At May's Red Hat Summit in Boston, Telco Transformation met up with CenturyLink's Gahn Lane to get his personal observations and analysis regarding perhaps the two biggest buzz technologies today: artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
Previously, in Part I of this Q&A Lane gave his take on where and when open source and open standards make sense in advanced analytics areas such as AI and IoT. (See CenturyLink's Lane on Open Standards Risks in Big Data.)
In Part II, Lane, vice president of software alliances at CenturyLink, delves into trends in artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR), along with his thoughts on the hefty network and market demands that gaming places on the carrier market.
Telco Transformation: Now that we have all of these, in quotes, "AI solutions" (machine learning, deep learning, etc.) what AI demands and trends are you seeing? And what should we be looking for in the next few years?
Gahn Lane: I'm focused on software companies, so they either develop and/or market software solutions, and AI first and foremost is, as you said, "in quotes." It's a bit of a buzz term right now, definitely. But what I could tell you is that what we're seeing is that all the major players either have an AI strategy or they're working on one. And they are aggressively positioning themselves in the software space to be the next Alexa, if you will, but for business. The initial AI activity that we were exposed to this latest round was really voice enablement of your vehicle, and
Google started a lot of that trend. So
Microsoft and others have been very aggressively positioning their software in that space, with various degrees of success, by the way. Then, the next phase that was publicly noticed was really on the consumer side -- things like Alexa.
The big one that a lot of people have not thought about as much -- unless they're young, a teenage kid, or they live in their mom's basement with a lot of cats -- is gaming. AI and gaming is a really big deal. Increasingly, it's doing a couple things. First and foremost, gaming AI is utilized for tech support. A lot of people don't realize how incredibly articulate a lot of these gamers are when it comes to technological solutions, and they're all over the world. And they're all calling at all hours of the day and night, and it's increasingly difficult for companies to support their needs. And they're talking code. You're getting into some serious detail.
AI has really come alive there very quickly because a lot of that is comprised of repetitive questions. It's very repetitive engagement. It's technical and it's detailed, more so than you're going to get traditionally.
TT:: Another thing that's very big in the gamer community right now is augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
GL: That's the first thing I think of with these video discussions.
TT: Just in terms of the delivery demands, what are you seeing now? And how are you scaling up? What are you anticipating for demand down the line?
GL: It's growing; it's extrapolating. It depends a little bit on the game publisher, but I would say the growth is anywhere from two times to five times every year.
I have one gaming company that is very, very well known -- a lot of games that you've heard of. Even if you're not a gamer, you've heard of them. They consume 6.2 terabits a second, from me, in the middle of the night; 6.2 terabits a second. That's insane. You could put you and me through that pipe, and they need more pipe.
Really hot in the gaming industry, also, interestingly enough, is translations of games. So there's a huge gaming culture, if you will, in Asia that has just been for Asians. Well, now, those guys are shipping that stuff over here, and we have guys that are tweaking it for the North American, or the South American, or the EU marketplaces, and translating it, all the character voices, etc. That's big business. Now they can add VR. You don't have to translate as much for VR. Between that and AI, you could fundamentally start anew if you want. And so that's a big space. South Korea and Japan are the two biggest generators of that stuff right now. The South Korean gaming industry is huge. It's insanely huge.
TT: What about VR beyond the gaming context? Where are you seeing demand and anticipating growth?
GL: It's generally about offering dependable access at blistering speed in an affordable fashion. That's what it is, and our buying Level 3 Communications just enhances that even more. By the way, we didn't just buy them for their footprint… If you look at the assets of that company, look at all the undersea cable… That says a lot if you just do the math. Those are public facts that you can look up anywhere.
The first big driver we've seen for VR has been internal education. The second big driver for VR has been customer interface… The folks that have embraced it the most [are] healthcare, education, and gaming. The financial sector much less so, and, personally, I don't have any facts to back this up empirically, but we have a reality in the finance industry where they're just coming out of a bad time the last couple of years and they've started to get up and dust themselves off. And, right now, no financial company wants to be seen as spending money in a flashy way.
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation