The Introduction of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
From January 20th to 23rd, the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting 2016 was held in Davos, Switzerland, under the theme ‘Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.’ Klaus Schwab, the president of the Davos Forum, mentioned the oncoming revolution in his book: The Fourth Industrial Revolution. “We are at the beginning of a revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, what I consider to be the fourth industrial revolution is unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”
The fourth industrial revolution is characterized by its wide range of new technologies that fuses the physical, digital, and biological worlds to revolutionize economic and industrial areas. The concept is about blending the actual world with the technological world. Since it features hyperconnectivity and super-intelligence, it will have a greater impact on society on a wider scope. The fourth revolution includes technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), the Internet of Things (IOT), and so on.
Many people have different opinions regarding the fast-advancing technologies. Some are concerned about the new and powerful technology whereas others are excited to see new technologies changing the world into a better place. “Since the younger generation will directly experience these changes, it is important to pay attention to the revolution,” said Professor Kwon O-kyoung from the College of Engineering Department of Electronic Engineering in Hanyang University (HYU).
It is true that the new and profound technology will bring change. Yet, it is necessary to understand how we must face these changes in order to reap benefits.
AR and VR - The Star of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
There are many technological innovations that are a part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution such as AI, AR, VR, and IOT. Among the various technologies, AR and VR are especially expected to be the core technologies in the fourth industrial revolution. According to the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), 3,111 cases of international patents on AR and VR technology have been issued in the recent decade. Compared to 110 cases in 2007, 23.1% has increased annually. Especially in 2016, the number of patents dramatically increased by 43.2% compared to that in 2015. Sang Hyun-tae, who is now developing a VR Social Casino Game said, “The main IT companies think AR, VR, and MR (Mixed Reality) convergence technology will create a synergy considering industrial profits, which is the reason they invest so much on it.”
The top 10 companies which have the most issued patents on VR technology are mostly American enterprises. Domestic companies like Samsung and LG are also included in the list. For AR technologies, it showed no big difference. Now, the emergence of various foreign enterprises such as China’s ZTE and Huawei is remarkable in that the market was previously dominated only by the American enterprises. Due to this impassioned competition between global enterprises, Digi-Capital has calculated that AR’s global market sales will reach $1,200 billion by 2020.
Even more than they are now, AR and VR technologies are expected to develop, incorporating different fusions of technologies that anticipate the increase of user experience. Producer Sang said, “Some interface development sides are in the process of developing a machine with tactile sensations and an olfactory sense through VR and it will provide wider user experiences.” Already, AR and VR have become a part of our daily lives.
AR and VR in Daily Life
AR or VR can be easily found in our daily lives. The technologies can be applied to various fields such as culture, medication, education, or games. Pokémon Go, which is one of the AR based gaming programs, gained huge popularity globally. Although the release of the app was delayed for 6 months in Korea, the app went viral reaching 10 million users in just weeks after the release. The Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) developed another AR-based app called “The Palaces in My Hand”, composed of 9 versions of the game including Gyeongbokgung, Changgyeonggung, and Deoksugung version. The app uses three different technologies. First, by utilizing augmented reality, users are informed of how to reach their destinations or the places near them. Also, there are 16 places in which the app plays information videos once your phone is placed in a designated spot. The app recognizes the markers of the object and automatically plays the videos. Lastly, by using PVR technology, users can view the inner parts of the buildings.
IKEA has also developed an app which allows users to place furniture in their houses via their smartphones. They can then directly see if the furniture goes well with their houses and even check if the size properly fits. Professor Kwon also mentioned the AR and VR’s utility in education. In an anatomy class, students who once had trouble finding corpses could now learn anatomy without facing such difficulties with the help of AR and VR technology.
Not only apps, but there are also many other places people can experience AR and VR technology. Seo Yeon-je, a Junior majoring in English Language and Literature in Hanyang University (HYU) described her VR experience. “I went to the Innisfree Café located in Myeongdong. In the café, we could experience VR technology. We were required to sit on a chair, wear the Head Mounted Display (HMD) and select the experience we wanted to try.” Innisfree, a popular Korean cosmetic brand, also provides a VR zone in the café in which you can experience the “Jeju Flying Bike” and “Someday in Jeju.” Moreover, VR cafés are gaining popularity as entertainment where people can enjoy games of themes like the zombie apocalypse or rock climbing.
Problems of AR and VR Industry Korean
AR and VR industries have been growing in recent years, in line with the mainstream trends of the world market. Lots of AR and VR organizations supported by influential companies are planning further innovations. However, there are still steps to take in regards to the development environment. Although the Korean industry is especially competitive in content and service, what also matters is the overall environment for IT software start-up businesses. As Korea has a brief history of start-up bussinesses, guidelines and evaluation systems for managing businesses are not abundant enough. Moreover, policies and standards are not specialized in each domain. The establishment of all these systems is based on trial and error. This is entangled with another important issue, the lack of a challenging spirit. Most companies do not want to take any risks, and even when the attempt is accepted, too many regulations are put on developers, discouraging their efforts.
Privacy is another controversial topic regarding technological development. Google’s street view system, providing 3D images that appear much as they do in reality, was condemned when people became aware of the fact that their privacy may be at risk. The drone, a radio-controlled plane, can also violate privacy either intentionally or accidentally. A 360-camera, which is a part of VR technology, is not an exception because it is difficult to pick and choose specific figures. In the case of AR, many camera apps became problematic as too much information like tags can invade privacy.
Some people are worried about the possibility of increasing polarization between the rich and the poor due to this new industrial paradigm. There are concerns that only heavy capitalists will benefit while workers lose their jobs. At the WEF, it was pointed out that the number of disappearing jobs will reach 5 million in three years. In fact, the law of increasing returns is applied to this new age, which means the industry can be monopolized by only a few companies that invest high entry costs. From the perspective of globalization, developing countries are not likely to benefit from this revolution in comparison to developed countries.
AR and VR’s attempts to exercise a far-reaching influence on daily life have created problematic points for its users. The most convincing problem is that people can be confused between the real world and virtual reality. When it was reported that some Las Vegas hotels will start VR pornography services, this news received backlash from feminist and social organizations that worried about its accompanying social problems. Of course, VR content like this could be a useful tool for ‘N-po generation’ who have given up love and marriage, but the concerns are about its long-term effect. People who are not satisfied with the real world are likely to find provocative VR stimuli, and increase the possibility of related crime.
The Actions that People can Take
As mentioned, the IT industrial structure problem is a serious issue. Even if some adventurous workers come up with an innovative idea, it is often interrupted by ineffective regulation policies, and is eventually abandoned. For example, the representative of a Korean venture company “One Piece” was arrested for illegal acts in developing an app due to a complicated and excessive number of regulations. In North America and European countries, free regulation of the mobile platform has already been provided. This platform allows developers to evaluate the appropriateness of their content themselves. By shortening the assessment process, it becomes a lot easier for developers to put time and effort into innovative ideas. Modelling overseas industries’ practices can partially change the Korean IT industry structure. At the same time, companies should provide as many opportunities as possible. Researcher Yang Byoungseok, who recently started a VR webtoon said, “For open innovation, it is urgent to destroy the traditional atmosphere that emphasizes only competition and avoids failure.”
The moral issues associated with privacy and the gap between the rich and the poor are major tasks that are everyone’s responsibility to deal with. In a bid to fulfil their responsibility, the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and Korea Institute of Science and Technology Evaluation and Planning (KISTEP) chose AR and VR technology as a subject of assessment. This is an institution that determines development strategies based on evaluations of how new technology influences each part of society. With technological solutions, developers can monitor monopolization of wealth or information.
Developers can also play an important role in complementing the humanistic side while creating contents. AR/VR content should be integrated so that developers understand not only the technological principles but also the emotional aspects. The CEO of LetinAR, Kim Jae-hyeok (Industrial Engineering in HYU), said one of the factors he considers the most is the consumer. “I’m trying to make a product that will make consumers think ‘How did we live before this?’ which means the product should meet the consumers’ needs in creating the least discomfort with the new technology.” Further, it is recommended that content should be people-oriented. For example, with the help of more realistic devices, VR fitness seeps into the lives and health of many. It can help people consume high calories and do activities that prevent brain disorders. Professor Kwon said, “Production companies are under an obligation to attempt to resolve sideeffects in advance. In the case of the Sony Corporation, a lot of research has already been done, and there are engineering teams collaborating with doctors, sociologists, and other experts.”
As a consumer, there are numerous ways to contribute. People can be entertained by the AR/VR services, and then provide some feedback to the industrial world. In this way, ethical issues can be addressed by the consumers’ monitoring. In another spectrum, consumers can also participate in productions based upon their own needs that technological advances can be driven from.
Klaus Schwab stated that humanism through humanities education is the core factor in cultivating human resources that fit in this fourth industrial revolution era. Learning will be more of a lifelong process, where learners figure out what they have to learn and take an active part in further exploration. From now on, creative people are required to define and solve problems by themselves. In this light, a flexible mind is what people of this era should have. It is impossible to predict the future, which means what has been long believed to be true can change in a day. It is desirable to have standards, but people should avoid becoming self-righteous.
Be an Active Participant
People may be unaware of this massive change because they are accustomed to digital or IT. However, the revolution has already started. People will need to determine their attitudes towards this new era to prepare for an uncertain future. From the perspective of developers, more long-term measures are needed and diversity should be maximized. Industrial competitiveness is more important than what most people are aware of. The government and companies can make opportunities for open innovation, by looking at the big picture.
Along with the advent of the fourth industrial revolution age, moral issues like human alienation and polarization of wealth have been raised. However, innovative technology always entails side-effects. Researcher Yang said, “I think all the things we encounter are just cultural phenomena that we should go through. Regulation is needed only when something crosses ethical lines.” CEO and CTO of LetinAR, Kim Jaehyeok and Ha Jeong-hun also said, “In the beginning stage, all the problems pointed out can arouse strong feelings on all sides. When people start to accept AR and VR as part of their lives, the problems will naturally be solved in the long-term.”
People do not have to be excessively vigilant towards this change. It is desirable to let go of fears and consider what can be done as an active participant. Ironically, the more technology advances, the more humanity contributes to society. Humanistic features like empathic ability and creativity are so unique that machines cannot replace them. To make the most of these opportunities, individuals need to reach their potential and lead their own lives through humanistic introspection.