COVID-19 and changing world through emerging technologies

In a recent article, this columnist wrote about how COVD-19 has changed the speed of adoption of mature technologies that existed in niche industries. Here we will talk about how COVID-19 is pushing the refinement of some new technologies. And no, we are not talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Video Conferencing, etc. And no, these are not a soothsayer with his crystal ball. Each of these have the following features (i) long after the pandemic is gone, they will continue to be used for WFH and in offices; (ii) almost every major technology (and social media) company is investing billions in making them better; (iii) there are already early adopters in the business world who are seeing success; and growth of this adoption has exploded in 2020.

Perhaps the most amazing of these is ?Gaming?. It has already been used successfully (and commercially) in search, shopping, social events, live events, etc. There is also at least one documented case of a real-life wedding happening inside/through a game! Everyone is excited about this technology because it will potentially change how people interact with each other; just like the mobile. This is, therefore, another paradigm shift for enterprises and their IT departments.

?E-sports? is the next emerging and rapidly exploding technology. Its application in business is being seen as more limited than ?gaming?, but the potential is huge for businesses that focus on streaming, online retail sales, and financial services (since a large part of this technology and sector is gambling).

?Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR)? have been talked about for many years and everyone seems to know these are coming. But the last few months have seen explosive growth and adoption, including for office work. While VR is expensive (and still clumsy to handle), it will grow in niche business areas (an example being virtual 3D meetings instead of 2D internet screens or expensive roomful of equipment). AR, on the other hand, is a different story. While it has already been successfully used by many businesses, its impending migration to high quality mobile apps will make it suitable for enterprise applications where content has to overlay real life. Add to this integration of the two worlds, the comforts of form factor, of eye fatigue, of familiarity with mobiles, of battery life, and of display quality.

The last one we want to talk about is ?Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 (GPT-3)?. It is next-gen AI. In simple terms, it can create content in human or machine language. And, it does so while replicating the style, grammar, etc. of the user. Created by Elon Musk?s OpenAI, it can write anything, including a poem. In reality, it can write prose or summaries, translate documents, take memos, answer questions, and develop software. In one demo, it reportedly created a duplicate copy of Instagram. In technical terms, it is a language prediction model that uses semantic analysis. And it has been fed huge amounts of data including all of Wikipedia, and all the great books and journals. The business uses can be huge: from software to brochures to posters to policy manuals, etc. This is expected to get in public domain in not so far a future.

We will end this column by pointing out that issues remain with all of the above: (i) connectivity; (ii) data privacy. These will need to be addressed (and are being done aggressively). The connectivity might be helped by 5G. And the latter is now a problem that consumers, businesses and regulators are acutely aware of it (given some mishaps in the past); so these will be built in the core technology platforms. A step in this direction is the potential of elimination of cookies by 2022, to be replaced by a more secure and private tool with better user control.

The author managed large IT organizations for global players like MasterCard and Reliance, as well as lean IT organizations for startups, with experience in financial and retail technologies

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