Hearable Tech Trends Amplify the Future of Sound
August 30, 2020
Hearing aids and auditory devices once were extremely cumbersome; the earliest hearing aids were large trumpet-like instruments that one held into the ear, but these devices eventually became more manageable, as hearing devices were developed that fit into the ear canal. These models weren’t discreet, and their auditory amplification also was neither ideal nor perfect. However, the hearing aid eventually evolved into the behind-the-ear model we recognize today. Today’s hearing aids feature cutting edge technology that can seemingly disappear behind the ear and even tap into smartphones and other devices. Hearable tech trends amplify the future of hearing aids and will help erase the stigma faced by those who are diagnosed with hearing loss. Unfortunately, earlier hearing aid models—even those a few decades ago—weren’t so visually appealing, and their appearance likely contributed to the stigma faced by those who experienced hearing loss, especially children. Older adults, however, may still equate a hearing impairment to a fragility of old age and view hearing aids as an inherent and outward social weakness. HEARING AIDS FOR CHILDREN: EN VOGUE & A NEW MOLD For children, the visual aspect of hearing aids may be associated with an aversion to wear them. Many kids want to fit into their peer group, and any difference—even slight—may cause a child to feel stigmatized or ostracized. Pediatric hearing aids come in several designs: behind-the-ear (BTE) models, canal aids (fit in the ear canal), in the ear aids (these tuck in the ear) and body hearing aids (for “profound hearing loss”). An audiologist may recommend a certain design or model that would work best for the child. Hearing loss isn’t the same for every individual; some children may be born with hearing loss and the extent may be severe, but others may suffer mild hearing loss or experience hearing loss from medication. Hearing loss also may involve only sounds on a range of frequencies (perhaps high frequency). The hearing aid must be able to meet the auditory needs of the child. Today’s hearing aids for kids, however, partner advanced technology with a streamlined appearance. While hearing aids of the past had to be manually adjusted, today’s models are plugged into a computer and adjusted digitally by a technician. The sound quality also has greatly improved. The appearance also can be controlled by kids. Like glasses, in-canal and BTE hearing aids now come in a variety of colors. When children visit an audiologist for hearing aids, they often can choose from a rainbow of hues for the actual hearing aid. For BTE models, kids also can choose a favorite hue for the hearing aid hook. Even the ear molds (for BTE) can be customized. Kids can swirl together up to three different colors to create an ear mold that fits their style…and matches their personality. Color combos can be bold and neon, pastel or even clear and conservative. Since children’s ears grow as they do, they can change their molds and their mold designs frequently. Charms also can be added to decorate hearing aids. The sound quality of pediatric hearing aids, though, is what has evolved the most throughout the years. Many models connect wirelessly and are compatible with Apple and Android smartphones. These tech-savvy hearing devices can be used to listen to music or television shows by bringing the audio into the hearing aid; teens also can stream phone calls into their hearing aids! ASSISTED TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLASSROOM & BEYOND As hearing aid technology has advanced, so, too, has assisted technology for these devices. FM systems are used by kids and adults to assist in hearing lectures, church services, class lessons and other activities. FM systems work by utilizing a microphone (provided to the speaker) to bring their voice directly into the hearing aid. This bypasses the issue of background noise, which can distract the listener’s attention. While hearing aids have advanced both in their design and their auditory capabilities, when frequencies are adjusted and amplified by the aids to increase hearing, other sounds may be amplified as well. A hearing impaired child sitting in a classroom may hear their teacher but become distracted by the amplified sounds of rustling paper, whispering or other background noises. Utilizing an FM system allows the child (or adult) to clearly hear the voice—and the pertinent information—over all the noise. Even FM systems have become incredibly tech savvy. Some now include touch-screen receivers. Other tools, like Phonak’s Roger Pen microphone also connect into a specific hearing aid model. The microphone works a bit like an FM, bringing a speaker’s voice directly into the hearing device. Users also can connect the microphone to a television or other entertainment device. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-11.jpeg] HEARING AIDS FOR ADULTS Many manufacturers design models that can be used by both children and adults (although size and colors may differ). Like children, adult hearing loss isn’t the same for every individual. Depending on the amount of hearing loss, an audiologist may have a specific hearing aid recommendation. While children may want a fun and colorful hearing aid, adults may stick to conservative hues. Many hearing aids for adults are compatible with smartphones, connecting to devices through Bluetooth. Adults also may utilize other assistive technology that works with their hearing aid. High-tech table-top microphones can be used in work meetings and can identify when a speaker has changed, adjusting the audio accordingly. Other microphones can transmit audio from the television or other devices. HEAR EVERYTHING, SEE NOTHING While many hearing aid models are visible, some are so tiny that they are imperceptible. These hearing aids fit directly into the ear where they can’t be seen. However, as manufacturer Starkey notes, they might not be for everyone. Individuals with poor fine motor function may find them difficult to place or to remove. Like other models, the invisible hearing aids also can be used to stream music and television shows. AUDITORY APPS FOR HEARING AIDS Hearing aid manufacturers also often provide an app that links to the hearing aid. These apps allow users to take control of their hearing aids and adjust sound for their needs. Widex offers the TONELINK™ app, and Phonak offers the myPhonak app for its models. However, other hearing aid manufacturers may offer their own apps, too. TONELINK™ allows users to control volume and change hearing aid programs. The app also provides users with the option to control the direction of sound to the hearing aid and even mute sound. Phonak’s app can connect the user to their audiologist, and help prompt any sound adjustments. The app also allows users to create a Hearing Diary so users can document their daily auditory experiences—like “speech understanding” and “sound quality.” The app also tracks how long the hearing aids were used each day. The development of these apps might seem like a given in our tech-savvy world. Apps, after all, are nothing new. However, what these apps represent to those who rely on hearing aids in their day-to-day activities shows the incredible advancement in technology in a matter of years. Controlling hearing aid volume was once a task that either had to be done by an audiologist (or hearing professional) or the individual by hand…and sometimes this simple adjustment required bringing out a tiny screwdriver. Now technology has placed much of the control in the hands of the wearer, and simple adjustments are a virtual endeavor. Download the app, connect the hearing aids and take control of the sound. For an individual who was born with a hearing impairment, the app provides more autonomy and less reliance on the medical community for a simple volume adjustment. HEARING IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT? When hearing aids became linked to apps and mobile software, they also were outfitted to work on the go. In our cars, the computer also has taken control. Smartphones link to our vehicles, and entertainment systems now allow us to stream our music, take phone calls and send quick texts. This gets a bit tricky with hearing aids. Phonak notes that their devices don’t connect with Bluetooth functions in the car. However, since the hearing aids pair with mobile devices, users may simply decide to keep their phone synced up to their hearing aids instead of the car system. Others may switch their phones to connect into the car. Connectivity preferences depend on the individual. HEARING AIDS AND THE INTERNET OF THINGS Hearing aids have gone so tech-savvy that some models will even pair up with the Internet of Things. The Hearing Review reported in 2016 that the Oticon Opn hearing aid was the first Internet of Things hearing aid. Oticon’s offerings are beyond what most would assume hearing aids can do—these hearing aids take tech to the next level. Via the Oticon ON app, users can link their hearing aids to many connective devices throughout their home. This means that the wearer will receive messages via their hearing aid that the laundry is finished or someone is at the door; Oticon’s site notes that lights and the thermostat can be adjusted when the hearing aids are turned off…or on. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-12.jpeg] BEYOND HEARING AIDS: COCHLEAR IMPLANTS One of the biggest medical innovations in hearing technology was the cochlear implant; the first implant was placed in 1961. According to Johns Hopkins, cochlear implants may be an option when hearing aids aren’t providing enough auditory assistance. The implant “is a small electronic device that electrically stimulates the cochlear nerve.” However, external parts are part of the cochlear implant, too. How do these devices work? A microphone portion of the device sits behind the ear to receive audio, which sends the sounds to the internal implant. Johns Hopkins explains: “The internal part is placed under the skin behind the ear during an outpatient surgery. A thin wire and small electrodes lead to the cochlea, which is part of the inner ear. The wire sends signals to the cochlear nerve, which sends sound information to the brain to produce a hearing sensation.” [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-13.jpeg] HEARABLE TECHNOLOGY…FOR EVERYONE! Hearable technology in the world of audiology may focus on hearing aids and other devices to help with hearing impairments, but hearing technology is used by everyone…everyday. And, just like hearing aids, the hearing technology we use has evolved incredibly. HEADPHONES We can credit Nathaniel Baldwin for audio headphones; he invented them way back in 1910. Stuff TV notes, though, that it was John Koss who gave us the stereo headphones we know and love. These headphones were invented in 1958…a few years after Elvis began exploding on the radio. As stereo equipment and sound quality developed, headphones likely evolved, too. In 1979, Sony introduced a headphone game-changer: the Walkman. The portable cassette player allowed teens to play their favorite music without the neighbors complaining. The Walkman evolved into the Discman, which, of course, played CDs but still had the same concept. Like its predecessor, the Discman let individuals take their music on the go. These portable players made roadtrips, walks and runs so much more enjoyable back in the 80s and 90s. As compact discs were discarded for music downloads, the CD players we knew and loved—and the headphones that let us listen—became obsolete. Instead, the mp3 player took over. And later the smartphone. Music was digital and hearing technology evolved from foamy headphones to tiny earphones with incredible sound quality. Later, those earphones were stripped of cumbersome cords and received audio wirelessly. In 2006, Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine introduced a line of headphones called Beats that were renowned for their audio quality. Beats products were so successful that Apple purchased the company in 2014. The Beats line now includes wireless earphones and headphones as well as speakers. THE MIC IS ON…THE HEADPHONES As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the country and shut down businesses, many industries pivoted office environments to work-from-home virtual spaces. Videoconferencing became the norm, and many employees likely used hearing technology in these meetings. Headphones equipped with microphones allowed many at-home workers to drown out background noise (like kids!) while participating in meetings, interviews and conferences. Many of these headphones are equipped with Bluetooth to sync up to devices. THE FUTURE OF HEARABLE TECHNOLOGY? While hearing aids may have some limitations, the future of hearing technology will probably lead to incredible advancements in user control and connectivity. Hearing aids will likely start adapting to all the tech in our lives, maybe even our cars. Hearing technology for everyday life also will continue to advance. Ashcroft already created the first IoT headphones, which actually recognize the music you love and downloads songs accordingly. The possibility of IoT headphones, however, will likely lead us to giving commands to Alexa to turn off lights, brew coffee or order pizza while then continuing to stream our favorite tunes. Technology is always advancing, and the evolution of sound and the technology that controls it will take our ears into the future.
Ford Bronco Reservations Surpass 150,000
August 28, 2020
Ford CEO Jim Hackett recently revealed on an earnings call with investors that the demand for the 2021 Ford Bronco has far exceeded the brand’s expectations. According to Hackett, over 150,000 customers have paid a $100 fee to secure a coveted reservation to order the vehicle. THE HISTORY OF THE FORD BRONCO The Ford Bronco, a two-door sports utility vehicle (SUV) was first introduced in 1965 as a rugged alternative to four-door SUVs already on the market. It was designed with a larger track width and coil spring front suspension, which made it ideal for traveling over a wide range of terrains from the roadside to the mountainside. The original model also featured a short wheelbase and lower turning diameter, which made it easier for drivers to safely turn around in tight spaces. The first Ford Bronco model was an immediate success. But the Bronco became even more popular following the release of the second generation model in 1978. The second generation was designed with many of the same elements that made the vehicle ideal for off-roading. However, the new design also featured a larger platform and body, similar to those found on the Ford F-Series truck. Thus, the second generation model brought together the best of both worlds for consumers who loved the size of the F-Series but the ruggedness and unparalleled capabilities of the Bronco. The design of the third generation Bronco, which was released in 1980, incorporated more luxurious amenities. This model was more fuel efficient and lighter than previous models. It was also designed with an independent front suspension as opposed to a solid front axle, which made riding over bumpy terrain far more comfortable. Despite these changes, the third generation Ford Bronco was still designed for the rugged, outdoor-loving automotive consumer. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-9.jpeg] The Bronco took on a new shape with the release of the fourth generation model in 1987. The fourth generation Bronco featured softer, sculpted edges instead of squared corners and right angles. Ford also made a number of safety upgrades on the fourth generation Bronco, such as the inclusion of a rear anti-locking brake system. Consumers were also given more interior options for the fourth generation. For instance, consumers could choose between a front bench seat or Captain’s chairs. The final Bronco model, the fifth generation, debuted in 1992. The fifth generation model was known for its rugged exterior, yet luxurious and stylish interior. The new model was designed with an upscale sound system, illuminated mirrors, and other high-end features. The stylish look of the fifth generation wasn’t the only improvement—Ford also made several safety improvements to this model. Three-point seat belts were added to the rear seats and an airbag was added to the steering wheel beginning in 1994. By the time the fifth generation was released, the Ford Bronco had been in production for nearly 30 years. But its popularity was slowly declining due to the rise in demand for four-door SUVs. As a result, the Ford Bronco was discontinued in 1996. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-10.jpeg] THE LONG-AWAITED RETURN OF THE FORD BRONCO Ford first announced the return of the Ford Bronco in 2017 at the Detroit Auto Show. The announcement was met with awe and excitement from Ford fans, who have long awaited the return of this iconic vehicle. Now, over three years later, the wait is almost over. Ford finally released more information regarding the release in July of this year. The manufacturer will release three new Broncos for the 2021 production year: the Bronco 2 (a two-door SUV), the Bronco 4 (a four-door SUV), and Bronco Sport. Both the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 will be manufactured in Michigan, whereas the Bronco Sport will be manufactured in Mexico. The Bronco 4 starts at $34,695, making it the most expensive of the three new models. Next is the Bronco 2, which has a base price of $29,995, followed by the Bronco Sport, which starts at $28,155. The designs of all three of the vehicles are supposed to remind consumers of the past while also driving them forward toward the future. The three 2021 models are all just as rugged as the original Broncos, with wide frames and distinct edges. But the 2021 models feature a number of different customization options that were not available for earlier generations. There are seven different versions of the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4, with 11 paint options and four content packages. The higher end versions, which are known as the Wildtrak and Badlands, are for consumers who plan on spending most of their time behind the wheel off-roading. Both the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 are designed with removable roof panels and doors to give consumers more flexibility. Additionally, the models are available in both soft and hardtops. Ford is also planning on releasing hundreds of new accessories to make it even easier for consumers to customize their 2021 Bronco. These sporty accessories are designed to help consumers carry their kayaks, skis, and other gear with ease on their next adventure. Unlike previous generations of the Bronco, innovative technology is also incorporated into the designs of the 2021 models. For instance, drivers who are off-roading can choose between seven different “driving modes,” which include normal, eco, sport, slippery and sand, baja, mud and ruts, and rock crawl. Allowing drivers to select their driving mode gives them yet another opportunity to customize their Bronco experience. The Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 are also designed with the Ford SYNC 4 infotainment system. This unique system features an 8- or 12-inch display screen, voice control, GPS, and camera that allows drivers to see all the way around the vehicle without turning their head. Using the infotainment system, consumers can also access thousands of trail maps that they can use while exploring the great outdoors. RESERVATIONS FOR THE NEW FORD BRONCO The Bronco Sport will reportedly be available for sale at dealerships around the country by the end of this year, whereas the Bronco 2 and Bronco 4 will not be available until spring of 2021. But in the meantime, consumers who are counting down the days until the Bronco hits the market can pay a small fee to ensure they don’t miss out on the opportunity to purchase this iconic vehicle. In July, Ford outlined its plan to allow customers to reserve a spot to order one of the new Bronco models. By paying a $100 fee, customers could land one of the spots on this short list. So far, over 150,000 reservations have been made for the Bronco 2, Bronco 4 and Bronco Sport. Furthermore, Ford unveiled a limited First Edition model of the Bronco with a starting price of $60,800, more than twice the base price of the Bronco 2 and Bronco Sport. Despite this high price, all 7,000 of the limited number of these First Edition models have been reserved by consumers who are celebrating the return of the Bronco. Ford has not revealed how many reservations they expected, but CFO Tim Stone has admitted that the number of reservations made so far has exceeded their initial expectations. Ford’s President of the Americas & International Market Group, Kumar Galhotra, has also said that the company hopes to sell hundreds of thousands of Broncos per year once the vehicle officially hits the market. If the company is able to sell approximately 125,000 units per year, it could add about $1 billion to Ford’s annual pre-tax earnings, making it one of the manufacturer’s most profitable models. Of course, these 150,000 reservations are not actual orders, just reservations. As a result, there’s no guarantee that every customer who paid the fee to secure a spot on the list will follow through with an order. Now, it’s up to Ford to determine how many of these reservations will actually turn into orders. But for the time being, the brand could not be more pleased with the initial demand for the 2021 Bronco. THE REPOSITIONING OF FORD In 2018, Ford announced that it would retire the Fiesta, Taurus, Fusion, and all other passenger car models besides the Mustang and Ford Focus Active. According to Ford, this would allow the company to focus solely on manufacturing trucks, SUVs, and crossovers. The decision to relaunch the Bronco is in line with this goal to shift their business exclusively to this segment of the automotive industry. Experts believe that the 2021 Bronco will allow Ford to compete directly with Jeep, specifically with the Jeep Wrangler, which has not had a direct competitor since 2009, when the Hummer was officially discontinued. However, Ford is not the only automotive manufacturer that is planning on stealing a chunk of the Jeep Wrangler’s market share. General Motors recently released a video that teased the return of the Hummer. But unlike the previous models, the new Hummer appears to be an electric vehicle rather than a fuel-powered vehicle. The Hummer is another iconic vehicle, so the return of this model could give Ford a run for its money.
Ford Launches Driveway Dealership AR Experience for 2021 F-150 Buyers
August 24, 2020
There’s no doubt that the global coronavirus pandemic has made visiting auto dealerships in person more difficult. But even before the pandemic, consumers showed a preference for shopping for cars online rather than in person. In fact, one survey revealed that 53% of consumers would be extremely or very likely to buy a car online if given the opportunity. In response to this shift in demand—and the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis—Ford recently launched a new program for F-150 consumers called “Driveway Dealership.” WHAT IS THE DRIVEWAY DEALERSHIP PROGRAM? The Driveway Dealership Program is an augmented reality (AR) experience that gives people who are interested in the Ford F-150 truck an opportunity to virtually explore the vehicle without ever stepping foot in a dealership. HOW DOES THE DRIVEWAY DEALERSHIP PROGRAM WORK? You won’t need to wait for an invitation or sign up for the Driveway Dealership program in order to participate in this AR experience. Instead, simply visit the Ford Driveway Dealership website and look for the QR code. Use your phone to scan this QR code to start your AR experience at home. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-6.jpeg] After scanning the QR code, you can use your phone to project a virtual 2021 Ford F-150 anywhere you would like. Most consumers are using this tool to project a virtual image of the Ford F-150 in their driveway so they can see what the vehicle would look like parked in front of their home. However, other consumers are having more fun with this tool. The projected image of the vehicle can be resized, so many people are using the tool to project small, toy-sized images of the F-150 in unusual locations, such as pools, porches, and dining room tables. INTERIOR VIEWS The exterior isn’t the only part of the truck that consumers can explore as part of the Driveway Dealership program. On the Ford Driveway Dealership website, consumers also have the option of exploring the interior of the 2021 F-150. Using this tool, consumers can see what the view from behind the wheel of the truck would look like. They can also zoom in and out to examine various interior features, such as the new 8-inch horizontal touchscreen, which replaces the 4.2-inch touchscreen found on previous models of the F-150. These upgraded touchscreens are equipped with the Ford Sync 4 Infotainment System, which is designed with faster processing times, a more user-friendly interface, and access to a greater number of apps than previous releases. Together, the AR experience and the interior images found online allow consumers who are interested in the F-150 to analyze every inch of the newest model from the comfort of their own home. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-7.jpeg] WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THE DRIVEWAY DEALERSHIP PROGRAM? The 2021 Ford F-150 will be available for purchase at dealerships across the country this fall, but the Driveway Dealership program gives consumers a chance to explore the vehicle before its official rollout. As a result, this program has created a lot of buzz and excitement around the newest model of this iconic truck. The AR program has also made the process of researching the vehicle much easier on people who are unable or unwilling to visit a dealership in person. These consumers don’t have to wait until the coronavirus crisis has passed or they have more time in their schedule to visit a dealership. Thanks to this tool, consumers can make the purchase decision entirely from home. Consumers who want to purchase the vehicle can either visit a dealership or use Ford’s online buying tool to complete the transaction. With the latter option, the entire process of researching and purchasing a 2021 Ford F-150 can be completed from home. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-8.jpeg] WHAT CONSUMERS CAN EXPECT WITH THE 2021 FORD F-150 The 2021 F-150 was revealed in June and marketed as “an all-new truck” for the automotive manufacturer. From the outside, the 2021 model looks like a slightly updated version of the 2020 model. The newest model is designed with higher front fenders and a track that is somewhat wider than the 2020 model. These minor adjustments give the 2021 F-150 a more masculine and rugged appearance. The newest model can be equipped with six powertrain options, including a new hybrid 3.5-liter EcoBoost powertrain, which was not available on the 2020 model. According to Ford, the 2021 F-150 is also 3% more aerodynamic than the 2020 model due to the active grill shutters, which automatically close when the truck is traveling at a cruising speed. Several design elements make it obvious that Ford recognizes that many consumers use their F-150 for work purposes. For example, consumers have the option of folding down a top over their center console to create a flat and sturdy work surface inside their truck. This flat top can be used as a writing surface or laptop stand, depending on the nature of the job. There’s another work surface found in the tailgate of the vehicle. But this work surface also features rules, a place to store a smartphone, a pencil holder, and a cup holder. The tailgate of the 2021 F-150 is also designed with zone lighting to illuminate this part of the truck. This feature is ideal for people who need more visibility while working past sunset. There are a number of subtle design details that fans of the F-150 will fawn over, including the American flag that is etched into the dashboard. This etching honors the fact that the F-150 is built here in the United States at either Ford’s Michigan or Missouri plant. The base model of the 2021 Ford F-150 will begin around $30,000. The Limited F-150, which is the most high-end model, is expected to start around $70,000. Consumers can explore all of these new and exciting changes using the Driveway Dealership AR program. Unfortunately, the Driveway Dealership AR program is only available for the 2021 F-150. But it’s safe to say that if it is a success, Ford may consider adding other models to the program in the future.
A Shopper’s Guide to Augmented Reality
August 21, 2020
Augmented reality and virtual reality can transform our lives and simplify our daily habits. Through AR, customers increase their confidence in their product selection through: * Richer product information or interaction * The ability to personalize or configure unique product designs * The deeper emotional connection from immersive brand storytelling. Here are some industries that are leading the charge in using AR to transform the shopping experience: [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-3.jpeg] * Home Goods & Furniture: Customers can reliably visualize furniture in their room and change color, size and fit within a given space. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-4.jpeg] * Beauty and Makeup: Virtual makeup try-on is getting customers to imagine a new look or color on themselves [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image.png] * Automotive: Automotive retailers have a standard set of models, but the opportunity to customize and configure the models for each customer is vast. AR helps automotive customers configure and better understand each vehicle’s parts and features. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-1.png] * Shoes: Shoe companies are primarily using augmented shopping for personalization and virtual try-on. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-5.jpeg] * Clothing: Different retailers have used AR for “virtual try-on”. Zara has an in-store augmented experience. Gap allows customers to select a body type to “try on” clothing. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-2.png] Tilly’s created an augmented experience in their store window. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-4.png] The future of shopping begins now!
Elon Musk: August 28th Update to Further Detail Neuralink’s Brain Computer Interface
August 21, 2020
Many of us already use some sort kind of suite of synced devices, but would you connect a computer with your brain? Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) could potentially revolutionize the tech and healthcare fields if scientists are able to successfully merge “man with machine.” This innovative new field is being pioneered by Elon Musk’s company Neuralink, which is planning to launch a groundbreaking event that will change the way we view brain activity. Although more details will be released as the date approaches, Musk is preparing to show actively firing neurons on display in real time. Read on to learn more about how Neuralink and BCI technology is gearing up to transform the medical and biotech industries. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image.jpeg] WHAT IS BRAIN-COMPUTER INTERFACE? Brain-Computer Interface devices use one of two measurement systems to collect and analyze data generated by the human brain. BCI interprets the brain’s information by analyzing each data point as a spike or field potential. This emerging industry is expected to reach a value of more than $1.7 billion in the next two years. Although it’s primarily focused on the healthcare sphere, BCI as a market has expanded into the education, military, and gaming industries. Brain-Computer Interface was initially developed in the 1970s at the University of California, and this discovery led to the expression BCI systems we currently use in medicine. This technology was created to learn more about how to restore hearing, sight, and movement in afflicted patients. Since the 1990s, BCI has been used in the development of neuroprosthetic devices. This was made possible by detecting incredibly small waves of energy in the brain, which are caused by the user essentially thinking certain thoughts. BCI integration, in its current state, is divided into three categories: Invasive Semi-Invasive Non-Invasive In an invasive BCI scenario, the device is implanted surgically directly into the brain. This provides the highest level of data reception – but it requires a heavy commitment as the surgery is critical and could result in lasting complications. A semi-invasive BCI device is implanted into the skull on top of the brain, rather than inside the brain. In the non-invasive procedures, the BCI device is connected to a person’s body using a specialized biometric implant and surface-spanning wires that are attached to the head. This technology collects electric brain activity via electrodes that are connected just under the user’s scalp. This part is connected to a separate pod-like device, which holds the “computer” aspect of the BCI system. Although this method produces notably weaker signals, it’s arguably the safest and most accessible option for most consumers. It’s also the most cost-effective choice, by far. A Brain-Computer Interface will generally measure neuronic data with Electroencephalography (EEG). BCI can also generate data by detecting changes associated with blood flow via Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS). With this method of functional imagery, it’s possible to measure brain activity by hemodynamic responses that correlate with neuron activity. With the Brain-Computer Interface, scientists and researchers have developed a way to tap into a person’s visual cortex simply by measuring electric brainwaves. This revolutionary technology is also creating a new relationship between humans and artificial intelligence. By quantifying human brain activity using measurable data metrics and accurate sensory tech, we can communicate with machines more effectively. WHAT IS BCI USED FOR? Brain-Computer Interface technology has the potential to completely transform lives across a wide range of spheres, but it’s making a steep impact in the medical industry. Scientists and medical professionals can use BCI devices like Neuralink to read patient brain data, which is helping them determine new solutions for a variety of disorders and ailments. By quantifying brain signals, BCIs can accumulate this data and translate it into actionable commands. This information can then by used to carry out certain actions, which can assist people with neuromuscular disorders including: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis Cerebral palsy Stroke Spinal cord injury Currently, BCI is being actively used to help medical professionals better understand the cause of these disorders while ideating solutions and treatments for active patients. By utilizing hypersensitive implanted wiring, BCI essentially translates neuron activity into interpretable data. This paints a clearer picture of the patient’s neurological activity for doctors and scientists. Additionally, this technology is being adapted to control external assistance devices for disabled users. Using electroencephalographic, intracortical, and electrocorticographic brain signals, researchers are creating more complex control mechanisms for tools like: Cursors Robotic arms Prosthetics Wheelchairs These developments have the potential to drastically improve the lives of disabled individuals. BCI is also helping researchers to better understand many different disorders, putting them one step closer to discovering groundbreaking solutions. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-1.jpeg] WHAT IS THE N1 SENSOR IMPLANT? Using individual wires that are thinner in diameter than a single hair, Neuralink is able to measure neuron activity in the brain. This allows an implanted device to read and translate this information into analyzable data. This real-time technology makes it possible to, in a sense, read someone’s thoughts through the measurement of tiny electric currents. Musk has stated that he expects the installment procedure to eventually become as commonplace as LASIK surgery. The micro-sized subdermal threads could eventually allow individuals who are paralyzed to use their phone or computer with the power of their brain with this quick procedure. This non-invasive BCI method will be accessible through an easy-to-use mobile app. This will allow users to view their neurological data, in real time, from the palm of their hand. In animal testing, this system produced positive results among mice and monkeys. With the favorable outcome of these trials, Musk expects to move on to human trials in the near future. During this testing stage, our N1 sensors will be placed into the subjects’ brains, which will include one in a somatosensory area and three in the motor area. If successful following human trials, this BCI implant system can make great strides toward effective treatment for paralyzed patients and individuals with debilitating neurological disorders. HOW WILL BCI AFFECT AI TECHNOLOGY? Artificial Intelligence is becoming a growing part of our day-to-day routines, from helping to control our cars to heating systems. But, it’s also being used by medical researchers and scientists to better understand the cortical processes that power our bodies essential functions like: Movement Speech Cognition Brain-Computer Interface is also making waves in the growth and discourse of reinforcement learning. This gives AI the ability to adapt based on the user’s thoughts, in real time. With the data generated by BCI, medical professionals can also learn more about neurological injuries. This discovery has assisted with the development of new neuroprosthetics devices and treatments for a variety of life-altering disorders and disabilities. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-2.jpeg] AUGUST 28TH UPDATE TO FURTHER DETAIL NEURALINK’S BRAIN-COMPUTER INTERFACE Brain-Computer Interface technology has come a long way since its inception in the 1970s, but innovators in this field are pushing the envelope in 2020. Neuralink’s new features, which will be unveiled on August 28th, are projected to include: The functionality of a surgical robot that will carry out the non-invasive implantation An example of the ultra-thin wire that will be used to connect the primary BCI device Thought leadership on wireless connectivity, which Neuralink hopes to apply in the near future to improve user freedom and flexibility These targeted functionalities were developed to make the connection between thought and digital interpretation more seamless, primarily by removing the need for additional devices. Earlier versions of BCI technology relied on the use of a keyboard or mouse to interpret commands between the user and the machine elements. In addition to improving Neuralink’s ease of use, this system helps to guard against advanced, boundless AI technology. By integrating a human element directly into the functions of the connected device, Musk has fine-tuned the updated Neuralink system to provide even more protection against the threat of unregulated AI. Ultimately, this company hopes to utilize technology to help those who suffer from neurological disorders. Programs like Neuralink can achieve this by helping patients to regain: Mobility Quality of life Day-to-day functioning Speech performance Neuralink is still pending human trials, but the August update will be the most advanced yet – bringing the brand one step closer to improving the lives of impacted patients. While BCI has been used throughout the medical industry for decades, the market was transformed when Musk dived into the industry in 2016. Since then, developers at Neuralink have been working to bridge the gap between humans and artificial intelligence. Once Brain-Computer Interface tech is sharpened through human trials, this revolutionary invention can allow humans to effectively communicate with – and potentially control – devices at the speed of thought. By truly translating the human element of organic brain activity, we can use machines to expand our knowledge exponentially in the healthcare realm and beyond.
The Future is Now: Car-Shopping With Virtual Reality
August 19, 2020
In the past, showrooms were the only way to get useful information and be able to examine a new car thoroughly before buying it. Today, most car shoppers do the majority of their research online and make their purchases without seeing the item in the real world. Potential car buyers can sometimes spend months reading professional reviews, customer reviews, and watching videos to narrow down their purchases. When they are ready, they simply select the dealer that offers them the best deal to complete their purchase. Virtual reality offers an enhancement to today’s car shopping experience. VR can be used at home by consumers, or in the showroom to showcase models, features or colors that aren’t available in that location. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/CarShoppingWithVirtualReality.jpg] WILL VIRTUAL REALITY CAR SHOPPING BE THE FUTURE OF SHOWROOMS? Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality car showroom apps are emerging as a powerful trend. A spokesperson from RelayCars announced that once the app was released to the general public, “we pulled in over 1.2 million downloads”. This demonstrates the kind of demand and interest that’s driving online and virtual reality car sales. Potential buyers not only can see a car model but as things progress in this field, they will likely be able to fully customize their desired car and share those customizations with dealers. Customers can view every angle, get inside the driver’s seat virtually, learn about the specs, and in some cases, can even take the car for a virtual test drive. If dealers are willing to follow in Tesla’s footsteps, online orders could be the new future. Tesla gets around the ‘hands-on experience’ factor with its more lenient returns policy. This allows the public to shop for the model they like, order it, and then take it for a test drive after it’s delivered. If they later discover they don’t want the car, they can return it (within a strictly limited period) for a refund or to change to another model. With customers turning up to dealerships fully informed and ready to buy, there is also a lot of time saved on the dealer’s side. Hours spent explaining features and following up with sales calls are unlikely to be as needed. Instead, the dealer can focus on closing the sale and not the entire buildup to the sellable stage of the process. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/CarShoppingWithVirtualReality-1.jpg] THE VIRTUAL REALITY CAR-SHOPPING PROCESS Most buyers are going to start out by doing online research. Some might have a car in mind, but most will likely be looking for the best versions of a particular style. For example, they could search for something like “top 10 compact SUV 2020” to find the best-rated options as reviewed by professionals. They might also talk with friends and family for ideas and insights. Once buyers start to narrow down which cars they are most interested in, features and reviews are going to start to have a strong influence on the car they choose. This part could include car comparison charts, reviews, videos, and virtual reality experiences. The challenge is to determine which car is a good fit for the buyer, within budget and with all the features they desire. According to Think with Google, the majority of digital shoppers buying cars prefer to use their mobile phones to do research: “When researching new cars 90% of buyers in Kuwait used their smartphones and 86% in the UAE.” This kind of statistic is not uncommon, as more people prefer to relax and shop from digital devices, or even shop on the move. Mobile shopping trends have been increasing steadily for years, and of course, this fits in perfectly with virtual reality sales. Virtual Reality showrooms offer a ‘polished’ approach to displaying vehicles. Video reviews and articles are good, but they are always from the opinion of the author, even if they do try to stay fairly neutral. Many modern and informed buyers know that reviews are often biased, or even a paid promotion for a vehicle. With virtual reality, buyers get an honest and neutral experience. In a virtual reality showroom, the buyer can see exactly how the car looks in the real world. Some AR apps even allow buyers to place the vehicle in their street or where they choose. Not only can buyers see the vehicle close-up from all angles, including viewing the interior in full virtual reality, but they can interact with other statistics and options as well. VR is a powerful way for buyers to see and interact with cars without visiting a showroom and without a biased sales pitch. In this sense, it helps to increase buyer confidence and makes for a more pleasant shopping experience. Once a buyer finally chooses the car or cars they like, smart shoppers will then look for promotions and offers. Dealers need to be ranking high in search results, as this part is also likely to be mostly done online before visiting. Even negotiations begin online nowadays, with AutoTrader reporting that “56% like to start the negotiation on their terms and 45% like being anonymous to the dealer until they lock in a deal.” Finally, the buyer may decide to visit a nearby dealership or simply order online. This, for dealers and buyers, makes the purchasing process clearer, informed, and faster at the ‘in-person’ stage — a win-win for car buyers and sellers. ARE VR SALES GOOD FOR DEALERS? It might first appear that virtual reality could be taking opportunities away from dealers and their sales teams. However, that isn’t really the case. First of all, virtual reality can be used as a tool for dealers to show off any model, with any trim level, and in any color… all without needing to have the vehicles in stock. This can be done in showrooms, at trade events, or just about anywhere. The end result for dealers is that they can provide a better experience to shoppers, while also not needing to keep as many vehicles in stock. Happy customers are also more likely to make a purchase, and needing less stock should result in reduced costs. At the end of the day, most people that do visit a dealer will at least start their car buying journey with online research. If the virtual reality car shopping experience is good enough, they may not even visit a showroom and instead simply order online. Another angle that is often overlooked is the data these apps and VR experiences can provide to dealers. The interaction within virtual reality could lead to more focus being given to important car features or highlight app/car features that were detrimental to making a sale. This data can then be used to develop better experiences for customers, and make the entire buying experience more enjoyable. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/CarShoppingWithVirtualReality-2.jpg] WILL IT AFFECT SHOWROOM JOBS? Some areas of the showroom and staffing may be reduced or eventually disappear, but other positions will be created in relation to developing and promoting virtual reality car shopping platforms. It is also unlikely that showrooms will completely disappear in the near future, as showrooms act as real-world reminders of car brand names. Dealers will likely want this to continue, even if in more compact or modernized showrooms. VIRTUAL REALITY IS MAKING CUSTOMERS MORE AWARE Having accurate and unbiased information changes how purchases are views. An ‘upsold’ car can later turn out to be a disappointment. However, if a buyer chooses to buy a car after seeing and checking all of its flaws, the same car can turn out to be a pleasant surprise. Sales figures could potentially be increased with the use of VR and AR as marketing tools. Dealers can provide their own virtual online experiences to potential buyers. As more and more people switch to online shopping, virtual reality and 360-degree videos are great ways to attract attention to your products. VR helps buy not only providing a full 360-degree view of cars but also by highlighting and explaining all of the features and functions. This allows potential buyers to spend as much time as they need to really get to know the car. VR and AR headsets can be powerful sales tools, inside and outside of showrooms. As technology has progressed, many VR or AR experiences are now possible with just a mobile phone. Affordable headsets can turn mobile phones into mobile-powered virtual reality devices, making virtual reality accessible to almost anyone with a modern phone. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/CarShoppingWithVirtualReality-3.jpg] WILL CAR-SHOPPING WITH VIRTUAL REALITY BE THE FUTURE? VR and AR are likely to continue to grow in usage by the automotive industry. This approach delivers a balanced and honest view of vehicles to buyers, and in turn, provides an improved buying experience. Many major brands are already online, with their cars being showcased in virtual reality. However, there is no reason only to use dealership virtual reality apps. Others are providing car shopping with VR in ways that allow consumers to compare vehicles in a standardized environment. This helps with comparing sizes and getting a sense of making ‘real world’ comparisons. More VR and AR innovations are sure to develop over the coming years. These uses by the automotive are an exciting and developing twist to the virtual reality marketplace.
How Augmented Reality Changes Today’s Automotive Industry
August 17, 2020
The automotive industry has a history of embracing new technologies in order to enhance the driving experience for consumers. Over the years, automotive manufacturers have incorporated technology into their designs to provide consumers with emergency braking, collision detection, fuel efficiency, and in-car entertainment. But now there is another technology—augmented reality—that is preparing to completely disrupt the automotive industry. Augmented reality is technology that is used to overlay text, graphics, audio, and other digital elements on the user’s real world environment. In other words, it allows users to superimpose various digital elements onto the world around them to blend the real and virtual worlds together. A number of companies in the automotive industry are already starting to use augmented reality to give themselves a competitive edge. Here are some of the many ways that augmented reality technology is changing every aspect of today’s automotive industry. ENHANCING THE BUYING EXPERIENCE The use of augmented reality has the potential to completely transform the experience of buying a vehicle. To purchase a new vehicle, consumers typically have to visit a dealership to look at cars they are interested in. If the dealership does not have the exact car the consumer wants, they may visit other dealers to find what they are looking for. After all, vehicles are expensive, so consumers are hesitant to purchase one without seeing it in person. But with augmented reality, consumers may not need to visit a dealership to inspect a vehicle in person. Instead, they can project an image of the vehicle onto their real environment. Consumers can inspect the projection of a vehicle just like they would inspect a vehicle at a dealership. The only difference is they can conduct this inspection from the comfort of their own home. This means consumers could get the information they need about a vehicle on their own, so the entire purchase making decision could take place outside of the dealership. Augmented reality technology can also be used to enhance the buying experience at the dealership. For example, say a consumer visits a dealership looking for a specific vehicle. The dealership has the vehicle on their lot, but they don’t have the right color. Without augmented reality, this consumer might visit other dealerships to find the vehicle in the right color. But now, the dealership can use augmented reality to project an image of the vehicle in the right color so the consumer can see it in person. This could help dealerships convert more customers and make more sales even if their inventory is limited. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/HowAugmentedRealityChangesTodaysAutomotiveIndustry.jpg] CREATING A SAFER DRIVING EXPERIENCE Many automotive manufacturers are using augmented reality technology to keep drivers safe behind the wheel. Taking your eyes off of the road—even if it’s just for a few seconds—is incredibly dangerous. In fact, thousands of people are killed in distracted driving accidents in the U.S. every year. To address this problem, automotive manufacturers have started to use augmented reality to keep drivers focused on the road in front of them. Drivers will no longer need to take their eyes off of the road to read driving directions, check their speed, or see if it’s time to get gas. This information will be projected directly onto their windshield so they can see it at all times. For example, images of arrows, speed limit signs, and other graphics might be projected onto the driver’s windshield to guide them to their final destination. Drivers can receive step-by-step directions on how to get to where they are going without ever taking their eyes off of the road. This isn’t the only way that augmented reality is used to make the driving experience safer for consumers. Some manufacturers have designed vehicles that use augmented reality technology to project safety warnings onto the driver’s windshield. For example, say a driver is approaching a pedestrian. In this case, a brightly colored arrow might be projected onto the windshield to draw the driver’s attention to the pedestrian. Digital graphics can also be used to notify drivers of potholes, construction zones, and other safety hazards. Augmented reality technology is also used to help drivers safely park their vehicles. Drivers won’t need to use their best judgment to determine whether or not they can safely park their vehicle in a small or tight space. In some vehicles, drivers can now project an image of their vehicle onto the parking space to see whether or not it will fit. Other graphics, such as arrows and curved lines, are also used to help drivers safely pull in and out of parking spots. PROVIDING DRIVERS WITH A VIRTUAL ASSISTANT These days, every smartphone is designed with a virtual assistant that responds to simple voice commands. But the automotive industry might enhance the virtual assistant experience with the use of augmented reality technology. Last year, Nissan introduced its Invisible-to-Visible technology that combines a wealth of data from maps, sensors, and other sources and presents it to the driver using augmented reality. This augmented reality technology also gives drivers the option of interacting with a virtual co-driver who will sit in the passenger seat and communicate with the driver throughout their journey. The virtual co-driver will be able to provide drivers with all of the information gathered by the Invisible-to-Visible technology. For example, a driver can ask the virtual assistant what exit they should take to get to their final destination or if there are any accidents reported on the road ahead. Drivers can customize the appearance of their virtual co-driver. According to Nissan, consumers can create a co-driver that resembles their favorite cartoon character, a friend or family member, or someone else. By using augmented reality in this way, Nissan is making driving more convenient and enjoyable for drivers. SIMPLIFYING THE PRODUCTION PROCESS Automotive consumers aren’t the only ones who will benefit from the use of augmented reality technology. This technology is also being used to simplify the process of manufacturing new vehicles, which will benefit countless workers in the industry. There’s no question that manufacturing a vehicle is not easy. Each vehicle consists of thousands of components, which must be brought together and assembled by skilled workers in factories around the world. Building a vehicle is essentially like putting together the pieces of an incredibly complex puzzle—except there is no room for errors on the assembly line. Fortunately, some automotive manufacturers are beginning to incorporate augmented reality technology into the production process to make it easier than ever before to manufacture new vehicles. One manufacturer that is using augmented reality to simplify the production process is Volvo. Assembly line workers at Volvo can use Microsoft’s HoloLens, which are augmented reality smartglasses, to look up specific instructions or view technical drawings while putting together the different parts of a vehicle. Workers who take advantage of this technology won’t have to leave the assembly line in order to get the information they need. Instead, they can view the information right in front of them thanks to augmented reality technology. The smart glasses will project the step-by-step instructions, how-to videos, or technical drawings onto the user’s surroundings. Using augmented reality in this manner ensures that workers get the virtual guidance they need to perform their job duties. Furthermore, it also speeds up the production process since workers will no longer have to leave the assembly line for help or waste time on figuring out how to put something together. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/HowAugmentedRealityChangesTodaysAutomotiveIndustry-1.jpg] MAKING MAINTENANCE WORK MORE EFFICIENT Augmented reality is being used in a similar way to improve the efficiency of maintenance work in the automotive industry. At Mitsubishi, maintenance workers no longer need to dig through piles of user manuals to find the information they need to make a repair or address an issue with a vehicle. Instead, workers can use a pair of specially designed augmented reality glasses to project the user manual for a specific vehicle directly onto their surroundings. These glasses even allow maintenance workers to enter notes on the repairs that were made using just their voice. Together, these features drastically improve the efficiency of maintenance work at Mitsubishi. VISUALIZING NEW DESIGNS Hundreds—maybe even thousands—of changes are made to the design of a new vehicle before it is finalized. In the past, automotive companies were forced to create clay prototypes of new designs. If a change to the design was made, a new clay prototype was created. But now, augmented reality has made this design process far more efficient. Ford uses Microsoft’s HoloLens to create prototypes of new vehicles. The HoloLens allows designers to see how their change will look or fit on an existing vehicle. For example, if a designer wants to increase the size of a vehicle’s infotainment system, they can use the HoloLens to project an image of a larger infotainment system onto the existing vehicle’s interior. Using augmented reality to project design changes onto an existing vehicle gives designers the opportunity to identify issues that could arise with the change. For instance, the larger infotainment system may partially obstruct the driver’s vision. By projecting the image onto the existing vehicle, the designer can recognize and address this issue before moving further in the process. Thanks to this technology, designers at Ford can wait until they are sure that a change will work before ordering a more sophisticated prototype. From the design and production of a vehicle to the consumer driving experience, augmented reality is impacting nearly every aspect of the automotive industry. But this technology is still fairly new, which means it’s very likely that there will be more changes to come. It’s safe to assume that automotive companies will continue to find new and exciting ways to incorporate this technology into vehicles in order to stay competitive in the crowded automotive industry.
A History of the Rise of Virtual Reality
August 15, 2020
Twenty years ago, virtual reality was a technology breakthrough that used crude graphics and bulky headsets to transport participants to another realm—a virtual playground. In 1995, the movie Strange Days foreshadowed a more complex type of VR, an experience that tapped into the brain to relive moments and events that were captured from the past. The movie explored the addictive qualities of this type of virtual reality, equating it to a drug that enables users to get high off the euphoria and emotions of moments seemingly lost in time. While the VR experiences in Strange Days never came to reality, the past two decades have seen an uptick in this technology. There has been a clear evolution from those once crude graphics and massive headsets to a streamlined form of virtual reality. Today’s augmented reality is built into our cars, our homes and our lives. Bulky headsets aren’t required to experience these virtual worlds; now we simply need to start the ignition of our cars or say “Hey, Siri.” Here’s a look at the evolution and history of augmented reality and how it has progressed throughout the years since its inception: ANTIQUE VIRTUAL REALITY The Virtual Reality Society is the go-to hub for all things VR. The site has a full history of virtual and augmented reality from this technology’s inception. In the beginning, though, VR was a bit more…basic. According to the VRS, the birth of virtual reality began with panoramic paintings. How is a painting virtual reality? In the 1800s, the idea of experiencing a moment in time or another world could really only be captured in pictures. To bring the individual into the moment, these pictures had to be large and “fill the viewer’s entire field of vision.” Viewing a panoramic painting allowed the individual to feel as though they were transported into that scene, that painting. Panoramic paintings are the primitive form of VR as we know it. THE VIEW-MASTER Did you play with a View-Master as a child? These camera-like devices required you to place a round disc lined with pictures into a viewing slot. When you peered through the glasses (and, yes, they looked like VR glasses), the pictures created a virtual world that seemed to come alive. Clicking through the pictures helped tell a full story, and, as you clicked through the slideshow, the characters and scenes seemed to come alive before you. According to the VRS, William Gruber invented the View-Master in 1939, but the toy version was popular for many decades. MOVING PICTURES (OR MOTION PICTURES) Although the VRS doesn’t include motion pictures in its virtual reality history, the movies that we now enjoy regularly were cutting edge when they were introduced. Watching a movie allowed viewers to be transported visually to a new adventure and a new place. Movies captured far-off destinations and brought books to life. Moving pictures evolved from silent shows with captions to pictures with dubbed sound, and black and white pictures eventually became a world of color. THE SENSORAMA In the 1950s, a new device called the Sensorama was invented by Morton Heilig. The VRS describes this “an arcade-style theatre cabinet that would stimulate all the senses, not just sight and sound.” Speakers, fans, vibrating elements and a 3D display enabled participants to virtually experience movies with titles like Motorcycle, Dune Buggy, Belly Dancer and helicopter. AUGMENTED REALITY IN A COMPUTER The 60s gave us groovy music, peace and love…and, yes, even virtual reality in a computer. In 1969 Myron Kruegere created the first virtual reality (or artificial reality) in a computer program. Kruegere allowed for individuals to interact with each other virtually in a computer environment; his invention let those living in different places stay in touch via the screen…a common habit we take for granted today. VR HEADSETS & SIMULATIONS: THE FUN & FUNKY ‘70S STARTED THE TREND In the early 70s, General Electric created a virtual flight simulator. The simulator was used for pilot training, according to the VRS. In 1975, Myron Krueger invented Videoplace, and it was the very definition of funky. A website devoted to Krueger has all the details about his invention. Videoplace consisted of two rooms; participants could step inside and their image would be projected on the screen (and others could be projected with them). While in Videoplace, you also could virtually interact with other projected items. Plus, you could manipulate your image too (changing the color, size, etc.). VRS includes Videoplace in its history of VR, as this creation was an important contribution to the emerging technology. The latter part of the ‘70s saw the creation of a program called the MIT Movie Map, which was invented at MIT. VRS states that “It was almost like an ancient precursor of Google Street View.” Unlike Google Street View, Movie Map only allowed users to virtually experience one location: Aspen, Colo. Two years later (in 1979) McDonnell Douglas created the precursor to the VR headset: the VITAL Helmet. With the helmet, pilots could see virtual imagery. THE ‘80S & ‘90S: PERFECTING VR The ‘80s and ‘90s were times of virtual reality evolution. The phrase “virtual reality” was used for the first time in 1987. Sayre Gloves were invented in 1982, and these were the precursor to “data gloves,” according to the VRS. Throughout the ‘80s, VR was exploding…and the VRS notes many historic breakthroughs. VPL Research—the first VR company to sell VR items like HMDs and gloves—was founded in 1985. And, in 1986, The Super Cockpit allowed for more detailed VR flight simulations for pilots. NASA also became involved in VR in 1989, and used virtual reality program simulators to prepare astronauts. In the ‘90s VR went commercial. This was the decade that virtual reality really went mainstream. Kids heading to the arcade could jump in a simulator and experience virtual reality. Sega and Nintendo both had VR offerings; Sega’s never jumped out of the prototype phase, according to VRS. Nintendo launched its Virtual Boy, but it failed to land with consumers. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/AHistoryoftheRiseofVirtualReality.jpg] THE NEW MILLENNIUM Virtual reality was the subject of the movie The Matrix (1999), which transformed the notion of virtual reality as the technology moved into the new millennium. In The Matrix, Neo had to choose to take either a blue pill or a red pill–a choice that was the key to either continuing to live in the virtual, artificial world known as The Matrix or to wake up and face a brutal (and annihilated) world post apocalypse. While the movie might have left viewers wondering if we were all just trapped in a virtual reality, it also pushed virtual reality and its capabilities into the forefront. Although the machines took over the world in The Matrix, our world embraced the rise of computers and virtual assistants. The new millennium slowly introduced virtual reality into our daily lives. Game consoles like the Wii let players virtually experience different types of sports and games. The controllers were small handheld contraptions that sensed movement and interacted with the console to virtually control the game action on the screen. VR TODAY VR is now fully integrated into our lives. In 2011, Apple integrated Siri into the iPhone® 4S, and this emergence of built-in virtual assistants became yet another type of augmented reality. Our phones responded now to our requests. With a simple “Hey, Siri…,” we could order pizza, search the web, send a text and make a call. Siri gave rise to Alexa, a VR assistant built-in to Amazon devices. These devices—fueled by Alexa’s ingenuity—could control appliances in our home and even call for food deliveries. Alexa ushered in the Internet of Things (or IoT), and homeowners could purchase smart plugs and smart power strips designed to work with Alexa; daily appliances like the coffee maker could be plugged into the strips or plugs, and, suddenly, Alexa could take over. The morning routine, once a series of rituals like brewing the coffee, turning on the television and making breakfast was suddenly a virtual experience. “Alexa, brew the coffee.” “Alexa, turn on the light.” “Alexa, what’s the weather today.” With one simple command, life became almost effortless. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/AHistoryoftheRiseofVirtualReality-1.jpg] AUGMENTED REALITY: DRIVING OUR LIVES The millennium also gave rise to VR in the automobile, although computers were taking over already. While many automobiles were utilizing computer chips for different functions, virtual reality started slowly creeping into the drive. Many drivers started using VR in the car thanks to portable devices like GPS systems. Garmin devices could plug into the car and display an easy map of the trip, giving voice commands and highlighting the route along the way. Getting lost was now a problem of the past. And forget about those bulky maps that could never be refolded with ease! Who needs a map when you have a navigation screen! The popularity of these systems likely led to manufacturers finding a way to include them into the automobile. Cars began to incorporate smart features like digital driver displays that alerted drivers of inflation issues with tires, old oil or other issues. Back-up cameras started to become a standard feature, as the rear camera view allowed drivers to parallel park with ease and back out of tight parking lots, and, hopefully, reduce fender benders. Today’s cars are loaded with virtual features, and many consumers probably don’t realize that these features are a form of VR. Backup cameras have evolved into multiple cameras that give drivers a full view of the entire car. Warning sounds alert when a driver pulls too close to an obstacle, and some cars even stop automatically when an obstacle is detected by sensors. To ease the issues of night driving, rearview mirrors now project images from the backup cameras to give drivers a better view behind them. Even smartphones have found a home in the car. Smartphones can integrate into the vehicle’s entertainment system, and we can interact with the phone in our car…without lifting a finger. We can stream music, make calls and pull up maps and other functions. AUGMENTED REALITY: DRIVING THE AUTOMOBILE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE While virtual reality has taken over the driver’s seat in most vehicles, the technology also has transformed the way many dealerships are doing business. During the pandemic, restrictions may have forced dealerships to close or limit the number of customers. Shopping for a vehicle was no longer an easy and laid-back experience. To ensure that consumers could still view inventory and shop for their dream car, dealerships began offering virtual showrooms. These online sites allowed customers to view the interior and exterior of the car and check out the features, too. Dealerships that couldn’t set up their own online virtual showroom could direct buyers to sites like RelayCars, which hosted online showrooms filled with new (and older) makes and models. The site lets customers browse at their leisure and find the car that is right for their budget and lifestyle. Customers can look at different vehicles and even change some of the vehicle’s features (like the paint color). For dealerships and manufacturers, virtual reality also created other opportunities to elevate the shopping experience. VR gave manufacturers and dealerships the opportunity to offer test drives when the customer couldn’t leave home. Some test drives were available through app experiences; customers could tilt their screen to navigate the car…just like a game. VR IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT: USAGE BEYOND THE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE Manufacturers and dealerships might have embraced the virtual reality world for showrooms and test drives during the pandemic out of necessity, but this technology has been used by the industry for many other reasons, too. Volvo teamed up with Varjo for a “mixed use headset” called the Varjo XR-1 headset. This headset was used by engineers “to develop and evaluate active safety solutions more easily.” Porsche’s “Tech Live Look” partners smart glasses with a software platform to help guide service technicians in repairs. The glasses include an LED light to shine on hard to see places and the glasses also magnify, allowing technicians to see tiny details. Apple also might be taking over the windshield. The company applied for a patent for a smart windshield. According to an article by Future Car, the writer of the patent detailed that the windshield, “…could facilitate video calls and other forms of communication while waiting to reach one’s destination.” Yes, videoconferencing in the car may be our future! VR TAKING OVER: THE SELF-DRIVING CAR The future for virtual reality in the automobile industry is leaning toward a fully virtual car. While this technology hasn’t been perfected, it is on the horizon. Virtual reality is already embedded into our vehicles, and a car that drives and navigates without a human behind the wheel may be our space-age reality. Are we ready, though, for machines to take over our lives completely? The Matrix might have been a work of fiction, but it also could have been a foreshadowing of what will come next. Will the machines become smarter than humans…and conquer humanity? Or will the computer—and virtual reality—just act as our virtual chauffeur, chef and personal assistant? Whatever the future holds, just remember to buckle up… and be prepared to relinquish the driver’s seat. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/AHistoryoftheRiseofVirtualReality.png]
How is Virtual Reality Transforming Digital Marketing in 2020?
August 14, 2020
With all of the time we’ve spent online during lockdown, brands are looking for innovative ways to reach and engage their target audience. Virtual reality is building a new and exciting framework for marketers and consumers to connect. Your branding strategy has the power to set the tone for your entire enterprise. If you want to expand your business in 2020, keep these VR digital marketing tips in mind. WHAT IS VIRTUAL REALITY? Virtual reality (as well as augmented reality) are predicted to generate more than $29.5 billion in revenue this year. This exploding industry is taking over, allowing people to experience brands in a completely new and exciting way. In short, virtual reality is a combination of software, apps, and devices that allow the user to immerse themselves into the digital world. VR, as a platform, can be accessed via mobile devices, auxiliary headsets, projections, and more. There are a variety of different ways to incorporate this tool into your digital brand strategy, including: Co-branding and cross-company partnerships using video games, mobile apps, and online programs 360-video and image ad campaigns “Holoroom” product and service testing Headset-enabled immersive presentations and interactive media Depending on the level of “reality” you’re looking for, you can use a noise-cancelling headset that provides complete audio and visual immersion. Or, you can opt for a hybrid experience using a 360-degree digital projection. Virtual reality can transport you to a digitally created vacation, or it can help you to alleviate pain and stress using adaptive technology. VR is expanding into a wide range of realms and industries, and digital marketing is taking advantage of the boom by tapping into the consumer desire to obtain an “experience.” The best part of this revolutionary tech is the flexibility it provides, making it an adaptable strategy for any type of business or brand. No matter what you’re offering or the type of products you’re selling, you can use VR to help your brand stand out in 2020. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/virtualrealitydigitalmarketing.jpg] HOW CAN VR BE USED IN SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING? Social media has taken over the digital marketplace, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, virtual reality is perfectly adaptable for most of the top digital networking platforms. 360-DEGREE PHOTOS AND VIDEOS Have you ever scrolled past a Facebook post that shifted with the movement of your hand? This eye-catching social media tool has been around for a while, but it’s a useful tool for keeping social media users on the page for just a bit longer. Using Oculus technology, users can view a 360-degree video or image by moving their phone to see the entire image. This allows them to experience the content on their feed from the poster’s point of view. REAL-TIME FILTERS Filters are everywhere, adorning profile pictures and direct messages. But, they’re more than a fun way to spice up your newsfeed. Businesses are using custom filters to promote and increase visibility for their brand. Face filters cross over into augmented reality, since they superimpose an image onto the user’s face without replacing existing “real” features. This tactic is an extremely useful way to amuse your audience AND promote your business, especially among Gen Z. As the world’s first “truly digital” generation, this group is becoming one of the most powerful consumer demographics. Attract this audience by speaking their language (and tapping into their love of experiences over material products). VIRTUAL PRODUCT TESTING Wouldn’t you feel more confident about making an online purchase if you could try it on first? Whether you prefer online shopping or are simply staying out of stores during the pandemic, this feature provides potential buyers with a way to see what they’re getting before they buy. From glasses to clothing to makeup, brands are using this tool to help buyers solidify confidence in their purchases. Increased buyer confidence can easily translate to improved brand loyalty, which can fast track the growth of your enterprise. The use of VR tech to help customers try out product inventory also increases the shoppers’ tendency toward impulse buying. Since more than 80% of shoppers do some online research before they buy, this is an excellent tactic for brands to pad their consumer pipeline. VIRAL VR Did you know that VR is making it easier than ever for brands to jump on viral trends? Staying relevant is key for social media marketing, and virtual reality is another way to bring pop culture and hot topics into your branding campaign. As we saw with the success of the Lexus Quantico 360-degree ad campaign, virtual reality is just another avenue for achieving internet fame. Now is the time to jump on the bandwagon and increase your brand’s social networking base by adding another dimension to your marketing plan. Stunning imagery, high-quality graphics, and fluid usability are critical if you want to achieve viral fame with a VR ad. The more exposure the better, so this great tactic for businesses and brands of any size or scale. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/virtualrealitydigitalmarketing-1.jpg] IS VIRTUAL REALITY ACCESSIBLE FOR EVERYONE? While you might opt to choose from the range of tools and programs that are compatible with a VR headset, there are ways to create a virtually immersive experience for every customer. Despite the costs associated with auxiliary VR equipment, providing a shared set can also pose health and safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, there are few ways to use this technology in a way that’s accessible for everyone. If you want to use virtual reality to improve your marketing efforts in 2020, some simple solutions include 360-degree video advertising and virtual walkthroughs. VR marketing methods can also be incredibly affordable for advertisers, as many platforms are app or browser-based. Instead of building a full apparatus to provide customers with an immersive experience, marketers can simply tap into their audience’s social media feeds via targeted advertising. Or, brands can offer a digital experience to customers via login code or app download link. Many popular VR methods and programs only require a mobile phone, with or without affordable add-ons like Google Cardboard. Customers can assemble their own viewing devices, and this is a method that allows everyone to obtain the same experience. This method is ideal for VR apps or optimized videos that show off everything your company has to offer. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/virtualrealitydigitalmarketing-2.jpg] WHAT IS INTERACTIVE ADVERTISING? Interactive advertising incorporates a variety of user-driven actions, including quizzes and QR codes. But virtual reality tools have opened up a completely new, untouched landscape for marketers to reach their target audiences. Using VR, brands can create advertising that’s truly interactive and fully immersive. As important as it is for brands, advertising is a hit-or-miss topic for many consumers. The standard American shopper’s attention span is becoming shorter and shorter, which makes it more important than ever to grab your audience’s attention immediately. Just like video marketing grew to supersede still imagery, virtual reality advertising is adding another layer to advertising efforts that’s proven to increase brand growth. The goal of advertising has always been to create a sense of need or want in the target consumer. To do this, marketers often use videos and images to create an idyllic scenario to lure in potential buyers with happy, positive energy. Brands can use virtual showrooms, stages, and digital scenarios to paint a picture their audience would want to become a part of. In this environment, every audio or visual element can be tailored to fit the specific goals of your marketing campaign. Using virtual reality, you can truly build an environment that makes each and every consumer see your product or service in the best possible light. They can imagine themselves as an active user of your brand, which has been proven to influence shoppers both in brick-and-mortar stores and online. VIRTUAL REALITY MARKETING AND TELECOMMUTERS Did you know that pay-per-click advertising increased by more than 35% during the COVID-19 lockdown? More people staying home has equated to more time spent online, and this means that there’s never been a better time to try innovative digital marketing techniques. As offices continue to move to a remote business model, teams are required to adapt to an increasingly digital marketplace. Even prior to the lockdown, more than half of all companies around the world provide some telecommuting flexibility for their workers. VR is giving remote workers and managers an easier, clearer way to communicate and collaborate during conference meetings – no matter there they’re based. Remote educators are utilizing immersive experiences to teach their students, while healthcare workers are using holographic projections to practice procedures. The possibilities are endless, and remote workers are at the forefront of this innovation. Whether you want to sell a furniture set or you’re trying to reach a younger demographic, virtual reality is becoming one of the fast-growing digital tools for marketers. Build the perfect campaign for your business and your target audience by creating a digital world that consumers will want to be a part of. Give your marketing plan a facelift and expand your company’s reach by integrating VR into your digital branding strategy.
Apple Dives Deeper into Virtual Reality with Purchase of Broadcaster NextVR
August 12, 2020
The news of Apple purchasing NextVR is a major change in the VR market. While they are not revealing their exact plans for the platform, it is a strong indication that something big is coming. As of last year, NextVR was heading towards 100 employees and secured some major brand-named partnerships in the sports world. As a startup in 2009, it had gained significant traction and support in the VR industry. The niche focus of this company was not simply on headsets or gaming experiences. They wanted to deliver better at-home virtual reality entertainment experiences, especially to sports fans. Sports weren’t all that they covered though, as everything from concerts to paranormal investigations was provided in full VR. Using special cameras at the events, NextVR was able to provide people at home with a realistic experience of major events that were being hosted hundreds of miles away. However, since the acquisition by Apple, their website currently displays a message that “NextVR is Heading in a New Direction” – which hints at some major changes being in the pipeline, although nothing has yet been announced as to what these changes could be. WHY SHOULD APPLE BE INTERESTED IN VR/AR? Apple has already been working on their headset for a while. Although there is no official launch date at this time, many expect the launch to happen in the next 18 months. There are rumors that this headset is going to provide both AR and VR in one device. The purchase of NextVR by Apple shows a strong commitment to this technology. THE FUTURE OF VR VR is not only about entertainment, such as concerts and games, but can be used in so many other ways. People can virtually experience almost anything through VR, making it a great tool for sales, useful for training, and even for helping to improve the lives of those with physical challenges. This technology can be used for virtual travel, distance education, online shopping, or even shopping for a new car virtually without the need for visiting a showroom. The full range of opportunities isn’t yet known, as new innovations are constantly being unveiled. VR IN ONLINE SHOPPING When it comes to online shopping, instead of viewing a 2D image on a website, your shopping experience could actually be in a virtual shop or showroom where you can interact with the items. You can view items from all angles, and even hear them in a totally virtual environment from within your own home. VR IN THE MEDICAL SECTOR In the medical sector, potential uses being explored are amazing. Not only can students study and practice virtually, but doctors can also consult and assist with treatments and patient diagnosis from anywhere in the world. VR IN ROBOTICS 5G is also coming into the picture, offering data transfer rates that were previously not possible, especially wirelessly. This then allows for VR and AR to become ‘live’ and wireless, with the content being streamed remotely and allowing for almost instant real-time interactions. As robotics progress, VR and 5G could become a human connection technology. As COVID-19 spreads, the need for at-home meetings, training, and more has been growing exponentially in demand. VR and AR can allow people to do incredible things from home without needing to risk physical contact or exposure. Whatever is coming is almost sure to be market challenging, especially when combining the entertainment systems of NextVR with the likely high-end VR/AR tech of Apple’s new headset. WHAT LIKELY MOTIVATED THE MOVE TO PURCHASE NEXTVR? While there are rumors about Apple soon launching a new device in this sector, this particular purchase was more likely connected with entertainment and some of the technologies that NextVR used in production. VR and AR content and uses are expanding. It is important for any company that breaks into this industry to have both effective technology and quality content. NextVR had the technology and partnerships to provide great content, but we will have to wait and see what Apple does with it. While NextVR is, of course, focused on VR content, there are already ideas in the pipeline for AR glasses that allow the experience of VR content in various ways. If the details provided by MacRumors are correct, then the way we currently experience AR and VR might be changing. MacRumors claims that, “Apple is working on two AR projects, including an augmented reality headset set to be released in 2022 followed by a sleeker pair of augmented reality glasses coming in 2023.” MacRumors has deduced from the patents filed and the help of an insider that Apple not only plans to provide glasses in this field but also new and inventive ways for which users will be able to interact with augmented worlds. Most VR or AR setups today require interaction through devices like gloves or other sensor fitted devices. However, Apple seems to be working towards a way in which people could virtually interact with surfaces and augmented environments through natural movement and touch – with no other devices needed. HOW MUCH WAS APPLE’S PURCHASE OF BROADCASTER NEXTVR? NextVR was a startup company with a strong focus on providing the next level in at-home sporting entertainment. Considering the initial investment raised $115.5 million (tracked by Crunchbase), the purchase should be a considerable amount. However, we will not know the exact figure until it is made public. The initial rounds of investments, VR streaming technology, and high-end partnerships with major sports entities like Wimbledon and the NBA make it likely this takeover involved a significant purchase price. The exact price is unknown. Although the purchase was confirmed to 9to5Mac by Apple, the full details were not disclosed. 9to5Mac estimated the purchase price was likely around $100 million. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/ApplebuysNextVR.jpg] WHERE IS APPLE VR/AR GOING NEXT? There are signs that a high-end spec VR and AR device will be released soon. It is likely to be a single device that can perform both functions, with wireless freedom for the user. It will be powered by Apple’s state of the art technology, which has long held a reputation for its graphics processing capabilities. This will be a challenge to Microsoft’s and Facebook’s current grip on the market. In order to crack the market, Apple needs to launch something that is beyond what is currently available and popular. Apple has already released ARKit to developers, sparking the development of AR apps for iPhones and iPads. Facebook acquired Oculus in March of 2014, which prompted rapid growth from developers to create content and take a leap into VR products. Many are currently predicting that computers and phones themselves could even be replaced with AR glasses that project what we need and allow us to interact with the image via motion tracking or compact sensor devices. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/ApplebuysNextVR-1.jpg] How many of the ‘things’ we use today could become augmented objects of the future? For an indication, just look at the number of objects and functions a mobile phone has replaced over the last 10-20 years. This market is going to explode, with some current projections showing ten-fold growth in the next 4-5 years. As of 2019, the current AR market was worth about $33 billion, and the VR market was worth $13.5 billion according to Consultancy.org. They then project this to expand to $338.1 billion and $138.3 respectively. LEFTRONIC also predicts rapid growth, showing that as soon as 2025, there is a significant chance that “the AR market will reach $198 billion” and that “68.7 million users are expected to use augmented reality at least once monthly”. No wonder Apple is making some major moves.