VR, AI and quantum computing among 5 key tech trends to watch: IMDA

The authorities are discussing with industry partners on how Singapore can anticipate demands for tech in these fields.

Osmond Chia

Osmond Chia

The Straits Times


A demonstration of a prototype omnidirectional VR treadmill by StepVR at a media briefing on Singapore’s digital infrastructure on April 24. ST PHOTO: RYAN CHIONG

April 26, 2023

SINGAPORE – Like a scene out of Steven Spielberg’s science-fiction film Ready Player One, virtual reality (VR) treadmills that move along with a user’s footsteps in any direction are one step closer to being used beyond gaming.

Synchronised with a user’s suit, the omnidirectional treadmill rolls along by anticipating the movement of a player’s legs to give the illusion that the player is physically travelling in the virtual world.

The technology is mostly used in gaming today but can open doors to make online training in healthcare, education and other industries more immersive, said Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary at a media briefing on Singapore’s digital infrastructure.

VR, artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, edge computing and quantum computing are five key areas in the tech sector to build to cater to anticipated demand and maintain competitiveness, said the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) at the briefing to provide updates on its digital infrastructure.

The authorities are discussing with industry partners on how Singapore can anticipate demands for tech in these fields. Dr Janil said an advisory panel that was formed to discuss these matters will publish a blueprint in June to detail steps for industries to take in their digitalisation.

These are the five tech trends highlighted:

1. Virtual reality

The $10,000 omnidirectional treadmill, developed by Singapore-based tech start-up StepVR, was among VR technologies presented to the media to highlight the progress of digital products made here.

The media was invited to use the treadmill and VR headset to play a Squid Game-inspired video game, which challenges players to hurry across a finish line while stopping each time a gigantic doll turned around.

Innovations in gaming are often at the forefront of what technology can offer as video games require high processing power and the ability to play with others, said Dr Janil, adding that these developments pave the way for the technology to be used in other sectors.

The same software and graphics processors used to make video games have also been used in healthcare training in hospitals here, such as training simulators to prepare surgeons for the operating table.

Multiplayer interactions that allow groups of users to meet online will also be key to VR’s development in the next decade, said MCI.

2. Artificial Intelligence

Data centres and other physical infrastructure need to be upgraded to accommodate a rise in AI applications, which need more computing power than usual programmes, said the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

It added: “The increased use of AI will result in more data going the last mile to users as there is a growing need to process and analyse the data in real time to support AI applications.”

AI programmes have been propelled into the mainstream since the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022, making sophisticated chatbots accessible to the average user.

3. Autonomous mobility

Expect self-driving electric vehicles and more autonomous options for those with disabilities within the next decade.

However, safety protocols will need to improve before autonomous vehicles can be widely adopted. This includes digitising infrastructure to ensure that autonomous vehicles are able to recognise obstacles and drive safely, said IMDA.

4. Edge computing

Edge computing refers to bringing processors and data storage closer to the devices they serve, instead of the data being accessed through the cloud thousands of kilometres away, which could cause delays.

This is critical to allow autonomous vehicles to drive safely as it would reduce any delays in connectivity, or doctors the confidence to perform surgery from remote locations.

With more of such services, businesses are likely to adopt more edge computing options in addition to cloud computing, and to require the technology to be faster and more reliable, said IMDA.

5. Quantum computing

Current cyber-security measures that form the basis of today’s Internet can soon be cracked by quantum computers that can easily hack into systems.

Quantum computers harness the quantum properties of light particles to compute data far faster than traditional computers. In the wrong hands, they can potentially crack traditional code exponentially faster than even the best of non-quantum machines.

Critical information infrastructure providers will need to update their cyber-security measures to ensure their data is protected as quantum computers are ushered in, said IMDA.

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