The Future of VR/AR Tech in the public safety domain
Could you tell us more about your role as CTO of Motorola Solutions? Our role at the CTO office is to spearhead technological innovations by peering through the looking glass of the future and designing concepts that will one day become crucial for our customers. In order to achieve this, we conduct extensive research on end-user operations to fully understand their needs and identify opportunities to help them.
We also closely study technology trends and anticipate industry shifts before they happen. In essence, what we are trying to do is to intersect user needs and opportunities with technologies that can enable solutions; and thereafter create innovative concepts which are put into practice to increase productivity and efficiency for business operations.
At the same time, I also lead our corporate venture capital group which invests in startup companies across the globe that has applicability to our business and innovation thrusts. We use inorganic innovation from startups to complement and accelerate our own investments. The goal is to obtain the best possible outcome within the shortest time frames. We have actually invested in over 200 companies to date.
Motorola is still known for its mobile phones such as the Razr, but the public at large may not know that the company has shifted its business focus to communications and solutions in recent years. Could you share with us about that shift?
Today, at the core of our business, our primary focus is on providing essential communication solutions to help public safety customers and commercial industries work more safely and efficiently.
In order to support that mission, Motorola Solutions is constantly investing in R&D and innovative technologies to build on our strong track record of innovation. One example of that as you would have seen, is the Virtual Command Centre that was showcased at the media briefing.
When it comes to AR/VR technologies, most people still think that these technologies are largely limited to the gaming industry. How do you think these technologies can benefit other industries or governments outside of gaming?
In general, we see three major applications of VR/AR to our markets:
1) Information reduction and navigation: Today, we are producing data all the time. While powerful and enabling, we have to find new ways to consume, navigate and operationalize this mass of information. The combination of VR/AR and eye tracking technology provides new tools for users in this regard. The Virtual Command Centre (VCC) is an example of this application. With the VCC, public safety officers can operate "heads up, hands free" with a headset instead of having to be in command centres, which are usually large rooms filled with dozens of screens, each showing a different piece of information about the organisation’s people and resources.
2) Virtual Presence: Our users often need to be in places that are not easily accessible or have high -risk factors. Using automation (drones, robotics, etc.) coupled with VR/AR technologies, we can 'place' people in these places (for e.g. burning buildings, near explosive devices, etc.) without need to incur the human risk. We have also incorporated aerial view feeds from a drone camera within the VCC. 3) Training: Similar to and most consistent with gaming, this allows a heightened sense of "reality" for officers to fully "immerse" themselves within the training scenarios.
We are essentially trying to connect the right information to the right people at the right time, for public safety agencies to have a complete view of the situation and quicken critical decision-making processes, increasing safety and efficiency. The VCC concept is one that also applies to medical professionals, the civil defence force and other aid agencies.
The Virtual Command Centre future concept by Motorola offers a glimpse into what the future of public safety might be like with potential AR/VR technologies that first responders might use. Although it is still in the prototyping stage, what do you think are some of the key insights or learning in terms developing AR/VR tech for public safety officers? With this VCC concept, I believe that Motorola Solutions is addressing a real emerging need and opportunity. At its implementation stage, the VCC will likely resemble a mixed reality environment where users are able to obtain vital information through virtual reality as well as staying plugged in on ground. By being completely immersed in the VCC and disconnecting from reality is not an ideal option either. Therefore, we are currently studying the technology and working out ways that it can be implemented for our public safety officers that would enhance their effectiveness in their workplaces. There was mention about a newly created data analytics/research team at Motorola Solutions. Could you tell us more about that initiative and some of the projects that the team are working on? At this stage, the newly formed team is studying media analytics in relation to audio and video, predictive analytics with regards to resource deployment as well as natural language interactions. With research and development being invested into these technologies, Motorola Solutions is continuing to innovate and provide communications solutions that will not only help our customers but also leave a positive impact on our society.