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Blippar builds computer vision solution to improve AR in cities

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Pokémon Go introduced smartphone augmented reality to millions of people, capturing new fans by overlaying gameplay on the real world. Blippar has been working with the technology for years though, developing AR apps that display information about the places around you.

Augmented reality startup Blippar has announced a prototype app that makes augmented reality in cities faster and more precise. The company intends to make future augmented reality apps, like the next Pokémon Go, more responsive and visually accurate.

AR on smartphones faces two related challenges: it’s often slightly sluggish and it tends to look slightly out of place. Because AR apps have to continuously work out your location using a combination of GPS, accelerometer and compass data, performance can be lacking.

When the GPS signal is weak, such as in a city, responsiveness can be further degraded and measurement inaccuracies occur. The result is the virtual objects don’t quite move with the phone and can seem to be mis-aligned with the edges of the real world.

Blippar’s now working to solve these problems using a new approach. The MIT Technology Review reports the company is licensing street-level imagery from services such as Google Street View. It’s then indexing the images and matching them with their real positions. When a smartphone user points their device at the location, the image in the camera viewfinder should match one of the indexed reference shots.

By using computer vision technology, Blippar can determine the phone’s position using the feed from the camera alone. The app continually matches the image from the camera with its set of indexed photos. The dataset contains photos of buildings and public places from different angles, directions and distances, accounting for every possible position of the phone.

Blippar claims the technology is accurate to within eight meters. In a best case scenario, it could be accurate to three meters. This compares favourably with the typical five metre range of GPS, especially as GPS becomes notoriously less accurate in built-up areas.

prototype video created by Blippar demonstrates the technology in action. Although the graphics are obviously basic, they do seem to respond quickly and move smoothly through the scene. Blippar intends to rollout iOS and Android apps later this year that will offer public demonstrations.

Blippar’s approach to AR positioning is innovative but not without its own fault. Because it relies wholly on previously captured imaging data, it only works in locations that have been indexed by the app. So far, it’s limited to select areas of London in the UK, and Mountain View and San Francisco in California.

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Lenovo develops new AR headset called ThinkReality

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Chinese technology firm Lenovo is making a serious pitch for a big slice of the augmented reality headset market through the launch of its ThinkReality A6 glasses.

The new headset, the latest under the company’s ThinkReality brand, has been called “small but mighty” by Lenovo, with the headset weighing around 380g (0.83lbs). The weight has been reduced by having the battery worn separately to the main unit.

The headset comes with a 40-degree diagonal field of view with 1080p resolution per eye in a 16:9 aspect ratio. The visuals are powered by an onboard Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SOC. The device has two fisheye cameras on the front, as well as depth sensors and a 13-megapixel RGB sensor, plus an in-built microphone. One of the important features is that the headset can detect where the user is gazing to optimize resolution or navigation. The headset works over Wi-Fi but not 4G or 5G.

The device has an ecosystem that is capable of integrating with existing enterprise systems. Lenovo have said the ThinkReality A6 is compatible with existing augmented reality content, and it offers highly functional device management software. In terms of the operating system, this is Snapdragon 845 CPU running an Android-based platform, plus an Intel Movidius chipset with wave guide optics from Lumus.

Part of Lenovo’s strategy is to capture the growing business interest in augmented reality. This includes providing services for remote working. Lenovo’s strategy, according to Computer Business Review, includes developing hardware, software and services aimed at the 2.7 billion deskless workers globally,

The cost of the new headset has yet to be confirmed, although aim is for the price to be competitive and to be able to compete with rival products, like Microsoft’s HoloLens 2, which retails around $3,500.

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Unskilled staff threaten banks’ ability to digitally transform

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Only four percent of bank business and IT executives believe that the impact of technology on the pace of banking change has stayed the same over the past three years, while 96 percent said it has either significantly accelerated or accelerated, according to a new report from Accenture.

This technological disruption has a large effect on how banks operate, and it seems unlikely that the pace of change will decelerate anytime soon.

Here’s what it means: Some technologies will have a bigger impact than others, but it will require substantial work from banks to stay on top of them.

AI is the most promising technology to transform the banking space. Forty-seven percent of respondents said AI will have the biggest impact, followed by just 19 percent saying the same for quantum computing and 17 percent for distributed ledgers and blockchain. The disappointing outcome for blockchain appears to be in line with recent announcements from banks: Citi has abandoned its plans to launch a crypto and Bank of America’s tech and operations chief has expressed skepticism on the benefits of blockchain.

Banks’ workforces appear to be at different stages in terms of tech savviness.Seventy-four percent of banking respondents either agree or strongly agree that their employees are more digitally mature than their organization, resulting in a workforce waiting for their organization to catch up. However, 17 percent of respondents said that over 80 percent of their workforce will have to move into new roles requiring substantial reskilling in the next three years, compared with only 5 percent saying the same for the last three years.

Additionally, banks don’t know as much about third-party partners as they perhaps should. Over one in 10 banking respondents believe that their partners’ security posture is extremely or very important, as well as that their consumers trust their ecosystem partners. However, only 31 percent of respondents say they know that their ecosystem partners work as diligently as they do, while 57 percent of them simply trust their partners and 10 percent hope that they are diligent.

The bigger picture: Banks need to prepare for a future that will require them to put in a lot of resources, and some might struggle.

To make the most of AI opportunities in banking, incumbents need to upskill their workforces. While AI is the most promising technology to transform the banking space, this promise can only be realized if banks have the necessary talent in-house to adopt new AI solutions. As such, they should make it a priority to upskill their staff to make AI transformation a success — which may be difficult for those players that have to upskill a majority of their workforce.

And banks need to up their security efforts since open banking is becoming a global trend.Open banking makes working with third parties more frequent. This will force banks to double down on their security efforts, as a security breach with their partners could affect customer trust in a bank’s overall services. If employees aren’t up to date with new technologies — including application programming interfaces used for open banking, and AI — they can’t keep a bank’s network secure.

This article was originally published on Business Insider. Copyright 2019.

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Healthcare

Artificial intelligence assesses PSTD by analysing voice patterns

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Artificial intelligence can be used to assess whether a person is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder through an analysis of the subject’s voice patterns, noting and processing any variations to predict the medical diagnosis.

The research is not only useful at close quarters, it also offers a potential telemedical approach to use applied to the assessment of patients located in remote areas and away from specialist medical facilities.

The study comes from the NYU Langone Health and NYU School of Medicine, where the researchers used a specially designed computer program to assess the stress levels of veterans by analyzing their voices. The key findings have been presented to the conference of the International Speech Communication Association.

Conventionally post-traumatic stress disorder by clinical interviews or self-assessment. This can prove to be a lengthy and variable process, which was partly the reason for training artificial intelligence as well as the remote medical reasons.

To develop the technology, the scientists used a statistical and machine learning tool termed ‘random forest’. This form of artificial intelligence has the ability to “learn” how to classify individuals based in learnt examples and using decision-making rules together with mathematical models.

The first step with the development of the technology involved recording standard long-term diagnostic interviews (which are classed as PTSD Scales under Clinician’s Checks) with 53 U.S. veterans from campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, who has been assessed as suffering from different forms of post-traumatic stress disorder. These were compared with interviews with 78 non-ill veterans.

Each of the recordings was added into the voice software and this produced a total of 40,526 short speech voices. These were used to train the artificial intelligence. Once trained, the technology was then tested with a new set of subjects, who were known to the researchers and some of who had been assessed as having post-traumatic stress disorder. The next aim is to introduce the artificial intelligence into the clinical setting.

Commenting on the study, lead scientist Dr. Charles R. Marmar notes: “Our findings suggest that speech characteristics can be used to diagnose this disease, and with further training and confirmation, they can be used in the clinic in the near future.”

The output from the study has been published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, with the research study titled “Speech‐based markers for posttraumatic stress disorder in US veterans.”

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