Necessity is the mother of invention is how the proverb goes, but we won't be wrong to include the word innovation in the same breathe. The Coronavirus pandemic has dragged the world economy towards a plummeting graph. Likewise, it does have an impact on the technology world as well but perhaps, just perhaps, there is a bright side to it in the Deep Tech domain. This pandemic will surely ensure the implementation of technology -- considered ‘nice-to-have’ until now -- transitions to ‘must have’.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, the benefits of being able to minimize close, day-to-day, people-to-people interactions, is sure to drive the growth of Deep Tech like Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) among others.
Deep tech is (admittedly) a subjective term, in order to group companies that use cutting-edge technologies to solve complex problems. Examples include: Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Autonomous driving & delivery, AR/VR etc.
For Deep tech start-up, as the science is a part of the Intellectual Property (IP), it needs to work backward to find a problem that can be solved by the scientific breakthrough or invention and then corroborate it with the market size, while in a regular tech start-up we define the problem, understand the customer and end user base before developing a solution where we arrive at the solution via iterative experiments in the market with end users.
Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR) and Extended Reality (XR) are fields of new-generation information and communications technology, which features large application space, huge industry potential, and wide technical span, have significantly contributed towards our attempts to combating COVID-19.
These Deep Tech solutions have enabled work-from-home, distance learning, home-based fitness, immersive entertainment, and networked social interactivity making it a part of the 'new normal', besides providing rapid medical responses that have been made possible, during the onslaught of the pandemic.
So, even while most businesses suffer from the consequences of lockdowns and restrictions, across different countries, the urge to drive business continuity has led to a high demand for new-age technologies including AR/VR and its various forms such as, mixed reality and extended reality (MR & XR).
The discussions at this stage are no longer limited but instead have progressed towards experiencing, emphasizing key technologies, industry ecosystem, and integrated innovations in the application aspects. Concepts like near-eye display for example, an outcome of AR/VR technology have made herculean strides in the field of medical research, where priceless human lives are at stake.
Take another example of VR headset maker HTC’s recently held “VIVE Ecosystem Conference” in March 2020. With several big-ticket events cancelled all over the globe in an effort to practice physical distancing, HTC went on to organize an event, based completely on VR technology. It drew 2,000 registrants from more than 55 countries, marked the first physical industry event that was fully replaced by VR (as well as XR). New normal anyone?
Also, software like Dynamics 365 Remote Assist on HoloLens and mobile devices help to enable cross-distance collaboration by sharing live views with experts for assistance. Experts can directly annotate the experience to provide an expert opinion. Earlier, these technologies were widely in use for field service repairs and training. However, in the current scenario, remote assist scenarios have been extended to emergencies in remote locations where medical experts are not readily available.
According to WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, this outbreak is a test of human solidarity – political, financial and scientific. He makes a significant point when he says that humanity needs to come together to fight this common enemy and that research should be an integral part of the response.
You can be rest assured the Deep Tech industry worldwide will rise to this challenge and continue to research and innovate to ease the pain of millions throughout the world.
A Goldman Sachs 2016 report had suggested the revenue generated from software involving Deep Tech would be around $13.15 bn in 2020 and would be as high as 35 bn in 2025. The report estimates the revenue in sectors of Video Games, Live Events, Video Entertainment, Retail, Real Estate, Healthcare, Education, Military and Engineering. With Deep Tech shifting to become a ‘must-have’ technology and like the computer, the figures could soar even further.
Life during the global lockdown and thereafter owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, will surely not be as smooth sailing without the advent and use of Deep Tech. From enabling online learning to opening access to cultural events and experiences, applications of AR, VR, MR, and XR will help us overcome the isolation of COVID-19 lockdowns, along with substantial support towards research for treatment and remedies, while coming up with a solution in the form of a vaccine, which is still in progress.
Not only can Deep Techinnovations help us tide over the current reality of COVID-19 but they also propose a potential where much can be built upon once cultural institutions, schools and workplaces reopen their doors. Besides hope that is.
(Dr. Pulkit Mathur is Chief Executive Officer, Queppelin, an Augmented and Virtual Reality services company).