Month: Dec 2017

Future of the workplace is exciting, technologically innovative – and imminent

As long as the demand for “more,” “better” and “faster” continues, the vision for the future will be here before we know it.




The year is 2027, and you’re ready for your morning commute to work. You’re dressed casually, because the business world long ago realized comfort inspires creativity. You head toward the car. It’s the same car that takes you to work every day, only you don’t own it. Why would you? There’s no need since you bought an annual commute subscription from the car service company that emerged out of Uber’s ashes. The car is always on time and gets you to work efficiently because it has access to special “no manual driving” lanes on the highway.

But this is only the beginning of your productive and efficient commute. As you slide into the car, you don’t face forward or sit behind the wheel. Rather, you face the car’s back window, which has become a screen, and where the video call you just initiated appears. The audio system connects to your virtual assistant and starts prioritizing your tasks. Simultaneously, you respond to network messages (the evolution of email) via voice. This task, however, is one you find tedious. You’re really looking forward to the upcoming new technology where your thoughts can be transferred straight to the network. This, of course, makes you ponder what happens to driverless cars when you can directly interface into a virtual reality work environment…

Contemplating the future of the business world is a fun exercise, especially considering where we are today with technology, and the pace of change at which it continues to evolve. It seems the future workplace is limited only by our imaginations, and is not all that far off. A handful of today’s technology visions are only five or 10 years away, their evolution driven by our unending quest for convenience, personalization, ease of use — and more innovation. The following provides some of our insights into what the future workplace might look like.

Information at your fingertips

How much time do you spend on data — staring at it, inputting it, analyzing it? Likely a lot, with whatever time left over dedicated to creative tasks and cultivating relationships with your colleagues and customers. In fact, you must process data in order to cultivate relationships. Wouldn’t it be better if you could spend less time processing that data?  The workplace of the future will drastically accelerate how we interact with data so that more time can be spent innovating and establishing relationships. First of all, machines will collect all the data that we could possibly need — more than any human is capable of understanding. That’s IoT at work today.  But don’t worry, the machines will realize this, so they’ll pare it down and present data and analysis in easy-to-comprehend formats for humans. Information needed by humans will automatically be presented — distilled into key facts, trends, priorities and insights — and ready for observation and discussion. Machine learning comes into play here: Based on the user’s response to the collected data, an algorithm will organize analysis to highlight only the most relevant insights based upon best practices from many similar analyses.

The declining role of mobile devices

Smart phones are revolutionary, and they have been integral to the workplace for years. They’ve made an indelible mark on society, but so did the VCR 30 years ago. Innovation in mobile phones has arguably leveled off, with the real innovation taking place these days in the cloud instead (think: map routing, information gathering and reduction).

In fact, the mobile phone itself — and even the laptop — may be an impediment in the future. Consider this: Today, we’re used to interacting with our hardware devices through typing and voice commands. But there’s a clear path to the future that bypasses these devices completely, instead connecting your human brain directly to neural networks. You think it, and it will be done — a completely frictionless experience. This concept may seem otherworldly, but it’s already in play to help those suffering from physical disabilities. A research team from the University of Melbourne has developed a device that controls exoskeletons using the mind. It’s set for human clinical trials next year. This type of technology will no doubt open the door to a range of possible uses and make smart phones, tablets and laptops a thing of the past. Today, the Aira headset is already helping the visually impaired navigate an ever-increasing complex world with a combination of wireless video, AI and text-to-speech. The future is here.

AI and AR

Artificial intelligence (AI) is at the front end of its hype cycle. Today, certain pieces of AI are very real: chat bots, natural language processing and pattern recognition in machine learning. Given the progress we’ve made with AI over the past five years, its potential for the future is staggering and unlimited — and a boon for many customer-facing applications. For example, sales professionals will very soon have AI-driven personal assistants. This assistant of the future will not only make the sales professional more efficient and effective at getting the job done, but will also reveal something he didn’t already know about his customers, helping create a better customer experience.

Augmented reality (AR) will also play a starring role in the future workplace, as underscored by a forecast from the Cisco Mobile Visual Networking Index. It says that AR mobile traffic will increase from 3PB per month (by the way, petabytes are big!) in 2016 to 20PB per month by 2021 — that’s a seven-fold increase in just five years. For those not in the know, AR is an emerging technology with roots in virtual reality — a composite view of a physical, real-world environment augmented by sound and video graphics (for example, the Pokéman Go! game). In practice, AR can be used by workers in a factory who wear AR glasses in a dangerous environment. These AR glasses could automatically display information to help protect workers from the dangers of their job, perhaps preventing accidents and saving lives — not to mention millions of dollars in workers’ comp claims. Or, imagine how AR will impact driverless cars, enabling three-dimensional, virtual interaction with customers and colleagues in a space designed to get the professional from point A to point B. Taking it a step further, AR may even be able to display information about a customer as you interact with him, customizing and enhancing your interaction. So, rather than looking up a customer’s LinkedIn profile or doing a Google search on him to gain more information (à la 2016), the information will just appear next to him on your video screen or AR-equipped glasses as you speak with the customer.

The physical office is here to stay

Yes, technology means you can work from virtually anywhere. But one thing that predictors are getting wrong is the demise of the physical office. The office will instead remain integral to the work experience. The reason? Human-to-human interaction is still very valuable. There exists a powerful dynamic in employees working shoulder to shoulder, participating in unplanned conversations that don’t as easily happen over the phone. This collaborative environment is especially important among creative teams.

Two big brands are underscoring this notion: Apple is completing work on its $6 billion Cupertino, Calif.-based campus, while Google likely spends millions to operate high-end buses bringing employees from San Francisco to the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. each day.

10 years ago, Facebook was just getting started, machine learning and AI were mere concepts, and self-driving cars were parked in our imaginations. So, when you consider how far we’ve come in just the past decade, our opening scenario isn’t outside the realm of possibility, given our appetite for innovation. As long as the demand for “more,” “better” and “faster” continues, the vision for the future will be here before we know it.


5 technologies disrupting the app development industry

There’s no denying the influence that technology has over our modern society. We live and breathe the stuff, whether we’re sitting at a desktop computer in the office or whether we’re checking our heart rates from our smartwatches, fiddling with our iPhones or talking to Amazon’s Alexa.

Technology is disrupting every industry there is, and we’re all aware of that. But what’s even more interesting is the way that technology now moves so quickly that even relatively new fields – like the field of professional app development – are being disrupted by the next generation of tech.

Moore’s Law famously states that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits will continue to double every year in the foreseeable future. In layman’s terms, that means that technology is getting faster and more powerful while simultaneously becoming more lightweight, and it’s happening at an alarming rate.

But with so much disruption on the horizon, what does this mean for app developers? Let’s find out.

1. AI and machine Learning

Sure, there are many in the tech industry who believe that artificial intelligence is going to kill us all, but we prefer to be optimistic. The truth is that AI and machine learning have the potential to revolutionize the world as we know it, especially if there’s enough data to learn from and enough processing power to arrive at a conclusion.

For app developers, this means that they’ll be able to harness the awesome powers of AI and machine learning within their own applications. Netflix uses it to power their recommendations. YouTube uses it to filter out content that isn’t advertiser friendly. It can deliver a more intuitive, user-friendly experience and be used to increase the amount of time that people spend within the app. What’s not to love?

2. The Internet of Things

The internet of things is powered by wearable devices, and it may well be the internet of things that gives app developers the data they need to process with AI and machine learning. We’re already seeing the influence of the internet of things when we look at devices like the Fitbit and the plethora of apps that can integrate with that data to provide personalized health suggestions.

As more and more devices are hooked up to the internet, app developers will have more and more platforms to play with. It’s no longer just a case of Android and iOS. There are virtual reality devices to consider and smartwatches to integrate with. Some app developers are turning their attention to the Amazon Echo and the Google Home to deploy voice apps for people to use. And then there are smart fridges and all sorts of other devices we can’t even begin to imagine.

3. Blockchain

Blockchain technology was created by the legendary Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin. It forms the backbone of cryptocurrency technology, but it also has the potential to cross over to all sorts of other industries. At its simplest level, it’s a digital ledger of transactions that’s impossible to hack or corrupt, which makes it a great way to store all different types of data – and not just cryptocurrency.

Because of this, blockchain technology is breaking out into all sorts of other industries, and it’s likely that app developers are going to need to wrap their heads around it sooner rather than later so that they can use the blockchain approach when it comes to storing user data and other digital information.

4. Self-driving tech

Self-driving technology is already set to change the automotive industry, as well as the way that we live our lives. But with that will come a new opportunity for app developers to create accompanying apps for these vehicles. For example, who will be the Uber of the self-driving taxi industry? And who will build the Waze that self-driving vehicles from different manufacturers can use to communicate and share data?

App developers have been building applications for cars for years now, but the cars of the future will be more powerful and more connected than ever before. And with all of those sensors covering your vehicle, how cool would it be to have a suite of apps that help you to monitor and control your car’s performance over time?

5. AR and VR

Everyone is excited about artificial reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) because we’re finally at a point at which the technology is simultaneously powerful and affordable. It’s been a classic case of app developers having to wait for the hardware to catch up with them, but we’re finally there thanks to cheap headsets like Google Cardboard and other rigs that can be used to turn a smartphone into a VR machine.

We only have to look at the success of Pokémon Go to see that augmented reality apps can become a global phenomenon, and it’s just a matter of time before the next big AR or VR app takes the world by storm. Until then, you can be sure that there are plenty of app developers out there who can’t wait to give it their best shot.

What’s next?

Ultimately, when it comes to disruption for app developers, it’s likely to continue indefinitely into the future. The proliferation of new form factors and the widespread innovation we see when it comes to internet-connected devices means that the only thing we can be certain of is uncertainty.

That means that developers who want to be at the top of their game will need to roll with the times and constantly innovate, whether they’re playing around with new form factors or whether they’re learning to code in a new language.

The good news is that apps are becoming more and more of a part of our daily lives, and they’re increasingly being used in the developing world as people connect to the internet for the first time through a mobile device. The market has never been bigger – and it’s only going to continue to grow in the years to come. It’s an exciting time to be an app developer.


Artificial muscles give ‘superpower’ to robots

;widows: 2;-webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px;text-decoration-style: initial;text-decoration-color: initial;word-spacing:0px’>"It’s like giving these robots superpowers," said senior author Daniela Rus, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The muscles, known as actuators, are built on a framework of metal coils or plastic sheets, and each muscle costs around $1 to make, said the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed US journal.

Their origami inspiration derives from a zig-zag structure that some of the muscles employ, allowing them to contract and expand as commanded, using vacuum-powered air or water pressure.

"The skeleton can be a spring, an origami-like folded structure, or any solid structure with hinged or elastic voids," said the report.

Multiple uses

Possible uses include expandable space habitats on Mars, miniature surgical devices, wearable robotic exoskeletons, deep-sea exploration devices or even transformable architecture.

"Artificial muscle-like actuators are one of the most important grand challenges in all of engineering," said co-author Rob Wood, professor of engineering and applied sciences at Harvard University.

"Now that we have created actuators with properties similar to natural muscle, we can imagine building almost any robot for almost any task."

Researchers built dozens of muscles, using metal springs, packing foam or plastic in a range of shapes and sizes.

They created "muscles that can contract down to 10% of their original size, lift a delicate flower off the ground, and twist into a coil, all simply by sucking the air out of them," said the report.

The artificial muscles "can generate about six times more force per unit area than mammalian skeletal muscle can, and are also incredibly lightweight", it added.

A 2.6g muscle can lift an object weighing 3kg "which is the equivalent of a mallard duck lifting a car".

According to co-author Daniel Vogt, research engineer at the Wyss Institute, the vacuum-based muscles "have a lower risk of rupture, failure, and damage, and they don’t expand when they’re operating, so you can integrate them into closer-fitting robots on the human body".

The research was funded by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Science Foundation and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.


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