25 April 2017

The BBC Breakfast team in one of our UKFast Data Centres this morning.

When it comes to business technology machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are all hard to avoid at the moment. It seems that everyone is talking about the potential of one or all of these technologies combined.

But they all rely on one thing: the internet. All of that data has to be stored somewhere too. That’s why the BBC Breakfast team came over to UKFast Data Centres this morning. Covering the story of machine learning, there was only really one place that they could go: to the very heart of the internet.

Walking down the hot and cold aisles, surrounded by 20,000 servers, it really puts the internet into perspective. We all use the internet but how many of us know how it works or what it looks like?

Looking back to when we first started UKFast, it is really quite incredible just how far the connectivity of the web has taken our everyday lives in such a relatively short period of time. And I can see parallels in the potential and peoples’ responses to AI, VR, AR and the like.

Because we don’t really understand the tech, it all sounds unattractive and unnecessary. It was the same across the UK when we first started talking about email, websites and connectivity in our homes. Of course, the internet is a different ball game; we’re not likely to see such an omnipresent innovation for a long time, if ever. But the potential of AI, VR and AR is undeniable. Plus, we’re already using it without realising; Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant are all learning about you every time you use the service. Amazon and other ecommerce sites are learning about your purchases to know what to offer you next. Similarly, Netflix is learning about the shows that you like, so it knows what to recommend the next time you log in.

Can you imagine having an illness diagnosed by a machine that has learned and remembered every single detail of your health and previous diagnoses? On a smaller scale, AR allows you to see how clothes or jewellery fit without physically trying them on, you could see how a new hairstyle would look without going near scissors or colour; and you could test out new furniture in your home without the rigmarole of physically trying it in the space. There are engineering, architectural and entertainment possibilities too.

Whilst Google Glass and Oculus have seen a drop in popularity, I don’t think the appetite for VR is over yet. It’s all a little too niche at the moment. I think Samsung is onto the right idea by enabling VR through technology we already have and are comfortable with – like our smartphones. Will VR be an industry of its own? I’m not sure, it might go along the lines of 3D TV, but I think the potential for innovation is huge!

What do you think? Do you use any of these technologies already? Will the machines take over?

 

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