This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.
As 2016 draws to a close, David Eden, Future Technologist and Product Innovator at Tata Communications, looks at technology advancements that will shape the way we live, work and experience the world around us in 2017 and beyond - and the barriers standing in the way of some of most exciting and talked-about innovations today.
VR and machine learning will enter the workforce
While the hype might suggest otherwise, virtual reality (VR) won't become mainstream in 2017. However, its industrialisation will start to gather momentum. VR has already been used as a training tool in medicine, and next year we'll begin to see more innovative VR-enabled medical applications. This will pave the way for assisted remote self-diagnosis by patients, so that we won't necessarily have to travel to see a doctor when we're unwell, for example. Similarly, the introduction of VR-enabled diagnostics in industrial maintenance operations means that the expert will no longer need to be physically present to identify and fix faults on the factory floor. This has been talked about for years but finally we have both high-quality camera technology and ultra-high-bandwidth networks to give a second pair of eyes to any problem, anytime, anywhere.
The powerful combination of VR, robotics and machine learning will also start to transform many sectors. There are a number of tasks, such as assorting deliveries in a warehouse that could in theory be done by robots. This is a repetitive job, but until now it hasn't been possible for a robot to do it from start to finish because of the precision needed in the placement of different items. Now, we will be able to teach robots - remotely and virtually - to do a range of tasks, accelerating the adoption of VR across many industries.
VR will give people experiences money can't buy
Whether VR lives up to the hype in the consumer world will depend on the industry's ability to harness it to give people experiences that money can't buy. Otherwise, these applications will wither away in the same way as 3D TV. VR is a technology with incredible potential - but the key question is, do people really need it? Like with Netflix or Amazon Instant Video - will people feel that they are missing out without VR?
There is a common misconception in the entertainment industry that you have to build end-to-end VR experiences to make people embrace this technology. In fact, the biggest opportunity lies in amplifying film series, such as Star Trek or James Bond, and augmenting them with additional immersive, virtual elements. During closing credits, cinema goers could get a virtual tour of the film set, transporting them to the middle of an epic battle scene and making them part of the action using VR. Film franchises with a loyal following, who trawl the web for trivia, spoof reels and memorabilia on their favourite movies, would be ideal for VR-augmented experiences. This could also help make going to the cinema - instead of streaming content at home - more appealing, creating immediate value for both cinemas and content owners.