How Virtual Reality Can Help Seniors Live out Their Golden Years in Style

All of us dream of enjoying a long and healthy retirement filled with travel and visits to the grandkids, but the reality is quite different for a lot of people. Many are simply not physically capable of living out their golden years constantly on the go, while others are suffering from dementia and other forms of memory loss that prevent them from enjoying the freedoms that others take for granted. Some Canadian companies and healthcare facilities are trying to change all that by taking advantage of the recent breakthroughs in Virtual Realty technology as reported by the CBC.

One organization in particular, OpenLab based out of the Toronto General Hospital, is making some real positive progress towards changing the lives of dementia patients through the use of VR. They envision a future where seniors can visit their grandkids in virtual reality, return to their childhood home for a nostalgic trip, or stop by a place they’ve always wanted to visit. These types of trips haven’t been possible for dementia sufferers until now because of the potential for them to become lost or injured if left without supervision.

The potential therapeutic benefits of such a program are obvious as it would help seniors confined to retirement homes due to mental or physical limitations to resume a happy and rewarding life. There are some drawbacks such as the tendency for some to experience sickness when immersed in a virtual world due to disorientation, but as long as these things are monitored it has a lot of potential. It’s also a very real possibility that further advancements in VR technology will eliminate these issues in the near future. These really are exciting times for both young and old alike.

Blurring the Lines Between the Virtual and Real Worlds

As our technology continues to improve to the point that we can begin envisioning the dawn of a new era were reality and the virtual world are barely distinguishable we’re constantly introduced to exciting and new advancements. Think of any science fiction show or movie were real immersive technology allows our descendants to live out their fantasies or work in alien environments such as Star Trek or Avatar. The brave new worlds on display in these futuristic dramas are getting closer to reality each and every day.

A great example of this type of technology in action is the ItsMe app based avatars created by the Toronto based start-up company of the same name. Most of us have some experience with avatars in the form of cartoon characters in online games or the old Nintendo Wii. This is something a little bit different. They actually create avatars that are much closer copies of the real you. They do this by placing the individual in a room surrounded by cameras that scan your body and facial features and recreate them in the virtual world – right down to the scars and the tattoos!

The potential applications for something like this are staggering. Picture a virtual world where instead of following your friends posts on a Facebook feed, you throw on your virtual headgear and meet them in a virtual world coffee shop where it’s easy to recognize each other because you look exactly like the real you. Alternatively you might go on a virtual vacation with friends that live halfway across the world in realistic settings depicting some of the worlds favored destinations. The possibilities are pretty much endless and it’s likely that ItsMe are simply the pioneers of a technology that will soon become a reality for all of us.

Canada and Voice Assisted Technology – The Silence is Deafening

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The rise of voice assisted technology is a phenomenon that has captured the attention of people of all ages. The seven year old in our home simply loves asking Siri, Cortana, or Google countless questions on a daily basis and that seems to be the case for a lot of parents and grandparents I talk to. This technology’s not just for kids of course – everyone in our home gets a lot of mileage out of these virtual assistants for everything from weather reports, to help typing texts, and for answering just about any question that pops up. Voice activated assistance is a technology with a ton of potential.

This popularity is the reason companies like Amazon and Google have entered the race with stand-alone devices that can act as virtual home assistants which are completely voice activated. Amazon’s Alexa is in a growing number of devices and Google’s Home device is doing quite well. People love the idea of an artificial intelligence that they can simply talk to and ask questions, play their favorite music, and add items to their schedule. The problem is these devices aren’t available in Canada yet and that’s extremely frustrating for early adopters.

Neither company is very clear on why they haven’t entered the Canadian market yet nor are they saying when they will. There’s no doubt our market is tiny compared to the US and that probably has something to do with it, but there are still a lot of consumers here anxiously awaiting the arrival of this technology. Canadians living near the border can always buy a device across the border and bring it back, but when you do this there are no guarantees that they’ll work properly as they weren’t specifically designed for our market. The rest of us will have to just wait patiently and perhaps send pleading emails to Amazon and Google asking them to give us what we want!

Set Top Box Wars

Set top boxes are extremely popular devices that allow you to transform your standard, boring, run of the mill TV into a full-fledged Smart TV. They normally run on some type of modified Android operating system and they allow you to access a lot of legitimate services such as Netflix, Crave TV, and YouTube. They’ve still caught the attention of Canada’s biggest media players, Bell, Rogers, and Videotron who recently launched a court battle against some of the biggest distributers of these devices.

While they might be concerned with the legitimate services that these devices can access, their line of argument against such boxes was focused on the illegal services it also allows consumers to access. These devices can also access countless unauthorized content providers and anyone with a little bit of tech savvy can find them using the Kodi media center app. 

Score a Victory for Big Media

It’s hard to understand how they really have a case considering all the legitimate content these boxes allow you to access. As long as the distributors of these boxes don’t preload their devices with illegal content their really shouldn’t be any case, but surprisingly there is. Canada’s federal court recently ruled in favour of the big media companies and issued an injunction banning the distribution of set top boxes by several major players.

It’s a curios development as there are many work arounds using laptops, USB sticks, and other devices that can accomplish the same thing. It’s doubtful the courts are going to ban laptops so you have to wonder what the point is. The companies affected by this ban are already launching an appeal and there’s a good chance this ruling will be overturned, but that’s certainly not guaranteed. There will always be ways to use legal devices to find illegal content, but that shouldn’t result in a ban of such devices. We can only hope that common sense will ultimately prevail.

Blackberry Focuses on Security to Revive Its Fortunes

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In the past couple of decades no Canadian tech company has had more success on the world stage than Blackberry (Originally Research In Motion), Sure we’ve had other tech success stories such as Nortel and Corel, but these companies never had the lasting success of Blackberry. Unfortunately, in recent years Blackberry has been in a serious battle for survival itself. Quite simply it completely misjudged the trend toward touch screen devices and App markets for smartphones and that misjudgement has caused its smartphone market share to rapidly disappear.

A couple of years back RIM realized its mistake and made a belated attempt to enter the smartphone marketplace in force with its own proprietary operating system, BB10, a series of touchscreen devices, and a rebranding of the company itself as Blackberry. The problem was the Android and IOS operating systems were already dominating the market and that didn’t leave a lot of room for other operating systems to make a dent. The Windows mobile operating system met with the same difficulties.

Focus on Security

It might already be too late for Blackberry, but in the past couple of years they’ve taken their hardware division in a whole new direction. They’ve abandoned BB10 and adopted the Android operating system for all of their devices, while still trying to keep some of their popular apps such as BBM messenger. They’ve also tried to tackle one of the biggest flaws in the Android operating system – its security.

Blackberry’s reputation was built on secure devices and they’re trying to bring that reputation with them to their new Android devices. The Blackberry Priv was billed as a much more secure Android phone than anything else on the market and their latest release, the DTEK50 is being touted as the most secure Android phone around. It remains to be seen if the marketplace will buy into this focus on making more secure Android devices, but it’s certainly a strategy that has some promise.