Cloud Computing

VR and AR Are Precursors to the Next IT Mega Trend: Simulations

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Virtual Reality (VR) has had more investment thrown at it pre-revenue than any other consumer play in history. Some analysts project a market of tens of billions by 2020. I believe it will happen, but not before the market stumbles for years because most of what will be tried will not stick in a lonely and anti-social medium.

VR will be saved by a handful of genres and practical applications. Like any technology worth its salt, really good developers will create enough killer apps and the next generation will grow up in it and do more in it, and learn to connect in it.

The social aspects of the medium must be solved before VR really takes off, as must display and haptic technologies. But these things will be addressed, and future generations will have the option to live as an entirely different being than determined by their DNA.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs and Digi-Capital predict that Augmented Reality will be a substantially larger market than VR. I agree. When it hits, it will hit large. When you distill it, AR is a map of the real world with data, graphics and video overlays. By freeing information from screens, AR will do more to transform daily life than any technology since the smartphone. Highly targeted and proximity-based marketing and advertising will at first annoy, but will become better targeted, offer-oriented and will flourish.

Operators providing AR and VR will need agile workflow and serious horsepower to render experiences that are true-to-life. With both VR and AR, a suite of robust micro-services and back-end infrastructure will be necessary to encode, store, manage, retrieve, transcode and deliver ever-larger video files. In the case of VR, panoramic videos will comprise a reality; while in AR all but objects intended to be visible will be matted out by an Alpha channel, still requiring large, high quality video files delivered in near real time.

VR and AR are happening within a broader shift in how machines help us gain data insights. Cognitive Computing offers the ability to learn from what has happened in order to calculate probabilities. This is a natural closing of the gap between what is theoretically possible through perfect information and insight, and what technology can help us achieve.

What I believe allows some to predict the future of technology more accurately than others is the ability to imagine things in a perfect state and then break down the processes that are needed to get there. One must also have a realistic sense of what is apt to be achievable technically, and what gaps have a shot of being spanned.

With this in mind, I predict that the next mega trend in the information technology industry will be Simulations. I mean Mega Simulations that dim the Hoover Dam. I’m taking about intricately modeled parallel universes that run according to complex algorithms spawning outcomes that will be measured and compared. Each outcome will represent a slightly different truth, combing into a kind of omniscience based on meta-truth.

Elon Musk and others have speculated that we may be populating one of many simulated realities. Could we all be part of a scheme to farm data for some higher purpose? This will seem all the less crazy once we start doing it with increasing sophistication.
Getting data, organizing it and making it available has always been half or more of the epic battle behind paradigm changing platforms. The other half is in creating algorithmic intelligence that make data useful in nuanced ways.

The companies that reshape tomorrow will have reality simulating models that best mirror our “real” reality. It will be perhaps the most ambitious technology project in history to replicate our real world as precisely as possible in the pursuit of making small test tweaks; but looking back at the past 25 years, the Internet has served as a model for such ambition and provides a sense that we may one day achieve such quantum scale.

Today, Cognitive is reshaping industries by finding insights elusive to other methodologies. Imagine being able to test the impact of variables on a system by running billions of parallel simulations and seeing what happens, drilling into causation and further testing.

History suggests that the future of a quarter century from now would seem magical from our present. Perhaps this is true because our future will not be one present, but an infinite number running concurrently in data centers.

IBM Global Solutions Leader

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