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Breaking Office Walls With Augmented And Virtual Reality

These days just about anything can be composited with an AR component and the future will also see the rise of mixed reality – a combination of real and virtual worlds, whereby an action in the virtual world will affect the real world. This is only the beginning of 2018!

Mic Mann




These days there’s so much to be said of office space. We’re seeing open-plan spaces with hot desks, large windows with natural light and plants, game rooms, gardens, in-office restaurants, pet-friendly areas, and anything else you can think of that stimulates creativity and productivity in the work place.

Astronauts, surgeons and engineering companies are huge supporters of remote virtual reality-enabled training as it decreases risks and costs. At the inaugural SingularityU South Africa Summit Mxolisi Mgojo, CEO of Exxaro Resources, spoke about how their employees, some of whom hadn’t completed matric, were able to operate and fix complex mining machines and vehicles with the help of a remote online expert and virtual reality. Yet some business owners are still asking themselves whether there is budget for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in the average business.

The two are often confused – virtual reality places you in a 360-degree animated or live-action environment with the help of a head set; while augmented reality creates a composite view by superimposing a computer-generated image on the real world with the help of a smartphone, tablet or AR-enabled device.

I believe 2018 will be the year in which the digital dimension in the work place – thanks to AR and VR technologies – will become more of a reality beyond merely gaming or entertainment. It will add another layer to our world.

Related: How The Digital World Has Impacted HR

The VR market is estimated to exceed $40 billion by 2020, according to the Global Virtual Reality Market (Hardware and Software) and Forecast by Orbis Research. The biggest players – with a 50% market share in 2016 – were Sony, Facebook, Google and Samsung. Augmented and virtual reality are going to be a trillion-dollar industry in the near future. At SingularityU South Africa, we see it as one of the disruptive exponential technologies that is rapidly changing our world.

Apple iOS11 is equipped with ARKit technology and in future all smartphones are going to be AR-enabled, which is really going to be a gamechanger. Augmented and virtual reality are going to become ubiquitous. I predict that both technologies will be mainstream by 2020.

So, what will work stations, offices and businesses of the future look like and how will these technologies change the way we work?

Virtual and augmented reality will replace 2D computer screens with 3D presentations that are brought to life through animations fused with real-life components. Though we’re still in the early stages, mobile- and desktop-enabled VR and AR applications will allow employees to put on a compact head set that is comfortable to wear for an extended period of time, and be transported through space where all their applications – spread sheets, Word documents, web browsers – are infinitely suspended in the air around them. A video feed will allow them to see their hands typing on the keyboard. It’ll be like something out of Minority Report.

Icelandic tech start-up Mure VR has caught onto what psychology calls Attention Restoration Theory and high-fascination environments (nature’s patterns, textures and colours), which stimulate cognitive renewal and improve concentration. So, they developed the Breakroom app. The virtual desktop-type app allows users to become wholly immersed in any kind of natural landscape and background. Such VR environments encourage greater productivity and fewer distractions in the work space.

Virtual reality is slowly but surely going to kill video conferencing because it’s a much more immersive experience. Gone will be the days of Google Hangouts and Skype conference calls, when you can have a virtual boardroom with executives from around the world, who just have to put on their head sets to see an animated or real-life avatar of their colleagues, as if they are in front of them. It’ll forgo the necessity to travel to attend those meetings – saving time, travel and accommodation costs, while decreasing traveller friction. Because VR allows employees to work from home, we’re also going to see a rise in the location-independent workforce and digital nomads that work more flexible hours and have a healthier work-life balance.

Besides the obvious virtues of augmented and virtual reality in the office, these technologies also allow businesses to sell their products to clients in more immersive ways, undergo realistic customer-service scenarios without the risk and reduced costs, and provide near real-life simulations of technical procedures that allow employees to fix things through remote viewing.

One of 2017’s greatest breakthroughs was how the medical industry started to embrace Microsoft’s HoloLens for medical education and diagnosis. Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University in the United States are leading the way.

Magic Leap’s Leap One AR headset – which includes a wireless controller and is kitted out with cameras and sensors for accurate head and body-tracking – is essentially a wearable computer. Whatever it is that you’d do on your smartphone or computer is projected into your field of view, about the size of a VHS tape if your arms are half extended. It gives users a viewing window into mixed reality.

This is definitely going to be one of the biggest things to watch in 2018. And we’ll see many more improvements in wearable technologies in the coming months and years.

Related: The 10 Best New-Age Business Ideas You Haven’t Heard About Yet

Then there’s how virtual reality will impact the real estate sector. Instead of wasting time and money driving from one residential or commercial property to the next, a realtor can walk you through a number of properties around the world within an hour. Once you’ve bought the property, you can use the recently launched IKEA Place AR app, which runs on Apple’s ARKit, to virtually furnish it with the swipe of your finger. The app scales the IKEA products, based on room dimensions, with 98% accuracy and it’s so detailed that you can even see the texture of the fabric.

Augmented and virtual reality are going to be used more and more for company inductions, team building in the form of gamification features as well as for promotional and marketing campaigns as with some of Mann Made’s projects from the Carling Cup virtual reality 360-degree video to our VR activations that use the Oculus Rift or Apple’s ARkit.

These days just about anything can be composited with an AR component and the future will also see the rise of mixed reality – a combination of real and virtual worlds, whereby an action in the virtual world will affect the real world. This is only the beginning of 2018!

Mic Mann is a futurist, speaker and strategist on exponential technologies. In 2017 he co-organised the inaugural SingularityU South Africa Summit. He runs the Johannesburg Singularity Global Impact Challenge and the SU JHB chapter. As co-founder of Mann Made, an award-winning agency, he works with start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. Mic’s passionate about entrepreneurship, has 16 years of experience in the media and marketing industries, and is involved in the start-up and maker communities. Stalk Mic on Twitter: @micmannsa.

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Step Into The Future With Ignite Fibre

A fast Internet connection has swiftly moved from being a “nice-to-have” to a critical component of business success.






As more business is conducted online, applications and data are being moved to the cloud for increased versatility and to facilitate a better interaction with customers. This is why so many small business owners are turning their attention to fibre.

According to the SME 2018 survey conducted by World Wide Worx, small businesses are looking for connectivity solutions that will help them deliver better products and services and produce a greater return. Arthur Goldstuck, the founder of World Wide Worx, says that the fibre uptake among SMEs has grown from 7% to 24% in the last three years. SMEs want to put themselves in the best position to be more innovative and find solutions to existing and future demands.

Key benefits of switching to fibre

Once fibre is installed, SMEs will gain access to a fast, reliable and well-supported Internet connection. Fibre-optic technology uses light pulses to carry data. In terms of speed or “throughput”, fibre transfers more data at higher throughput over longer distances than copper wire.

This means faster file transfers, uninterrupted streaming and faster page load times. For instance, networking between computers will be easier when you use fibre because there’s no interference and you have a higher bandwidth, which translates to more effective data transmissions. You will also experience quick access to data or operational resources hosted in the cloud.

Businesses can adopt more cloud-based applications to improve productivity. Data transfers between team members are seamless when a business moves processes to the cloud. There’s less downtime, which allows employees to be more productive throughout the day. This directly contributes to an improved customer service.

Related: Starting Up in a High-growth Industry – Johan Pretorius

Fibre is a superior connectivity solution because no data protocol is prioritised over another. Whether you’re uploading a cloud backup or downloading rich media, both functions will enjoy uninterrupted streaming. In terms of VoIP, the quality of voice is far superior over a fibre line.

Fibre allows your business to operate online without any of the performance and quality constraints you might have experienced previously. This opens up the business to a range of new possibilities and expands the capabilities of an SME to compete on the same level as larger businesses.  

Change the way you use the Internet

When you choose a package, base it on your business requirements and be sure to take into account your daily connectivity demands. SMEs that require a cost-effective solution, with fast download speeds, should connect to an Asymmetrical line. If your workforce needs to transfer large amounts of data, adapt cloud telephony or collaborate online, it is advisable to use a Symmetrical line.

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Company Posts

A Creative Business In A Box

Thanks to her investment in a Brother ScanNCut machine, Mary-Anne Shaw has doubled her income while keeping her hours flexible and costs low.






With an eye for creative detail and an interest in electric machines, Mary-Anne Shaw has carved a niche reputation as a seamstress who produces perfect finished goods. Her reputation is such that she’s even had the opportunity to add some Shaw flair to a collection of Mandela family outfits in recent years.

Mary-Anne’s sewing and stitching services began as a hobby almost 45 years ago. Thanks to word-of-mouth referrals from friends and family however, it soon grew into a business. “I’ve been extremely lucky to build a small speciality business over the years selling sewing machines and teaching sewing skills, drawing business from repeat and new clients based on recommendations,” she says.

The business became more serious when, a few years ago, Mary-Anne made the decision to invest her earnings in a Brother sewing machine. “I started attending Brother training sessions and workshops to gain more knowledge and meet more people.”

Mary-Anne’s relationship with Brother grew. At a Hobby-X exhibition in Johannesburg she came across a Brother ScanNCut machine. Already familiar with the Brother brand and the training and support that customers can access, she was drawn to the ‘novelty’ machine.

“I watched a few demonstrations and immediately saw how the ScanNCut could add value to my existing business and generate some exciting new creative projects.”

Mary-Anne was right. In just two short years, she has doubled her business income, while keeping her hours flexible and her costs to a minimum. “The Brother ScanNCut is a remarkable little machine,” says Mary-Anne.

“The cutting and scanning quality is superb, and it’s easy to set up. Brother provides a number of tutorial videos and case studies and, after a few days of viewing and practising, anyone can get up and running.”

Related: Make A Quality First Inkpression

Mary-Anne began showcasing her ScanNCut capabilities at quilting events in Gauteng, gaining orders for applique work, and enquiries from people who wanted to buy the machine.

“Since the quilting events began, I haven’t stopped,” she says. “I now sell ScanNCut accessories and kits daily to existing owners, and I teach groups and individuals how to use ScanNCut to extend their skills into a variety of creative areas such as applique work for gift boxes, cushions and lamp shades, as well as card making and more. People buy the machine for their own use, or ask me to create personalised items for them on my own machines.”

Knowing who her customers are has been important to Mary-Anne’s growth. “My advice to anyone who wishes to start a small business with ScanNCut is to first understand who you want to sell to and how. Most of my work is word-of-mouth, but I also exhibit at crafting exhibitions, and work with crafting associations with an interest in the products I sell. I use email specials and post tutorials and projects on my Facebook page. I’m finalising a new website that will feature my products and training tools.”

Mary-Anne is supported by local Brother ScanNCut distributor, Kemtek Imaging Systems and its highly-qualified sales and business development team, who provide training, sales and marketing support for promotions and events. Mary-Anne’s set-up costs for ScanNCut included the machine, and a range of accessories, kits and materials, totalling R45 000. Two years on, her first machine is still in operation and she has invested in a second unit — the latest ScanNCut CM900, which offers a WiFi set-up.

Introducing the Brother ScanNCut CM900


The latest ScanNCut CM900 is a revolutionary home-cutting machine with a built-in scanner. Its uniqueness lies in the 300 dpi built-in scanner that makes it the only cutting machine able to turn scanned images, photos or hand-drawn sketches into unique cutting designs.

What’s more, the ScanNCut CM900 has a 12″ x 24″ scanning capability for larger projects, with the cutting mat doubling up as a scanning mat. Enhanced scanning quality with RGB colour recognition automatically distinguishes hues to extend design opportunities.

Once scanned, this fuss-free machine allows crafters to put their own creative spin on images, providing the option to customise using the 30% larger LCD screen with rotate, weld and resize functions, as well as an innovative ‘Pen Draw’ feature.

The interchangeable blades can easily cut shapes from a host of different materials to cater for numerous craft projects. The machine can read SVG files, PES files and PHC files containing appliqué stitch data. Fabric shapes can be cut out to then appliqué with an embroidery machine.

The ScanNCut CM900 comes with built-in wireless LAN, plus a total of 1002 built-in designs and 15 fonts.

Related: Keep Your Information Moving At The Speed Of Your Business

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Is The Future Of AI Around the Corner? Computing Power Suppliers Are Shifting Gears

Here, we look at the challenges faced by cloud-based computing, and some potential solutions.

Harald Merckel




Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing everything from the information we see on our Facebook feeds, to improving diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

According to McKinsey, it has the potential to create an additional $13 trillion in global economic output by 2030. Governments and start-ups alike are scrambling to ensure they are in a position to enjoy the economic benefits that AI will bring.

However, despite the apparent potential, there’s one significant bottleneck — the supply of computational power required to develop and drive AI products and solutions.

At present, cloud-based providers of computing resources are striving to keep up with the pace of development in power hungry AI. Here, we look at the challenges faced by cloud-based computing, and some potential solutions.

Challenge 1 – Supply and Demand

AI relies on data and lots of it. As such, the computational demand of AI is growing — one report estimates that the amount of compute used by AI currently has a three and a half month doubling time.

As things stand, AI developers are dependent on computing capacity from the $247 billion cloud computing industry. This industry is dominated by four corporate IT firms – Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and IBM, collectively known as the ‘Big Four’. These companies rely on their vast centralised data centres to keep the world’s cloud computing services running.

In an attempt to meet the growing demand for AI computing services, investment in data centres is also growing at a startling pace. Computing firms spent $27 billion in the first quarter of 2018, with most of that expenditure thought to be directed into developing data centres. Compare this with the $74 billion spent in 2017, and the pace of growth is evident.

The question is, how long can the computing firms continue to keep up with demand using the traditional datacenter model?

In an attempt to stem demand, the big IT firms are increasing their costs.

With AI services requiring massive computational power before they can go to market, the rising cost of computing risks stifling innovation, particularly for smaller developers.

Related: The Curious Case Of AI And Legal Liability

Challenge 2 – Environmental Sustainability

If the only way to meet demand is to build more data centres, then this means more electricity-hungry machines. It’s reported that 2% of all CO2 emissions globally emerge from the datacenter industry — more than the airline industry.

Just this month, the United States of America’s Department of Energy reported that data centres in their country accounted for around 2% of the overall energy consumption.

While owners are investigating green energy alternatives, the fact remains that more data centres will result in higher energy consumption.


Challenge 3 – A single point of failure

Amazon famously brought down a number of large websites last year when an employee accidentally took more servers offline than intended. That event sparked a domino effect that was felt globally.

It’s natural that single points of failure raise the risk of an incident having a more substantial impact. With cloud data provided by just four companies from a limited number of data centres, that risk is always present.

A Quantum of Solace?  

Chinese marketplace Alibaba is also in the business of cloud computing, albeit not yet one of the ‘Big Four’ However, its representatives have clearly stated that the company has market leader Amazon firmly in its sights.

Earlier this year, Alibaba launched its first cloud quantum computer, capable of processing 11 quantum bits (qubit). A typical computer chip is binary, meaning it can only process values of 0 or 1 at any given moment depending on its speed. A quantum computer is capable of handling both at the same time, meaning a single qubit can participate in many millions of processes.

Alibaba has pledged to continue development in this area, having already invested $15.5 billion at the end of last year. IBM is also firmly invested in quantum computing, having launched its own quantum computer last year. Quantum computers could ultimately do away with the need for centralised data centres.

From Cloud Computing to Distributed Computing

While some commentators have predicted a wait of five to ten years for quantum computing solutions to cope with demand, a few start-ups are working to meet the requirements of cloud computing on a shorter timeline. One start-up has devised a scalable solution, which it says will be up and running as early as 2019.

Tatau, which calls itself the “Uber of Computing,” has designed a platform which essentially creates a global supercomputer to harness the joint capacity of already existing GPU computing capacity.

By utilising a resource that already exists, the company claims it can offer cloud computing that is cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and more scalable than current solutions. Moreover, a decentralised model doesn’t have a single point of failure, reducing the risk of downtime or hacks.

Tatau’s decentralised network taps into the computing capacity that sits outside of data centres. The company has designed a blockchain-driven marketplace where owners of GPU hardware can sell under-utilised computing power to a buyer. By utilising latent capacity, this solution provides a way for owners of hardware to receive better returns on their investment, and provide access to reliable, cost-effective compute previously unavailable to AI developers.

Related: Can Computers Replace Human Accountants? We Doubt They Can

The Future for AI Development

Given the growing demand for AI services, the computing sector needs to find a way to meet the need for computing services. Given the challenges inherent in the current datacenter model, it seems likely that quantum or distributed computing could ultimately take off.

The question will be, are the current ‘Big Four’ market players ready to compete on a different playing field?

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