Snobal Midweek
Snobal Midweek

What we’ve noticed…

What we’ve noticed: How businesses impacted by COVID-19 are using virtual and augmented reality

With the global pandemic unfolding still and the increasing move to social distancing and remote working for many as a business working in virtual reality and augmented reality (XR) software development we thought it might be useful to share with you some of our observations on how some businesses are turning to XR to enable business continuity.

Property display & Staging

Increasing interest: Over the last few weeks we have seen an increase of interest from residential and commercial property developers from Australia and South East Asia in particular wanting to know how they can best leverage XR to support the sales process.

The principal pain point is this. Most have physical display homes but now customers can’t travel and visit the display homes.

Also while some developers may already offer “virtual tours” these are mainly through using 360 video (not VR) and lack the interactivity, immersiveness and data capture required to support the sales process to the level now needed.

We’re directing these businesses to our productXR engage, which was built specifically to enable developers to place end users (customers) in a rich, interactive immersive virtual experience of a built environment.

XR engage is also been used in infrastructure public and stakeholder engagement for communicating design intent and receiving feedback on design options.

Virtual training

Urgent need for virtual training solutions: Another area we have noticed a surge of interest is in the development and provison of virtual training experiences across soft skills and technical (hard) skills. This is across Australia but also Europe.

For many businesses who provide technical or soft skills training the current inability to provide training in a classroom or group based environment, as they may have done previously, means an urgent need to look for alternative – virtual – solutions.

We are directing these inquiries to our product XR learn which provides an enterprise grade solution to all these questions.


– What you need to know on virtual training

Learnings needed: However, we have also noticed that there is still some confusion among many learning and development professionals in organisations about what is XR and ‘virtual reality’ (no 360 video is not true “VR”); how best to deploy a virtual learning solution at scale across an organisation and how best to deploy virtual training in an environment with an increasingly remote and distributed workforce.

Get the whitepaper: If you would like a copy of our soon to be released whitepaper to help you be better informed on transforming technical and soft skills training using virtual reality you can submit your interest here.

Also in a few weeks organisations will be able to access the first of four innovative immersive virtual reality training modules for safety related training.

Training modules are provided by our industry partner JBHXR and are powered by Snobal and include CPR, First Aid in an ESI Environment, Pole Top Rescue and Low Voltage Rescue. Email to find out more.

Questions on scaling

Need for an enterprise grade XR solution: One of the key questions business ask is how they can best scale XR across their organisation whether it is for virtual learning or for enriching client and public engagement.We understand that few businesses wants a stand alone VR or AR environment or solution with limited access to updates and support. That’s why we’ve built all our XR products (including XR learn and XR engage) to be based off our cloud platform – Snobal Cloud.

Snobal Cloud makes it easy for organisations to create, deliver and analyse virtual experiences. It also makes it easy for business to scale any virtual environment or experience across the organisation and across diverse physical locations.

Finally one of the things we are all acutely aware of with COVID-19 is the scale of the impact on so many businesses – large and small – from so many sectors. If there is a way XR and other digital technologies can enable businesses across diverse sectors to survive and even thrive during these challenging and unprecedented times then that would be a good thing.

We hope this was helpful. If there is any questions you have on any of the above please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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Where reason went

What we’re thinking

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Most likely you only need to look at various points in your own life when you progressed on a pathway despite the warnings maybe from friends your parents(!) or even yourself to agree with this.

Marc Andreessen, cofounder and general partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz this week explores this very topic in the context of the health crisis we all find outselves in.

Granted the blog post is written looking through the lens of the US economy and how it is addressing (or you could say failing to successfully address) the current health crisis.

As Andreessen says “every Western institution was not prepared for the coronavirus pandemic” despite numerous warnings an event like this was going to happen – one day.

The WHO as you probably read in the papers this week, agree.

Programmed to ignore warnings?

Part of the problem of why we as human’s are pretty crappy at listening to warnings as Andreessen sees it is a “lack of imagination” or a “failure to build”.

We have top-end universities, yes, but with the capacity to teach only a microscopic percentage of the 4 million new 18 year olds in the U.S. each year, or the 120 million new 18 year olds in the world each year. Why not educate every 18 year old? Isn’t that the most important thing we can possibly do? 

But it got us asking why do people and the social bodies we gather under – political parties, organisations etc – ignore warnings?

Are we actually programmed as humans to ignore warnings? To ignore the facts?

Apparently – according to some cognitive behaviour and psychology studies – we are.

Cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber in their book “The Enigma of Reason,”  argued that our reasoning is really good at justifying beliefs we already believe in and making arguments to convince others. We become pretty bad at truth-seeking or if we do go looking for the truth we do it with a bias looking for truth that confirms what we already believe.

Ouch.

What’s this got to do with digital transformation?

Take digital transformation in organisations.

Despite years of numerous reports, webinars, conferences and calls for organisations across all industries to digitally transform or risk being “left behind”, the urgency and pace needed often does not seems to be there.

Many business leaders have stuggled with how to identify and iterate innovative technologies within siloed businesses units and then take the bold action needed to scale these initatives.

As this 2018 report by SAP highlighted the poor state of digital transformation efforts around the world has continued:

84% of companies regard digital transformation as crucial, yet just 3% have actually finished any company-wide effort.

The warnings about needing to digitally transform have been there for many sectors it’s just that these warnings didn’t appear to have an urgency to them or indeed were heeded.

Until now.

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Urgency compels action

COVID-19 has up-ended all our lives and work in some way and even has changed the way many of us work.

We all know it’s causing a massive need to shift business models, organizational workflows and service models for so many businesses.

And then over night it seems articles like thisthis and this pop up all articulating that the pace of digtial transformation has cranked up. Apparently it’s become a ‘need to’, not a ‘nice to’.

“If the pace of the pre-coronavirus world was already fast, the luxury of time now seems to have disappeared completely…businesses that once mapped digital strategy in one- to three-year phases must now scale their initiatives in a matter of days or weeks.”  – ZDNet.

Marc Andreessen ends with a call to action to all businesses regardless of what we do.

Our forefathers and foremothers built roads and trains, farms and factories, then the computer, the microchip, the smartphone, and uncounted thousands of other things that we now take for granted, that are all around us, that define our lives and provide for our well-being. There is only one way to honor their legacy and to create the future we want for our own children and grandchildren, and that’s to build.

It is a time to build. But this time maybe we can all build better.

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What we’re reading & listening to

Below are just some of the articles and podcasts that have caught our attention over the last week.

How Tech Can Build

[Podcast] The World Ahead: Viral acceleration | Economist Radio

Google’s Thomas Kurian on COVID-19, customers in crisis and the big cloud fight

Why Are People Ignoring Expert Warnings?—Psychological Reactance

Digital strategy in a time of crisis

[Podcast] Philip E. Tetlock on Forecasting and Foraging as a Fox (Ep. 93)

SenseGlove is working on a “low-cost” force-feedback glove for VR

The GitLab Remote Playbook

Zapiers guide to remote working

How 5G and edge computing can enhance virtual reality

[Podcast] The Sunday Read : Closing the restaurant that was my life for 20yrs

Thanks for reading.

This post first appeared on Snobal Midweek.

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Social distancing
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Reframing thinking on”social distancing”and possible implications for business

Why do we use the term “social distancing” in response to COVID-19 when the more accurate term might be “physical distancing”? Physical social distancing does not mean virtual social distancing so why do we act like both terms are the same? And what might some implications be to business if it changed how it responds to physical social distancing?

Economic and Social Cost

We know physical “social distancing” comes at a “significant economic cost” as outlined by Kalipso Chalkidou of Imperial College London but maybe in the long term it doesn’t have to and maybe it is time we started to change how we view the issue.

Social distancing also has a significant health cost.

An analysis of scientific literature by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a research psychologist at Brigham Young University in 2015 found that the quality and quantity of individuals’ social relationships is linked not only to mental health but to morbidity and mortality. Chronic social isolation increases the risk of mortality by 29%.

Image source: www.scottliddell.net


Social distancing

Social distancing is conveyed as potentially limiting the spread of COVID-19 and thereby potentially saving your life and the life of your loved ones and those in the broader community.

Social distancing practices are changes in behaviour that can help stop the spread of infections. These often include curtailing [physical] social contact, work and schooling among seemingly healthy individuals, with a view to delaying transmission and reducing the size of an outbreak.
– Coronavirus: What is social distancing and how do you do it? New Scientist


Physical “Social distancing” with COVID-19 is here to stay, writes Gideon Lichfield of MIT Technology Review and with it a whole host of changes to how we operate as humans.

Lichfield view of a life with physical “social distancing” is a disconcerting one. One that involves intrusive surveillance by flights, public transport and venues all for the public good as well as the massive economic damage to businesses and institutions that have relied to date on physical social interaction.

In the short term, this will be hugely damaging to businesses that rely on people coming together in large numbers: restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs, gyms, hotels, theaters, cinemas, art galleries, shopping malls, craft fairs, museums, musicians and other performers, sporting venues (and sports teams), conference venues (and conference producers), cruise lines, airlines, public transportation, private schools, day-care centers. By using the term “social distancing” to mean “physical distancing” perhaps we risk increasing confusion, social isolation and loneliness among people not to mention creating a landscape ripe for economic hardship for institutions and businesses that rely at the moment on social ‘physical interaction’ for eg art galleries, live venues, conferences and expos, shopping centres, retail outlets and museums.

But the reality is even when physically distanced people still socially interact.

They do this through the use of social media (connect with friends), live steaming (yoga and gym classes for example), and instant message platforms like Slack and Google Chat (collaborate and chat with colleagues).

So with that in mind maybe its time even from an economic point of view that we started to change how we frame the issue.

The physical is not the virtual

In education for example, there already exists online services that enable online learning and live streaming for replication of the class room experience. The impetus is now there with COVID-19 to accelerate adoption of these technologies among schools and universities. Yes, children may have to miss physical face to face classes with their teacher and classmates but that does not mean they need to miss virtual face to face classes.

In terms of art galleries and museums, there are technology solutions already out there that enable cultural institions not to mention conferences and expos to deliver rich, immersive and interactive virtual reality experiences to clients and customers.

So if the virtual solutions are there why haven’t these businesses virtualised their offerings en masse to date? Partly it has been due to technology development and adoption. It is only recently that VR hardware development has enabled wireless all in one headsets. But largely it has been due to drivers.

Galleries and museums, shopping centres, tourist operators, conferences and expos haven’t felt an immediate pressure to create rich, immersive and interactive experiences which can be delivered virtually and that still enable virtual social interaction.

Delivering VR experiences of their collection and gallety has often been more a “nice to” than a “need to”.

Five years ago in writing about the applications of VR across ecommerce and cultural institutions we observed:

The Smithsonian Institution — the world’s largest museum and research complex which has 19 museums and galleries has apparently 137 million artifacts, works of art and specimens in its collection with an estimated 2 percent on display at any one time. 

Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Australia holds 16 million items in “high-quality storage facilities”. The British Museum is reported to have 99 per cent of its collection in storage. 99 percent.

Imagine if these museums made all their collections available through building online virtual museums? A museum would be able to exponentially grow its audience share and offer to a global audience 24/7 364 days of the year access to all their collections currently in storage. Not to mention providing these museums with a channel for additional revenue generation through purchase of products from the virtual museum.

The world has changed a lot since 2015 and with it the need for many businesses to look to how they translate their unique offerings and value propositions to virtual offerings.

The technology solutions are there. All that is needed is taking that first step.

This post first appeared on Snobal Midweek.

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Our response on COVID-19 (coronavirus)

We are currently with the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic in unprecedented waters.

Our response

At Snobal to ensure our response to COVID-19 is based on fact and science we have developed a tiered Response Action Plan and a COVID-19 policy.

These documents are about promoting the health and safety of our team members, our clients and partners, our families and the broader community in which we live and doing our bit to slow the spread of the virus across the broader community.

Some of the measures we have introduced include:

  • For now, we will not meet face to face with known  people arriving from anywhere overseas in the last 14 days or those who have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 14 days or those who are experiencing any of the known symptoms.
  • We have ceased all business travel overseas at this time and are encouraging as per the Australian Government website and the Singapore Government, Snobal team members to reconsider all personal related travel at this time as there maybe a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 overseas and the health care systems in some countries are possibly already under strain and may not be as well-equipped as Australia to support foreigners.
  • Our workspace has instigated a reception visitor health self declaration form.
  • We are encouraging the practicing of enhanced hygiene and promoting a no handshake etiquette.
  • We are declining all work conferences and events at this time.
  • We are committed to transparency and openess with our team, clients and partners.
  • As of Mon 16/03 all Snobal team members are working as a distributed team.
A computer illustration of coronavirus particles. Source: ConsumerReports.org

Our thinking

Virtual is our business

We are aware that for many businesses for eg those working in tourism, manufacturing and hospitality having their team members work from home (or distributed) is often not feasible.

At Snobal virtual is our core business. It is in our DNA. For close to six years we have built our company from the ground up with the vision of enabling business to leverage newer technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality (XR) and spatial computing to communicate and understand complex built environments, information and processes. As such the current health crisis means little disruption in how we work and how we deliver our platform and XR products to our clients.

For our client facing team, we are like all businesses taking the advice of local health authorities such as the Australian and Singapore Government websites and the WHO and following our response level plan and policy as outlined above.

Facing a virtual reality

For most organisations across all industries the case for accelerating the use of technology for businesses is now even clearer. For those organisations that might have been slow to adapt technologies the future is now certain. Facing up to a ‘virtual reality’ or way of operating is key to business continuity.

As outlined in this executive briefing from McKinsey & Co in China while consumer retail demand is down, it has not disappeared. People still need to purchase things only now they are dramatically shifting their behaviour to online shopping including for food delivery. As the executive briefing outlines it’s not like once these consumers behaviours and preferences are embedded that consumers will go back to pre-coronavirus ways of operating.

Finally….

It is a challenging time for all with a lot of global uncertainty. For those needing additional assistance to manage any mental health issues that may be arising the BeyondBlue website has some excellent resources. And for those businesses grappling with developing their COVID-19 policy and response action plan, there are some excellent resources and information out there including the Coinbase Planning and Response to COVID-19 . If you know of any other great resources please comment below as it may assist others developing their policies and plans.

And if you have any questions, queries or would like more information on any of the above please let us know.

Keep safe folks where ever you are.

Team Snobal

This article originally appeared on Snobal Midweek our weekly newsletter.

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Five reasons mixed gender teams are critical to VR & AR development

It’s common knowledge that gender diversity is essential in technology. And if you’re a company like Snobal working in newer technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality (XR), not to mention spatial computing and artifical intelligence building gender diverse teams is critical.

Here’s our top five reasons why.

01. Ensures default design is not male

We know that gender diversity matters in product and technology design and development because women are 50% of the worlds population. Need we say more?

Not including their unique perspective, needs and requirements means you’re basically building something that only caters for 50% of your users i.e men.

Let’s look to the past and at car design as an example.

Female drivers are 47% more likely to be seriously injured in a car crash and 17 per cent more likely to die because seat belts were not designed with women in mind. Crash test dummies and by consequence car belts were designed with the average man in mind with no account taken of pregnancy or women’s anatomy.

End result? Car seats designed for men, by men.

You can read more about this topic and what happens when you don’t design with women in mind with Criado Perez fascinating book Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. 

02. Means better business performance

Gender diversity in technology has been shown to lead to better business performance.

Studies published in Science found that teams’ collective intelligence increased with the number of women in the group.

One explanation is that the presence of women “enhanced collective social sensitivity, leading to higher collective intelligence”.

On an unrelated but also to a certain extent related note, the above research did make us think of highly influential BlackRock Chair and CEO Laurence D. Fink annual letter to CEO’s released in January.

In the letter he outlined how climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects. That companies “cannot achieve long-term profits without embracing purpose and considering the needs of a broad range of stakeholders”.

Finks comments herald to business that increased social senstivity (consideration of others needs) is now needed to survive. And with the study above indicating that the presence of women in teams “enhanced collective social sensitivity” it does lead to an interesting question. Are businesses with more gender mixed team better placed for sucess in this evolving landscape where purpose will be valued just as much as profit by the investment community?

03.Means better sales and profits

Teams with an equal gender mix had better sales and profits than male-dominated teams found a field experiment published in Management Science. The research shows that teams with mixed gender teams tend to me more “generous and egalitarian” but not only that :

Business teams with an equal gender mix perform better than male-dominated teams in terms of sales and profits.

04.Means better products

We know that there appears to be significant differences between male and female “on all presence (i.e the sense of immersion or that something is “real”) subscales”.

The subscales include Spatial Presence, Realness, Sense of Being There.

Research has shown that men generally reported a higher sense of spatial presence, more perceived realism and higher levels of sense of actually being in an experience or environment than women. Although this research had a small sample size the findings has obvious implications for XR development especially for those working in health and gaming / entertainment applications.

If you want to design and develop better XR products and solutions you need to include and design for women.

05. Means more innovation

Research at the University of Granada in Spain have shown that product and process innovation is more positively influenced when the management team of a business is more balanced in number of men and women.  As the paper reported:

Gender diversity in the top management team thus seems to encourage a work climate that stimulates development of new ideas, exchange of knowledge, communication, and trust, while also favoring execution of more processes and routines, and use of resources that are more effective in achieving innovation in products and processes.

On a final note, we look to the words of Karen Sparck Jones, a pioneering British computer scientist who specialised in natural language processing and information retrieval. As Spӓrck Jones once said:

Source: www.disruptorsco.com

Want to work in a fast growing technology company?

Speaking of gender diversity in newer technologies, Snobal currently has a number of career opportunities open in its engineering, creative and delivery team.

If working in spatial computing, VR and AR are of interest to you or you know someone who might be interested – reach out.

Instructional Experience Designer (currently accepting applications)
XR Developer (Unity / Unreal) (currently accepting applications)
QA Engineer (coming soon – accepting EOI)
Backend Web Software Engineer (coming soon – accepting EOI)
Web Application Software Engineer (coming soon – accepting EOI)

More info – www.snobal.io/careers

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How VR & AR is transforming training across engineering & construction

How is virtual reality and augmented reality (XR) disrupting  industries such as engineering and construction across the planning, design, delivery, operations and maintenance phase and more specifically in the the provision of high consequence and safety related training?

This morning at the BICSI annual expo in the Melbourne Convention + Exhibition Centre the conversation was all about the business applications and impact being created by leveraging newer technologies like XR for the building environment and safety related training. [BISCI is a professional association supporting the information and communications technology (ICT) industry, which covers the spectrum of voice, data, electronic safety & security, audio & video, and building automation technologies.]

Key takeaways from the panel and audience questions revolved around three areas.

  1. XR – all about enterprise: XR has moved beyond the narrow focus of consumers and gaming applications from a few years ago to enterprise applications. And when you look to enterprise applications it’s the engineering and construction sector, as well as high consequence training, where Snobal is seeing tremendous appetite in Australia and globally said Murray James, Co-founder & CEO, Snobal.
  2. Eye on the ROI: An organisation needs to be guided by its strategic vision and the required business impact when applying newer technologies like XR was an area touched on by both speakers Andrew Heinrichs,  Director Safety, Community Safety Building Authority; Dept of Justice and Community Safety and Damien Taylor,  ANZ Manager – Health, Safety, Environment & Quality, SMEC (Member of the Surbana Jurong Group).

    For moderator Paul Stathis, CEO BICSI South Pacific, the topic of organisations being open to embracing risk was acknowledged as an area important in digital transformation and innovation.
  3. The future is now. Leveraging newer technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality will in time become part of an organisations toolbox in delivering learning and development. For Shane Darwin, General Manager – Product and Delivery of registered training organisation JB Hunter, the move to launching a suite of XR training modules – through JBHXR – in 2020 across the telecommunications and safety related market was obvious. It was also inspired by the knowledge that XR holds the ability to enrich workplace training and make the accessible more cost efficient, engaging, measurable and convenient for its clients.

    JBHXR powered by Snobal, will launch a suite of XR training modules like Pole Top Rescue, CPR, First Aid in an ESI Environment and Low Voltage Rescue in Q1 2020 with more to follow. More information here.
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Bold moves and swinging for fences.

This week some of team Snobal are in the City of Angels at a client kickoff event. The theme? Digital transformation.

It’s timely as this week global management consulting company McKinsey & Company’s annual Global Banking Reviews came out and it sounded a death knell for traditional banks.

According to McKinsey & Co. nearly 60% of the world’s banks may not be “economically viable” because their returns aren’t keeping pace with costs and that banks must innovate or risk “becoming footnotes to history”.

Innovation archetypes?

The report divides banks into four banking archetypes or categories and the responses they should take to these broader market forces:

  • Market leaders (reinvest capital in innovation and scale);
  • Resilients (focus on expanding customer base and product offerings and differentiating through innovation);
  • Followers (act quickly to achieve scale, cut costs and transform business models);and;
  • Challenged (merge with similar banks or find a buyer).

Lessons for construction industry

Banking like agriculture and construction is one of the oldest industries and has been around in one form or other since ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Babylon. And yet here it is, according to McKinsey & Co. an industry in turmoil. Changing consumer behaviours, digital disruption and a growing number of players and products all seen as playing a key role.

When we study disruption across industries, there are always clear stages to the lifecycle of a typical attack—from faint signals of experimentation to validated business models to critical mass or at-scale plays. And repeatedly, the reason many incumbents fail, irrespective of their strong ingoing balance sheet and market share, is because of their inability to acknowledge a trend.

According to the report, digital disruption is now occurring at pace, [pp11] and banks need a plan of response. And one of the biggest challenges for traditional banks is the need to invest in overhauling operating models in order to be able to compete with digital offerings. As the report says the amt traditional banks spend on research and development (R&D) is telling when compared to digital disruptors:

while fintechs devote more than 70 percent of their budget to launching and scaling up innovative solutions, banks end up spending just 35 percent of their budget on innovation with the rest spent on legacy architecture.

This finding is as reflected in the recent Benchmarking Innovation Impact 2020 report, sponsored by KPMG, which found companies are allocating more resources to developing and scaling more ambitious and transformational business models and services.

It is a challenging and volatile time for all industries and it shows no signs of abating. It requires as the report says nothing short of some bold moves.

You can read KPMG’s report here and McKinsey’s annual Global Banking Reviews here.

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Australia’s infrastructure innovation imperative

Australia is in the midst of a population boom with its population projected to grow to 40.6 million in 2050. So reports McKinsey & Co in a recently published report on infrastructure in Australia outlining how Australia’s infrastructure sector needs to “innovate across six dimensions”.

the strengths that have propelled Australia to a leadership position in infrastructure planning, design, and delivery will not be sufficient to underpin its future success.

Our key takeaways from the paper on where innovation is needed?

Value through design

Urgent need to make the design phase faster and more collaborative. Key ways to do this outlines the report includes applying agile methodologies and increasing the use of technology solutions.

Technology as avenue to enhance productivity

There are several tools that stand-out for enhancing productivity and “are poised to make transformational changes to project delivery” describes the report.

First up – ‘digital twin as-built’ [p38].

At Snobal we call our digital twin products XR Twins (virtual reality and augmented reality or XR).

Similar to as outlined in the paper an XR Twin uses 3-D models generated by reality-capture technologies such as LiDAR point cloud to create an exact digital replica of a project’s physical environment, thereby enabling:

  • a single source of truth and reduced decision making cycle by ensuring everyone involved in the build is making decisions on the same data’; [XR review]
  • improved “safety by reducing physical presence on site”; [XR learn]
  • enhanced design collaboration with stakeholders and end users [XR review and XR engage].
  • enhanced understanding on built environment asset performance and maintenance for enhanced asset efficiency and sustainability. [XR manage].

You can read the full report here. [Subscription required for free download].

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Keen on pioneering VR and AR art development?

Career pivot: Now is an incredibly exiting time to be a 3D artist who maybe feeling the itch for a career change. Why? It’s all got to do with virtual reality and augmented reality (XR). Many games artist might have originally decided to enter the field because they had the talent, passion and desire to tell stories and entertain in visually innovative and engaging ways. Perhaps their first work was in video games. Or maybe it was in mobile games as they grew in popularity.

Art pioneers: A burgeoning area is now emerging that requires 3D art and design skills. This new area is creating exciting career pathways and opportunities not available before to games artists. It’s also creating opportunities for those with an appetite and with a vision for being ‘pioneers’ in their field. That new field?

Virtual reality and augmented reality (XR) art.

The future of work and living: But we’re not talking about XR art as applied to games or entertainment. Of course there are increasing exciting career opportunities opening here (think Beat Saber). We’re talking about using XR art and design skills into creating amazing immersive AI assisted experiences that will help government decision makers and infrastructure developers design, communicate and understand where we live and work better and faster ensuring that what we build is sustainable and responds better to the needs and requirements of all citizens who live there.

So, if you’re a games artist who is a problem solver, is talented at your craft and keen to hear more about joining this exciting journey we’d love to hear from you. More info here.

More reading on the future of the built environment:

++ Cities of the Future
++ What happens next
++Future of cities

[Image source: Still from Bladerunner].

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The World Is (Not) Male: How gender bias is impacting built environment design

Invisible Women by award-winning campaigner, broadcaster and writer Caroline Criado Perez, which exposes the gender data bias, has just taken out the Royal Society Science Book Prize. She is the fifth woman to win the science prize in five years reports The Guardian.

In the book Criado Perez draws on a range of case studies, stories and new research across government policy, medical research, technology, workplaces, urban planning and the media exposing the biased data and blind spots that excludes women:

Our world is largely built for and by men, in a system that can ignore half the population.


Gender data sexism in the built environment

Take snow clearing. Criado Perez explores how clearing major road arteries as a matter of priority over pavements has privileged men.

Criado Perez’s looked at a small town called Karlskoga in Sweden where the local council did a gender analysis of all their policies.

Women do 75 per cent of the world’s care work and do lots of short interconnected trips (‘trip chaining’ i.e dropping kids at school, picking up groceries, visiting older relatives etc ) as well as tending to use public transport and to walk. Meanwhile men tend to travel in a more simplified way (to and from work).

What Karlskoga council found was that their snow clearing policy was prioritising road clearing over pavement clearing. The council was doing this because women’s trip chaining wasn’t factored in as it wasn’t considered ‘work’. But when the council put a value on the unpaid work women did in terms of GDP it was found to rank the same as travel for ‘paid work’.

So Karlskoga council switched its policy. And found it saved them money.

“…they found that their accident and emergency costs fell dramatically, because pedestrians were dominating the numbers of people who were being admitted for having fallen and injured themselves in icy conditions and women were dominating the pedestrians.”

With the rapid pace of technology development artificial intelligence is going to have an increasing impact on our lives. It has the potential to readdress this gender balance but not if we continue to feed it biased data.

As Criado Perez argues the intervention and participation of women in AI, software development and technology development is critical to readdress the imbalance. This combined with collecting sex and gender dis-aggregation data is vital to ensure the default design is not defaulted to male.

Speaking of AI and technology development in the built environment did you know that Snobal is currently hiring for roles across its product development team? If you’re a software engineer or XR Artist with a passion for transforming how we design and build our cities we would love to hear from you!

More info on Gender Data Bias:
Invisible Women. 99% Invisible, 23 July 2019

+Book Review – Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Perez. Customer Think, 9 Sept 2019

+Humans are making biased algorithms that entrench discrimination — without even trying. ABC, 7 Sept 2019

+Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez – a world designed for men. The Guardian. 28 Feb 2019

+Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men – a review. The Conversation, 23 Mar 2019

+The Pitfalls of Data’s Gender Gap. Scientific American. 1 Apr 2019

+Statistical gender bias. European Institute for Gender Equality

+From Alexa to Siri and the GDPR: The Gendering of Virtual Personal Assistants and the Role of EU Data Protection Law. King’s College London Dickson Poon School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series. Dec 2018

+Too Human: The more “lifelike” simulations are, the less effective they risk becoming. Real Life Mag. 20 May 2019

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