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Luxury fashion brands like Louis Vuitton and Prada make a splash in the art world

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Luxury fashion brands have long collaborated with artists – studies have suggested that an association with art allows commercial brands to be perceived as more luxurious | Aspioneer
Graffiti of a women with glasses

Louis Vuitton reopened its refurbished flagship store in Florence in March 2019 to great fanfare from the fashion industry. The brand made great play of the fact that, alongside all the luxury apparel and accessories, the store is replete with artworks including works by Italian artists such as Osvaldo Medici del Vascello and Massimo Listri.

Luxury fashion brands have long collaborated with artists – studies have suggested that an association with art allows commercial brands to be perceived as more luxurious. The art world has long provided inspiration for designers setting out to produce something new or timeless. And, as the trend becomes more widespread, some major fashion houses have invited in street artists to help to promote their brands.

It’s now quite common to see fashion houses using art to promote their brands – whether this is through window displays, advertisements and billboards, or through in-store art exhibitions, art on the catwalks and in fashion shows. So luxury fashion brands – which know that they need a point of difference if they want to enhance the apparent exclusivity which enables them to charge higher prices for their products – are moving directly in the art field. Instead of using art for mere commercial purposes, they have started to invest conspicuously in the cultural industry.

Salvatore FerragamoTrussardiHermesErmenegildo ZegnaPrada and Louis Vuitton are just a few of those luxury fashion brands which are investing in art. They are collecting valuable contemporary (sometimes modern) art pieces – and, in the spirit of being authentic, they are also commissioning new pieces of art from both emerging and well-established artists.

Modern Medici

Prada and Louis Vuitton have gone one step further – Fondazione Prada in Milan and Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris may carry the names of fashion houses – but they are fully-fledged art galleries.

Prada’s private collection contains pieces by Jeff Koons and William N. Copley, to mention just two. The brand has also commissioned and produced pieces by artists such as Anish Kapoor and Thomas Demand, while, pieces such as “Nu bleu aux bas verts” by Henri Matisse and “Ladies and Gentlemen” by Andy Warhol are part of Fondation Louis Vuitton’s private collection.

As well as investing in art and holding exhibitions of established artists, both foundations are commissioning new work. “Inside the Horizon”, is a site-specific work by Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson on display at Fondation Louis Vuitton.

You could almost draw comparisons with the the Medici family in renaissance Florence – the two luxury fashion houses clearly understand the enormous power that art, and culture in general, can wield in a commercial and even political context.

It appears that these companies are moving their brand image from that of the ephemeral – producing clothing and accessories and interpreting style and trends – to a more something altogether more permanent and important: that of cultural definers.

This crossover is working the other way as well. In the spring of 2017, London-based auction house Sotheby’s launched a luxury and lifestyle division that focuses on jewels, watches, cars, wine and fashion. At the same time the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London launched “Art of Luxury”, a 15-week immersive introduction to the global industry of luxury goods and services. Course leader Federica Carlotto said:

Art and luxury have a long history of influencing each other to create timeless, aspirational experiences. From creative and editorial collaborations with artists like Salvador Dali, Cindy Sherman, Ed Ruscha and Takashi Murakami, to brand and creative directors increasingly drawing on trends and philosophy of art in their work“.

Mission? Or money?

But are either of these – essentially two sides of the same commercially centred idea – actually fulfilling any of art’s core functions? Art is a such a powerful tool for good. Art can help to create a sense of community, it can help lonely people find a purpose and a group to share their ideas with. Art can help teenagers understand what they are are feeling. Art can be therapeutic for people with mental health problems and it can help people from diverse communities find common bonds.

To what extent are these foundations actually doing this? The Prada Foundation’s mission says it aims for “an attitude of openness and invitation” and to “find new ways for sharing ideas”.

It all sounds good, but in reality it’s very old-fashioned and traditional and flies in the face of many museums and galleries which are trying new things to engage the public with art. Prada has a great programme for children (Accademia Dei Bambini) where experts of specific fields – math and physics, for example – give lectures explaining difficult ideas to children using art. It’s a brilliant concept – but why not have something that engages adults just as much? At the moment it is hard to see that these forays into the art world are about anything more than merely enhancing their own brand.

These brands are pioneers when it comes to fashion trends, but they still play a bit too safe when it comes to their foundations. And I think they could do better, taking on the role of disruptors and innovators – using their commercial brand power to bring more people to art. With their undeniable star power, names like these have the ability to make art cool again. Wouldn’t that be great?

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Data show how women balance career and motherhood

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Almost 70% of American mothers with children under 18 work for pay.

But motherhood remains disruptive for many women’s work lives. American women earn almost 20% less per hour than their male peers, in part because women disproportionately take responsibility for raising children. Mothers often experience employment interruptions or reductions in work hours.

When it comes to understanding mothers’ long-term employment patterns, researchers know less. How common is it for mothers to persist working full-time throughout their child-rearing years? Which mothers are most likely to be absent from the labor market over the long term? What do employment patterns look like for mothers who fall in between these two extremes?

In a study published in February, we set out to answer such questions. Our research shows that American mothers combine work and family in diverse ways, depending upon their preferences for work, their ability to maintain employment and their need to provide financially for their families.

What employment patterns do mothers follow?

Using national survey data, we looked at common employment patterns for over 3,000 American mothers currently in their mid-50s to early 60s. For these older women, we examined their prime child-rearing years, from the birth of their first child to when that child turned 18.

Motherhood frequently disrupts employment. A year before the birth of their first child, about half of the women in our sample were employed full-time. By the time of the birth, only 20% were. Disruptions are not limited to new mothers: It takes over a decade for mothers’ full-time employment rate to return to 50%.

Using statistical methods, we identified five common patterns of maternal employment over the first 18 years after a first birth. At one extreme, nearly two-fifths of mothers followed a pattern of steady full-time employment. At the other extreme, one-fifth of mothers were almost completely disconnected from employment.

The remaining three groups of mothers – each about 15% of our sample – cannot be easily classified as long-term “career moms” or “stay-at-home moms.”

Two groups spend time out of the labor market while their children are young, then enter employment and ultimately start working full-time. They differ in their typical timing of transition to paid work. One group begins roughly when the first child is entering kindergarten, while the other doesn’t enter full-time work until approximately when the first child is entering junior high.

The last group follows a pattern of consistent part-time work. Like the mothers in the full-time group, they work consistently, but at fewer average hours per week.

Which mothers follow which work patterns?

Let’s look at characteristics of moms who are long-term full-time employed, part-time employed or out of the labor force.

Mothers who consistently work full-time tend to be those who need to. They are less likely to be married, and those who are married have husbands with lower average wages.

Mothers in this group also have resources that support their employment, specifically personal and family histories of employment. Compared to mothers in other groups, they worked more prior to becoming a mother and were more likely to grow up with a working mother. African American mothers are more likely than white mothers to consistently work full-time.

By contrast, mothers who don’t work for pay for most of their child-rearing years also worked less than other women before becoming mothers. For some women in this group, spending time out of the labor market either before or after having children may be a choice – on average, the mothers in this group have less egalitarian attitudes toward women’s roles than mothers in other groups. For other women, the challenges of finding and keeping a job may keep them out of the workforce; mothers in this group are also most likely to lack a high school degree.

Like the full-time group, the part-time working mothers were likely to have resources, like education and pre-maternity work experience, that supported their employment. What then, distinguishes this group from those who work full-time? Compared to the full-time group, they have fewer financial pressures to work for pay. Mothers with long-term part-time employment are on average relatively socially and economically advantaged. They tend to be married, white and older when they have their first child. They are not particularly traditional and even stand out for their low levels of religious attendance.

Do mothers get the type of employment they want?

American mothers balance employment and motherhood in many ways. In part, this reflects different preferences. But not all mothers can pursue their preferred employment pattern.

When mothers were asked what their “ideal” work situation would be in a 2012 Pew Research Center survey, the most common response was part-time work. Yet long-term part-time work is relatively uncommon for American mothers – only about 15% fall into this group.

Although it’s the most common preference, long-term part-time work is the reality only for a relatively advantaged minority. This shows that unequal experiences of motherhood and employment among American mothers reflect not only different preferences, but different financial pressures to work and unequal opportunities to secure employment.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

What is quantum machine learning?

Quantum machine learning techniques such as annealing have shown business promise by optimising the yields of financial assets or the calculation of credit ratings | Aspioneer
Quantum computer

Artificial intelligence refers, among other things, to machines’ capacity to demonstrate some degree of what humans consider “intelligence”. This process is being driven by the rapid advancement of machine learning: getting machines to think for themselves rather than pre-programming them with an absolute concept.

Take image recognition. Humans excel at this task, but it’s proved difficult to simulate artificially. Training a machine to recognise a cat doesn’t mean inputting a set definition of what a cat looks like. Instead, many different images of cats are inputted; the aim is that the computer learns to distil the underlying “cat-like” pattern of pixels.

This dependence on data is a powerful training tool. But it comes with potential pitfalls. If machines are trained to find and exploit patterns in data then, in certain instances, they only perpetuate the race, gender or class prejudices specific to current human intelligence.

But the data-processing facility inherent to machine learning also has the potential to generate applications that can improve human lives. “Intelligent” machines could help scientists to more efficiently detect cancer or better understand mental health.

Most of the progress in machine learning so far has been classical: the techniques that machines use to learn follow the laws of classical physics. The data they learn from has a classical form. The machines on which the algorithms run are also classical.

We work in the emerging field of quantum machine learning, which is exploring whether the branch of physics called quantum mechanics might improve machine learning. Quantum mechanics is different to classical physics on a fundamental level: it deals in probabilities and makes a principle out of uncertainty. Quantum mechanics also expands physics to include interesting phenomena which cannot be explained using classical intuition.

From classical to quantum

Quantum mechanics is a branch of physics that attempts to understand and apply mathematical, verifiable rules to the behaviour of nature at the smallest end of the spectrum – on the scale of atoms, electrons and photons. It was first developed at the beginning of the 20th century, and has been very successful in describing systems on the microscopic level.

The fundamental divide between the quantum and classical worlds has been popularised by the Schrodinger’s cat thought-experiment. In it, a cat is sealed in a box along with a vial of poison and a radioactive atom. The release of the poison – and the cat’s life – depends on the decay of the atom.

Quantum mechanics allows the atom to be described as simultaneously decayed or undecayed until a measurement forces it into an exact state. But it then should follow that the cat can be described as both dead and alive at the same time until the box is opened and the state of the cat made certain. The paradox illustrates the difficulty of applying quantum rules to classical objects.

This is one of the more fascinating possibilities inherent in quantum theory: that it is possible for a quantum system to be in more than one state at the same time – a phenomenon described as a superposition – until that system is measured.

Quantum computing

There are several ways in which machine learning might be made quantum. Of these, it’s the race to create a quantum computer that’s dominated the popular press and seen the development of contenders like the D-Wave computer and the IBM Quantum Experience.

Quantum computers’ value would lie in their ability to process information and perform computational tasks differently, and in some instances more quickly, than classical computers.

Despite commercial interest, none of the contenders are an outright success yet. That’s because the phenomena they’re drawing from in quantum mechanics, such as superposition states, are delicate and prone to destruction.

Other branches of quantum machine learning focus on how quantum theory might inform the methods that computers use to learn, or the data they learn from, as well as fine-tuning the tools and techniques of classical machine learning in a quantum framework.

While measurable outcomes are still mostly in the realm of theory, quantum machine learning does have everyday implications for ordinary people. It has long been predicted that the processing power of quantum computers could render current encryption techniques used in banking or other online transactions ineffective.

More recently, quantum machine learning techniques such as annealing have shown business promise by optimising the yields of financial assets or the calculation of credit ratings.

Quantum techniques in machine learning are also likely to become important in medical technology or drug design as the principles which underpin chemistry are fundamentally quantum. ProteinQure, a biotech company founded in 2017, already uses elements of quantum computation to engineer new therapies.

Quantum machine learning techniques are likely to have far-reaching effects on many of the technologies we have become accustomed to, from aviation to agriculture, with companies such as Lockheed Martin, NASA and Google already on board.

Quantum machine learning in Africa

Quantum machine learning is an exciting, rapidly growing field. A number of start-ups have been established that aim to perfect the process and deliver scalable quantum devices.

Academics and university researchers are also working to harness the potential of quantum machine learning. We are among them. The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s quantum research group investigates both how quantum theory might improve machine learning and how machine learning techniques can inform quantum theory.

Dr Maria Schuld, who is part of the group, recently shared headlines with IBM and US university MIT for an important advancement in the quantum enhancement of kernel-based machine learning methods.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

ILLUSIO: Enabling Visual Conversations

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ILLUSIO: Enabling Visual Conversations

AR/VR

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ILLUSIO

While AR and VR are rapidly transforming various industries and reshaping the way we engage with the world, they have yet not become a commonplace and daily tool for the masses; but don’t fret that day is coming!

Founded in 2016, California-based ILLUSIO is using 3D augmented reality technology with real-time morphing animation, providing a platform for plastic surgeons and their patients to visually communicate. ILLUSIO’s technology offers the world’s finest Board Certified plastic surgeons a remarkable new tool to provide their patients with stunningly accurate augmented reality imagery that reveals how the results of breast augmentation surgery will actually look on their own bodies. This is done by combining a fluid and lifelike 3D virtual image of the patient’s breasts with a live image of their face and body to transform an iPad into a virtual mirror. With ILLUSIO’s technology, surgeons are able to easily manipulate 'virtual breasts' on a patient prospect to quickly replicate any real-life breast characteristics. Patients can see themselves on a large video screen with their new enhanced 'virtual breasts'. The patients can turn side-to-side and experience what their 'new' breasts would look like as their surgeon makes adjustments to the size and shape of their breasts. Again, the visualization systems are designed to function on tablets, any computer with a webcam and also optimized for mobile devices.With the addition of both virtual mirror and real-time deformers, patients and surgeons can now communicate visually which adds to a greater understanding by both parties. This gives patients and surgeons confidence that their desired outcomes are understood, aligned and attainable.

"We believe that any verbal discussion between two or more parties can most likely be improved with the addition of visual aids and demonstrations seen in real time, and overlaid on the real world. It changes a conversation into an experience", says Ethan Winner, CEO, and Co-Founder of ILLUSIO.

Any verbal discussion between two or more parties can most likely be improved with the addition of visual aids and demonstrations seen in real time, and overlaid on the real world. It changes a conversation into an experience

Innovative Uses

Prior to ILLUSIO, Ethan was a global communications executive specializing in reputation and brand management for both professional services and consumer-oriented companies. At ILLUSIO, he leads the team and manages day-to-day operations of the company. "I treat everything as a team effort with the understanding that I have the final say. However, when done properly it seems that every decision is a team decision. This means that there needs to be an extremely functional communications strategy and openness to reflect upon all points of view. I love working this way. It also makes people happy and feel good about themselves, which adds value to the company", elaborates Winner. With the strong sense of accountability towards their investors, Ethan is at the forefront for building new solid strategies, being nimble, reaching end goals, scaling the business and help it reach newer heights. "Everything that we do is market driven. Our early beta version was far inferior to what we have today and it was entirely driven through market forces. We anticipate that almost everything that we do will have to be iterative in nature as we are creating something new and it would be absolutely idiotic to presume that we know how the market will respond with each new development".

This is profound advice, and as Ethan rightly puts it, "Being an entrepreneur is definitely about fundraising and fiscal accountability as much as it is about invention and development". When Ethan is not working on solving problems and driving business growth, he can be found outdoors on the golf course or training on an aerobic regiment for all the three disciplines of a triathlon.

Next Generation Computer Imaging

Through its augmented reality platform, ILLUSIO brings unique benefits to patients as well as the surgeons. Other solutions simply attempt to simulate surgery outcomes on mannequins or before-after pictures of other women. ILLUSIO allows patients to see the actual appearance of their new breasts on their own bodies. With ILLUSIO, patients have the opportunity to work with their surgeon to evaluate what different sizes and types of implant options will look on their own body. Decide the right look for themselves along with the flexibility to experience (with the app) in the privacy of their own home. ILLUSIO thus takes the guessing out of the process or disappointment with the outcome of surgery to allow one to decide with confidence what surgery is right for them. "We also offer women who are interested in information on breast augmentation, our online virtual mirror application", shares Winner. For surgeons the quick easy-to-use setup that only requires a simple iPad or Android tablet with a stand, allows them to spend time with each patient on what matters most—controlling their expectations, limiting their anxiety and offering better care.

When ILLUSIO first became available, surgeons saw an immediate increase in their surgery rates and positive patient reviews. Since then, ILLUSIO has now been introduced to plastic surgery offices across the country. "We are using augmented reality as a tool to enable better functionality in a communications software offering, we find ourselves having to build expertise in numerous areas from technology to operations to many areas specific to the medical industry and more specifically, the world of aesthetic and plastic surgery", says Winner.

Ethan Winner, CEO & Co-founder, ILLUSIO

Future Roadmap

Likewise, the company intends it's mastectomy simulation to be utilized when a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. There are terrific psychological benefits from seeing a virtual simulation of mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery all the way through the healing process.

By building its technology continually, ILLUSIO envisions becoming an important component to every patient who consults for breast augmentation. With several use-cases, they intend on becoming a dominant augmented reality software company in medical simulations.

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Live Animations: Making real life exciting

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Live Animations: Making real life exciting

AR/VR

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Live Animations

Timoshenko Andrey is not keen on doing anything ordinary. Indeed, his journey speaks out for himself. Starting at 22 he has successfully pivoted as many as thirteen diverse businesses from car rentals to development to manufacturing of marketing equipment under him. Now 50 and running his fourteenth, also the most beloved one, he is doing it again. "Augmented reality is terra incognita, there are no predetermined ways in it, it is only for pioneers and innovators,'' declares Timoshenko Andrey, Co-Founder, and CEO of Live Animations.

Founded in 2014, Live animation has offices in the USA, Germany, and Ukraine. The idea is to 'Create magic' by facilitating innovative development of manufacturers offering useful products in the world. The company specializes in developing effective innovative marketing solutions with the technology of augmented reality for children, family brands and businesses. The offerings are a set of effective marketing solutions- from the concept to the finished AR-product and its following support. The company's patent for a useful model called 'Interactive notebook' and trademarks like a live notebook, live animation, open magic, chocolate cartoon, cartoon surprise, ice cream cartoon, flakes cartoons speaks volumes about its world-class technological and intellectual groundwork. Looking at the numbers-- 4.5 average rating of applications, 25 projects, 12 million downloads, 137 million interactions with the audience, marketing solutions used in 54 countries and monthly expanding list -- shows how the company is leading the way in AR innovations and market penetration.

"Augmented reality is terra incognita, there are no predetermined ways in it, it is only for pioneers and innovators''

Reality, only Better

Live Animations facilitates parents who are always looking for new and creative ways to support the development of their kids. AR can perform an educational function by presenting a child new facts and information in a fascinating way. Combining it with their skill of creating exquisite characters, locations, and scenes in AR; Live animation has the vision of how to arrange and combine many elements of digital content with real objects, so that children could perceive the end result as a whole piece, harmonical, and always charged with aesthetics and magic. Their advanced AR apps and platforms architecture development technology power their apps, as a result, they have great stability and high user ratings. One of the products of their geniuses are the books that were created for Little Hippo Publishing which were awarded 2018 Parents Choice Award, and successfully found their way to Walmart’s shelves. On average, each app was downloaded 500 000 times.

At the same time, Live animation is devoted to developing effective AR-powered marketing solutions that emphasize brands’ uniqueness, informs clients about brand’s values in an accessible way, make them stand out among competitors, add extra value to their products, fill them with life, increase their value for consumers, facilitate the emotional connection between brands and consumers, and, ultimately, make consumers fall in love with products.

Spicing it Up!

"From the cycles of maturity perspective, today AR has successfully climbed over the peak illusions and huge expectations went through the stage of certain market disappointments and has begun its way on the “Enlightenment hill” - the period when some ideas are reviewed and corrections are made. I think that in 3-4 years AR will achieve the “Plateau of performance,” when the advantages of AR become obvious for everyone", explains Andrey. So he points out, "future developments in marketing will be largely related to this technology, as this is an innovative tool, but not everyone knows how and where to use yet." That's precisely how Live animation is special the exceptional quality of the products, verified by their unrivaled user ratings, the company has opened many new opportunities giving this market a fresh look. Of course, this is not a coincidence, but a result of great responsibility and organization. The company has a system that includes a clearly defined organizational structure, meticulous job descriptions, awareness of each employee about his or her functions, clear definition and systematization of all working processes, and a high level of discipline in the entire team. Further, a specifically developed approach to hiring, training plans for each employee, an active mentoring system, and regularly held seminars enable the team to do everything possible and impossible to capture these elusive effects of magic. "This is crucial, especially for children, because they believe in Santa Claus and good wizards; they need magic and not a soulless, mechanical product. We make the world a better place by adding magic to it! We do this every day, adding magic to ordinary things. People see it and feel it; that is why we receive thousands of reviews and letters with words of gratitude and support", cheers Andrey.

Once a large global producer of confectionery had an extremely puzzling task for the team. They were tasked with creating an idea of a large-scale marketing campaign but the challenge was involved more than 40 unrelated items on their product list in the campaign. In addition, time was extremely limited. So what happened? The team ended up creating something no one ever thought! The developed idea placed an additional value for a child into every product’s packaging - a charming educational cartoon with the brand’s mascot, educational mini-games, and bonuses. By scanning special codes on packaging, a consumer could open a new episode of a cartoon in augmented reality, as well as mini-games with the mascot. There were 20 cartoon episodes created in total, each around 3 minutes long. In this way, a full-scale AR cartoon series was created. Within less than six months, impressive results were achieved: Live animation app was downloaded more than 545 000 times, more than 18.3 million product interactions were recorded, and users spent 12.1 minutes in the app per one session on average. Later, Adobe Illustrator featured the case in the recommended category on Behance. "I just love what I do. You know, these are the most incredible emotions of happiness, when after many challenges and barriers we manage to reach another goal, produce another stunning product, which ends up in the hands of millions. It is pleasing to feel the pride of employees and to see joyous smiles on their faces because they created something really unique and unparalleled in the world", says Andrey still feeling the rush.

Every day..... Magical!

Live Animation has come a long way creating such elements of success for years and now plans to use their resources working with FMCG, retail, publishers, creating exciting solutions, achieving best results from the first try, avoiding mistakes or financial losses, and bringing to life their mission of development of effective AR solutions for businesses and creating magic for their consumers. "My dream is to create the new magical, friendly, and safe world, where all things come to life, make people happy, provide needed information, teach something useful, help people to develop their abilities. The world, where there is no mind-destructive content, but only good sense and aesthetics", says Andrey with affirmation.. ...sometimes it is all about 'goodwill'...

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Looking through Glass: Leaders in AR/VR, 2019

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Looking through glass

Leaders in AR/VR,

2019

On the cover

Roni Cerga

A passionate business leader and innovator. His vision has helped create world-class offerings by utilizing cutting edge cross-functional growth strategies. 

Perspective

Reality, relative

AR/VR/MR are blurring the lines between what is real or not. New worlds, ideas and perspectives will become easier to understand using the power of this technology.

Reveal

Articles

Some of choicest articles for your reading pleasure

The virtual ecology of Red Dead Redemption 2

Deer, bison and pronghorn traverse the plains in large herds…scavengers quickly sniff out carrion, sockeye salmon leap upstream, wolves attack in packs surrounding their prey, geese fly in fixed formations, possums play dead, rodents scamper into tree hollows, grizzly bears bluff charge when threatened and birds of prey soar on thermals.

Make better cities with VR.

Companies like Dassault Systems are partnering with different cities to use digital tools to develop more responsive cities. The 3DExperienceCity project allows urban planners to digitally test ideas and better consider the impact of urbanisation.

inside track

Leaders

Leaders

matan-ceo-wakingApp-leader-ar-vr-2019-aspioneer

Matan Libis, CEO, WakingApp

founder-CEO-ken- ehrhart-paracosma-ar-vr-leader-2019-aspioneer

Ken Ehrhart, Founder & CEO, Paracosma

illusio-ceo-ethan-winner-ar-vr-leader-2019-aspioneer

Ethan Winner, CEO & Co-Founder, ILLUSIO

ceo-tim-live-animations-leader-ar-vr-2019-aspioneer

Art

Timoshenko Andrey, Co-Founder & CEO

All designs displayed on this page are the intellectual property of © Aspioneer BizByts Marketing Pvt. Ltd.

Make better cities with VR.

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Make better cities with VR.

AR/VR

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Cities

New technologies offer new possibilities for planning and designing cities. 3D urban modelling and simulation can give a real sense of the outcomes of planning decisions. However, incorporating these technologies into planning practice has its challenges.

The possibilities of 3D modelling

A virtual 3D city model is a digital model of urban areas. It represents terrain surfaces, sites, buildings, vegetation, infrastructure and landscape elements, and other related objects belonging to an urban space. This technique can be used to spatially design and visualise development in relation to the existing urban environment. It can also be used to compare different urban design strategies. These can be evaluated against measures such as land use, population and housing densities, building height, floor area ratio, and development costs.

Planners can use 3D modelling to analyse and communicate the impact of both existing and new (re)development plans. They can look, for example, at overshadowing, sunlight exposure, view corridors, compliance with zoning regulation, traffic gravity and solar potential of buildings – to name a few. The 3D models also offer a new platform to involve citizens in urban planning. It is imperative that public concerns, needs and values are part of government decision-making.

How are cities using 3D models?

Local government and the private sector are increasingly using 3D city models to assist planning. An example is Virtual Brisbane. Brisbane City Council uses this computer-generated 3D model for strategic planning, development assessment and community engagement. Singapore is launching Virtual Singapore, a 3D replica of the city-state in July 2018. This platform will offer new possibilities for urban planners. Both Detroit in the US and Munich in Germany see realistic 3D modelling as important for planning their future.

Companies like Dassault Systems are partnering with different cities to use digital tools to develop more responsive cities. The 3DExperienceCity project allows urban planners to digitally test ideas and better consider the impact of urbanisation. These techniques also integrate people, enabling a more personalised approach to planning to be developed.

Companies like Dassault Systems are partnering with different cities to use digital tools to develop more responsive cities. The 3DExperienceCity project allows urban planners to digitally test ideas and better consider the impact of urbanisation.

Integration into planning education

The increasing demand from industry for spatially adept planners adds to the importance of introducing new ways of teaching and training built-environment professionals. The University of Queensland is leading a project where researchers design and implement a sequential learning curriculum in its Bachelor of Urban and Town Planning program. By developing virtual 3D models students develop their spatial skills. Students learn to use ESRI’s CityEngine, an industry-standard software to develop 3D city models. This enables them to visualise, plan, assess and communicate existing and new developments. Most students in our experiment were enthusiastic about this new learning opportunity to hone their spatial skills, particularly in the earlier stage of the learning process.

However, they were constrained by the limited time available to learn to use the technology. And the joy of learning and skill development is also challenged by the need to go beyond their comfort zone to secure a good grade in the course. Nonetheless, students became fully aware of the technologies and recognised the importance of spatial skills for their professional development. The emergence of geodesign is at the intersection of geography, urban design and geospatial technologies. It helps inform when, where and how students develop spatial thinking capacities and skills.

These capabilities are critical to managing, visualising, representing and navigating a data-based world. It also purposefully exposes students to innovative learning environments that allow them to visualise design scenarios and so better manage uncertainty. The use of interactive digital mapping in higher education is an effective instructional strategy to teach and practise critical spatial thinking. Augmented reality technology offers students a new way to visualise urban landscapes. It develops their map-reading skills and allows them to interpret landscape representations. This enhances their ability to understand the physical and digital aspects of urban places.

The rise of geospatial technologies, sensor networks and the “Internet of Things” is transforming the urban planning curriculum, design and pedagogy. It provides students with new ways of learning critical spatial thinking skills and improves the training of spatial planners to better equip them for the age of co-creation. It also improves their spatial literacy to co-design the built environment. This can help them become better planners, become more relevant to design practice and increase their overall competency and employability when they enter the workplace. 3D modelling and simulation certainly offer new possibilities in designing planning solutions. City dwellers must be included in this process to develop strategies that are more responsive to sustainability challenges such as urban population growth.

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The virtual ecology of Red Dead Redemption 2

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The virtual ecology of Red Dead Redemption 2

AR/VR

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Gaming

Deer, bison and pronghorn traverse the plains in large herds…scavengers quickly sniff out carrion, sockeye salmon leap upstream, wolves attack in packs surrounding their prey, geese fly in fixed formations, possums play dead, rodents scamper into tree hollows, grizzly bears bluff charge when threatened and birds of prey soar on thermals.

That may sound like a mountie’s report on the Canadian wilderness, but it’s actually how Rockstar recently promoted Red Dead Redemption 2 – its critically acclaimed game, which transports players to a sprawling and immersive Wild West. Red Dead Redemption 2 features more than 200 species of animal in a variety of habitats, and its record breaking success suggests that authentic natural environments which mimic the ecology of the real world will become a mainstay of future titles.

Video games have grown in scale and complexity to the point where intricate virtual ecosystems of this kind are now possible, with flora and fauna living and behaving in these virtual worlds as they do in ours. As of 2018, the worldwide games industry was estimated to be worth around £100 billion. To put that into perspective, it’s 1.5 times bigger than the movie industry and five times bigger than the music industry, with one in three people on the planet being a gamer. Not bad for an industry that is only around 50 years old.

Alongside the huge financial success of modern games is the ever-growing size of “open-world games”, in which players are free to explore vast and interactive virtual worlds. These virtual environments have gone from simple mono-block representations of landscapes to dynamic and interactive ecosystems. They have plants that can be foraged and a variety of wildlife that demonstrate complex AI-driven behaviour, interacting with the player and each other.

Virtual ecosystems

Within Red Dead Redemption 2, apex predators such as alligators lurk patiently underwater, anything (including other animals) in the game that venture too close to the water’s edge quickly meets its demise. Deer will also react to unseen predators, alerting the player to cougars lurking in nearby grass. Horses, one of the most important animals in the game, also react to other wildlife – bolting at the sign of a bear or hidden rattlesnake – demonstrating authentic animal intelligence.

Guerrilla Games’s open world role playing game Horizon Zero Dawn features machine as well as organic “animals”. The machine animals in particular exhibit behaviours that don’t primarily rely on the player’s interaction. “Corrupted” machines will often attack their non-corrupted counterparts, with the player often coming across the bodies of dead machines, alluding to a dynamic world that exists outside the player’s attention. The bodies of fallen machine animals, like in any real ecosystem, are not wasted. If not engaged in combat or roaming territory, “scrappers” (machines resembling hyenas), and “glinthawks” (giant vulture-type machines) will consume fallen machine animals they detect nearby – replicating decomposition and nutrient cycling.

Nintendo’s open world game Zelda: Breath of The Wild uses “virtual foraging” which is required to progress through the game. However just like the real world, players also need to be careful as flora and fauna can be easily over-foraged, forcing the player to wait for stocks to replenish. All of this is more impressive when we consider that it has all been achieved in a single generation. Video games as a medium are relative newcomers – the industry only emerged in the 1970s. After the same length of time, films were still black and white. One can only wonder what gamers will be playing ten, 20 or even 50 years from now.

The future of games

Ecosystems in games are increasingly dynamic and “lived-in”, which opens the potential for education. Anna Groves, an American ecologist and gamer explained:

A kid who loves lighting the Hyrulian grassland on fire just might get excited about grassland restoration ecology when they find out it involves lighting real-life grasslands on fire.

As games increasingly use ecology as a core gameplay feature, its value and relevance as a subject field will inevitably increase – exposing children to an academic subject in an accessible and enjoyable manner. Video games offer unparalleled creative freedom to explore subjects like ecology. Designers can create environments filled with long extinct species or pristine ecosystems that recreate how wilderness may have looked before human intervention. Children may “play” with imagined scenarios of the natural world in an intuitive, immersive and fun manner, far surpassing what is possible in traditional educational approaches.

As a result, they may gain a deeper appreciation of what natural states are possible through conservation than even a student engaging with depleted ecosystems in the real world could. With the advent of virtual ecology, video games are increasingly functioning as “conduits” to other disciplines. Landscape architecture and psychology are increasingly feeding into contemporary game design. In the future, disciplines such as engineering, geology and even medicine could start to inform the next generation of games.

When designing the worlds we play in, future game designers might increasingly be educated in “traditional” elements of landscape design, including ecology and architecture. With this also comes the opportunity for people in different fields to collaborate in shaping the worlds of future video games, radically reshaping both professions in the process.

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Holographic teachers. Almost here?

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Holographic teachers. Almost here?

AR/VR

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Education

Cast your mind back to the turn of last century. Experts predicted that by now classrooms would no longer feature human teachers, and holographic virtual entities would deliver lessons instead. This certainly hasn’t happened. The closest we have come is group video chat via apps like FaceTime, Zoom or Google Hangouts. But this doesn’t mean holograms aren’t part of our lives – they’re just marketed differently.

For the past 20 years, researchers and companies have progressed with a vision of “mixed reality”, where the physical and digital blend together to create seamless, digitally enhanced experiences. Initially limited to research labs and prototypes, we have seen a major increase in the use of mixed reality technology in recent years. And it’s of particular use in classroom settings.

A burgeoning industry

There are more than three billion augmented reality (AR) devices – a type of mixed reality – currently in use. And the industry has an estimated market value of between US$30 billion and US$200 billion. Companies like Apple and Google have embraced AR through developer frameworks such as ARKit and ARCore, which run on a standard smartphone. Microsoft has also been pushing the field of mixed reality through the HoloLens, a standalone headset available to developers since 2016.

But progress has been slow – there has been confusion over the terminology, and missteps along the way. Users of Google Glass were famously termed “glassholes” out of fear they would use the built-in camera to secretly record people.

Significant military investment

Microsoft was recently awarded a US$480 million contract to supply prototypes of HoloLens to the US Army. HoloLens has been used in training before, but this is the first time these devices will be used in combat to “provide troops with more and better information to make decisions”. Back in 2016, the Israeli government trialled HoloLens in battlefield training for soldiers. The device allowed soldiers to manipulate military terrain models, while also accessing intelligence data.

It could also be used to give visual and audible instructions to help combat soldiers to fix malfunctioning equipment, or medics to perform surgery on wounded soldiers. By blending the physical and the digital, Microsoft and the military think they can provide new, enhanced information that will help soldiers detect and decide whether to engage with the enemy.

Although the military’s provision of the HoloLens will have enhancements and secret capabilities, a version is already available to developers. And this is currently being trialled in university education – so is it a disruptive technology that will change the way we teach our students?

There are more than three billion augmented reality (AR) devices – a type of mixed reality – currently in use. And the industry has an estimated market value of between US$30 billion and US$200 billion.

Not a holographic professor, but a professor with holograms

Educational technology is increasingly used in modern curricula. This is particularly the case in disciplines such as health sciences and medicine, where 3D representations of the human body facilitate an enhanced learning experience compared with traditional media or textbook illustrations. Virtual reality is already used for teaching at several universities. But VR technology requires users to wear a headset that blocks out the real world, removing learners from the classroom, and placing them in their own virtual space.

This makes it hard for educators to work with the technology during a teaching session. Education through virtual reality remains largely standalone and supplementary to the content otherwise taught in class. On the other hand, mixed reality, as observed through devices such as HoloLens, could allow users to remain a physical part of the class, with the digital visualisations being included in addition to the normal instruction. In this way, the live educator remains part of the direct experience, with verbal instructions and teaching continuing as normal.

The holographic renderings provide an additional layer to normal learning sessions. It also allows the students’ hands to be free, so they can write notes or interact with resources around the teaching space. This new range of hologram-capable devices may bridge the gap between the teacher-directed style of lessons, and the student undergoing self-study away from live instruction.

As these technologies develop, we, as educators, can work with the 3D representations to enhance our teaching. For example, during a lesson on the cardiovascular system, a beating heart could be represented in front of the students, while the educator guides them through the features. Or a human brain could be visualised in 3D space, while regions are highlighted and dissected in real time by the educator. This creates a style of lesson not possible through simple pen and paper, or even through virtual reality.

Professor and holograms as co-teachers

Since 1928, when the first “teaching machine” was invented, educational technology has gone through periods where the newest devices received great hype, yet did little to enhance learning. In fact, outside of PowerPoint and learning management systems, few technologies are widely used by educators, particularly in universities.

But mixed reality provides a mechanism where students, educators, physical resources and technology can all work together to create an augmented learning environment like never before. The HoloLens remains a development edition, with the consumer release date still unannounced. But, with large investments from the military, this technology is here to stay, and will only improve.

While it’s not a standalone “holographic professor”, mixed reality is likely to disrupt the way we teach, transform the style of teaching that occurs across a number of disciplines, and revolutionise the learning experience.

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Virtual reality is changing tourism in a good way.

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Virtual reality is changing tourism in a good way.

AR/VR

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Tourism

Back in 2001, an acquaintance who worked for Lonely Planet told me about a surprise discovery. The travel guide business had an audience of people who would buy their travel books, but never travel. Lonely Planet dubbed them “virtual tourists”. Now Lonely Planet, and others, have become excited by tourism powered by virtual reality (VR) – both on this planet and, thanks to NASA, on others.

But VR tourism isn’t only about recreating a virtual version of reality that renders travel to the destination unnecessary. It can enhance tourism in other ways – by allowing tourists to handle precious historical artefacts in virtual form, or by retelling contested histories from previously unexplored perspectives. VR films are also being developed by travel companies, such as Thomas Cook. And Tourism Australia has partnered with Google to understand the marketing potential of VR (well, 360 degree panoramic videos).

What is virtual tourism?

In contrast to Lonely Planet’s definition, let’s consider virtual tourism to be the application of virtual reality – including augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) – to tourism. The term virtual reality is most commonly used to describe what happens when you are completely immersed in a virtual environment you can see through a headset. Enhanced forms of virtual reality allow you to interact with that environment using extra equipment, such as gloves fitted with sensors.

Virtual reality is also used as a catch-all term to describe the overall spectrum of digitally mediated reality, which includes virtual reality, as well as mixed reality and augmented reality. Augmented reality and mixed reality are computer-generated visualisations that augment our sense of the real world around us or merge the real and virtual together. You still wear a headset, but rather than blocking out the world, an AR or MR headset enables you to see visualisations within your real world surroundings.

Augmented reality and mixed reality is usually visual, but you can now get audio augmented reality, that will play audio recordings through special glasses about sites you’re looking at. There is even olfactory-augmented reality that can enhance your experience with smell.

Moving beyond realism

Virtual reality can be more than a mirror that gives you a realistic interactive simulation of the current world: it can bring the past into the present.

As Sir David Attenborough has noted:

The one thing that really frustrates you in a museum is when you see something really fascinating, you don’t want to be separated from it by glass. You want to be able to look at it and see the back of it and turn it around and so on.

The London Natural History Museum’s app Hold the World gives users a chance to move and manipulate virtual objects that are fragile, expensive or remote. Virtual tourism is also breathing new life into mythology and folklore. In Denmark, there are plans to turn a virtual reality exhibition exploring Viking history and Norse mythology into a permanent theme park. Visitors will be able to fight giants and dragons, and explore a complete “Nordic” landscape.

Virtual tourism can allow people to hear fresh interpretations of history. For example, the augmented reality app Dilly Bag connects users with the stories of Indigenous Australian servicemen via a smartphone. Stories can be told from the perspective of flying animals, or provide thrills and spills that appear more dangerous, immediate and visceral than the real thing (see this VR rollercoaster theme park in China).

Whether virtual tourism proves to be only a pale imitation of the real thing depends on how imaginative we are.

How common is virtual tourism

Given the expense and complexity of virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality arguably have more potential for virtual tourism. Wi-Fi, which is required for many virtual tourism experiences, is now commonplace, and many people do have their own devices. But content must be tailored to specific devices – smartphones can overheat from processing so much data, and the size of tablets can make them unwieldy.

The number of exciting technological showcases is matched by the number of failed or broken equipment and deserted VR centres. Hyped promises proliferate – apparently every year is the year that VR, AR and MR will break though. Yet any VR software and hardware currently full of promise seems to get old very, very, quickly. If we are to move past one-hit AR wonders such as Pokémon Go, we need scalable yet engaging content, stable tools, appropriate evaluation research and robust infrastructure.

Formats such as WebVR and Web XR promise to supply content across both desktops and head mounted displays, without having to download plugins. But before we see virtual tourism become widespread, we need to change our preconceptions about what virtual reality is. Let’s not limit VR experiences to recreations of the real world, instead let’s open our minds to history, mythology and fresh perspectives from real people.

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