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Tech News Roundup: Links For The Week

In the dynamic realm of technology, the cutting edge is constantly being redefined, particularly in the fields of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and the burgeoning capabilities of AI-powered devices. This roundup offers a comprehensive look at recent articles that explore significant technological advances across various sectors.

First, we delve into the transformative potential of AR in business environments, highlighting its application in enhancing customer experiences and streamlining operations across multiple industries. From virtual try-ons in retail to advanced, real-time assistance in field services, AR is proving to be a game-changer.

Next, we turn our attention to the educational sphere, where VR is making waves by revolutionizing traditional learning methods. By providing immersive experiences—from exploring historical sites to conducting virtual dissections—VR facilitates a deeper understanding and engagement among students.

Further exploration is provided by an analysis of the Taichi photonic microchip. This innovative AI chip dramatically reduces energy consumption while performing complex tasks, offering a glimpse into the future of sustainable and efficient computing.

Lastly, our examination of the latest VR headsets in 2024 offers insights into the top devices enhancing consumer entertainment and professional applications. From the all-rounder Meta Quest 3 to the high-end Apple Vision Pro, each headset is assessed for its unique contributions to the VR landscape.

Together, these articles underscore the rapid advancement of AR, VR, and AI technologies, each driving unprecedented changes in how we interact with the world around us and presenting new opportunities for growth in countless sectors.

  1. This happened when digital music entered the market too.  We’ll get over it with AI just like we did with CDs.  AI in the movie business will be big!


2. In which we  learn that AI technology (and probably AR, VR, metaverse and quantum technology too) is outpacing industrial training

The Biden administration is investing heavily in revitalizing the U.S. semiconductor industry to enhance AI chip production. Despite the financial support provided by the CHIPS and Science Act, there’s a significant shortfall in qualified workers for this sector. As U.S. chip manufacturing has declined over the past two decades, competitor nations like Taiwan, China, and South Korea have increased their market share substantially.

Efforts to regain a competitive edge in chip manufacturing, particularly those crucial for artificial intelligence applications, are seen as vital for maintaining national security. The U.S. aims to leverage universities as recruitment grounds to address the workforce gap. Purdue University, for instance, has seen a surge in student interest in semiconductors, partly fueled by substantial investments such as a planned $3.9 billion AI memory chip manufacturing complex with SK Hynix.

While the industry faces challenges in workforce development and the high costs of manufacturing in the U.S., there’s optimism that advances in technology and packaging techniques could reduce labor costs in the future. This shift is critical as the U.S. strives not only to match but surpass international competitors in the strategic semiconductor industry.


3. AI is a big power hog, can photonics help with that?

Researchers at Tsinghua University in Beijing have developed a new type of photonic microchip, named Taichi, which offers a significant reduction in energy consumption for AI tasks, using up to 99% less energy than traditional electronic neural network chips. Unlike conventional chips that use electrons, Taichi utilizes photons, integrating both diffraction and interference techniques for optical computing. This hybrid approach allows the chip to perform complex AI tasks, such as generating art and music in the styles of famous artists and composers, with remarkable energy efficiency.

Taichi combines diffraction-based units for data compression and interferometers for reconfigurable computation, effectively managing large-scale AI operations in a compact space. This design avoids the scalability issues and operational errors associated with stacking multiple neuron layers in optical neural networks. Impressively, Taichi boasts 13.96 million parameters and achieves an accuracy of 91.89% on the Omniglot database, making it competitive with electronic counterparts.

While the Taichi chip itself is highly compact and efficient, the overall system, including necessary components like a laser source, remains bulky. Future research aims to further miniaturize and optimize the system for enhanced portability and efficiency. The findings were published in the journal Science on April 11, showcasing Taichi’s potential to revolutionize energy consumption in AI computing.


4. Can VR get serious as an educational tool?

Virtual reality (VR) is transforming education by offering immersive learning experiences that transcend traditional classroom boundaries. With VR, high school students can explore ancient civilizations, distant planets, and ocean depths without leaving their seats. This technology allows learners to engage with complex subjects through experience-based learning, making even intricate topics accessible and intriguing. For example, students can walk the streets of ancient Rome or perform a virtual dissection of a frog without the associated mess.

One significant benefit of VR in education is its ability to eliminate economic and spatial limitations, enabling students from diverse locations to collaborate in virtual spaces. This inclusivity ensures that quality learning resources are accessible to all, regardless of geographical and economic barriers.

Moreover, VR enhances the role of teachers by providing them with advanced tools to create interactive and personalized lesson plans. This not only maintains the relevance of educators but also enriches the learning process, making education more engaging and tailored to individual needs.

As technology rapidly evolves, VR equips students with essential skills for the future, transforming the classroom into a boundless space for exploration and personal growth. The advent of VR in education heralds a new era of limitless learning opportunities.


5. Five real world applications for augmented reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is revolutionizing business practices by superimposing digital assets onto real-world environments, enhancing everything from marketing to employee training. AR operates by using computer vision, mapping, localization, and depth-tracking to augment real-world experiences with virtual elements. For instance, retail giants like Sephora and Wayfair utilize AR to let customers preview products in real-time environments, enhancing the shopping experience.

In industrial field services, AR provides real-time support and training, improving safety and efficiency. For example, BUNN uses AR to offer field technicians live video assistance, reducing costs and increasing customer satisfaction. In design and modeling, companies like Watermark 1980 use AR for 3D visualizations, streamlining the design process and reducing prototype expenses.

Moreover, AR is transforming educational methods by providing immersive, interactive learning experiences. Case Western Reserve University, for instance, uses AR in medical training, allowing students to explore human anatomy in detail, which is more time-efficient compared to traditional methods.

Looking ahead, the AR market, valued at $56.3 billion in 2023, is projected to grow significantly, reaching nearly $1.2 trillion by 2032, with healthcare and industrial applications expected to drive much of this growth. This technology promises to continue evolving, reshaping how industries operate by blending digital innovations with real-world applications.


6. The bestest VR headsets displayed

The 2024 guide to the best VR headsets highlights the top choices for varied needs and budgets, emphasizing the growth and innovations in immersive technology. The Meta Quest 3 stands out as the best overall VR headset due to its affordability, standalone capability, and compatibility with an extensive game library. Its improved features over previous models, such as enhanced graphics and a wider field of view, make it an easy recommendation.

For PC gamers, the Valve Index is the top pick, offering high-resolution displays and a wide field of view, although it requires a robust setup and a high-end GPU. On the budget end, the HP Reverb G2 offers a cost-effective entry into high-resolution VR gaming, albeit with some motion tracking limitations.

Premium users might look towards the Apple Vision Pro, which, despite its high cost and limited availability, offers an unmatched mixed reality experience with intuitive controls and superior visual quality. The PSVR 2 is the best for console use, providing excellent image quality and unique VR experiences, specifically for PS5 users.

For those seeking the highest resolution, the HTC Vive Pro 2 delivers with its ‘5K’ resolution, though it demands a powerful PC to handle its capabilities. Lastly, the Meta Quest Pro is noted for its comfort, making it ideal for long sessions, despite its relatively higher price and lower battery life.

This roundup not only reflects the technological advancements in VR headsets but also guides consumers across different usage scenarios and budgets, ensuring there’s a high-quality VR experience available for everyone.

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