Immersive Technologies Are Moving Closer to the Edge of Artificial Intelligence

January 04, 2018

Contributor: Christy Pettey

Consider immersive tech and AI as mutually beneficial.

Over the next five years, enterprises will move closer to adopting immersive technologies such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR). These technologies will in turn force vendors to figure out how to get more artificial intelligence (AI) functionality out of the cloud and into the edge.

When discussing immersive technologies, a fundamental point emerges: Both immersive technologies and AI are actually a collection of subset technologies. Tuong Nguyen, principal research analyst at Gartner, says businesses need to consider both immersive technologies and AI to be mutually beneficial. As AI improves, so do immersive technologies, and vice versa.

Deep learning, the secret to immersive technologies

In the past couple of years, unprecedented progress has occurred with AI and machine learning technologies. The most important advances are in deep learning, which is a rapidly evolving variant of machine learning and the main driver of enterprise interest in AI today. Deep learning systems are "trained" using extremely large datasets; large-scale, interconnected computational layers; and compute- and data-intensive exploratory and numerical optimization techniques. The resulting deep neural network can, and has, dramatically outperformed conventional approaches to natural-language processing, computer vision and speech recognition.

“ While we’ll see improvement for both AI and immersive technologies in 2018, the market has been guilty of overhyping AI and immersive technologies.”

Deep learning can be used to deliver services such as interpreting, synthesizing and imitating speech for real-time translation, interpreting context and sentiment in writing or conversation, and analyzing real-world images and videos to recognize objects, movements and emotions.

“Interaction with immersive technologies is intended to be intuitive and natural,” explains Nguyen. “For example, you could use a head-mounted display with an AI-powered assistant to help assemble furniture. Because your hands are busy holding parts and tools, texting, swiping and gesturing are out of the question. So you ask the assistant ’What part am I holding?,’ ’What step is next?’ or ’Where does this piece fit?’ The assistant understands your question, but also understands context. The AI assistant can deliver the answer back to you via voice or text and images on your display.”

Avoid the hype

“It’s important to not overpromise on what the offerings will be in the next few years. While we’ll see improvement for both AI and immersive technologies in 2018, the market has been guilty of overhyping AI and immersive technologies,” says Nguyen. “Let’s not repeat that mistake, but instead consider immersive technologies to be in their adolescence — they are adolescent, but gifted and talented.”

“ As the digital realm continues to grow, immersive technologies are the next logical step for the marketplace.”

An additional proviso is to remember that neither AI nor immersive technologies have yet to be widely adopted by enterprises: A recent Gartner survey found that 59% of organizations are still gathering information about AI, while 37% of the respondents to the 2018 Gartner CIO Agenda survey said that while AR/VR is on their radar, no action is planned.

Take it to the edge

Immersive technologies require processing power, yet organizations cannot rely solely on the cloud to drive it. Uploading and downloading from the cloud takes too much time. Imagine an autonomous car losing its wireless connection on a highway, and you’ll understand why immersive technologies devices require local computing power.

Called edge computing, these systems perform data processing at the edge of their network, near the source of their data. “We can predict that edge computing will be a requisite to aggregate and interpret data for applications requiring high speed and bandwidth with low latency,” says Nguyen.

Although this may sound like a leap backward to those desktop PCs of the past, it isn’t. Edge devices are at optimum speed intended for portable data centers, built for AI. Enterprises are moving into the edge computing space, and this area could potentially become a multi-billion-dollar market.

“As the digital realm continues to grow, immersive technologies are the next logical step for the marketplace. Look for this area to develop into something quite real in the next five years,” Nguyen says.

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