Director Tanya Newhouse in conversation with Dr Martin Luerssen, CTO

Not Covid, again?

I sometimes feel like everyone is talking about the ‘Impact of Covid’, because, well, everyone else is. It’s been a rollercoaster of lockdowns and liberties, but surely we’ve all adapted by now. So, could Covid affect the development and adoption of new technologies on a global scale in 2022?

I asked Clevertar’s CTO, Dr Martin Luerssen for his thoughts, and the answer was unreservedly, ‘yes.’

“Remote work isn’t going away, and while we have seen solutions like Zoom being adopted en masse in response to Covid, there’s still plenty of room for new technology approaches that optimise in-person and remote communication, and really improve the user experience in this channel.”

Remote work delivers upsides in terms of travel-savings and task focus, but Zoom isn’t a perfect substitute for in-person conversation which is the driver of workplace culture. And unhappy employees in a tight labour market are costly.

“People are already tired of videoconference downsides, like the difficulty of making eye contact or dealing with background noise. But with hybrid remote and in-office working being the new normal, I see opportunity for a range of new products able to meet rising user expectations”.

Meanwhile, Covid is affecting technology development at the supply side of the product cycle, too. Certain hardware – especially graphics hardware which is critical for AI technologies – has become expensive due to global shipping bottlenecks coinciding with overwhelming demand from the cryptocurrency market.

“Digital entertainment, like content-streaming and gaming drives the development of consumer hardware, which in turn enables new research and product development. The explosion of Artificial Intelligence over the past 20 years was actually made possible because hardware primarily built for 3D gaming was also exceptionally good at crunching numbers in general, which unlocked the full potential of established ideas in this space and inspired new ones”.

Then there’s Crypto

Massive processing power is also at the heart of cryptocurrency and NFTs. Deliberately inefficient Proof-of-Work algorithms underpin most of the popular blockchain solutions such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, and the high computational cost of performing any kind of transaction within these systems is draining valuable resources from gaming, AI, and other computationally intensive domains. Martin is thus less-than-impressed with the ‘imaginary benefit of crypto’ compared with its negative impact on the technology ecosystem and global environment.

So now, with AI hardware becoming more difficult to get, how can software developers continue to build consumer and business AI solutions?

Enter, the Cloud providers.

Microsoft, AWS, Google, and other big providers are intensely competing for developer mindshare (and by extension, their customers’ wallets) to build solutions that utilise their respective technology stacks, which include increasingly vertically integrated AI hardware and services that seem immune to any global shortages. This will affect the type of products likely to enter the market in 2022.

“The cloud providers are building capacity for AI-driven products, like OpenAI and Microsoft offering GPT-3 (Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 – a language model that uses deep learning to produce text), which is really exciting for AI-focused developers like myself.”

Martin goes on to explain how it won’t be long before AI will be able to do everyday things that still seem impossible for a computer, ‘like turning those dot-points you’re writing down now, into coherent paragraphs – with no noticeable difference between human and machine-written prose.”

Did an algorithm just write this blog, I hear you ask?

“AI could create a video simply based on your verbal description of what you’d like to see in it, or respond fluently within a conversation, or even write a story – so there’s huge opportunity for software developers who create solutions with language and engagement at its heart, like Clevertar.”

Meanwhile, the demand for consumer entertainment and increasing investment by cloud providers is also likely to lead to another opportunity, this time in augmented reality.

“Meta, Microsoft, Google and others are all investing heavily in augmented reality hardware and platform services, and I expect this will lead to an explosion of products built on this capability in the near future. For example, augmented reality could replace the 10-screen set-up you wish you had in your home-office with just one headset, or blend real life with an augmented reality assistant who guides you to your location.” 

The outlook for 2022 technology product development is promising

‘Language, human-like interactions and genuine engagement generated with AI creates a new frontier that I’m really excited about in 2022’, Martin said.

“It’s not so much the core AI technology, but the creativity to apply it in unique situations for real human benefit that motivates my work each day.” 

Tanya Newhouse – Director at Clevertar

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