With the recent launch of the MetaVRse 3D content creation engine, Alan chats with Sikaar Keita from Oracle’s XR LAB about what he’s building and why he thinks it’s a game-changer.
Alan: Hey, everybody. My name’s Alan Smithson, the host of the XR for Business Podcast, and today we have a very special guest, Sikaar Keita from Oracle. Sikaar is the customer experience specialist and XR lab leader, based in France. And today, we’re going to discuss how Sikaar is using the new MetaVRse web-based 3D creation platform to invent the future of customer experiences. All that more coming up next, on the XR for Business Podcast. Sikaar, it’s such a pleasure to have you.
Sikaar: Thank you very much.
Alan: Today is a very special day for me personally, because we’re going to talk about something near and dear to my heart, the MetaVRse platform. We’ve been working on this for four years, and we finally came out of beta, and we released it to the world June 1st at AWE this year. But while it was in beta, you got in there and you started creating some crazy things. And I really want to dive in there. But let’s maybe just have in your own words, what is the MetaVRse platform and why did you choose to start working on it?
Sikaar: So basically, it comes with two main things that were really key to us. The first one is that it’s a WebXR tool. And we really believe that leveraging the web to deploy XR experiences is really what will drive adoption. Also, it was super easy to use, and the way we were prototyping really changed leveraging this platform, compared to what we usually do with other platforms.
Alan: So what is the normal path to prototyping, compared to this workflow?
Sikaar: Normally what we would do is that we would do sketches like most design agencies would do. And we sometimes leverage 360 degree virtual tours, because it’s super easy to showcase something very quickly to stakeholders, which has a sufficient quality to make them understand what the project is about. And what we figured out is just that leveraging MetaVRse, it was extremely fast to build things that looks good. So we are usually buying our models, we don’t model everything ourselves. But it was super easy to come up with something that was good enough to be seen, and to help us get budget, or get the stakeholders’ approval to move forward. And that was really a game changer for us.
Alan: The amazing thing that we noticed is that you hadn’t been on the platform more than a few days and you started doing things that we had never contemplated ever being done. And one of them blew our minds: you connected an IoT sensor to our web-based 3D platform. Can you tell us, what was the thought process behind that? How did you come up with that?
Sikaar: So basically what we do in the Oracle XR lab is testing, prototyping, and training every possible integration of XR technology with Oracle technologies. And so in this endeavour, we emphasize what comes with feeding XR experiences with data, but also getting data out of XR experiences into record systems. So it just felt normal to get this IoT device connected with an XR experience, so we can drive the experience from out of it, and also get the data back. So basically the idea behind it is very known in the engineering industry and it’s all about digital twins. But we have our own platform for that at Oracle. And the idea was can I connect it with MetaVRse, and especially how long would it– actually, it was done in a flash.
Alan: What made it so quick, though? One of the things that I didn’t understand is how did you connect it? Is it because of the ability to code in it or…?
Alan: What would this typically take, if you were using something else? What is the time comparison? Are we talking days or…?
Sikaar: Really we’re talking about days, especially in the process of building the code. You need to compile it, then to make a build, then to release it. And that can be quite time consuming. One of the key things is that with MetaVRse, you don’t have this build time. Basically whatever you do, literally the next second you can try it, and eventually debug it if you need to. But that’s super fast process. And moreover, I really believe this is to be reminded to everyone: it is WebXR based, meaning whatever you release, the next second it’s available to everyone, basically.
Alan: Yeah. I think this is one thing that we — having done over 100 different products for different companies around the world — nobody likes pushing apps, because there’s always the delay. If you need an app for a launch of something and you’re sitting on pins and needles because Apple hasn’t approved it. With this, you just literally hit “save” or “publish” and it’s out there. So I think that’s a real bonus. And that was one of the things that we really strive to have that. It’s interesting that we just added a new feature this week, that I think you’re really going to love. I’ll show it to you later. But talk us through, you were using a Nordic Thingy IoT sensor. Can you maybe just walk us through how do you connected that?
Sikaar: So basically, this is a web Bluetooth device that is really used for prototyping and I would invite any geek around to try what it can do. And basically, it’s allowing you to capture a lot of metrics, should it be temperature, or humidity, and many other metrics that you can feed in to any system. But feeding it into an XR experience, and if you’ve got a digital twin of a real object — anything in real life — and you’re just figuring out to project it into XR, this comes to be really impressive. And in the demo we built, basically we are driving the object. So whenever you turn the device, it’s turning the view. Actually, we are now working on the feedback, which would be hugest things in virtual reality and tracking in the sensor in real life.
Alan: That’s incredible. So you’ve got to tell everybody, what was the object that you were manipulating?
Sikaar: So in the example– so what we do at Oracle is we had the red pump example, which is the IoT object. But, you know, I’m a geek and I love Star Wars. So I was using a Star Wars TIE Fighter.
Alan: That is super cool. I mean, why not use a TIE Fighter when experimenting? So the IoT experience that you created, I mean, that– what’s a practical application of that? How do we tie that to a practical use case?
Sikaar: We linked it actually to IoT fleet monitoring platform. So it’s really like you got a fleet of objects that would embark search sensor, and really demonstrating how you would be monitoring all those objects that could be spread actually across the world in your factories. If you’re into manufacturing in your car fleet, if you went to renting or leasing. And can be almost anywhere. And it was really important for us to also prove at scale that this is working. Really hard to have cars running all around. But I think digital twins spread across was kind of super easy.
Alan: It’s funny, because you posted that and I was like, “Whoa, this is great. Look at this! Somebody just connected an IoT sensor to our system, and now it’s working in 3D!” It was crazy. And we’ll put the video in the show notes, it’ll be on xrforbusiness.io. Of course, we’re going to do a blog post about this, because it’s just super cool and you’ve got to see the visuals of the TIE Fighter and the Nordic Thingy. But the other thing that you did is you took our Nike shoe configurator experience, and you built an analytics and retail optimization program out of it.
Sikaar: This is really tied to my original work at Oracle as a CX — customer experience — specialist, where my job is really about optimizing the experiences of customers, mostly on websites, applications. And for that, I’ve got two main products that we use. One is called Maximizer, and it’s all about A-B testing. Basically, you can test different configurations of your website. Because the product is ready to be used within XR, it was kind of a challenge. Can I plug that to an XR experience, completely change the setup of an experience, and try to measure which version was leading to the best conversion or the best engagement. Actually, in just again, a matter of less than an hour. It was their set up and everyone entering the experience will fall in one or the other version. But on the backend, we are measuring what’s working better. Which will lead to probably new ways of thinking of retails, because you can really have exactly what would fit you best as a display, as a layout, as products display for you. We can go down to recommendations and so on. So really interesting how we can optimize the experiences. For the Nike shoe configurator, what we did was we wanted to track in real time what people are choosing as options. And we found it really interesting, because today in most of the 3D engines, you have embarked really advanced analytics tools, but which are only talking about the experience itself, how many polygons do you have, eventually which scene is loaded. But within a scene it’s rather hard to know in which room people are, or that kind of stuff, of specific metrics. With the tool we use — Infinity from Oracle — we can get all the granularity of information and then turn those virtual experience into something that is feeding your real marketing systems and CRM systems, to transform your beautiful XR experience into something that is creating value, something that means business.
Alan: It’s interesting that in a time where more digital retail has occurred in the last three months, than all of human history. It’s insane. Nike, the CEO was quoted as saying that they had a plan to get to 30 percent digital penetration by 2023, and they’ve already hit 30 percent digital transformation since COVID hit. So the world is moving digital and these tools are going to enable retailers to make better marketing decisions, better e-commerce decisions. And how else do you see this platform being used across enterprise?
Sikaar: I see it as main two ways, and this is even something that is emerging today. But with XR either you present things differently, or you do things completely differently. This is new ways to engage your customers, your prospects. And I see that really as expanding beyond just AR filters. We see other platforms really focusing on that. What I really believe is how do you engage with your customers, or do you value their times and attention? And we see more and more, as well, gamification is being mentioned everywhere. But we know that those 3D engines — and especially MetaVRse — can be reused for that specific purpose. So bringing more engagement, getting consumer to play more with the brand, and getting a real customer experience actually means difference. This is really where I see the future going. That being said, to get there, it’s not just about building good looking experiences. As I said before, it will be all about integrating with existing system. Because if your experience leaves completely disconnected from your e-commerce system, from your logistic systems, it does not make sense. It’s just like a nice painting on the wall in a museum: looking nice, but not bringing you further in your customer experience.
Alan: It’s really interesting you say that, because the way we design this platform, it can be built either in the cloud — and we can just serve it from our servers — or it can be built on premises for whoever organization. And I think the interesting thing about that is that it can be fully customized to fit right into whatever company, your CMS system or your retail system. It’s an added feature to make things look pretty and give these engaging experiences. But really, you nailed it when you said it has to — it has to, *has to* — connect with your existing systems, because otherwise you just have something pretty. It has to convert. What do you anticipate the conversion rates are going to be like with this type of system?
Sikaar: So we already know from TWC studies[…]they made some interesting studies that you get up to three times better retention — so people staying longer in the experiences — and you increase your conventional rates by up to 50 percent, just because people can try — so they can either try on our try out — but again, really try and get a real sense of what the product would be like, or what the experience would be like if they buy it. But what I also believe strongly is that it comes at a more very human and emotional way. You’re really experimenting[sic] it by yourself. Pretty much like when you get people to try VR etc. for the first time, everyone is wowed with it. And we know that what is driving human decisions are emotions. And we will see more and more of those things coming up in the future.
Alan: Sikaar, I want to say, first of all, thank you for putting in the time and effort to innovate and develop and really push the limits of this technology and our technology. I’m the CEO of MetaVRse, so I am very biased here. But I want to say thank you for really showing us the true potential of our own platform. We had no idea that anybody would do what you did with it, and it really opened our eyes. What do you see as the ultimate potential of XR? What is the one thing that you want to see XR used for to change the world?
Sikaar: To be honest, better stuff for understanding of one’s health. I really believe that you learn a lot about yourself in those VR experiences. And I really believe there is a huge potential to develop empathy. There is experiences on the Oculus Go — I love that so much; I’m so, so sad that it will be discontinued — but there is this VR experience called Notes On Blindness. And another one called Traveling While Black, that is really helping to build empathy.
Alan: That should be mandatory watching for every student in America.
Sikaar: I will be speaking about business most of the time, but this is really what I strongly believe in: how VR can — and AR, but mostly VR — can really help build more empathy and better know oneself.
Alan: I love it. Sikaar, thank you so much. How can people find you? it’s Oracle.com, first of all. And people can find you on LinkedIn.
Sikaar: Yeah, I invite you all. You will find me Sikaar on LinkedIn.
Alan: Perfect. So thank you so much, Sikaar, for spending the time with us. Thank you for putting in this effort. And thank you for having the vision to push the limits of technology. You really, really opened our eyes. And actually, I want to just say, if anybody who’s listening wants to try to MetaVRse engine, it’s free to try. It’s engine.metavrse.com. You can give it a try and publish, you can do anything. It’s the full engine there. We literally launched this a month ago, so bear with us if there’s any blemishes on it. But we think it’s a very powerful platform. And I want to say thank you to Sikaar again.
Sikaar: Thank you for having me.
Alan: And thank you for listening to the XR for Business Podcast with your host, Alan Smithson. This has been another episode where we learn about the transformative power of XR technologies. You can learn more about this at xrforbusiness.io. And please subscribe to the channel so that you get all the updates. Thanks, guys.
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