“What can you do for us?” is a question that’s often asked of us the first time we meet with potential clients.
There are two ways of answering that question.
Often, there is this urge to jump in and tell them what we (Plutomen Technologies) do, all the Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) work that’s keeping us at the top of those technologies in the region, the mobile applications and the web platforms we’ve built, the animated videos we’ve created. But starting with what we do is a limiting opening gambit in such conversations: it gets the other person thinking about how what we do can be used in his/her business, instead of thinking about how we can do what will be useful to their business.
In the first case – what we do – the problem takes a backseat to the solutions available, to the track record we have. That doesn’t really mean that the client’s best business interests are served. Innovation is limited to minor variations of a larger picture that remains, by and large, static.
In the second case – how we can do what will be useful – it’s the problem that rules everything. It is not as counter-intuitive as it may appear. You start with the problem, find a solution irrespective of its technical feasibility and then work backwards, identifying what can be readily done, what more R&D and what needs might require, quite possibly, in the technologies we’ve been working with.
That’s why we toss that question back at the client.
What can you do for us?
Why don’t you tell us where your problems are instead? What do you need…?
In recent times, we’ve established partnerships with specialists in other fields such as Blockchain, IoT, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, etc. It has made it easier for us to explore ways in which we can service a client’s requirements without having to worry about finding resources in-house. With capability restrictions no longer an issue, our conversations also flow from problems to solutions without needing to pass through a set of “can we do it? Do we want to do it?” filters. As a solutions provider, we cannot offer half solutions, can we?
Another reason why we stress on this approach is that this is an exciting time for technology these days. Gordon E Moore’s famous prediction that processing power will double every 18-24 months has been proven wrong – the doubling is actually faster these days. A smartphone can viably double as a low-end laptop these days, and in a few years, the capabilities are expected to merge until all you need for work or play will be a smartphone capable of rich rendering, multitasking, intuitive interactivity and a working internet connection.
For instance, look at how far AR has come in the past 18 months. From being a mere proof-of-concept, it is now – thanks to stacks like Unity, VuForia, ARKit and ARCore – employable in so many different scenarios. ARKit and ARCore have taken the narrative further along by proving that it’s possible to run AR modules right from the browser itself, eliminating the need for a customized app. ARKit now has a feature where it can measure the distance between two or more real-world points.
With research in AI and ML pushing the boundaries of self-learning systems, the day is not far off when we marry intelligence and reality, creating a system that’s spatially aware and might even be able to act accordingly. In fact, it is theoretically possible to create an entirely virtual world on the fly based on real-world inputs. You already have all the tools you need such as live texturing, sampling, marker-less AR, teleporting, etc.
Cloud computing and massive data-crunching engines are already generating actionable Intel on users. A purchase here, a bit of window-shopping there, basic behaviour patterns… whether we like it or not, there are systems everywhere collecting information on your preferences, correlating them to stimuli, creating meta patterns of behaviour prediction, identifying triggers that might nudge just that inch closer to a decision.
The General Data Protection Regulation that is aimed at protecting citizens of the EU from privacy violations is a step in the right direction, but it is only a matter of time before our penchant for ease and instant gratification overcomes our concerns. After all, a smartphone that knows our behaviour becomes an extension of our own selves, a phantom limb that reaches out into cyberspace to give us what we want.
Blockchain, the darling of the VC and internet community these days, has been making waves since the value of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin broke past the dollar. That wave may have crested now – despite the optimism, experts believe a round of rationalisation is on the cards – but the interest has resulted in organizations discovering value for Blockchain beyond currencies. Real estate transactions, government land ownership records, corporate deals, business process automation, (legal) document signing and authentication, etc. are all solutions that no one would have suggested two years ago, but these are part of the mainstream now.
IoT is another sector poised to take off in the near future due to several factors. There are smaller, smarter, more affordable Wi-Fi devices capable of running traditional household appliances using electronic switches. Speed and bandwidth have increased, but cost of internet access all over the world has never been cheaper. New homes themselves are being designed keeping in mind possible IoT implementations. Smart homes, where lighting and air-conditioning depend on occupancy and movement of residents, are moving from novelty to commonplace.
All these evolutions boil down to the same trigger – someone looked at the problem instead of the tools at hand, and then decided to build a new set of tools to solve that problem. And that’s why we believe there will always be a disruption around the corner. The disruption could be financial, such as making it ridiculously cheaper to access the internet, or technological, where you pack in the processing power of Alienware on to a palm-sized computer. It could be in function, such as using biometric sensors to protect personal data, or in form, such as moving to wearable technologies like smart glasses.
The very definition of a disruption means that it will be difficult to predict. What’s undeniable is that there will still be a time to choose to adapt or to challenge. Adapters create a system around the disruption. Challengers create new disruptions of their own, seeking answers to problems paramount to them.
Which brings us back to our question, the reason technology has evolved and will keep evolving for as long as there’s the human race.
What do you need…?