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India to be key market in Virtual Reality phenomenon

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New Delhi: It is only a matter of time when the virtual reality (VR) phenomenon will hit the technology market, and India, with its huge smartphone base, will be a key aspect of it. However, VR players will have to come up with low-cost options to entice the country’s “digital” consumers.

According to experts, head-mounted devices (HMDs) that create an immersive virtual world for users is the future after the successful touchscreen era.

Today, the market is flooded with VR devices: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Sony PlayStation VR, Samsung Gear VR (co-developed with Oculus), LG 360 VR, Google Cardboard, Zeiss VR One and One GX and several other players soon going to join the VR fray.

But, with a huge smartphone base of 160 million plus users that is likely to surpass the US smartphone user base in a couple of years, what India needs is low-cost VR headsets compatible with low-cost smartphones. Only then will VR use truly explode in India.

“I feel that VR adoption is currently at a minuscule level in India. Many firms like Sony, Samsung, HTC, OnePlus have joined Facebook’s Oculus platform in the virtual reality space. But we are still far away from its widespread adoption here,” says Thomas George, senior vice president and head of CyberMedia Research(CMR), a market research and consulting firm.

“But going forward, thanks to India’s rich demographic dividend, we may witness VR finding its ‘sweet spot’ in the youth segment. The adoption of virtual reality could see traction in the edutainment arena. Applications like immersive learning and entertainment, especially games, could kick-start its adoption sooner,” George told reporters.

According to the global research firm MarketsandMarkets, the international VR technology market is expected to reach $15.89 billion by 2020.

With VR technology, the user is isolated from the real world while being immersed in a world that is not real, so VR, in a way, works better for video games and social networking in a virtual environment.

But for Rajiv Srivatsa, COO and co-founder of Urban Ladder, a curated online furniture seller, VR can help complex purchase categories like theirs engage more effectively with consumers and helps the consumers make better, informed choices about the products they purchase.

“If the products are built right, VR has the power to revolutionise user-interaction,” he told reporters.

Although these are early days for VR, companies the world over – including in China, from where low-cost VR headsets will soon flood the markets – are now investing heavily in VR technology.

Facebook is credited with taking an early bet on virtual reality by acquiring the start-up Oculus VR for $2 billion in early 2014. It is expected to start shipping Oculus headsets — priced at $599 — in March this year and has already started taking orders.

South Korean electronics giant Samsung has also launched Gear VR — its flagship virtual reality headset — for Indian consumers in January for as low a price as Rs. 8,200.

Apple has reportedly hired experts in virtual and also augmented reality (AR) to built prototypes of headsets that can one day rival Facebook’s Oculus Rift.

Technology adoption by vendors is rapid. What is launched in the US and other advanced markets also gets due attention in India and VR is no different.

“We may not be 100 percent ready but definitely India should be seeing some activity around VR this year, especially the introduction of devices with VR features. This small step could in time serve as a ‘big leap’ and the start of more serious adoption in the country,” notes Faisal Kawoosa, lead analyst, telecoms practice, CMR.

Several smartphones were launched in 2015 with VR technology which, beyond gaming, has a potential to help young people choose their careers too.

“For example, a smartphone using VR goggles can help a student virtually get a glimpse of a surgeon’s career in medicine by showing an immersive video on a surgical procedure or helping him or her choose an alternate career video altogether,” says George.

It has implications for other sectors too. For example, VR technology can be used to determine how people perceive their bodies, to treat body image disturbances and to improve adherence to physical activity among obese individuals.

“Virtual reality offers promising new approaches to assessing and treating people with weight-related disorders and early applications are revealing valuable information about body image,” according to researchers at the University of Barcelona, Spain, who recently demonstrated how VR environments can produce responses similar to those seen in the real world.

While we discuss VR, the next big thing coming our way is augmented reality (AR) and it has better chances to thrive. Unlike with VR, AR users continue to be in touch with the real world while interacting with the virtual world (remember Google Glass!) and this makes experts feel that AR has a definite edge over VR. (Let us keep a discussion on AR for another day, though.)

“Pretty soon we’re going to live in a world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if you’re right there’,” said Mark Zuckerberg while speaking at the just-concluded ‘Samsung Mobile World Congress 2016’ in Barcelona.

And when VR finally comes out in the open, with a massive smartphone consumer base, India is going to be a key player in the global VR ecosystem, say experts.(Nishant Arora, IANS)

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AI Couldn’t Catch NZ Attack Video Streaming: Facebook

Facebook said it was exploring how AI could help it react faster to this kind of content on a live streamed video

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This photograph taken on May 16, 2018, shows a figurine standing in front of the logo of social network Facebook on a cracked screen of a smartphone in Paris. VOA

Facing flak for failure to block the live broadcast of the New Zealand terrorist attack last week, Facebook on Thursday said that its Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools were not “perfect” to detect the horrific video.

Vowing to improve its technology, the social networking giant, however, ruled out adding a time delay to Facebook Live, similar to the broadcast delay sometimes used by TV stations.

“There are millions of Live broadcasts daily, which means a delay would not help address the problem due to the sheer number of videos,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s Vice President of Integrity, said in a statement.

“More importantly, given the importance of user reports, adding a delay would only further slow down videos getting reported, reviewed and first responders being alerted to provide help on the ground,” Rosen added.

Strapped with a GoPro camera to his head, the gunman broadcast graphic footage of the New Zealand shooting via Facebook Live for 17 minutes, which was later shared in millions on other social media platforms, including Twitter and YouTube.

Fifty people were killed and dozens injured in the shootings at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Avenue Masjid in Christchurch on March 15 after 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant opened indiscriminate firings.

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This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

The circulation of the video on social media platforms attracted widespread criticism from different quarters.

In a letter to CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson asked the technology companies to brief the US Congress on March 27 regarding their response to dissemination of the video on their platforms.

Thompson also warned the technology companies that unless they do better in removing violent content, the Congress could consider policies to bar such content on social media.

Also Read- Finland Probing Nokia Phones Sending Data to China

Facebook on Thursday said it was exploring how AI could help it react faster to this kind of content on a live streamed video.

“AI has made massive progress over the years and in many areas, which has enabled us to proactively detect the vast majority of the content we remove. But it’s not perfect.

“However, this particular video did not trigger our automatic detection systems,” Rosen said, referring to the New Zealand attack video. (IANS)