Kathy Gibson is at SingularityU Summit in Kyalami – A defining feature of humanity is that we are swimming in data.

But information consumes the resource of our attention, says Rachel Sibley, from the augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) faculty at Singularity University

“Your attention is one of your most valuable resources,” she says.

As we increasingly abstract information, its density increases and we have to find new pathways to navigate it. “What is the result of all that? Information overload.”

The dream of AR/VR is to contextualise information so it is available to us in the right place at the right time.

“Why does this matter now? Because cognition is embodied: it exists in our mind-body-world systems,” Sibley says.

For instance, she believes that AR/VR can have a huge impact on non-democratised education systems like those in much of Africa.

“These technologies allow us to learn in fundamentally different ways.”

The world enabled by AR/VR allows people to actually experience scenarios. “They could fundamentally change our concept of identity,” Sibley adds.

The new technologies are happening now, she adds, having moved past wired VR, mobile AR and VR, and now moving into a mixed reality world where the two media overlap.

“With mixed reality you can move seamlessly between the worlds.”

AR/VR has been enabled by the availability of hardware from a variety of players.

Software development kits are now freely available too, enabling the creation of a content ecosystem.

“We’ve seen this paradigm before. We’ve watched cell phones go from briefcases to where they are now.”

Sibley believes AR/VR will be the next computing paradigm. We have mobile AR now and smart glasses will be next.

For companies looking to get into the AR/VR space, she advises them to consider real human problems.

“These are the tools to paint the world with data.”

Use cases for AR include solutions for real estate, mining, education, logistics and more.

VR is applicable in dangerous situations; where it would be impossible for people to be physically available; counter-productive scenarios; or expensive experiences.

“No conversation about AR/VR is complete without safety and ethics,” Sibley says.

“We still need more conversation on the impact of VR on brain development and vision.

“Clear standards are needed to ensure our safety, comfort and digital rights. As business leaders, we have to consider this and have these conversations now.”