2018: A year of application and cross innovation

Maxing mobile AR

2017 witnessed unprecedented progress in immersive content creation. The launch of Dimension, The world first commerical volumetric and 3D capture studio in London will ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of new mixed reality content development. In the coming year we’re going to see entirely new products and content formats emerging from this studio, with clients like Pearson and SkyVR leading the charge.

Gartner’s Hype Cycle pegs AR in the trough of disillusionment – but huge strides are being made in terms of software and hardware development that will elevate the technology up the “slope of enlightenment” before 2018 is out. This will be accelerated by stiff competition for market domination. Facebook and Apple are developing software to ‘augment’ using existing hardware (for instance by using the camera on a smartphone), but the Google Tango AR presents an evolution in AR hardware – that may eventually pave the way for deeper adoption.
In the next year there will be some real data-driven, location-based applications of AR.

>See also: The top five data trends coming in 2018

For example providing sports fans with real time statistics about players as they watch a game or providing shoppers with graphical info on the provenance of the food they’re shopping for. Or if you’re a concert goer – more information on the band you’re seeing. We’ll also see more high-profile events experimenting with VR live streaming, mirroring the success live video content has already had on social platforms.

Social VR is also an incredibly interesting concept. Facebook launched Spaces earlier this year – a social VR experience that enables groups of friends to interact with each other in a virtual reality. The experience has had mixed reviews from critics, but the theory could be applied beyond social media – and companies are already exploring the potential of similar technologies to drive workplace collaboration across geographies. Employee training is already using VR for example to help employees of Walmart to practice handling Black Friday rushes before the event.

Getting 5G fit

2018 will also be the year that the UK drives 5G development into market applications and out of the university labs. We are consuming more mobile data than ever before, but unless we develop the infrastructure to support this habit, the enjoyment and value we derive from it will stall. A Qualcomm-led study predicts that by 2035, the 5G industry could enable up to $12.3 trillion worth of goods and services, while 5G itself could generate up to $3.5 trillion in revenue and support 22 million jobs globally.

>See also: The top 5 trends for digital transformation in 2018

The potential opportunity is huge, yet at present the UK ranks 54th in the world for LTE connections and a typical Brit can only access 4G 53% of the time.

Recent Budgets have committed the government to significant spending on new 5G infrastructure, but it’s vital that some of that money is also spent on product innovation and the development of new applications and services, run by SMEs and new entrants as well as operators on 5G. Digital Catapult has been ramping up the activity with the building of its testbed in Brighton, due to open early in 2018.

Accelerating AI

The government’s has set out a great ambition in its support for a grand challenge in AI. The UK is already a global centre for AI development, but many promising early stage companies are struggling to access advanced computational facilities that they need to train new algorithms.

Digital Catapult is helping to remove the barriers to AI development for innovative UK start-ups through its recently launched Machine Intelligence Garage. This provides access to computational power and expertise, both of which can be prohibitively expensive for businesses starting-out in this area. The Garage will welcome its first cohorts in early 2018.

Blockchain booming

Bitcoin has received enormous amounts of press recently. Many believe it’s overhyped, and with the cryptocurrency speculation continuing to mount through the coming months, it’s not hard to expect some kind of adjustment in 2018.

>See also: 7 technology flashpoints to look out for in 2018

The story for Blockchain – the technology underpinning Bitcoin – will play out a little differently. Gartner believes Blockchain is ‘descending the peak of inflated expectation’, but 2018 will be the year we see the technology moving beyond financial services and into more industrial applications inside large companies, networks of collaborators and supply chains.

If there’s a recurring theme in my predictions, it’s that 2018 is the year that the ‘darling’ technologies of 2017 grow up. We’ll see use for mobile AR beyond Snapchat, and better comprehend the potential of Blockchain beyond bitcoin. We will make the most of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, and join business, academia and innovators in powering this forward.

2018 will be the year of learning from one another, of taking experience from one sector and putting it to work in another and in executing on plans, developing the thinking and wherever possible turning hype into real world, valuable new solutions.


Sourced by Dr Jeremy Silver, CEO, Digital Catapult

Avatar photo

Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...