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page 40 The magic of augmented reality In two days, 30 March 2016 to be precise, Microsoft is scheduled to release its headgear for augmented…

page 40

The magic of augmented reality

In two days, 30 March 2016 to be precise, Microsoft is scheduled to release its headgear for augmented reality. Dubbed HoloLens, the gear is a full, standalone Windows 10 device. HoloLens combines the real world you are located in, with a virtual one – hologram, using a combo of high-definition displays, see-through lenses, and eye calibration, to create a pretty powerful out-of-this-world effect. Note that the headgear is actually a computer.

With a built-in 3D depth-sensing camera and precise motion sensors, artificial images can be made to fully interact with your physical world. For example, right in front of your eyes, you can see mango trees grow and blossom right on top of your dining table; or objects can begin to bounce off your real furniture. You can pierce holes right through the real walls of the room you are located in. Moreover, while seated in your office at work, the president of this country can suddenly appear in your office as if to query you for not doing the work you are being paid to do as a civil servant. All these with audios to boot! That is, the president can actually start talking with you – for example, asking you when you reported to work today; and you can carry out a conversation with him. Moreover, you can create a “life” video of the unique interaction that you have with the president inside your office and send the video to your friends and family. That is, as an archive of the day the president visited your office. What is also amazing is that, with some tools, other people who happen to be in your office when the president appeared will also be able to see and talk with him, in full size, as he chats with all of you. How cool is that?

Now, don’t try to touch your (VIP) visitor or shake hands with him, for you can only see and hear him. You can’t touch him or smell him because he is obviously virtual!

There are two related technologies here: Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). In VR, a totally artificial (virtual, digital) environment is created for you to watch or play with, whereas, in AR, your real (physical) environment is combined (integrated) with some virtual digital information in real time. In AR, the virtual information is overlaid on top of your real environment. In the above illustrations, your dining table, furniture, walls in your room, and office, are real – you can touch them, whereas, the mango tree, the objects bouncing on your furniture, the holes through the wall, or the appearance of the president in your office, are all virtual. Obviously, AR is more advanced than VR.

According to an Internet post by Margaret Rouse in techtarget, “Augmented reality apps are written in special 3D programs that allow the developer to tie animation or contextual digital information in the computer program to an augmented reality “marker” in the real world. When a computing device’s AR app or browser plug-in receives digital information from a known marker, it begins to execute the marker’s code and layer the correct image or images. AR applications for smartphones typically include global positioning system (GPS) to pinpoint the user’s location and its compass to detect device orientation. Sophisticated AR programs used by the military for training may include machine vision, object recognition and gesture recognition technologies.”

Although the original motive of VR and AR might have been for video games, it is now believed that VR and AR might actually be better suited for the enterprise than the consumer market. Mechanical engineers could apply VR and AR to build rapid virtual prototypes of new designs, test materials, and provide training for new employees. These technologies can also find huge applications in collaboration: Geographically dispersed teams can exchange information and ideas in a 3D virtual environment; perhaps much more effectively than using video conferencing, which is 2D.

IKEA, the home goods company, is reportedly deploying AR for its customers. Nicole Laskowski, also in a techtarget Internet post, states that “Using an IKEA catalogue and catalogue app, customers can add virtual furnishings to their bedrooms or kitchens, snap a photo and get a sense for what the items will look like in their homes. And companies such as Audi and Marriott are turning VR headsets over to customers to help them visually sift through their choices for vehicle customizations and virtually travel to other countries, respectively.”

Besides Microsoft and Google; Samsung, Facebook, Apple, and the Chinese company, Baidu, are also into VR.

Needless to say that these new technologies will have some IT consequences for optimum deployment: the large contents that need to be created, stored, and maintained, and the larger bandwidth requirement compared to, say, video streaming, because the immersive experience in VR/AR is far more dynamic.

Boosting SMEs capacity via ICT

From Nahimah Ajikanle Nurudeen, Lagos

Small and Medium Enterprises which are found in every sector of any economy play a vital role as engines through which developing countries thrive.

They form the major components of any economy worldwide, and Nigeria can achieve more rapid economic growth through such medium. It is not the size of the business in a society that matters, but its impact. In Nigeria today 65-70% of its businesses are under small and medium enterprise.

In this Nigerian economy filled with challenges, competition and undulating customer tendencies, SME’s create a niche for individuals to grow and flourish.

SMEs have been globally acknowledged as instruments for achieving economic growth and development as well as employment creation.

An army of about 50 million SMEs creating about 500 million jobs between 1980 and 2012 led the Chinese economic miracle. However, against international best practices Nigeria is rated poorly as far as this sector is concerned.

The potential already exists with about 17million registered SMEs, but industry analysts have stressed the need for government to create enabling environment for SMEs to thrive.

The experts also identified technology adoption in this segment of the economy to boost capacities and enhance productivity.

Technology has made it possible to do business in a much smarter yet cost efficient manner than was ever imagined. SMEs productivity and capacity can be best achieved via Mobile services, the Internet, smarter devices and the Cloud which make for a much more empowered growing businesses.

Addressing the technological needs of SMEs could be reflected in ways by which telecommunications operators designed various solutions specifically targets at small enterprise.

Leading in the forefront of SMEs oriented products is MTN Nigeria with an array of solutions to help deliver the bests out of start-ups in the country through unit tagged MTN business.

The service provider introduced MTN MyOffice as SME-focused ICT solutions designed to enhance the way SMEs work and collaborate.

The suite includes: Closed user group voice services, Devices bundled with mobile broadband, Internet Fixed broadband, Internet with free modems, MTN Desktop as a Service, MTN Conference Call and MTN WebPlus.

Other Services are a host of SME-targeted services which are to be delivered on the MTN MyOffice platform in the near future Web/Email HostingDomain Name RegistrationWeb Design/Development.

The telco also initiated some partnerships aimed at encouraging SMEs in benefiting from such solutions.

MTN Business last year signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) to provide business solutions to 35 million SMEDAN-recognised members.

This collaboration made it possible for SMEs registered with SMEDAN to access an online platform that offers access to market and visibility for their business offerings.

It has also made it possible for utilise MTN’s broad range of SME-specific technology solutions, as well as discounts on select MTN SME services.

The General Manger, Enterprise Marketing, MTN Nigeria, Mrs. Onyinye Ikenna-Emeka, said, “we understand what it takes to grow and sustain a business, we provide growing business solutions designed to meet their unique requirements, helping them to become bigger and better.”

Also, the ‘Y’ello Biz’ initiative was MTN’s collaboration with Mansard on an insurance scheme for SMEsto provide the necessary affordable insurance solutions that needed to run their businesses with peace of mind.

The service allowed interested SMEs to subscribe with N300 for a week in order to enjoy N1m ($5000) mansard insurance cover for their businesses.

Reports indicate that the insurance package covers registered SMEs against fire, flood and other risks. Also, the Y’ello Biz can be bundled with voice, data and SMS services, as it is from the stable of the MTN Y’ello Cover; a suite of insurance services offered by MTN to its network subscribers.

Sales & Distributions Executive, MTN Nigeria, Mr Tsola Barrow, said, “At MTN Business, we believe that the SMEs are the anchor of local economies and, as a critical agent for national economic development, we believe in enabling not only big businesses but also small businesses.”

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