‘Mixed reality’ technology set to impact rural communities in Africa

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Martin Walshaw, Senior Engineer at F5 Networks

Future of Apps
Martin Walshaw, Senior Engineer at F5 Networks.

As the lines between virtual and augmented reality become increasingly blurred, we will find ourselves able to solve social and economic problems in completely new ways.

The Future of Apps, an F5-commissioned report conducted by the Foresight Factory, highlights how the merging of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will affect society.

The report reveals that the usage of ‘mixed reality’ technologies is likely to have an impact across multiple sectors and the delivery of critical professional services. Through technological advances, location and geographic separation will become increasingly irrelevant. In fact, entirely new skill sets will become available without the need for qualified professionals to always be physically present.

Mixed reality technologies will unveil an entire world of possibilities when it comes to the way in which we approach problem-solving throughout Africa. Given that significant percentages of the continent’s population still live in rural areas, digital access to critical professional services is a potential game changer. This is particularly true in healthcare. According to the World Economic Forum, it is estimated that while Africa has a quarter of the world’s disease burden, it is home to just 2% of its doctors.

Already telemedicine is playing an increasing role in the US healthcare landscape, and given South Africa’s high rate of mobile penetration, it is expected to grow significantly. According to the report, Africa Telemedicine Outlook and Opportunities, while South Africa’s regulations won’t currently allow for doctors to converse with patients over telemedicine platforms, conversations between doctors in rural hospitals and specialists in more urban areas would be of significant assistance with diagnosis and treatment.

Technological advances will only continue to enhance the level of communication and healthcare service, which is able to be translated. In the Future of Apps report, Rebecca Parsons, CTO at Thoughtworks, elaborates on the possibilities of future applications, stating, “Think about the possibility for a specialist physician to communicate with a medical worker in a set location through an AR application and hardware in order to provide healthcare services that physically never would have happened. We have those possibilities now and the costs continue to go down.”

Education is another area in which technological advances are expected to create major inroads in Africa. Already, virtual reality brings a broad range of subjects to life for children who are unable to experience these concepts for themselves. For example, how do you provide an accurate idea of the sea to children who have never experienced it before?

There are few limits to what these children could one day experience using VR technology, including tours of different countries and museums, as well as the ability to perform scientific experiments. Many people in Africa already have access to mobile technology. Therefore, connectivity is the only requirement to turn these experiences into realities.

The impact of mixed reality technology is set to change lives for the greater good and will be felt across all sectors, according to the Future of Apps report. As geographic location becomes increasingly irrelevant, businesses and consumers will be able to develop increasingly innovative solutions to the challenges that currently hamper the progress of the continent.

By Martin Walshaw, Senior Systems Engineer at F5 Networks.