Mobile World Congress 2017: From VR to AI / Machine Learning

Mobile World Congress 2017: From VR to AI / Machine Learning

Take a ride through space and let your fridge order the snacks

By Marla Natoli, Director, Video & Mobile | Product & Strategy at AOL Canada

The idea of an “always connected” and “smart world” really came to life at MWC 2017.  Everything from clothing, homes, cars and even cities were showcased in the exhibition hall, with live demos that allowed the vision of efficiency, convenience and safety to begin to materialize. Let’s take a look at the top three trends facing the industry this year including VR, IoT and AI/Machine Learning:


VR tech isn't new, and last year the MWC floor was a launch venue for some of the shiniest new VR devices. This year however, companies where showcasing how the technology can be implemented across various use cases and how they are refining the user experience. While several exhibitors were providing demonstrations, others, like Visa and Intel, were utilizing interactive displays powered by AR to educate people on their products and services.

  • VR enables empathy and emotional connection to a brand: AOL's RYOT demonstrated the effects of storytelling and empathy via its documentary ‘The Crossing,’ which allows viewers to experience the journey of a refugee. The emotional impact created by VR ultimately drives more brand engagement, and in the case of many of RYOT’s non-profit initiatives, increased donations.
  • VR immerses people into games: Samsung's "Space Wheel" adds motion to a visual experience that sent conference goers into space, flying straight towards an asteroid, while tossing and turning along the way (strapped in of course).
  • VR creates new avenues for education: VR Technology is capable of allowing students to experience history rather than reading about it. It can also put students into scenarios where they're allowed to perform physical activities in virtual formats, to build "muscle memory" that carries over into real life.


In this new “smart world” the proliferation of connected devices and massive increase in data will transform how business and consumers interact with the world. From vehicles to manufacturing, IoT has the potential to make the streets safer and the city more sustainable.

  • IoT uses video and sensory technology to save lives: Verizon showcased streetlights that can recognize objects, while collecting and analyzing data around traffic patterns, parking availability and more, in real time. Imagine a connected vehicle encounters some black ice and skids off the road. As the next vehicle approaches the black ice, the driver gets notified of an accident on the route, and the exact location of the black ice, without ever seeking that information out. 
  • IoT heightens personalization: Voice command technology, like Amazon’s Echo, is being adopted at a quick pace, but even more crucial are the partnerships and integrations that will emerge. For example, we will see intelligent refrigerators that can restock themselves by ordering food for delivery from Amazon. 

AI / Machine Learning

Companies that focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning promise to take technology to the next level this year. In theory, AI will enable machines to “think” on their own, leveraging all the data from our connected world and reacting accordingly or making predictions.

  • AI makes it possible for vehicles to avoid collisions: Autonomous vehicles leverage cameras and sensory technologies to identify and respond to road conditions much like a human. Taking the same black ice example from earlier, it is possible for an autonomous vehicle to be notified by the vehicle up the road that encountered black ice, and in turn, automatically slow down to avoid a collision.
  • AI can do the thinking for you:  Home assistant technology is still in its early days, but the possibilities are compelling. At MWC, attendees saw an alarm clock that could automatically adjust its set time to accommodate for a number of factors, like a major accident on the highway or unexpected weather conditions.
  • AI assistants understand you better: Sony’s Xperia Agent (still in concept phase) can more effectively interpret conversation vs. specific commands. For example, rather than the user dictating a command like “please play Formation by Beyonce”, you could ask the Xperia Agent to play the song Beyoncé performed at the Grammy’s this year.

As technology develops and consumer adoption of smart objects continues, the amount of data being processed through smart objects about users’ behaviours and preferences is rising. There are two major considerations for the media industry to take away from this. The first is data. As we move toward one universal ID, we will be able to add more context and thus, heighten the value offered to a brand’s target audiences when delivering ads or content. The second consideration is ad delivery and monetization. As we begin to request and receive information more often via voice command vs. by browsing our screens, new monetization trends are sure to emerge in this space.

From an advertising perspective, machine learning offers the potential to predict what consumers want or need before they have shown intent or even know of a need. The idea is to add more personalization and relevance to advertising by combining data about behaviours, location, routines, and more. Perhaps your vehicle knows maintenance will be required in 6 months and you are sent an offer from a local auto shop. Or your smart fridge recognizes you’re low on milk and you are targeted by local grocery stores while reading the morning news. The more connected our lives become, the greater the opportunity for data and machine learning to take relevant content to new heights.

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Tags: vr, ai, machine learning, iot, aol, video, mobile