Helping Firefighters Douse Blazes Around the World, with RiVR’s Alex Harvey

Firefighters need to train like any other professional, and their training usually involves setting a mock set ablaze – which, as you might imagine, would be costly to reset. Enter RiVR, who are using 360 video and photogrammetry to recreate these practice blazes digitally. CEO Alex Harvey and Alan have a heated discussion on the topic.

Alan: Hey, everyone, my name is Alan Smithon, your host for the XR for Business Podcast. Today we have Alex Harvey, CEO and creative director at RiVR, a virtual reality training and visualization company based in the UK. RiVR harnesses the power of VR and photogrammetry technology to create interactive, immersive training experiences. They’re currently working with the UK Home Office, UK Fire Service, Police Service and the Department of Defense in the US. Their ultimate goal is to enhance the way humans learn (I love that). Alex has a deep understanding of the games industry, having worked on commissions for the likes of Codemasters, the BBC, and Ford Motor Company. He’s obsessed with harnessing the latest A/V technology to make the real world differences that we all need. He gets to work with incredibly talented people to make this happen, and to quote him, “I love the feelings and memories we can evoke in VR when technology, creativity, and innovation collide.” I love that quote. RiVR’s exhibited at six different VR shows this year, including CES Vegas, and their technology has been reported on by the BBC. To learn more about RiVR, you can visit rivr.uk.

Alex, welcome to the show, my friend.

Alex: Hi, Alan. Nice to meet you. Nice to speak again.

Alan: Yeah. We’ve been kind of back and forth on LinkedIn, and emails, and it’s really finally great to sit down and have a conversation with you.

Alex: It is such a busy world, and it’s great to chat in person.

Alan: Listen, let’s dive right into this. Explain to us what RiVR is and how it’s making a difference.

Alex: RiVR is “Reality in Virtual Reality.” We’ve been creating VR experiences now for probably nearer to three years with the production company, starting back in 2014, but we started obviously with 360 video doing things for Thomson Holidays — you experience what it’s like to be on a cruise ship, or be on a plane. That was three years ago. Then we started moving into the room-scale photogrammetry world, with very much a significant push at RiVR for training, and using photorealism to make sure that the users of our experiences are completely immersed. I often say to people, “I want you to feel like you’re in the world, and not in a Simpsons cartoon world.” It is very much pushing photogrammetry and photo realism into VR. You know, there’s a lot of people doing photogrammetry now, but two, three years ago? It was only of the likes of–

Alan: That was you and Simon!

Alex: Yeah! [laughs] Me, Simon and Realities.IO. They were the guys that were pushing it. And it really felt like when I saw those early experiences of Realities.IO and Simon’s stuff, it felt like I was inside a video, but not quite? I want to try and be inside video content. I think that–

Alan: Let me kind of unpack this fruit for people listening. So, what Alex and his team do is they go into a space, and they will take hundreds of photographs — if not thousands of photographs — of the space, and they’ll convert that into a game engine-based experience, where you can actually walk around. Now, what I think is really mind-blowing about what you guys have done at RiVR is, not only do you create the environment, but then you take specific parts of the environment — for example, you’re doing fire recreation studies, and one of the things that you can do is pick up the different items — and I thought that was really cool because they look photo-real — they look like they were part of the scene, and you can pick them up, investigate them, look underneath them.

Alex: Yeah.

Alan: And the way you guys have done it is incredible. If you want to take a look at this while you’re listening to this podcast, go to RiVR.uk. Just look at the video that’s on the main page. It really explains a lot.

Alex: Yeah. I mean, that was… I should go into… and I do often, as I think, you know, everyone does in this industry; we dive into terms like “photogrammetry” and “photorealism,” but we do need to explain what they are a bit more. So let me just quickly go into that.


When we recreate those fire investigation scenes, we burn a real world container. And that’s how the fire service train their fire investigators all around the world, currently. But then they have to go into that container with a certain amount of people, and then they have to — in a week’s time — do it again. So there’s no consistency in that training. We do the same thing; burn the container, and then we put the fire out, and then there might be a hundred items inside that burned container. We take each item out, one by one, and scan each item from every angle, using a 12-camera photogrammetry rig — you can see stuff on the website, actually — and it gets a photo from every angle of the object. And then we put it back into the software, create really high-quality, photorealistic model of each item, and then we rebuild the container as it was in the real world and then allow you to pick up every item, look underneath it and find the cause of the fire.

We also use 360 video to show you at the end of it — for your learning outcome — where the fire actually started. And we’re doing that for the crime scenes as well as the fire scenes.

Alan: I noticed on your LinkedIn page or Facebook — I can’t remember — but you guys melted a camera, a GoPro, the other day.

Alex: Yeah, the GoPro Fusion. Thanks, GoPro! They do supply us with quite a few cameras. We melt quite a few GoPros. And also, yeah, the Samsungs get a bit melted. If anyone knows Kirk McKenzie in Consumers Fire Department in the US over in Sacramento, he is working with GoPro on their next camera, to make sure it’s a little bit more sturdy.

Alan: [Laughs]Yes! “Can you please make as the camera doesn’t melt in our fire?”

Alex: Yeah.

Alan: We actually melted one of the Samsung Gear VRs back in the day. And I don’t remember how it got melted. I don’t even remember, now.

Alex: On the last burn, we actually had to put two Samsungs in and one Fusion. And we pulled the Samsungs out at different times just to make sure we had a cause of the fire, up until it gets too dark.

Alan: Yeah. Well, you gotta get it out before it melts.

Alex: Yeah.

Alan: It’s really amazing work that you guys are doing. How is this translating to real world benefits? Because you’re taking a thing, you’re burning it, you’re then putting in VR. What benefit does that give the fire service?

Alex: At the moment, when they do the fire investigation training — like I said — they put 20 people through. But if you’re the last person, all you see is a load of footprints in the container. It doesn’t look like a real scene would look, because it’s been stomped through by loads of firemen. We can press reset and give consistent and repeatable training to everyone, all around the world.

I guess I’ll touch quickly on RiVR Investigate, which we’ve now got our own facility, where we have containers and we work with fire investigators to recreate the scenarios of different types of fires. In September, when Investigate launches, there’ll be six different fire investigation scenarios, and two crime scenes scenarios. This gives people the ability to be… you can be in the scenes together, so you can be in different locations around the world, but all looking in the same scene. You can record the whole training scenario, so you can see from any angle how people pick the items up. And you’re teaching people, because of the photorealism, about the burn patterns and the smoke patterns and the fire behavior of a single burn.

Eventually, we are going to have a library of these scenarios, and the fire service around the world will not have to create these scenes as much. They can just put a headset on. And at the moment, there’s like a three-day training course to do a fire investigation, and they have to take fire fighters off-duty to go on the course. Well, with this product, you can be in VR, in the fire station. And if the bell rings, you just take the VR headset off and go out.

Alan: Oh, that’s amazing. So this is like a massive time savings.

Alex: Yes. Yeah.

Alan: Are you also seeing an increase in… because I know in most VR training that we’ve been seeing, there’s also an increase in retention rates.

Alex: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’ve heard the stuff that Alvin Graylin at HTC talked about with the knowledge retention being increased by 6x in VR, and we’re actually working with Coventry University, Leicester Fire Service, and Derbyshire Fire Service, and they’re evaluating it as we speak. So they’ve got real fire investigators going through our scenarios, and they’re comparing it to the real-world training. Like, they’re comparing it with a real fire investigation and courses, just to see if that knowledge retention is more. And we’re also putting people that are non-fire-investigators through the courses, to see how they retain the information.

Alan: Oh, that’s amazing. How’s that coming along?

Alex: It’s great. I’ve been down, actually, and seen the guys using it. And we’ve got it set up next to a real fire investigation burn in Derbyshire for their courses. And yeah, so far, the feedback is amazing, and it’s really good seeing it. It makes everyone at RiVR know that we are very much on the right track.

Alan: Yeah, I think one of the main things is that this is scalable training. That’s what people don’t understand, is that the current training methodologies — especially in fire services — it’s not scalable. You have to have every employee travel to a place that has this physical space, where virtual reality, it can be anywhere. You can ship it to anybody, anywhere.

And the other thing that I think it’s really amazing about what you’re doing is you can standardize the training. Whereas, if you have a fire brigade in the south — and maybe they train differently than the ones in north — and everybody gets a different training.

Alex: Yeah, totally. And everyone trains different around the world. So, this gives the ability for the UK to see how the Americans do it, and vice versa. What we’re getting at the moment is, we did quite a few shows around the US this year and last year. But what we’re finding is that the fire services in the US, they see the UK burns and they love them, and they can learn from them, but they want to have their own style burns, because there’s a few things that they do differently. So what we offer is the ability for the RiVR team to come over to the US – or, we’re doing some in the Netherlands with Martine at the moment as well — where we go and burn with those guys, and scan two or three of their burns, and put those burns into the library. So, it’s more like a global fire investigation and crime scene training scenarios.

Alan: That’s just amazing, because now, rather than standardize it across just the UK, you’re able to take the best of everywhere in the world.

Alex: Yeah. Yeah.

Alan: And provide it to everyone else. Like, that alone, I think, is going to be a critical point in how VR and AR start to really make a difference in learning. Because now you can learn every which way.

Alex: Yeah, you can learn from everyone, and wherever you are is irrelevant, as long as you’ve got a machine.

Alan: What are you using for hardware?

Alex: So at the moment, yeah, we are on VIVE and Rift, and just a high-end PC, and we offer wireless or they can have wired; it’s up to them. But we have seen some good results from the dev guys testing our stuff on Quest — Oculus Quest.

Alan: Oh, wow.

Alex: So, there will be a version eventually for Quest. And the price difference is obviously very appealing to some people.

I was just going to say, that a lot of the guys in the Middle East come over to the UK and the US to learn from those guys about fire investigation and firefighting. And this is going to allow them to have much more easier access to that training.

Alan: That’s really incredible. Just for the people listening, In case you’re not familiar; HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are computer-based systems, where you’ve got to plug them into a computer and have a fairly decent computer. Your total build cost is around maybe $5,000 — somewhere in around here. But the Oculus Quest is this completely standalone unit; it costs $399, and you can walk around and do all the same things, just a little bit lower-quality.

Alex: Yeah. So we think… we have RiVR Link which is — I’ll talk about that shortly — but that allows classroom-in-a-box for 360 video. But I think eventually, we’ll have room-scale training in a box. You won’t have to have PCs, especially when we start talking about VR compute in the Cloud, straight down to headsets. That’s probably [some] out-there bit of thinking.

Alan: Incredible. Let me ask you, what are the ways you’re measuring success? Goals, key performance indicators? How does somebody measure the success of this, compared to what they currently measure?

Alex: At the moment, that is a massive hurdle for a lot of companies to get over, because there is no way, really, of measuring this new training technology. We — like yourselves; you’re probably speaking to lots of companies, and you go back and forward quite a lot with them — but they can’t prove the return on investment, so it’s very hard to get them to sign things off. The only way we do measure is by doing studies on the systems and stuff that we’ve put out there already. Like with the fire service, and like with 360 video for bus driver training in London. It’s all happening now. So we’ve made the content, but they’re now evaluating it all. There’s a lot of projects probably that are out there at the moment that we’ve created, that we haven’t got all the results back from yet. I think we are still very early on that.

Alan: When we first started out in this, the first questions from everybody was, “who else has done it?” Because nobody wants to be the first. And then, “what’s the ROI and the KPIs,” and you’re like, “well, no idea.”

Alex: [laughs]

Alan: They’re like, oh, “how much does it cost?” “A lot!” [laughs] It’s not the best sales pitch, but there is definitely more studies coming out. Wal-Mart published some information, showing that they’ve had a 70 percent increase in retention rates and a massive decrease in the training times, which is a time-is-money kind of thing. And if you can decrease training times…

Alex: The Wal-Mart story is an amazing stand-out, large company story.

Alan: So, what are some of the challenges you faced when starting out?

Alex: The main challenge that we have when we’re pitching these experiences to people is they know they want VR, but they just see VR as VR. They don’t understand the difference, a lot of people, between 360 video and room-scale VR. So every single demo — I imagine, like yourself; you’ve done hundreds of demos — the first thing is to go through some very basic demos of, “this is 360 video, and this is room-scale VR.” And then I have to go through the whole, “this is room-scale, photo-realistic VR, and this is room-scale Simpsons VR,” if you like.

Alan: For the people listening, let’s just unpack it here, one at a time. What’s the difference between 360 video versus room-scale VR?

Alex: So, 360 video; you can film with a 360 camera that normally would stay static in a scene. You can move it sometimes on a drone or on a rover. But the 360 camera films from the perspective of your head, if you like, and you view that content by sitting in a chair normally, and only moving your head around. You’re basically moving your head around inside a bubble that is a video wrapped around your head. You’ve got audio and you can look around — up, down, left, right — but you cannot stand up and move around, and you cannot stand up and pick anything up.

As you move into room-scale VR — if you were to take that headset off, put another headset on — you can then stand up, step forward and pick up a chair in front of you, for example. And those things — the getting up and walking around bit — has moved on so much in the last year that now, like you mentioned, the Oculus Quest has come out and that has inside-out tracking. So, you move around the space with the headset that has no external trackers looking at the headset. It’s just got cameras looking at the floors and walls, and it knows where you are in relation to the floors and walls. That’s how I always explain it, if we’re just talking about explanations; sit down on a chair, look around with your head; or if you want, the more… I call it, like, the more muscle memory-intensive VR, where you might want to teach people to pick things up, or use things in certain ways. Then you need to be able to have room-scale and walk around.

Alan: Yeah, I agree. Gives you the muscle memory, too.

Alex: But the 360 video has a massive part to play in training, and also entertainment experiences.

That’s probably a good point to just mention RiVR Link, unless you wanted to do that later.

Alan: Sure, we might as well talk about it; what’s RiVR Link?

Alex: Yeah. So RiVR Link. We’re working at the moment with Pico — with their Goblin headsets. They’re similar to the Oculus Go, and the software can actually run an Oculus Go as well. But it is simultaneous playback of a 360 video. But independent viewing; so you can look up and down, and look around — wherever you want to look — but you can be in a classroom of people, up to 50 people in a classroom (maybe not that big). At the moment, we have sets of 15 headsets. We put them all into a massive Peli case, with all the things that you need to link them together, and they talk to an iPad.

You hold up the iPad as the teacher, and all the headsets have the 360 content on them, and everyone puts the headsets on. The teacher can now press play on any of the 360 content that is on the tablet. And they can talk through the content, and they can also pause and then draw on the tablet, allowing every headset in the room to have the annotations appear over their video in a paused state, or in a playing state.

Alan: That’s really cool.

Alex: If you’re a company — for example, we’re doing one in London for bus driver training — and if you want it to look like it’s your product rather than RiVR Link, you can brand the app in the headset and on a tablet to look like it’s your app, with your videos on, so it basically looks like you’ve made your own 360 viewing app.

Alan: Wonderful.

Alex: That’s rolling out in… well, it is in multiple places, already.

Alan: Do you know Jeremy Dalton at PWC, in the UK?

Alex: No, no.

Alan: I’ll have to introduce you to Jeremy. They did an experience the other day for 200 simultaneous headsets.

Alex: That’s cool. I think I heard on the Alvin podcast that they are also looking at a similar type of solution. It is one of the big pain points of showing 360 video; you can’t see what the people are seeing. So we give you the ability to look, pause, and draw on the screen of all the headsets.

Alan: Wow, that’s so cool. Technology is amazing.

So, when you guys are building these things, like… how many people are on your team? How many people in developing, and then people doing photogrammetry, and then people out doing the demos?

Alex: At the moment, there are 15 people at RiVR. That’s grown quite a lot over the last two years. But the main people that are out there doing the shows are… well, we get everyone involved really, but: me, Ben, Brad — we go out doing most of the demos, and then there’s a lot of guys that are in the office creating, doing the hard work.

Alan: I noticed you guys have garnered some pretty amazing media. I know you were on the BBC; can you maybe talk to that, and how that came about?

Alex: The BBC have been very, very interested. We’ve done three pieces now. One of them was BBC Click, which is a tech program every week in the UK — which I’ve always watch for years, so I was super excited to be on that. All of that stuff’s been with Leicester Fire Brigade and Paul Speights, the — and Mike Ferguson from the DSTL — because they allow the BBC to come into their establishments, and have a go on their experiences that we’d made for them. They did the crime scenes and they did the fire investigation scenes. And then also, we were also on The Gadget Show as well, which is–

Alan: I’ve actually been on the Gadget Show.

Alex: Have you? That’s great.

Alan: I have! With my last company, Emulator.

Alex: Yes, you definitely know that one, then.

Alan: Yeah, it’s funny, because I don’t think I’ve ever watched it, but I know it was out there.

Alex: Yeah.

Alan: I’ll have to dig it out the archive somehow.

Alex: Definitely; get it on LinkedIn.

Alan: Yeah. No kidding.

Alex: Yeah. BBC has been very kind.

Alan: I’ve seen a bunch of stuff about VR from the BBC, and it seemed to be very, very supportive of this technology. I think they really see the benefit to it, and we need more of that.

Alex: The interview was quite hard. They weren’t super kind; they wanted to have some hard questions. So I think they dug quite deep on the last one. They didn’t publish it all. But working with the fire investigators and the crime scene investigators that were skeptical when they came to us to work with us is a great thing, because they find out that most people are skeptical when we say “we can take your training and make it repeatable and consistent.”

Jason Dean, the fire investigator that works with us on our scenes, he says when he first came to work with RiVR, he was very skeptical because he was a sort of dirty-trowel-and-overalls type of guy, that was very much of the opinion that you could not replace the training with virtual training. But he now gets on his knees and — in one of the videos I shared with you a minute ago — he gets on his knees in one of the scenes, and he’s reluctant to go down on his knees because doesn’t want to get his trousers dirty.

Alan: [laughs]

Alex: He’s in his nice clothes.

Alan: It feels so real.

Alex: Yes, yeah. So we do have a demo that people can request access to, as well.

Alan: Oh, I’d love that, actually. We’ve got VIVE in the office here. We’d be happy to take a look at it, I would love it.

Do you have any, I guess, aspirations to make this available on, like, Steam or something? Because maybe there’s some kids out there that could be inspired to become firefighters because of it.

Alex: We’re working quite closely with FLAIM Systems. Theirs would be potentially better for Steam. Ours is a bit more for training; I’m not sure if our experience would translate well to Steam. We’ve thought about doing a Steam experience, but maybe not for an investigation. The potential is there to do a photorealistic crime scene on Steam. That might be quite cool.

Alan: That would be really neat. “CSI: VR!”

Alex: Yeah, definitely. Like a very much interactive Cluedo.

Alan: Yeah. Oh, that would be so cool.

Alex: Yeah. That would be like you’re actually in the house, I think.

Alan: Yeah.

Alex: Those sort of experiences do interest me a lot. I do think that in the future, there’s gonna be a massive need for every film and TV show to have a photorealistic experience in VR that sits alongside it.

Alan: Yeah.

Alex: I don’t think people will be watching 360 versions of films. I think they’ll remain 2D for quite a while, but they’ll have an interactive five-minute experience that is downloadable, alongside the TV show or film.

Alan: I agree with that, actually. And we’re already seeing it. Ready Player One had a couple of experiences, actually, when they launched the movie. You could go in and experience what it’s like to be inside the Oasis.

Alex: Yeah. I mean, let me just touch on that a bit, because I did rant on about that on LinkedIn recently. These guys are making these experiences for the films, but they’re not giving you experiences from the film. They’re mainly be giving you experiences that they think you’d like to play. But if you watch Game of Thrones, the Game of Thrones experience that came out recently wasn’t actually a scene from the film. I want to be sat at the Red Wedding. I want to be on the wall with Jon Snow. I want to be part of the scenes – photorealistic — rather than part of a White Walker slaying.

Alan: I agree. And it’s interesting, because we’ve seen that with a couple of things. Now, one that was very true to it was… have you seen Silicon Valley, the show?

Alex: Yes, I know what you mean. There’s lots of objects to pick up. And I think I’ve seen it but never played it.

Alan: Yeah. You’re in the Hacker Hostel.

Alex: Yes. Yes.

Alan: They took all the footage, and they took the exact specifications, and made it. I think that’s another UK-based company. Solomon Rogers’ company.

Alex: Yeah, REWIND, yeah.

Alan: Sol is going to be on the podcast coming up soon, as well.

Alex: Oh, great. Yeah. I spoke to him recently. I remember that one. And you’re right. That is exactly what I mean. You want to be inside the film. Like in Ready Player One, I want to float around in that bar with that music on.

Alan: Cool. Yeah. That was awesome.

Alex: Yeah, definitely. There’s a market there. We’ll have to see that coming soon, hopefully.

Alan: Let me ask you a question. When you first started doing the photogrammetry stuff, what are the best lessons you learned from doing those projects, that you can pass on to businesses that are trying to wrap their heads around this? Because there’s so much technology to unpack. People’s heads must be exploding when they’re thinking about this. And then I think what happens is they get overloaded and just say, “well, screw it, we’ll just do our iPad training as usual.”

Alex: “Go back to eLearning.”

Alan: Exactly.

Alex: That is a super hard question that I don’t really know. [chuckles] I would say when we’re speaking to companies, don’t always go for the shiny, photorealistic photogrammetry stuff that might be more expensive. I think there is normally a Stage One/Stage Two that companies can do. Stage One would be: let’s do some 360 3D video first, and let’s have that in a classroom setting, and take some of their training and put it into 360, because it’s very easy to film that sort of stuff. And then I sometimes say, let’s go for Stage Two. If they think they see a return on investment for a 360 video, then they would definitely have some sort of return. If their training involves a process that can be repeated easily with room-scale VR.

Alan: One of the things that we give advice to companies is exact same thing. “Start with 360 video.” Maybe make an AR app, test it. I think that is really practical advice. It’s great to sell people on the best possible of everything, but it’s not always necessary. And I think 360 video, if done right, can create a very good return on investment, because the costs are marginal compared to doing a full photogrammetry of a scene, and bringing in a new game engine, relighting it, all of the rest of it.

Alex: It’s been a big learning curve for me. I work with Brad and Ben quite closely with the pitches to different clients, and I’ve had to rein myself in because I want to make VR photorealistic scenes for everyone.

Alan: Yeah.

Alex: But RiVR Link and 360 video content is more than adequate in most cases, and is a lot cheaper. So yeah, only go for the high-end stuff potentially after you’ve done Stage One, unless you already have had a bit of Stage One from someone else and you’ve done some 360 content. Then maybe you could move on to some room-scale stuff.

I always say to people that they’re — like with the fire service and the crime scene, they try and really spec out in super detail what they’d like — and I say to them, “however you do your training now is our design brief.” We’re just going to copy it. It’s a digital twin of what you already do. Sometimes people try too hard to design things in super detail. With the fire service, you don’t have to design it, because you’re already doing it in the real world. You’re already burning containers and creating crime scenes. We just have to come along and scan them after you’ve made them. So, don’t do anything different. You already know what your learning outcomes need to be from these scenes; we’re just going to make it digital for you, and put it in VR.

Alan: So that’s some really practical advice, because it also saves costs; you’re not recreating the learning, and that’s what people really need to wrap their heads around. That VR and AR, and then these technologies, they’re not going to create a completely new, revolutionary education out of the world, like, “yeah we’re inventing the thing from scratch.” No, it’s it’s just making it better.

Alex: It’s going to allow you to have repeatable and consistent [results]. I always said to the dev guys — they wouldn’t let me put it in there — but I wanted a big red button in every scene. The big red button is the reset button. Mess the scene up. Play around with the world. Do whatever you want. Do some learning, and record all the things you do. But at the end of it, the bonus is that when you press this button, you don’t have to reset the real world scene. It just does it for you in a millisecond.

Alan: You just touched on something interesting. How are you measuring things? Like, what are some of the analytics that you’re gleaning from these experiences?

Alex: Yeah. So with RiVR Investigate, we have a product that attaches to it, or is part of it. It’s called VRM: Virtual Reality Monitor. And in that software, it records all the data of everyone’s movements inside the scene — where they’ve looked, what they’ve touched, heat maps. Obviously, looking at the… we’ve got the VIVE, the new VIVE eye tracking– I always forget the name of it. Vive Eye Pro, can’t remember what they call it, but–

Alan: VIVE Pro Eye.

Alex: Yes. Sorry. It tracks your eye. Where you’re looking, rather than just where your head is turning. So we also incorporate that into the VRM. But the beauty with the data that comes out of that — and the way that the developers have made it at RiVR — is that you can replay a training scene after the fact of anyone that’s been through, pause it at any point. But then instead of just being able to pause and look at the screen, you can pause it and look around the scene at that point. So like The Matrix — bullet time.

Alan: Ah, cool.

Alex: Which is amazing. Another feature on the VRM is the ability to ingest point cloud data. Laser scan data from different scanners can be ingested into the RiVR system. And I always think it’s one of the most underrated things that people don’t really know about yet, is to be able to view point cloud data in VR. It doesn’t give you the fidelity that you’d normally have with the photorealistic scenes, but it gives the most incredible context to a scene than you can ever get from a 2D screen. And there’s crime scenes and fire investigation scenes from all over the world — car crashes — and they’ve got laser data of all of these scenarios, but they all view them on a 2D screen. This gives us the ability to view it spatially in VR.

Alan: Interesting. Yeah, because I know the police service in Toronto has been using laser scanning for years.

Alex: Yeah. And people find it very hard to translate what they’re seeing on a 2D screen after they’ve scanned a real-world scene with a laser scanner. We’re incorporating that into it. And you can be in there collaboratively, and measuring points inside the scene. Imagine inside a courtroom, when you could have all of the jury — they don’t go out to the crime scene anymore; they can just put a headset on a walk around the point cloud and they can see where, for example, the body was, where the car was in relation to the gun or the knife. It’s just that spatial viewing system, really.

Alan: I’ve been wondering why police services are not using Matterport cameras.

Alex: They’re very good and quick.

Alan: People who don’t know: Matterport is a US company that built a camera with a laser scanner built into it. And you just put it in, it spins around in a circle, takes 360-degree images with point cloud data, and then allows you to do that through the scene. And now you can move around the scene in VR as needed, to any point that you were there.

Alex: And just touch on it a little bit, Alan, because it isn’t as detailed as a laser scanner. The Leica System and the FARA systems give you really accurate data. The Matterport gives you depth data, and also imagery, so that you can go from hot spot to hot spot. And it gives you a dollshouse effect. So it’s a very good scanner for quickness, but it doesn’t give you that millimeter-accuracy of the point cloud.

Alan: But it is, I think, for juries, something like that, where you just need to be able to move around the crime scene. It doesn’t need to be millimeter accurate. They still have the laser scans. I think–

Alex: I met with those guys in Florida earlier this year — the Matterport guys — and we talked about the potential of bringing Matterport data into the RiVR system as well, to be able to view that alongside the point cloud data.

Alan: It just totally makes sense. So, we’re getting near the end of the podcast here. What is the most important things that businesses can do right now to start leveraging the power of XR technologies?

Alex: It depends what business they are, really, I guess! But you mean, in terms of which they should go for first? Or should they just… well, they should definitely listen to your podcast, so they can understand it more, because you’ve had some great people on.

Alan: Well, thank you. One of the the answers that comes up a lot is just… just start. Just go. It doesn’t matter what we do. Do something, because there’s so many of these technologies. AR, VR, mixed reality, Hololens, virtual reality headsets, photogrammetry scanning, 3D models. It gets confusing, and people don’t understand; this is the future of computing. And if they don’t now, they’re going to be left behind. It’s like the early days of the web and everybody went, “oh, why do I need a website? Nobody is on there.” Well, guess what? There’s a few people on the Web now.

Alex: Yeah. Just a few. I think the main thing that they need to look at and ask themselves is, how expensive is their training to reproduce? In terms of training, anyway. Is it expensive for them to do it? And is it dangerous for them to do it? If the answer is yes to both of them, they should definitely start looking at VR. I should imagine there are some companies potentially where it’s not as needed, but if it’s expensive and dangerous, then it’s the best thing that they can start doing.

Alan: Yes. There you go: if it’s expensive and dangerous, start using VR.

Alex: It will save you money and provide better results.

Alan: So, Alex, here’s my last question: what problem in the world do you want to see solved using XR technologies?

Alex: Oh, god, I should have done some research on that one. Problem in the world… I’ve just been on holiday, and it was quite a shock to see how many people are on holiday, glued to their phones. Maybe there’s a chance that, if Apple or someone come out with a really nice AR device, we might be able to fix the problem with people being glued to their phones.

They could then just be looking up and walking around with an AR headset on, and enjoying the world and the mixed reality stuff as well. I think that is a bit of a problem at the moment, because it’s not normal to be looking at a screen, but it is normal to be walking around the world. So I think, yeah, there’s going to be some sort of merger that removes the fact of you just looking down at a phone. I want to be seeing the world with data on top of it. I think that’s going to be how things go, and that would be a problem solved if we can stop people bumping into things and crashing into people out there, looking at their phones.

Alan: Well, I’ll put it this way: I have the North glasses, and the first day I had them, I was checking my messages and walking down the street, and I’m just messing around with them, trying to figure out how to use them.

Alex: Yeah.

Alan: I almost walked over some poor woman. I was not paying attention, and I was looking at the data in the screen; didn’t even contemplate this woman, and almost pulled her right over.

Alex: Well, I see; more problems, then.

Alan: Yeah, I’m not sure. I think there might be some unintended consequences here.

Alex: Yeah, definitely.

Looking for more insights on XR and the future of business? Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or Spotify. You can also follow us on Twitter @XRforBusiness and connect with Alan on LinkedIn.

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