Samsung presents Virtual Reality Developments in Bristol

Report by David Graves and Philip Graves, GWS Robotics

Samsung hosted an event entitled 'Inspire:Bristol 16' at the Bristol Science Centre in Anchor Road on November 21st, 2016.

The first show of its kind put on by the South Korean multinational conglomerate anywhere in the UK, it was billed as an evening of ‘Ideas and innovation for small business’. We went along to check it out.

While one aim of the evening for Samsung was clearly to raise awareness of some of Samsung’s product ranges for business, the scope of the evening was much wider than this, and should boost Samsung’s visibility locally as well as promoting good public relations.


Virtual Reality Developments

A notable speaker at the event was Ian Betteridge, the Editorial Director at, an online tech-focused magazine launched by Dennis Publishing in May 2015. Ian’s speech, entitled ‘The Future of Technology for Business’, was concerned with changes in technology that are set to transform business, including training and retail, notably:

  • VR (virtual reality);
  • Voice recognition technology and Artificial Intelligence.

Ian said that these technologies would change everything in business over the next five years, and that it was very important for forward-thinking businesses to start using these now. His examples of real-world applications under development included:

  • 3D walkthroughs of upmarket properties offered at Sothebys International Realty, an estate agent that specialises in exclusive properties;
  • A 3D view of the interior of a car (aimed at dealers who cannot fit every model into their showrooms);
  • A virtual reality simulation of a car test drive;
  • An advertisement produced by a toiletries company that used VR;
  • A virtual view from a front row seat at a fashion show (aimed at luxury fashion retail stores like Harvey Nichols of London);
  • Training which is more immersive and emotionally engaging, and consequently much harder to forget (a current example of this would be the use of VR glasses by the army for combat training).

Ian also showed a graph predicting that the market penetration of VR devices (especially glasses) would hit around 80% within the next five years. While a part of this figure is put down to uses associated with games consoles, it also projects increased usage in connection with mobile phones.

Our own view is that the main application of VR glasses is actually in games consoles, and that for business / public use, glasses which will offer a less immersive experience may work better – people won’t feel strange wearing them, or seem cut off from those around them”.

Google Glass, a product that was marketed for just eight months before being pulled in January 2015, arguably suffered in the marketplace from making people look a bit strange when they wore it.


Amazon Echo

Betteridge also talked about the Amazon Echo (a recently launched interactive AI device that uses voice recognition and virtual speech) and the conversations that it is possible to have with it. He envisaged future directions for the development of this technology in the line of marketing, imagining for example:

  • A sales-related conversation in which someone asks the Echo for recommendations for a television set and it replies: ‘Based on your normal price range and the ones your friends have bought, as well as reviews, we recommend the XYZ.’ (Ian pointed out that the Echo can access all this data because Amazon already has all that data about its customers.)
  • A delivery-related conversation in which the Echo says: ‘Based on your calendar, I have arranged delivery for a Wednesday when you should be at home.’

While the Echo cannot yet hold conversations of this level of sophistication, it does have the underlying data that it would need to do this in the future.

A key problem in the development of AI for the Echo that Ian reflected on is that presently each conversational interaction is largely discrete, with the responses given by the Echo reflecting the question asked immediately prior in isolation, rather than taking into consideration previous remarks in the same conversation. Real conversations typically consist of a chain in which every component remark develops and builds off all those before it and not just the most recent one.


Hi-tech payment tools

Another interesting speaker at Samsung’s event was Björn Lindberg, Senior Vice President at iZettle, a payment tools development company based in Stockholm. Lindberg’s talk was entitled ‘The Evolution of Smart Payments’

In the course of his speech, Björn discussed the wide range of services his company is offering, and the challenges involved in becoming a ‘multi-product’ company and managing those in different geographic locations. He also showed off their main products, and a small TV advert aimed at smaller businesses who want to take card payments.


Goal motivation

A star attraction at the event was British rower Helen Glover MBE, the reigning two-time Olympic gold medallist and former world No. 1 (now ranked at No. 2). Helen gave a motivating talk about dedication to personal goals, relating how she and her rowing partner and coach had achieved two golds despite only starting to row four years before the London Olympics.

We hope that this will herald the start of a series of interesting events in Bristol.

virtual reality, voice recognition, VR, AI, Artificial Intelligence, robotics, Samsung, bristol,