based on current trends, there is no slowing this train down.

eCommerce provides us a faster, safer, and oftentimes, lower-cost alternative to access the things we want. More importantly, the things we need. Visual AI ensures eCommerce platforms deliver on these promises.

ONLINE BANKING

It’s time to log-in to your banking portal to reconcile your account. You enter your username and password, but your password expired and needs to be changed. In going to change your password, you see the change password button isn’t working. You’re stuck mid-change as fear and anxiety are mount by the minute – sound familiar?

ConsumerAffairs notes that 8 in 10 Americans prefer banking digitally vs visiting a physical branch. The primary emotional connection is to make it easy for customers to use their products and services.

From cashing checks to auto bill pay and everything in between, Visual AI assists many global financial firms to test their mobile apps and web portals.

By testing with Visual AI, leading financial institutions can achieve primary emotional connection and ensure their customers have instant and easy access to their services.

STREAMING ENTERTAINMENT

You’re binge-watching your favorite show and the next episode auto-plays. Psych! It skipped ahead two episodes unveiling a spoiler in the recap. Thankfully, this is one of the reasons why popular streaming entertainment services use Visual AI.

When subscribers log in, they expect a fully immersive experience. Escaping bugs not only impacts that exact moment but can negatively alter the full streaming experience and harm the brand.

Streaming apps run on a large variety of devices including mobile phones, tablets and dedicated streaming devices. Streaming apps are also built into a countless number of televisions with different operating systems and software versions.

Visual AI technology captures screenshots from each of the platforms and divides the screenshots into visual elements. It then compares the extracted visual elements to compare against a baseline image. This process is all done in parallel and with incredible accuracy.

HEALTHCARE

You register for your healthcare provider app and schedule a doctor’s appointment. Ahead of the appointment, you get a notification and think, “nice touch.” Upon arriving at your doctor’s office you learn your doctor works from the other side of the city on Tuesdays. The app sent you to the wrong address.

As a result, this is now a missed appointment charge and seven phone calls to reverse that charge created. What a frustrating experience.

Healthcare services continue to evolve, especially since the recent pandemic. More providers offer in-home, virtual doctor consultations powered by web and mobile apps. These web portals and mobile apps create your health hub.

Patients get secure doctor communications, prescription refills, appointment scheduling, and find helpful wellness resources.

Leading care providers rely on Visual AI to ensure their member’s experiences work. Their customers now have quick and easy access to care and health information.

IoT and CONNECTED DEVICES

Your new smart car completes a software update and the music widget appears to have gone missing. It turns out it is hiding underneath another icon.

While not a critical issue, it makes you question the quality of the brand. Alexa – does Visual AI play some role in testing at least one of my household IoT devices? Odds are good that the answer is yes. IoT is everywhere.

In connected washing machines and dryers to home security equipment, blood pressure straps, smart cars, smart scales, smart rings, and smartwatches.

The list goes on and on. If an IoT device has a screen or an associated app, then Visual AI can test it.

Next time your smartwatch harasses you because you skipped a workout, you may have to thank Visual AI for reminding you.

AR/MR/VR

Augmented, Mixed, and Virtual Reality offers immersive experiences. These experiences can alter the real-world environment, bring real-world environments into an augmented space, or allow a user to leave the real-world environment behind all-together.

When creating apps for this technology, engineers innovate in the manner in which they are developing. This requires a level of innovation on how such apps are tested. Some leaders in this tech space are looking towards Visual AI to help.

Therefore, testing this next generation of apps requires expertise across multiple scenarios including 2D, 3D, and 360 Video. AR/MR/VR apps of the future will enable fully immersive movies and concerts, corporate meetings, and even civil engagements.

These apps offer new experiences that demand the highest quality to ensure the user remains fully immersed. Visual AI is paving the way to tomorrow’s experiences, today.

GAMING CONSOLES

You spend countless hours on that “game ++â€� dual-sword build and accidentally hit the wrong button. Now it’s deleted forever. The confirmation dialog did not appear as expected and getting pissed off is the understatement of the year.

With billions of gamers worldwide, every home is likely to have a gaming console. Gaming consoles provide instant access to games, smart apps, and of course, streaming content services.

Today’s consoles have multiple apps within their user interface, each of which requires testing. For example, the online store might be one app, the settings interface might be another, and then you may have things like communities, messages, play parties, and the list goes on.

On top of that, think about language support. Most modern consoles need to support at least 30 different languages.

Testing this variety of apps across multiple languages is no small feat. It requires top-notch test architects and the help of Visual AI. So the next time you’re playing your favorite gaming console, remember that Visual AI played a part in your experience.

Conclusion

In all of the use cases listed above, there has been explosive growth with no sign of things slowing down. We’re living in a digital world and its advantages are so much more relevant in 2020 than before.

Digitalization is no longer a matter of convenience. It helps us reduce risk and ensure safety, especially with our most vulnerable populations.

Artificial intelligence ensures quality web and mobile customer experiences and the benefits are obvious and proven. Organizations are transforming their business to shift-digital and remain relevant so that we as customers are delighted.

While you may have never heard of Visual AI before today, the next time you sit down and stream your favorite show, play a game, order groceries online, or set up an online bill-pay — remember there is some amazing technology that helped some really smart people build those experiences for you.

The post It’s Time to Shift Digital with Visual AI appeared first on ReadWrite.

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AR AR/VR Augmented Reality face ar face augmented reality ReadWrite Tech Video Conferencing

How Face AR Brings Confidence to Video Conferencing

face ar

We’re all different and we’re all human beings, individuals locked in a body. The only way we can understand each other is by communicating. If only it were that simple. It’s hard enough in real life, but even more difficult with digital communication, especially the near-ubiquitous video conferencing. Face AR technology can help us.

We struggle to work out whether we trust someone when we’ve met them a few minutes earlier on a screen. We wonder whether the person enthusiastically talking to the camera thousands of miles away is pitching an idea they know very well is utter rubbish. Whether their poor performance in a job interview is a result of nerves. Whether our view of them and what they say is clouded by our deep prejudices.

There is fear and embarrassment when we turn on video conferencing. Trust and empathy are harder to achieve. What is true; what is a lie? These contradictions make video conferencing an awkward chore rather than a useful tool to do business and hire talent. Yet video is essential to modern business when companies are spread over the globe.

Feeling Confident During Your Video Calls With Face AR Technology.
Feeling Confident During Your Video Calls With Face AR Technology. Image source: pexels.com

Pressure on time, budgets and the planet mean traveling is harder to justify. That means making decisions, planning strategy, pitching for business, and hiring staff has to be done remotely. And it is not working.

That, I believe, is about to change. Augmented Reality (AR) may well provide the answers. But beware. In the future, you will probably get hired through AR. You can also get fired by it.

Never ready for our close-up

With all the pressure described above, it’s hardly surprising that the seemingly innocuous sentence, “So shall we switch video conferencing on?� makes even the most hard-bitten executives wince.

For all of us, bar the least self-aware and the most annoyingly attractive, audio-only seems the sensible solution for long-distance conferencing.

But why are we coy about video calls? The answer is a bitter experience. First, the cameras present us in harsh, bright light, at unusual angles, blown up on a PC screen.

Second, people can see the background — not good if you haven’t tidied your desk/home office/spare bedroom. Not to mention children, cats and dogs stumbling into view.

We might have chuckled at the plight of Professor Robert Kelly, whose BBC interview was famously interrupted by an inquisitive toddler, but what made it car-crash viewing was knowing how easily a similar calamity could happen to us.

Concerns about how we present ourselves make us so nervous that we don’t articulate our thoughts as fluently and accurately as we might. It’s hard enough if you have a job with the company. What if this is your job interview? Multinationals hire around the world and applicants can expect to be interviewed by people in multiple international locations.

Looking good for the 9 am thanks to Face AR

Banuba labs, the company of which I am a Managing Director, has devoted much research to solving these problems. And they are eminently fixable. For most people, the key issue is controlled. If they can present themselves digitally in the way they want to be perceived, rather than be a slave to the idiosyncrasies of the camera, they will be relaxed and engaging.

Looking_good_in_front_of_the_camera
Looking good in front of the camera. Image source: pexels.com

Here is where Face AR, an augmented-reality technology that enables its users to finesse their image via a camera, can prove to be a lifesaver. Video Face Beautification technology can tweak video-conference participants’ images in sophisticated ways.

On a basic level, this can be by adjusting the lighting and slight face enhancements. It is useful for everyone. From people who need to make video calls but don’t have the time to apply make-up, to those of us who just want a shinier, smarter version of ourselves.

As for the background of your room – by using video background changer technology you can now easily hide it for privacy purposes or change it for entertainment.

Make it avatar to avatar with Face AR

If you are still not convinced, then how about replicating yourself in an avatar? You can talk to an avatar (who is a real person) and be an avatar yourself, and feel both comfortable and human.

What about the customary handshakes that open and close all business conversations or interviews? AR representations of people’s tracked hands could act as a personal way to make first impressions or end on a high after a lengthy discussion. Even if the technology isn’t quite there to feel someone’s touch via this type of software, it will surely function as a good icebreaker before commencing a conversation.

Creating your own avatar with Face AR.
Creating your avatar with Face AR. Image source: banuba.com

Pity the poor job applicant

The fear and awkwardness engendered by the current generation of video conferencing are bad enough for staff, but it is much worse for job applicants. Even the greatest technology companies admit they have hiring problems.

Google has made huge efforts to change its staff demographics, but the numbers remain steadfastly in favor of Caucasian men, with nearly 70 percent male and 53 percent white, according to its 2018 diversity report. One Google staffer notoriously claimed in an internal memo that the lack of female engineers was down to biological differences rather than discrimination.

Google is not alone. If we are honest, we would all admit that we tend to hire in our image. We find it easier to empathize with people like us. We also tend to hire people who are outgoing, confident and speak well. Clever introverts miss out.

Again, Face AR has a solution. And it is one that is not possible with face-to-face interviews. Face AR can remove or disguise all background information. That could include race, age, gender, voice, general facial expression and nervous ticks. It would truly be a blind interview.

Only then would it be possible to hire purely based on talent, imagination, intelligence and character. It might sound an extreme approach, but it is clear that diversity policies are failing to change the demographics of our great companies.

If brands are to be truly representative of their global audiences, then they must start again. Technology makes that possible.

So you really can be hired by augmented reality. But get it wrong and you could be fired by augmented reality, too.

The post How Face AR Brings Confidence to Video Conferencing appeared first on ReadWrite.

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7 Content Marketing Trends to Watch Out for in 2020

marketing trends

There is no doubting the effectiveness of quality content in driving more clicks — regardless of what your niche is. Nonetheless, since 90% (demandmetrics dot com) of all organizations leverage content in their marketing efforts, producing engaging, just informative content is no longer sufficient to cut through the noise.

It is critical that you learn about what type of content you must create and what channel or what medium you must target to increase exposure and drive more clicks.

In 2020, as older trends taper off, and older marketing techniques are rendered ineffective (especially after COVID, the economy, and the riots) your success in marketing is contingent on leveraging current trends to push content to more users.

Here are seven content marketing trends you must watch out for in 2020.

#1. Podcasting

Image: Podcasting-Example.png
Image Source: https://www.smartpassiveincome.com/listen/

Podcasts have exploded in popularity in the past decade. As reported by Statista, the number of podcast listeners has almost tripled over the decade, and it is anticipated that the number of podcast listeners in the United States alone will rise to 132 million by 2022!

With more and more listeners tuning into podcasts across niches every day, it is crucial that you begin to leverage podcasts to expand your reach exponentially. Digital marketing podcasts are gaining momentum and a lot of experts are sharing their practical tactics to help online companies.

Creating a podcast is of prime importance if your industry demands it. Even if there are already big players in your niche or no podcasts are covering your niche at all—you must put up an informational podcast episode regularly.

Similar to blogging, consistency is key to thriving in the podcasting space.

It is also crucial that you create a podcast intentionally. Creating a podcast only for the sake of marketing isn’t going to be effective. You’ll lose traction and plateau at times, and only being passionate about your niche will keep you going. 

Lastly, sticking to a particular facet of your niche is essential—since switching subjects will confuse your listeners regarding your area of expertise.

Opined Brendan Hufford of 100 Days of SEO.

 

#2. User-Generated Content 

Image: User-Generated-content-example.png
Image Source: https://www.canva.com/

User-generated content is content created and published by unpaid contributors. 

Typically, these contributors are fans that promote a brand based on their own experience with it. The brand does not promote itself. You can find user-generated content on social media, blogs, and forums as comments, images, or testimonials.

One good example of marketing using user-generated content is Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke� campaign. Users would find a Coke with their name on it and share a picture of it on social media. 

Although it may not seem like a huge deal, you must realize that with this campaign, the company managed to create a source of free viral content for the brand—since people were essentially showing off images with their drink.

You can leverage user-generated content from the ratings, reviews, and comments from e-commerce sites, blog posts, and social media depending on what suits your business model and niche best.

Over 90% of consumers trust the recommendation of another person, even someone they don’t know, over branded content—which is why you must find ways to leverage user-generated content. 

Opined Brent Trotter of Clique Studios.

#3. Voice-Activated Content

With the adoption of smart devices proliferating, there is an upsurge in demand for content optimized for voice-activated devices. Voice-activated content opens up a wealth of opportunities for you to intervene and leverage the newly popular platform. 

Many marketers are only now starting to realize the potential for profits of this trend, it is vital that you begin curating voice-optimized content right away, while you still have the upper hand. There is only one thing you must discern to make the most out of the opportunity you have now. 

You must understand the nuances between how users search for content when they type and when they speak. 

Gaining mastery over these subtle differences will enable you to craft better headlines and focus on including specific long-tail keywords in your content.

Although voice-optimized content must be informative and engaging (just like blog content), the style of writing must be much simpler.

Analyzing patterns and trends in voice searches—similar to what you practice when looking for keywords and content in demand—can potentially amplify your exposure.

#4. Chatbots 

Image: Chatbots-example.png
Image Source: https://www.intercom.com/customizable-bots

Introducing a chatbot to your site has a range of benefits—which is why you will notice a surge in its adoption.

By setting up a chatbot on your site, you can engage your visitors in conversation. Hooking in your visitors in this way enables you to

  • learn more about their persona,
  • understand their intents and goals when they visit your site, and
  • analyze their specific needs.

Asking visitors to fill in a form is now a dated marketing tactic and is largely considered tedious. A chatbot is a sophisticated tool that enables you to accomplish all the same objectives faster, all while keeping your visitor engaged in stimulating conversation. 

Conversational marketing, in the form of a chatbot, also minimizes the downtime throughout your relationship with the visitor. This increase in efficiency, in turn, allows you to achieve the following:

  • Minimize the time needed to learn about your target audience
  • Minimize gaps between engagements 
  • Minimize the time and effort needed on the visitor’s end
  • Minimize costs (since you don’t need to hire anybody)

Chatbots minimize costs, time, and effort required to understand the goals and intentions of your visitors. 

They are so effective because, unlike when using forms, a chatbot makes the user feel as if they’re being treated as an individual.

Opined Daniel Cooper of Lolly.co.

#5. Augmented Reality

While AR content is an entirely new form of content, it opens up scores of opportunities for you to use it to revivify your content marketing campaign. 

Companies like Starbucks, Facebook, Google, Sephora, Ikea, Apple, and Microsoft are already putting the new technology to good use.

Ikea launched Ikea Place—an AR application that improves the customer’s shopping experience by showing them exactly how a product will look and fit in their room.

Image: Augmented-Reality-Ikea-Place.png
Image Source: https://www.ikea.com/us/en/

On the other hand, Sephora has an AR-supported app that enables customers to try on eyelashes, lipsticks, eye shadows, and all kinds of other beauty products without needing to purchase them first.

AR still remains to be a largely untapped avenue for marketing, with only mainstream companies diving in headfirst. 

Regardless if you blog, run an e-commerce store, or market products for others, you must remember that the only lapse in AR marketing is currently on the marketers’ end.

Almost all devices on the market are AR-ready, and adaptation to it is only increasing. With only a few companies leveraging it to market products, altering your content marketing strategy to involve AR can help drive more traffic and sales. 

Opined Isaac Hammelburger of SearchPros.co.

#6. Video and Live-Stream Content

Image: Live-stream-content.png

The modern customer increasingly expects to receive video content from their favorite brand. Video content also tends to keep users engaged for a longer time than written content.

Posting videos on YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, LinkedIn, and your own website is a great way of engaging customers for longer periods. While you do have their attention, marketing products and services shouldn’t be too difficult anymore.

On the other hand, you can upload short videos on platforms like Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram and supply snack-sized content with high potential to go viral. 

You can also leverage these platforms to create user-generated content. Sending your products to reviewers and having them create a video is an excellent tactic that almost always brings in more customers.

You can also leverage live-streaming platforms in your content marketing campaign. Now, more consumers prefer to watch long-form video streams than read a blog post. 

Holding Q&A sessions, webinars, product demos, or interviews are some of the best ways to create engaging long-form content.

Regardless of what platform or video style you decide to leverage, remember that more exposure translates to more sales. 

Opined James Norquay – Content Marketing Director Prosperity Media.

#7. Google Snippets

About 62.5% of Google searches on mobile now end without a click. 

Ever since Google (and other search engines) introduced the SERP snippet that has featured content, users tend not to click on links since they’ve already found what they were searching for. 

If you want your web page to stand out from the competition and be featured in the snippet, you must create content that stands out.

Image: Google-Snippets.png

Users now know that using long-tail keywords will almost always cause Google to answer their questions in the form of the snippet. Therefore, you must focus on creating solution-focused, long-form content that can answer the audience’s questions. 

Targeting “How do I…� questions in your niche is one of the easiest ways to get your content featured on the snippet. Also, you must make sure that your content is straightforward and that you’re not rambling. If you must choose between straightforwardness and cleverness, always go the straightforward route.

Another important characteristic of quality content is that it attracts both “no-click� and “click-happy� users. If you write engaging content, there’s a good chance that you will drive more clicks.

Regardless of which trend you decide to hop on and take advantage of, you must remember that analytics is just as important as the content in content marketing.

You must aim to deliver content on the basis of your analysis of search intent. Furnishing quality content that’s already in demand will help you drive more clicks to your site, which will translate to more sales. 

The post 7 Content Marketing Trends to Watch Out for in 2020 appeared first on ReadWrite.