Technology / Businesses need to get real in the virtual world

Businesses need to get real in the virtual world

Augmented reality and machine learning are helping businesses be more productive in the digital economy.

Technologies such as augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are helping firms learn what does and doesn’t work when they are developing products – and without the need of it being physically built first.

Business Reporter was at last year’s Web Summit in Lisbon, talking to Danny Lange, VP of AI/Machine Learning at video game development firm Unity Technologies. “With machine learning you can train the computer to basically understand the general outline of an environment,” he tells me. “It can adapt to create an experience that you would otherwise not be able to programme and code using software engineers.”

According to Lange these technologies are affecting every single industry, from retailers to car manufacturers and the built environment. “They use these technologies to create new experiences that are previously not possible, like for instant if you look at furniture,” says Lange, who previously had stints heading up machine learning at Uber and Amazon. “You can hold up your phone and put on your goggles and visualise how a chair would sit on your living room.

“Or, if you are a car company and you are going to spend billions of dollars developing a new car, what you can do is create a virtual experience [and] design the car. You can actually feel how it works when you sit in it – you can reach all the buttons and [see] whether the layout is convenient, whether you can see what you need to see on the dashboard.”


“if you are a car company and you are going to spend billions of dollars developing a new car, what you can do is create a virtual experience [and] design the car” – Danny Lange, Unity 


Lange explains machine learning can be applied to these virtual worlds to “detect subtle usage patterns and surface intelligence” that can then be used by developers to improve the products they are making.

Before a house is even built, feedback from simulations can help an architect decide whether it will work for a family or not. “AR/VR, machine learning and AI enables you to create virtual environments, whether it is a car, a robot, a building or city,” Lange says. “You can now simulate and have characters or agents live in and use those environments and capture their feedback.”

In other sectors such as retail, companies are using these technologies to recognise customers when they walk through the door and create a personal experience for them.

He says: “In a retail situation, you can buy a pair of pants, and [the technology will tell you which] shirt goes really well with them, based on what [you and other people] have purchased in the past.”

Lange believes such technological breakthroughs will eventually enhance our interaction with the rest of the world and give companies a more fruitful relationship with their customers.

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