Observations on AME Roundup 2019 – Tech solutions looking for problems
AME Roundup 2019 in Vancouver, BC, finished on 31 January 2019, and here is my final post about some of the events. (Previous post: 4. Innovation Hub, Additions to the Geoscience Toolbox, Jan 30, 2019)
5. Innovation Hub, The latest technologies, Jan 31, 2019
Seven tech companies presented their solutions to improving the appearance and accessibility of project data, and making geological and mineral deposit information internet-based: VRify Technologies, Moon Patrol VR, Finger Food, Minerva Intelligence, Global UAV Technologies, llamaZoo and BRIMM. I thought all of these, other than Minerva Intelligence, were looking for market dominance (justified or not) and had an application focus, or a financial focus, rather than a focus on science. Someone, like the staff of BCGS and the VGS, first has to do the precise, boring and time-consuming checking, cleaning up and digitizing of the information that these new apps are applied to. (BCGS’s 1996 to 2019 GEOFiles database contains the data tables from ongoing geochemical, geochronologic, and geophysical data from over 36,000 reports! – but it was human labour at the BCGS that digitized them.)
The unsexy, painstaking and detailed behind-the-scenes work did not feature in the tech company presentations, other than, as I said before, in the presentation by Minerva Intelligence. For instance, Stephen de Jong of VRIFY explained that their software allows mining companies to present their properties and mineral resources using interactive – meaning user-controlled – 3D models, an experience that is as immersive as seeing 3D data on a 2D-plane, like a PC monitor, allows. The user sees only the end product, which is very glamorous. They use existing data and models from mining companies, as well as satellite imagery, drone photography and underground photography to create these maps with embedded data that the user can move around on. (I thought to myself of how much this looks like Prezi 3D presentations with embedded video files.)
I found de Jong, the former CEO of Integra Gold, to be highly confident, but he made a number of sweeping statements. In his opinion “every mining company should be on our platform” and their platform will become the only recognized one. He said that they insist that the data from their clients are kept as simple as VRIFY says it should be, and all the same (homogeneous in fact) across the board. He said – perhaps in a joking manner – that most mining companies present their information poorly and most are out of date. That’s a lot of assumptions.
Like most of the other companies seen at the Innovation Hub, their technology is geared towards making individual companies look better, not to improve the industry as a whole or to contribute to the science on which the industry is based. One wonders how willing they are to engage with the dull business of industry standards, education and legislation in order to get their products “institutionalized” like Microsoft has done, and take them into the mainstream market (refer to the classic “technology innovation chasm” graphic, below.)
Moon Patrol VR
Moon Patrol VR has one Geology “Geological Engineer” whatever that is, on their team. For the rest, they are technology and social media people. They too, do VR, except that users can see the 3D models from wherever they are simultaneously on the same platform. They have a long list of mining clients so obviously their offering, Minecollab, is popular. They contend that their work is at the convergence of mining, gaming and computer science. They use HTC Vive and Oculus Go headsets make their VR properly 3D.
Finger Food Studios Inc.
Finger Food Studios Inc.’s CEO Ryan Peterson listed every current hot topic and technology big thing in their presentation, as being what they do: XR, AI, Machine Learning, Robotics, Blockchain and IoT (the Internet of Things). For instance, XR is X Reality (XR or Cross Reality), a form of content creation that is a mixture of virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), augmented reality (AR), and cinematic reality (CR). They do all that – so clients can indeed pick and choose like perusing finger food at a party. They will develop any kind of application for you so long as you know what you want, which of course is the big stumbling block.
He did point this out, repeatedly: Before you can employ any technology, you have to know what your problem is and what you need to do to solve it. You need to have your data ready to use.
The companies I have discussed in this post are, I suspect, somewhere between the stages of a support base of “Innovators” and “Early Majority Adopters”, but their products are certainly not yet at the development stage of institutionalized use and mass market scaling. It would be interesting to see how they have progressed by the time it is Roundup 2020.