The future is here, and it looks like…a hipster Colonel Sanders? Strange as it sounds, turning the antebellum-esque brand icon into a Millennial-friendly digital influencer is just one way that brands around the world are turning to XR to reach their audiences in inventive new ways.
Here to delve deeper into the ins-and-outs of marketing in XR is futurist Cathy Hackl, co-author of the brand-new book, Marketing New Realities. From Coachella, to virtual try-ons, and yes, even KFC’s “playboy chicken impresario,” Cathy explains how XR technologies will change the way we interact with our customers.
Alan: Today’s guest is Cathy Hackl. Cathy is a futurist, speaker, and amazing author. Cathy is an Emmy-nominated communicator-turned-augmented-and-virtual-reality-global-speaker, producer and, author. Cathy has worked with You Are Here Labs, HTC VIVE, as a virtual reality evangelist during the launch of their latest headset, the VIVE Pro, and during the company’s partnership with Warner Brothers blockbuster, Ready Player One. Cathy is also the co-author of Marketing New Realities: An Introduction to VR and AR Marketing, Branding and Communications. Cathy has been featured in media outlets like CNN, Silicon Beat, Entrepreneurs, CMO.com, Forbes Venture Beat, and so many more! She is a global adviser for the Virtual and Augmented Reality Association, and a leading voice in the VR space. For more information you can visit cathyhackl.com. It’s with great honor that I welcome developer/marketing specialist Cathy Hackl.
Welcome to the show, Cathy.
Cathy: Thank you Alan appreciate it. Happy to be here.
Alan: It’s such a great pleasure to have you. We’ve been very fortunate to have traveled around the world together, and been on different stages, and it’s so great to finally have you on on my show.
Cathy: I know! I’m really excited for your podcast. Congratulations.
Alan: Thank you so much. The idea with this podcast is to bring as much value as possible to businesses who are trying to kind of wrap their head around, “should I get into VR? What should I do? How do I get started?” All of that. So, I think you have an incredible insight as to this, and your book, Marketing New Realities. Let’s start there and kind of unpack some of the ways that marketers are starting to use virtual and augmented reality, and let’s dig in from there.
Cathy: For sure. So when we started the book — I co-authored it with Samantha Wolfe — when we started the book, you know, really the reason we wanted to do the book was to create an educational resource. For marketers, specifically, that had lots of questions that weren’t sure. And we created it as an educational resource for those marketers, that wanted questions answered. Also, as a way for marketers to educate their clients, right? They could bring the book to a meeting, they could leave the book with a potential client. So, you know, we just really put a lot of heart and soul into it, in making it something that people would be able to benefit from, from an educational standpoint. So it’s been quite successful, you know. We were at the South by Southwest bookstore. Adobe Summit had us up at their bookstore as well, so it’s been a wild ride, I have to say.
Alan: Absolutely incredible. So I actually had the pleasure of reading this book, maybe… it’s gonna be… when did you publish it?
Cathy: 2017, was it? I think it was 2017.
Alan: I remember reading it on a plane, and I was just glued to it. The whole flight, I read the book. And for those of you don’t know, it’s called Marketing New Realities; it’s available on Amazon, and you can get it there. The book is really in-depth, as to the ways you can use virtual and augmented reality. So let’s talk about some of the cool stuff that’s happening right now with marketing. I mean, you have seen some amazing used cases of this, but we’ve got to talk about what just happened in the past weekend, and that’s the launch of Game of Thrones.
Cathy: Yeah, I was… I thought you were gonna say Coachella!
Alan: Oh My God. Virtual and augmented reality is literally blowing the world up right now. Coachella just used AR, and Game of Thrones…where do we start?
Cathy: I don’t know! I was really excited to hear about Coachella’s AR stage. So, within the festival, they have different stages, right? And one of the stages had special filters and things that people could use on the Coachella app, and that was just really exciting, because it’s a totally different experience for the music goers that went to that stage. So from that standpoint, it gives them something different; be able to experience a concert in a totally different way than other stages that they have. So that was really exciting. You know, Game of Thrones as well. As you know, I do some work with Magic Leap — I don’t speak on their behalf — but they just launched the headsets at several AT&T stores, and one of the demos is an AR…well, no, a spatial computing experience for Game of Thrones. So, it’s just exciting, really exciting.
Alan: Snapchat released a lens this weekend, taking the Flatiron Building in New York, and one of the Dragons from Game of Thrones lands on top, and then the whole building freezes. This is incredible stuff.
Cathy: Yeah. I mean, it just… it lets a see the world in a totally different way, through our phones. And as you and I know, working in this industry, eventually that will go from our handsets to our headsets, right? So right now, we’re living through this: through the camera on the phone. But eventually, it’ll move up to our eyes. Another really cool thing that I saw this week was Colonel Sanders — KFC — so, KFC decided to make a virtual influencer out of their… instead of having their Instagram be about fried chicken, right in the restaurant, it’s now a virtual influencer. So just like Little McKayla, who has one point five million followers and is a CGI influencer, they created their own. And it is truly fantastic.
Alan: Harland Sanders. He’s like, their playboy chicken impresario.
Cathy: Yeah, I love it. I think he’s like a combination of, like, hustle culture and being “woke,” quote unquote — you know, in quotations, being “woke” with, like, spirituality — and inspirational/motivational speaker. They’re just making fun of a lot of trends in a really fun way.
Alan: And for those of you who don’t know, if you’re on Instagram, look up… I think it’s Harland Sanders or it’s–
Cathy: It’s KFC’s handle!
Alan: Oh my goodness.
Cathy: Yeah it’s KFC.
Alan: They literally took this digital avatar and you know.. he’s got tattoos, and it’s awesome.
Cathy: “Secret recipe.” That’s what his tattoo says. I love the trend because whenever I speak on any stage, I talk about digital humans, virtual humans; I have always said, Wendy’s is the type of brand that should do this. Their social, media if we follow them on social media, they’ve got, you know, Wendy’s on social media has a personality, right? Even though it’s social, a social media… it’s a team. But it’s got a very clear personality and voice. And I’ve always said, Wendy’s should do this. And then KFC does this, and I’m like, this is fantastic. It aligns with the immersive and everything, because of the virtual human digital avatar aspect about how to market your brand.
Alan: Absolutely. I want to go back just for a second to Coachella, just to give people a visual. I know Tom Emrich was there, and he was posting a bunch of things — and for those of you who don’t know, Tom is an investor in super ventures and also he runs the AWE Conference, Augmented World Expo, which is happening at the end of May. So if you want to go to that, that is the kind of quintessential conference for this–.
Cathy: We’ll both be there.
Alan: We will be there. What are you doing there?
Cathy: I’m speaking on AI and XR.
Alan: Guess what I’m doing soon. I just got asked to do a talk on brain-computer interface AI and XR.
Cathy: Oh, I love it! That’s fantastic.
Alan: It’s so nerdy!
Cathy: I love it.
Alan: I still don’t have a title for it yet, but we’ll come up with something.
Alan: But Coachella. One of the things — to give people a visual — is you can hold up your phone and they were using visual markers around the Sahara stage, which is their giant tent there. And when you’re there, you can hold it up and see a giant full-size NASA space shuttle shooting through the space, and planets and everything all around you. It was incredible. Absolutely incredible. And I don’t know how many people engaged with it, it would be interesting… I actually have Sam Schoonover, who is the head of innovation for AEG and Coachella, he’s gonna be on the show coming up. So we’ll have to ask him about the metrics and how many people used it, but also, they did something really interesting and I thought it was quite useful; they actually had an AR navigation tool, where you hold up your phone and it can tell you where key things are around the location.
So I know you worked with You Are Here Labs before, and they’ve done some of this work as well. What are some of the things you’ve seen and kind of AR navigation?
Cathy: You know, AR navigation I don’t know… I didn’t really work on any project with You Are Here regarding that, but I did experience it when I was at the Doha Airport in Qatar, where the app actually does have augmented reality wayfinding. And it was pretty useful, pretty interesting; would help you find certain landmarks within the airport, and also help you find your gate, figure out how far away you are. So that was a pretty interesting experience.
I know the DFW airport, Dallas Airport, was trying to launch something like that, but I don’t think they actually did. It was more of a prototype.
Alan: Yeah, A lot of companies and especially airports seeming to give these experiences and really… I don’t know why they don’t seem to be moving out of proof of concept. Maybe they’re not driving the value that people thought, or people just aren’t using it. So it’s interesting to see what people are experimenting, with and then what sticks. Because really, nobody really knows right now. It’s kind of.
Cathy: I think a WebXR, WebAR, whatever we want to call it, will be helpful in that sense, because it’ll reduce the friction; you don’t have to download an app. For example, with the Doha Airport, I had to download the app. I don’t have it on my phone anymore. Not until the next time I go through Doha.
Alan: It makes sense. I mean, the thing is everybody keeps pushing WebXR and as you know, as well, it’s a really difficult thing to pull off and do right. You’re very limited with the amount of power that you can have running through web — for now. It’ll change with technology. But I think there’s nothing wrong with you know downloading an app, to use it for a specific use case, and then jettisoning it.
Cathy: As long as the client’s happy and the numbers are there, then that works. I’ll give you an example: one of the clients at You Are Here that we worked on was Oldcastle. They’re a multibillion-dollar construction products company, and they’re already using VR and they wanted to find a way to use AR in a useful way. So we created an app with ARKit, an app for contractors. The whole point of the app is for the contractors to go into a client’s house — a potential client — measure the space with AR, and then immediately measuring the space through augmented reality and the camera, they’re able to pull up how many bags of concrete that person needs and where to buy it. And then also suggests different types of products that could be used, depending on how deep the slab of concrete has to be. So it’s been very useful, because before, they would go in with a measuring tape, they’d have to go back to a chart — like, it was just all these steps that, all of a sudden, they just come together through augmented reality, and it’s pretty precise.
We’re still waiting to see the metrics, but the response so far from the contractors has been very, very positive. And this is a B2B app; it’s in App Store and anyone could download it, but it’s really made for the contractors that work with this company.
Alan: It’s interesting that, you know, I think… we talk about using virtual and augmented reality for marketing — we talked about how Coachella’s doing it, and Game of Thrones, and KFC and all these things — but really when it comes down to it, I think utilitarian applications like the Oldcastle one, where you can take your phone, point it at a section of the ground, tap Four Corners and it will automatically calculate the volume… or not volume, but the surface area of concrete that you require. That is a useful app. And yeah, it’s not an app you’re going to use every day. It’s not like Instagram or LinkedIn or whatever, but it’s useful for the time you need it. It’s similar to the Floorecast app that we built, where it can replace the flooring and show you what your new floors are going to look like.
Cathy: A contractor would use it every day. We wouldn’t, but a contractor who actually does this every single day regardless is going to use that app. So it can be extremely useful from a B2B perspective, for sure.
Alan: So you know what? Let’s talk about that. A lot of people listening are probably thinking, “okay well, I sell products to the end user. How do I leverage this?” Or, “I work through resellers.” I think this is a really great opportunity for brands to create tools like this that can measure, that can… maybe it’s Coke, and they want to see what a Coke display looks like in a restaurant, and they want to be able to show that in full volumetric. I think these B2B apps are really starting to be the thing that gets people excited.
Cathy: Exactly. It’s the visualization; it’s actually being able to see something. For too long, I think we’ve been constrained to flat screens. Even architects and designers that are working on 3D models, they’re working on those on a flat screen, right? With these technologies, you’re able to break that screen and really bring that 3D content into the real world. So John Bozell, who I used to work with at You Are Here, would say, “our world is not flat; our content shouldn’t be either.” *Most* people think it’s not flat, at least. But we don’t live in a flat world necessarily. So our content doesn’t necessarily need to be flat.
And that’s what I hear a lot from architects and designers out there, is that if you are designing a product to function in the real world, being able to design that product in the actual 3D, 360° model is extremely powerful. It’s a totally different paradigm than having to design a 3D model on a flat screen.
Alan: Absolutely. Absolutely. And you know, John is going to be on the show as well, so it’s pretty awesome, the stuff that they’ve done and you’ve helped with — it’s been it’s been a really interesting path. So let me ask you… let’s take this back to basics. What is the best XR experience — or what is one of them — that you’ve ever had?
Cathy: I mean, I’ve been through so many, and I always usually get asked this. I always go back to an experience I had at Tribeca Film Festival. That’s really my favorite film festival; I mean, Sundance is great, but for some reason Tribeca and I have this kind of relationship, let’s say (ha! I have a relationship with Tribeca). I did an experience there about two years ago called Treehugger, where you would put on a VR headset and you would have this trippy experience, and it had smell — you could smell the redwoods. It was just very powerful. I was really tired when I tried it on. I did the experience, which was like 10 minutes, and then I completely felt re energized after that. And even though things might have advanced technologically a lot more since that experience, it still stays in my mind because it was extremely powerful. I saw the power of being able to use these technologies for meditation, for something beyond just business, let’s say. And that to me was very powerful.
Alan: Was that the experience called Tree?
Cathy: Treehugger. Wawona Treehugger.
Alan: There’s another one tree in VR, where you’re a tree.
Cathy: You *are* a tree. Yeah, no, this is like you’re… here you’re kind of… I mean, you kind of become a tree? But not really. Yeah, I don’t know. Actually, it won some type of award that year at Tribeca.
Cathy: That was pretty exciting. And yeah, I’ve seen a lot of stuff. A lot of us are under NDAs and can’t really talk about some of the crazy stuff we might have seen, or have seen what’s coming up, but I always go back to that one because to me it was impactful. I was like, wow, this is very powerful.
Alan: Incredible. It’s interesting that you never know what’s going to be there. I know one of the talks you gave, you spoke about an experience that Nonny de la Peña made called Solitary Confinement or Solitary, where you’re in a prison solitary confinement cell in virtual reality and that’s, you know… how was that?
Cathy: That was my pivotal moment. I call that my XR origin story. I trace it back… let’s go back. I’m going to take you way back, to 2004. So 2004, I was working for CNN, and part of my job there was to look at all the raw footage that was coming in from the war in Iraq. Just like the Facebook moderators, when you have that type of job, you have to kind of turn your humanity switch off just a little bit to get by.
And for me, it wasn’t until I did that experience, called Confinement by The Guardian, that I didn’t feel like I was able to turn it fully back on. That was about what, three and a half years ago, at a conference, I got invited to put on a headset. Put on HTC VIVE, went into this experience. For me, it was my first time doing VR. Three to four minutes, you know, I was completely claustrophobic, because the experience puts you in a 6×9-metre solitary confinement cell, where prisoners spend about 90 per cent of their time. In, I would say, a couple of minutes, I took the headset off; I was blown away. I was like, “this is the future of storytelling on some level, and this is what I would do for the rest of my life.” So that for me was a very pivotal moment. It was kind of the moment where I recognized the rocket when I saw one, and I got on that rocket. And here we are: you’re on that rocket, too.
Alan: We all have that kind of “a-ha” moment. Mine was in a small tent in the middle of the redwood forest with Chris Milk, and he showed me VR. I put it on; I was standing on stage next to Beck, and he was singing, and I was standing on stage. I just had that — exactly what you said — that pivotal moment, and mine was, I had this moment, I was like, “oh my God, this is the future of human communications.” And so, if we extrapolate that out… so, we’ve had we’ve had these emotional experiences, and one of the things that always gets me — and brands need to start thinking this way — is the ability to add other senses.
You mentioned Treehugger, and how you could smell the redwoods. I think the sense of smell is very, very underutilized in these technologies right now. And I think it can be a really strong memory motivator for brands to link an experience to their brand, and to the individuals. Have you tried anything else in that spirit?
Cathy: Not really. I haven’t really tried anything else with smell, which is, that’s why I think it stayed in my mind so much. I haven’t really…no, nothing memorable. Nothing I would say yeah it made… you know, it totally… yeah, no.
Alan: There’s only been two for me. One of them, I try to smell… it was a demo of a scent machine, and I picked up a cup of in VR, and I smelled it and it smelled like coffee and a chocolate bar. And then the last thing, the guy goes, “smell the girl!” I was like, “okay, this is weird.,” I look over, there’s an anime girl there, and I lean over and she smells like perfume.
Cathy: Oh, that’s funny.
Alan: The second one was Ghostbusters in VR!
Cathy: Oh, that’s right, yeah! That’s right.
Alan: You shoot Marshmallow Man, and all of a sudden, you smell marshmallows everywhere.
Cathy: Yeah I forgot about that. I guess I was so much into the action that I’d even…but yep, it’s true.
Alan: We don’t even think about it.
So let’s kind of shift focus to some business use cases, because really, the consumer adoption of VR, it’s taking off and consumers are starting to get on and watch 360 videos through their Oculus Go. They’re starting to buy VIVE Pros and Oculus for their houses, and really, that gaming side is really taking off. But let’s take a look at the business use cases. What are some of the best business use cases that you’ve seen of XR technologies?
Cathy: I mean, definitely training. On the enterprise side and training, I was able to advise UPS as a VR expert prior to the launch of their VR driver training program, and I think that’s very powerful, when you’re able to train someone in VR multiple times before they actually get on the road, and help them through VR to be better drivers, avoid human error, and keep both the driver and the community safe. That to me is very powerful. I know it’s you know I know it’s being used in multiple ways.
Raymond Corporation up in upstate New York — which by the way, Fast Company named them one of the top most innovative VR/AR companies — they’re are forklift company, but they’re using VR training, and soon AR as well. So very, very powerful that we’re able to use these technologies to make training more interactive, more fun, and to keep people safe. What else would we want? These technologies have to provide true utility, like you said. So that’s extremely powerful, when you’re able to train people and make everyone safer.
Alan: It’s interesting, we’re about to make some some announcements, but one of the..how do I say this without saying anything? One of the things we’re working on is virtual reality simulators for career development. So, we can sit in an excavator and drive an excavator. You can learn how to weld. You can learn plumbing techniques. The excavator one is literally mind-blowing. I sat in an excavator — I’ve never been in one of my life in real life — sat in there, put on the headset. The sounds, the everything except for the smell, and I learned how to drive an excavator. I was terrible at it, and I killed a couple of people on my way, but they were virtual people so it was OK. But if I spent maybe another couple of hours in there, maybe two hours I think, I would be proficient enough to go out and drive one.
So what I’m gonna do is, my daughters are 10 and 14; I’m going to run them through two hours of the excavator training, and then my brother owns a construction company. He’s going to let them drive the excavator. We’re going to film them in VR training, and then we’re going to take them on a real excavator and see how they do.
Cathy: But no real people around, I hope.
Alan: Well, we will keep clear of them!
Cathy: But that’s awesome! That’s really, really cool. See? It’s just very powerful technology. Did you ever try the experience from Accenture that Cortney Harding worked on, with the social worker going into the home? It’s very powerful. Very, very powerful.
Alan: No, what’s that one?
Cathy: Accenture has really made a lot of headlines with it. It’s to train social workers to the real-life type of situations they are going to face. Right? Social work is a hard job. It’s a tough job, when you’re going into these homes that have a lot of issues and a lot of problems, and it was just really mind-blowing. I know they made a lot of headlines at South by [Southwest], what went with this piece. And that being said, I think it’s really interesting to watch how Accenture is buying up Droga5, and how all these different consulting companies are buying up all these marketing and creative shops. And I think that that signals also a great thing for us as an industry.
Alan: Yeah there’s been a bunch of acquisitions. I know Walmart acquired Spatialand. Accenture acquired, was it Droga5?
Cathy: Droga5, yeah.
Alan: And I know Deloitte Digital has started acquiring some companies…
Cathy: Are they going to acquire you? (laughs)
Alan: I, uh…I can’t say anything (laughs). We’re actually thinking a bit bigger. We’re actually not looking for an acquisition, we’re looking to…yeah, I’ll tell you off–.
Cathy: Offline. There you go. You always have something interesting growing.
Alan: We’ll be announcing it at AWE this year that, I think, people are going to go crazy for. It’s something that’s very needed in this industry and… yeah, that’s all I can say!
Cathy: No I mean–
Alan: It’s called Avenue. Sorry, what did you say?
Cathy: What did you say about Avenues?
Alan: It’s called Avenues. Virtual reality makes the unknown familiar in human services. So, we’ll put it in the show notes. For those of you who are interested, it will be in the show notes. So, what other… let’s… I always like to get as many examples as possible of great things that have come out of virtual and augmented reality, because I think it really comes down to people seeing as many use cases, and hearing as many use cases, as possible. So what are some of the other business use cases that you’ve seen, that made you kind of go, “wow, that’s a really good idea?”
Cathy: Ovation, which is for public speaking. I thought that was really powerful. You and I do a lot of public speaking, so we’re fine. We don’t necessarily need that type of training to get over fear, necessarily. bBut I think a lot of people that are not used to being on stage and talking to either small or large groups of people, that type of training can be very successful. It can be very powerful. So you put the headset on, and you go into this experience you’re speaking in front of a crowd through VR. And through VR, you’re able to see, are people engaged? Are they looking at you, or are they looking at their phones?
Alan: This is really perfect, because my daughter, she’s 10 and she just got advanced to the next level of her speaking competition. So she’s literally terrified of public speaking, as most people are. And most people equivocate that with a fear of death. But she’s terrified, and I said, “well, there’s got to be a VR speaking thing.” So this is literally perfect. It’s called Ovation?
Cathy: Ovation, yeah. I mean, it’s not that expensive. You buy several licenses. They had it at VIVE’s during CS, VIVE had it at its booth. And it was interesting, because I was hanging out with the CEO one of the top PR firms, and he went to see it and then he was like, “you know what? This would make a great media training type of experience for a client.” You know, when you have the big brands, and you’re bringing in the executives to do media training, and they usually do this mock interview with a real person. You could prepare them prior to that with VR. And I thought, that’s really fantastic! You could get so many metrics out of it, as well as prepare the person prior to that. So that when they’re actually doing the mock interview — or when they’re on-air –that they actually have practiced this multiple times. So very, very useful, once again. That’s another great use case.
Alan: Interesting. You know, we’ve gone the full gamut, from marketing things, where you’ve got the Game of Thrones dragons landing on buildings. Now you’ve got public speaking training in VR, training to drive tractors and forklifts. It really is one of those technologies that is literally unlimited, and I think that’s one of the problems that I’ve always had; how do you choose what to do in this industry? You’ve done a ton of different things, you’ve worked with different companies, anddoing some work with Magic Leap right now, which is pretty exciting. What are some of the other things you’re seeing out there that people are kind of maybe working on, that won’t see the light of day for a few years? I know Spatial is working on communications back-and-forth, and being able to have meetings virtually. I think in the next 12 months, I’ll be able to host this podcast in augmented reality, where you’re standing across from me and I can see you, and we can have a face-to-face conversation. It’s coming.
Cathy: Yeah, I mean, all those things are obviously coming. And a lot of us that work in the industry, we see the long game. Right? I think a lot of people are focused on *today* and that’s great. But a lot of us are working on the long game. We understand what’s coming down in the future, et cetera. I have to say, like, I’m geeking out from a non-professional standpoint. I’m not working on these technologies, but I’m geeking out over facial recognition.
You were in China. I was in China as well. And just the level of facial recognition that’s being used for good — and bad — was really interesting. I got to my hotel; I was out to check in with my face. I went to the KFC future concept store, where you smile to pay. I couldn’t smile to pay, because I didn’t have an Alipay account at that point. So I couldn’t do that, but I watch people do it, and it was super simple. I watched someone get money out of an ATM with their face. So, just very, very powerful, to watch these technologies.
And obviously, it has an element of augmented reality, and an element of computer vision. It’s just really interesting to see how all these technologies — both VR/AR and spatial computing — merge with AI and machine learning, computer vision, block chain, you name it. And obviously, 5G. They’re all merging together; there’s this convergence, to use Charlie Fink’s book title, there’s this convergence of all these technologies just pushing that forward. But what was your experience in China with facial recognition? I’m curious.
Alan: I actually only saw it in action once, and it was in the Tencent building, Tencent Holings. They own, well, pretty much everything; they own WeChat, they own a big chunk of Epic Games. They’re mostly in gaming and communications but, their building is this massive, beautiful building there. They had, like, a hundred-foot rock climbing wall, and it’s just an incredible building. But the whole building is based around facial recognition admission. I got to try, and you can see a little screen there. It does a little point cloud map of your face, and then goes red and says you don’t have access, which I thought was really cool.
Cathy: “You can’t come in!”
Alan: One of the workers came along and stuck their head there and it worked. It was incredible. One of the other things that I saw, when we went to see JD.com, they have a fantastic… These people, you know, for the people who are listening, and you’re wondering what’s happening in China? Everything that’s happening in the US and around the world is happening in China, only faster and bigger. They have so many people there that are on the mobile economy that it’s just unfathomable to understand. I went into the JD store, and one of the things that got me has nothing to with VR or AR; they had real-time ePaper pricing. So products on the shelf have an ePaper price underneath that can be changed anytime, and they have dynamic pricing, so as the demand for the product goes up, the pricing goes up. As the demand goes down, the pricing goes down. And it’s real time; so your pricing in physical stores matches what’s online. And I thought that was really cool.
Cathy: And it looks like paper! Like, the signs *look* like paper, which is crazy.
Alan: It’s crazy — you can have graphics on it, and it’s all updated through AI algorithms. So let’s just talk about some of the marketing tools, because I wrote an article called “Augmented Reality’s First Killer App,” and I wrote about virtual try-ons.
Cathy: Virtual try-ons, yeah.
Alan: That seems to be something that is resonating with consumers. So, can you speak to some of the things you’ve seen in the field with regards to marketing? Because there’s so much coming out. What should people invest in?
Cathy: You know what? I’m a big proponent of people experimenting, especially if you’re marketing. Experimenting with Lens Studio from Snapchat, which is free. Experimenting with Spark AR for Facebook (Instagram is only available in beta). But those are free tools that any marketer can start experimenting with, without knowing much code. You don’t really need to know how to code to start using those, but very powerful, I agree with you. I know that you’ve been one of the leaders in the V-commerce movement, pushing for the industry. And I love the term “virtual try-on.” I’ve been one of those people that has actually bought something after trying to it on in augmented reality. For Fashion Week Victoria–
Alan: What did you buy?
Cathy: I bought a pair of glasses from Victoria Beckham.
Alan: No way. And you tried them on first?
Cathy: Yeah, yeah! So, it was fashion week, and I’m a big fan of hers. I got into the Chatbot, and I was looking at what was going on, and all of a sudden, it’s like, “you want to try on this new pair of sunglasses?” I was, like oh my gosh. Fantastic, right? So I opened up the camera — obviously, it’s all about camera marketing — and I tried on the two types of models of sunglasses. And from there, I was able to immediately click, after I tried them on and took a photo. The bot gave me some feedback, like, “oh you look great,” right? Of course they’re going to give you great feedback! And it said, “you can preorder by clicking here.” So I clicked, and then I preordered the sunglasses, and I have them now.
Alan: So, let me ask you a question. Do you have the photo of when you virtually tried them on?
Cathy: Yes, I do.
Alan: Can you do a side-by-side of it with the real ones?
Cathy: I should do that, yeah!
Alan: And then add it into your Real or AR?
Cathy: Yeah. Well yeah, I should do that, definitely. That would be really fun.
Alan: If you send it over, we will put it in the show notes as well, so people can see Cathy with AR glasses and then the real thing. That’s actually pretty awesome.
Cathy: I don’t think I’m doing a lot of Real & AR, because someone reached out to me saying that it’s something — and it wasn’t Helen, it was someone else — reached out to me and said that I had to stop doing that on stage because they’re the ones that use it, and I’m like oh god…
Alan: Oh, whatever.
Cathy: So you know, it’s all good.
Alan: I think, definitely keep using it on stage, and even more so.
Cathy: Yeah, I was like, “okay, whatever.” I don’t know, I don’t like conflict. I’m actually working on something really interesting for one of my presentations, that’s a little bit, you know, completely different from that. But I think it’ll be exciting. So we’ll see, we’ll see how it goes.
Alan: Amazing. I’m actually starting to incorporate live demos into my presentations now, because why not?
Cathy: I think it’s very valuable because, you know, and Chris Milk said it best: he said, “talking about VR is like dancing about architecture.” It’s really hard when people haven’t tried that, haven’t tried the technology, or haven’t really seen ways that it actually works. So yeah, I think it’s extremely useful.
Alan: So, let me ask you something: What do you see as the future of VR/AR/MR/XR, virtual, augmented, mixed reality and XR, as it pertains to business? What is the future? What can we expect?
Cathy: Right now it’s enterprise, to be honest. Right now, I think enterprise is really where it’s at.
Alan: And explain that to people that are listening that maybe don’t understand the difference between enterprise, or business, or marketing, or consumer–.
Cathy: You know, it’s more on the verticals. For example, healthcare is one of the places where it’s being used a lot for training, for all types of analysis. Like I said, HR, for training someone, for recruiting, architecture design, engineering.. all these different verticals — manufacturing’s another one — all these different verticals within enterprise that are not consumer. This is more on the business-to-business side that are using these technologies.
First of all, obviously have the budgets to do some of these trainings, and they can actually put them to true use, where it affects how many products are created in an hour. You know it’s just it’s a totally different ballgame, I think, than consumer.
Alan: Yeah, we had HTC’s president Alvin Wang Graylin on the show–
Cathy: Oh, I love him, yeah!
Alan: –And he was talking about Bell Helicopters, how they took normally three-to-four years to design and build a helicopter, and they did it in six months using virtual reality. That’s like a 10x return on that.
Cathy: And that’s not a consumer project; that’s an enterprise project. I actually visited VIVE’s Beijing headquarters when I was there, and I got to hang out with Alvin. It was pretty cool.
Alan: Wonderful people there; they’re very dedicated and very passionate about what they do. You know I’m just going to recap our talk, because I know you have another important meeting to get to. So just to recap, we talked about Marketing New Realities, your book, and I think that anybody who’s getting into this who wants to learn how to use these technologies for marketing any products, whether they be consumer-facing or B2B, whatever, Marketing New Realities, that book is essential reading in my opinion. We talked about Coachella, how they’re using augmented reality to bring a new dimension to their stages. We talked about Game of Thrones; promoting both on Magic Leap, and on your phone; KFC using a virtual influencer, and how digital humans are going to be the future of our influencers. I read an article about it, and the thing was with influencers, there’s always this risk — or, *human* influencers — there’s always a risk of them going off the reservation and–
Cathy: Going rogue.
Alan: –getting drunk at a party. But with digital influencers, as long as the people making it don’t do that, you’re not going to have those issues. And you don’t have to pay them.
Cathy: You’ve got to pay the people that create it, but yes.
Alan: But we also talked about Doha Airport using AR wayfinding and how other airports and public spaces are using AR for wayfinding. You talked about Oldcastle, a company that’s using an augmented reality measuring tool to be able to calculate how much cement you would need to buy for worksite. We talked about B2B use cases, visualization, “our world is not flat; our content shouldn’t be otherwise.” I think that’s a quote from John Bizzell that you are quoting there. And we talked about training, how UPS is using driver training to prepare drivers for the real world, and same with Raymond, they’re using forklift VR training to prepare people for that. Accenture is using XR to train social workers. Ovation is training people how to be better public speakers. So, it sounds like training is that magical thing, and every person that comes on the show, it ends up being training is the king.
So, one of the things that I learned from one of the other guests on the show was RIDE — R-I-D-E — so, training in VR is useful when it’s rare, impossible to train for, occurs in a dangerous environment, or is expensive. Any one of those four, and it’s ripe for the taking. So you also mentioned two things that I think listeners should really pay attention to: Snap and their Lens Studio, being able to leverage the fact that Snap has over a trillion snaps a year. *Trillion.* And Facebook has their Spark AR platform, where you can just, without learning how to code, you can start creating studio lenses and AR lenses immediately. So, the camera marketing of things.
We talked about virtual try-ons; how you actually bought a pair of glasses using virtual try-on, which is pretty awesome. And then we talked about how the future of this is in healthcare, training, HR, recruiting, architecture, design — really the enterprise use cases. Manufacturing. And those are going to be the cases that bring them money into the industry, and then really allow the consumers to have a much better experience when the time for consumer XR really takes off in the next five-to-six years yeah.
Cathy: Definitely, we live in a very exciting time. Those of us like you and I, that have been in the industry for a couple of years, it’s just a really exciting time. It really is a moment that we need to just celebrate.
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