We live in a three-dimensional world, and according to today’s guest — You Are Here Labs president John Buzzell — our computers are finally starting to catch up with that. John shoots the proverbial breeze with Alan on how spatial computing is going to fundamentally change our relationship with computers, and thus, our relationship with the world.
Alan: My name is Alan Smithson, your host for the XR for Business Podcast. Today’s guest is a good friend, John Buzzell from You Are Here Labs and You Are Here Agency. John is an award winning 28 year veteran of the digital industry, creating interactive experiences across augmented reality, virtual reality, video games, mobile apps and numerous high volume websites. To learn more about You Are Here Labs and You Are Here Agency, visit yahagency.com. John, welcome to the show.
John: Thanks, Alan. Good to be with you.
Alan: And of all the people we’ve had on the show, you have a lot of experience in this field. I mean, you built the AR Porsche visualizer where you could drop a Porsche right in your living room and I actually have a photo of a Porsche in my living room from your app.
John: [laughs] That’s great. You know, that was an interesting project, because we started off on the Hololens and it was a really interesting project. But at some point, Porsche said this is a little too future for us at the moment and we need something that the dealers and the salespeople can use without fear. And so when ARKit popped up from Apple and they said surprise, now everybody with an iPhone 6 and above and use augmented reality, it really changed the game. And we very quickly converted that experience from the Hololens to the humble iPad and it took off from there. So we were really excited to have one of the first ARKit apps that was really connected to a major company or brand. And I’m glad you liked it, too. That’s cool.
Alan: It was really special. Can people download it now still?
John: Well, no, they can’t. That was about two years ago that we did it. And for all of us in technology, who knows how fast it moves. Porsche is a global company and they were very impressed with the innovation. And I think they were excited to kind of pull it back to HQ and see what they could do globally with it. And also our clients left for jobs at other companies simultaneously. [laughs] So–
Alan: That’s the challenge in technology, you’re working on a project with somebody, you’re all in it, and then they leave. [laughs]
John: I mean, I think that’s one of the neat things about emerging tech is, is it really can help vault peoples careers into the next dimension, in the sense that these technologies are so profound and they will affect the work that we do and the way we live our lives for so long in the future, that people that have this experience, it’s really great for them individually.
Alan: You’ve been doing this a while longer than myself, but I’ve been in early VR since 2014. And I’ve noticed that a lot of the people that were just building demos and stuff like that, now are running huge companies. HP and Microsoft, they’re running huge departments in this, just because they were early and learned how to do it. And they learned in a time when there was no YouTube video on how to make AR, you had to just kind of guess.
John: Yeah. I mean, my career resembles that, in the sense that I got started doing interactive marketing on diskettes before CD-ROM. Our friend Cathy Hackl says, “Don’t talk about that, it makes you sound old!” but I think the experience is worthy, because you see things change to CD-ROM. You watch them change again to narrowband Internet. You see them change a third time with broadband. You watch it change again completely with mobile, and then of course with social. And now on to this. The people that do have the experience, I think have more of a long view, a different perspective, where they don’t see AR, VR, or XR. They don’t see it as an adversary or a competitor to things like 5G or IOT or artificial intelligence, machine learning, what have you. They really see AR and VR as the screen, because if you look at these other technologies, they’re all ingredients. None of them is an interface, with the slight exception of perhaps AI and voice. If you’re able to understand AR and VR, how it’s used, it can really propel your company and your own career.
Alan: So is it safe to say that XR is the window to emerging technology?
John: I think so, although I think it’s fun that we’ve been looking at glowing rectangles since the first movie back in the 1800s, and now computing is kind of broken through that window, right? No offence to Microsoft, but we’re not living in Windows anymore. This technology is aerosolized now and it can show up anywhere, in any way. And that’s one of the really exciting things about augmented reality.
Alan: So a lot of people are calling it “spatial computing.” You want to maybe give it your– explain to people listening, what does that mean when we break free from this? You talked about Porsche taking the Hololens and saying “This is really awesome, but it’s a little bit too out there, too advanced for us.” And taking it back to an iPad, which is great, because everybody has it and has massive scale. By the end of this year, there will be over 2 billion AR enabled smartphones and devices in the world. So now you’ve got scale. What does it mean for spatial computing and 3D everything?
John: For so long, we have dealt with scarcity when it comes to technology. In the 40s, 50s, up through the 70s, you had to go to a university campus or something like that to have access to computing. Malcolm Gladwell says that part of the reason that Bill Gates was so successful — he and Paul Allen — is because they had summertime access to computers at a local university.
Alan: And their parents fundraised and put a computer in their school.
John: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, part of the reason I got into it is we had a computer club in my elementary school. And so that was a concentration of computers and people that liked computers. It’s more rare today, because we don’t really have a scarcity problem anymore. We tell people don’t text and drive and we put giant iPads in the Teslas. We, say, got computers on our refrigerators and we can have Alexa powered microwaves, and computers aren’t scarce anymore. And so the idea of having to sit down at a desk in a home office and log onto the Internet, I mean, there was a a joke about that in the latest Avengers movie. Or no, it was Captain Marvel, I guess. In any case, when we live with technology and we’re in a post-scarcity world, what does that mean? That means I don’t have to go looking for a screen. I don’t go have to go looking for a device. And much in the way that the phone has been in our pocket, having migrated from the desk to our backpack or briefcase and into our pocket and now on our wrist, this slow motion merger of computers and our brains. The next step is for our eyes. And for a while we’re going to hold a phone or an iPad out in front of our face. And then when our shoulders get tired, eventually Apple and others will sell us this integrated with a pair of glasses that don’t look too nerdy. As Matt Miesnieks — I don’t know how to say his last name — but he made the good point that for now, people will get paid at work to look dorky in these devices. Eventually everybody will wear them, because they’ll become fashionable. So I think from a business perspective, so much of what we do is repeated process. For a trainee or for someone who’s working a long shift, or if they’re working in a critical application like medicine, having that attachment and that immersion in process can be really helpful, to know that “Okay, well, if I’m doing an organ transplant, how far away is that organ?” or if I’m waiting on the curb to catch an Uber for my next meeting, “How far away is that? Am I going to be late?” Or if I’m in the guts of a warehouse or manufacturing facility, and I need to know what machine to go to next, “What’s the machine, and which direction do I need to head?” So this is something that we’re all doing right now, and it feels pretty seamless to pull the phone out of our pocket or look down at a tablet. But we’ll probably look back in just a few years and and laugh at how quaint that seems, because now we’ll be getting it right in our field of view.
Alan: It’s crazy. My friend showed up at my house with a BlackBerry and I was like, “What is that?” [laughs] We’re gonna be looking back. And my guess is ten years, maybe 20. And we’ll say, “Do you remember the time when we used to hold these little square boxes, and carry them around in our pockets all the time?”
John: Well, yeah. And I think people naturally react with a healthy amount of skepticism for this, because a lot of people have just now gotten adjusted to smartphones. But it’s funny you bring up BlackBerry. I had a BlackBerry 10 years ago. It was a smartphone, had a screen and a bunch of keys on it. But yeah, it feels so antiquated now. All the technologies that we would need for these glasses exist today. It’s not able to be made cheaply enough. Or perhaps the battery life wouldn’t be able to be as long. But if you wanted to have a next-gen experience for a few minutes, that experience can be had. So it’s really a question now is do you want to subsidize as an OEM these devices to make it more affordable and to spur adoption? Or do you want to kind of squeeze a little bit more cash out of the current category, the way that smartphone manufacturers are? I think we’re on the cusp of a change there.
Alan: I think you’re seeing it with product like Hololens 2, where they could have brought the price down, for sure. I mean, it doesn’t cost them $3,000 to make this thing. And maybe they said, “No, we’re gonna keep this at an enterprise price of $3,500.” And I think it’s the right thing to do, because people think “Oh, it’s too expensive.” Well, this isn’t for everyday use. This isn’t for somebody playing video games. This is for industrial applications where you can either have remote assistance, see-what-I-see training on the job, instruction manuals, that type of thing, which are driving real business values. Jonathan Moss from Sprint was talking about how they used just tablet based AR for training. And they’ve been keeping some different KPI metrics, and they’ve made millions of dollars in sales and they’ve saved millions and dollars in travel, simply by using this AR education. They’ve been tracking it. And I said, “Well, how much did it cost?” And he said, “Oh, between a 100 and 200 thousand.” It’s astronomical numbers in savings and profit here. So I want to dig into a little bit more of the industries and companies that You Are Here Labs is serving and what you guys are doing. You want to maybe talk about the different industries and companies that you’ve been serving lately, and what you guys are working on?
John: Sure. And if I can try to tie into your last comment, we really have that same practical world view. You and I were joking before we started recording this podcast, that we had better not get into all of the technical gobbledygook that so many people are very precious about with these devices. The devices are coming out constantly. Some of them are even being subsidized to spur increased adoption, and they’ll continue to come out for some time. I mean, people are getting new TV’s all the time now, whereas previously they held onto TV’s for a decade. So we take the long view. We focus on the practical side. We see if this technology is going to be around for more than twenty five years, what do you do? Because buying a consumption device isn’t going to get it done. Buying a guitar doesn’t make you a good guitar player, you’ve got to practice and prepare. So we work across industries really quite a few, including automotive, commercial real estate, construction, consumer packaged goods, energy and oil, food and beverage, heating and cooling, manufacturing tools, transit, a whole bunch of different industries. But we’re really try to pull one thread through — and I think your audience will like this — which is that we focus on delivering results quickly and over time. And what I mean by that is that we help companies understand what these technologies are. We help them explore how they fit into their business, including the critical applications that their workers go through. And then we help them figure out how to integrate and scale those solutions over time in responsible ways. Because all of us, you, me, and everybody else that’s been on this podcast and more, we’re all stewards of this fledgling medium. And we want to see it succeed, not just for us as individuals, but as a whole. And so hopefully that answers your question.
Alan: Absolutely. And you kind of touched on something that really resonates with me, especially with this podcast. I do this podcast just out of a labor of love to try to promote it and give people that are listening the idea of, I can invest in this and it will give me a return, because I think there’s been so much hype around VR and AR for gaming and for this. And oh, we’re in the trough of disillusionment. We’re not in the trough of disillusionment. If you, three years ago, put a million dollars into a company expecting they were gonna be a billion dollar company by now, yeah, you’re disillusioned. However, if you thought we’re going to invest a million dollars and start to solve real problems within industry, you’re doing all right right now.
Alan: And you have clearly figured that out. And we did the same thing. We took this view of, what are the results we can deliver now versus in the future. Caspar Thykier from Zappar got a really great point. He’s like, “Yes, we can talk about WebAR, we can talk about when glasses come, we can talk about all these future things. But why don’t we just make things that are existing and capable right now?” The technology that exists right now in AR and VR is so spectacularly amazing, that we should be focusing on it now, not a year down the road or five years down the road.
John: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if you’re in an industry where you have physical objects, widgets, car tires, surgical equipment, tractors, anything really at all — anything that’s not kind of abstract or ephemeral — then you need to be investing right now on the tools and the skills to translate that into digital. The web was kind of quaint until digital cameras and flatbed scanners got inexpensive, and then suddenly you could have an eBay, because you could show grandma’s old jewelry that you wanted to sell. Although that’s kind of sad that you’d sell grandma’s jewelry, but you could. [laughs] And we’re in a similar space right now with XR, in that the tools for creating a digital version of physical objects have never been cheaper. They’ve never been easier to use. And a lot of businesses spend tens, hundreds of millions of dollars schlepping around big, heavy, dangerous stuff to trade shows, to customer events, to do demos. And it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. There is a web conference style transformation going on, where you can configure and sell a car without the car.
John: You can imagine how dental equipment would go into a dental hygienist office, without bringing any of the equipment. You can decide how much concrete you need for a giant office complex, without any surveyors. So there are so many use cases now in business where people can start saving or making money with AR and VR. I would love to see more people embrace that.
Alan: The great thing is there’s lots of– when we started a few years ago, there was nobody that could do this stuff. Literally nobody.
Alan: Colleges are starting to roll out programs, and there’s a lot more information online. So people are learning it. And even companies. What we’re doing now, we’re finding companies want to bring a lot of the stuff in-house. And so what we’re doing is consulting on how can they build the team without building a huge team, or whether you need a 3D model or maybe you need a Unity expert. What are some of the people on your team that built out your round team, that you guys use on a project like the Porsche one?
John: Yeah, I mean, I think the work — like you said — has gotten– for those of us who have been in the industry for a little while, it’s certainly gotten more strategic. We’ve moved from an era of “Can we do that?” to more of an opportunity to ask, “Should we do that?” And so we definitely have a lot of people that speak XR strategy here in our team, that can consult with various companies in their embrace of spatial computing or XR or whatever you want to call it, to help them find the best opportunities to do first. And the ones to save for later. And so that’s an important part of what we offer. Similarly, we have some very bright software developers, people that come from the game development industry that understand the different engines — Unity and Unreal being the two most popular — and try to work that across different devices. We do projects on the Go. We do them on the Hololens. We do them on the Vive and Rift. We do projects on iOS and Android. We do projects on the Magic Leap. We really– we don’t specify devices to people. So you need a versatile team of developers for that. We have technical art directors that — for those maybe who don’t understand game engines as much — there’s a real skill into doing special effects — whether that be lighting or texturing or particles — to make augmented reality graphics fit into the real world better. You’d be surprised how hard it is. And then finally, we really rely on a group of engineers to do 3D scanning, volumetric and photogrammetry capture, project management and QA. So it’s a lot of the same roles from other types of software development, but with some specialties as well.
Alan: I get this question all the time. Who do I need on my team for this? And my first reaction is “just hire us and we’ll deal with it for you.”
Alan: The second thing is you need a big team. You need somebody who understands Unreal or Unity. You need a 3D modeller, you need somebody that understands the textures. You mentioned making things look real in the real world. And you’ve entered into the spatial computing era where we’re not creating something on your phone. We’re creating something on your phone that has to look real in the real world, despite the different leading changes and that sort of thing. So if you have your car sitting in a parking lot next to another car in the shadows, pointing one direction for real and the other direction, because that’s how you built it. That’s really weird.
John: You’re talking about a level of polish that’s possible that really makes apps shine. If you’re using this for business and you’re trying to sell a bulldozer or you’re trying to teach someone how to repair a bulldozer, if you can make it look real, your trainee or your customer, your prospect can forget that they’re looking at a simulation and focus on what you’re really trying to tell them. We put great care into making sure that things look as real as possible, so that you keep that suspension of disbelief, like they talk about in the movies. Eventually, this stuff will be so easy, it’ll just happen magically. You don’t have to worry about lighting or animation. But for now, there’s a bit of skill and that’s where it can help to partner, as opposed to having somebody on your team.
Alan: I really love what you just said. People, because it’s so real, they can forget that it’s a simulation and focus on the key messaging. And that’s so vital for a number of things, sales and marketing, but also training and upskilling. You’ve done a number of things here. What are some of the real life data metrics, analytics, specific KPIs? What have you guys seen as those things? How are people measuring their success?
John: Yeah, I would put that– I’ll actually answer that in two parts. There’s what our customers care about. And then there’s what we’re looking at. I think, for the customers, they measure success in a variety of ways. For people that are still struggling a little bit with their digital transformation, maybe they finally got their mobile app out recently, or they’re proud of their website, which is great. Everybody needs to get there. Success for them can be as humble as just executing a proof of concept, or pulling together innovation budget from other parts of the company. It may be getting some employee or market validation. I would say for the intermediate clients, that they’re maybe comparing XR solutions to other methods, comparing traffic or lead generation and retention. That’s what they’re worried about. And then our advanced clients are really beginning to unearth deeper insights, based on usage data from these experiences. And that kind of more closely mirrors what we look at, which is we’re looking at numbers of users, length and depth of engagement, repeat use. Are they sharing this experience if they can? Does that converge to lead capture or commerce for enterprise training? The names are different, but it’s pretty similar that they’re looking for higher enrolment, time on task, quality, how well they’re scoring, and what do they retain. So we use, behind the scenes, everything from head position, eye tracking, looking at the difference between where they’re holding a VR controller to where they may end up, as a measure of kind of intuition. It’s not as tight and concise as it is in other media yet, but it’s moving there fast. And I think as different companies embrace these technologies, they’re getting more sophisticated ways to measure success. Does that answer your question?
Alan: Yes. I have literally nothing else to add.
John: [laughs] We’ve hung out too much, right?
Alan: We really have. I want to talk about specifics. Give us an example of a case study that you want to share.
John: Apologies in advance, I’m going to have to kind of thread the needle here to not mention specifics, but I think there’s some lessons to be learned. We’re in phase two of a project or a major infrastructure organization, and they deal with almost 10 million citizens per day in the execution of their service. And a lot of the equipment that they use to serve these people is antiquated. I mean, some of it is older than 50 years old. They’re in a real situation where they need to improve the way they do things, but they also need to continually replenish the staff that services this infrastructure, because some people are retiring and it gets expensive to keep them around. It’s nice work if you can get it, though. So in any case, we were brought in to create training materials using augmented reality and virtual reality, but there was no digital objects to start from. And just like we said earlier, that web got pretty great when you had digital cameras and cheap flatbed scanners. There’s finally technology to use to digitize real objects. And so we got in, scanned a lot of these objects, digitized them, made them ready for mobile devices, delivered over 3G, 4G, 5G, Wi-Fi, what have you, and started assembling lessons, working with their subject matter experts. They have a training program right now that takes a half a year. And we think we can get a really serious reduction in that. And we’re starting to see really promising results in early trials. So for them, it was pulling them out of the 1900s and really preparing them for the next hundred years. Smart training can be delivered on any device, in any location, and really across a range of different skills. So we employed a lot of versatility. We had to be very nimble on this project to react to different changes. And we learned a lot. I think they did, too.
Alan: What are some of the early metrics? Because we’re seeing decreases in training times, dramatic decreases. You mentioned six months training. My guess is you could probably get that training down to about 45 days using this technology.
John: It’s really dramatic. There’s– I’m going to mangle this old adage, but it’s something like, “I remember a little of what I see, less of what I hear, but I remember almost everything that I do.” And in that way, these people can gather around– currently gather around a big, heavy piece of equipment. It takes two hours to take it apart. Not everybody can see what’s going on. And maybe they’ll get a chance to ask a question and it better be a good one. But with this technology, everyone can be there all at the same time, moving at their own pace, asking questions, looking at things from any angle on their own. And no one has to scratch up their knuckles or injure themselves. Nobody drops a 400 pound piece of cast iron on their toe. We’re seeing a lot better retention. We’re seeing faster moves through the curriculum, with people being able to go through it more often. So I agree with you. We should be getting hard numbers on that soon. And if I can share them, I will. But at the moment, we’re already starting to see giant gains from an industry that’s been doing things the same way for almost 100 years.
Alan: I get excited about this, because I see that this type of technology as being the thing that democratizes education across the world. We’ve got smartphones which are doing a fantastic job providing the information quickly, but immersive technologies have been able to do something, and also just see it in three dimensions. You mentioned being able to see a machine or whatever and pulling it apart. When you’re in virtual reality and you make a mistake, there’s no consequence that anybody else can see. You make a mistake and you can make as many mistakes as you want. And humans learn through error, we learn by making mistakes. Being able to make mistakes in a completely private and consequence-free environment, that reinforces learning at a different level.
John: Yeah, and not only that — which I love your point — but in addition to that, the software can be watching you and making suggestions. “We’ve noticed you’re having a little trouble with this. Would you like to go back and repeat this part of the training?” There was a particular thing that we did on this last project, where you were supposed to take apart a complicated system of parts that all went together in different ways. Some were threaded, some were slipped into place, some were bolted down and watching people being — to your point — being able to try to figure this out. They were learning in a way that a classroom lecture or a video would never get done. Education, whether that’s educating somebody about your product, or educating employees about working with central equipment, or educating practitioners about compliance and safety, it’s all communication. And one of the reasons that I’m so amazed and in awe of this technology is it’s really bringing together all of the progress that I’ve seen over the course of 30 years working in the industry. It’s really going to be profound for people.
Alan: I know this is a question that I get from listeners all the time, and it’s a simple one, how much this stuff cost? What is our initial outlay? And maybe instead of just saying this particular one costs, let’s talk about how to budget, like how can a company from the first minute they meet with you to rolling out some project like this, what are kind of the steps and what does the process look like from your standpoint, that you’ve seen work really well?
John: There’s an XR or AR/VR solution for every budget. And I’m not saying that as a dodge, or to be slippery in any way. I think that… look, if your budget is $5,000, pay somebody that’s an expert in the industry to come talk to you for a little while. Have them explain their perspectives on the industry, have them maybe do a little bit of light brainstorming with you for use cases that make sense for your industry or your company, your category. If you have $50,000, maybe think about doing a proof of concept, where you ingrain yourself with real requirements. You do either a lightweight series of experiments on a particular idea, or maybe you create a horse race, where you take three different experiments and you try to see which one is most successful and then learn from why. If you have $250,000, you’re probably further into it, having already spent money at the lower levels. But that’s really when you want to start thinking about doing an integration test or maybe scaling up a team. And of course it goes on from there. People can– a buddy tells me, “We can make this as complicated as you want, John.” [chuckles] But yeah, I think there’s ways for people to get involved. The most important thing is to understand that we’re visual creatures and we live in a physical, three-dimensional world. Computers can finally live alongside with us, and that can bring just-in-time education, or marketing, for so many different things. And we don’t have to look at a computer and try to figure out, “Well, where’s the button for this or that?” You know, there’s this is great scene in The Matrix from 20 years ago — which is kind of amazing because it still feels futuristic — where the main character, Neo, kind of laughably plugs something into his head and he says “I know kung-fu,” but the idea of just-in-time education is already here. I mean, if you look at how many lives an AED — an Automated Emergency Defibrillator — how many heart attack victims have been saved with those devices, because somebody got just-in-time education? We can all walk around being just-in-time experts for any number of things. Administering first aid, or teaching somebody how to work for a particular problem. And we’re going to be able to deliver that in a way that’s more seamless and more compelling than ever before. And I think that’s– you need to think about your business in a way of like, what is a real business problem or delivering just-in-time training or education along with 3D objects would be helpful? And there’s probably a whole lot of them.
Alan: What is the most important thing that businesses can do right now to leverage this power of XR?
John: Companies need to do more — and I’ll get specific in a second — but if you’re not already spending time or money or both on XR, you’re helping your competitors. The largest companies in the world have decided that this is what comes after the smartphone. They’ve seen the smartphone sales start to plateau. People probably aren’t going to pay more than a thousand bucks for a smartphone. So what are they going to do next, to keep us all buying new devices? And if you look at IoT, AI, cloud computing, and big data crypto, if you look at a 5G — all the technologies out there — they’re mostly ingredients. We’re visual creatures. We need a screen and the AR, and VR, XR, spatial computing — whatever you want to call it — this is how we’re going to interface with the future of computers.
So companies need to do more. Businesses need to recognize that this is really serious for their marketing and training, but also kind of their workplace tools, workforce development. It’s not a competitor to any of these other technologies. It is what brings them all together. So if it’s the evolution of computing and the successor to the smartphone, if you haven’t started experimenting with this tech yet, you’re falling behind. So I think if you’re a beginner, you need to do more, attend to conference, hire one person, do a proof of concept with a local agency. If you’re intermediate, maybe strengthen your teams and your partnerships. Try to figure out, “well, OK, so we have a lot of 3D. Let’s scan some something and see what we can do with it.” If you’re an advanced user, people need to do more integrations, need to polish their skills, build their teams because the future is going to be 3D. It’s going to be contextual and it’s going to be spatially aware. So I think just simple answer would be to more than what you’re doing now, because this is rapidly approaching. And I see across industries, companies that are probably competitors of your listeners already investing lots to learn how to make the most of this tech.
Alan: This technology; once you try it, you unlock Pandora’s Box. You’re like, “oh, wait a second, we just saved $100,000 not flying people around [the world]. We could have a meeting and it was more productive because people can’t be looking at their smartphones while they’re in VR.
John: I think that’s the best business case for XR, honestly; shortening and improving logistical challenges for companies. When the web came out, people in the magazine and trade show industries were pretty fearful — and with good reason. And you know, there’s still trade shows and there’s still magazines, but people do a lot of business online. Similarly, the opportunity — and there’s some companies with products already in the market for this — the opportunity to work across devices and across distance and time to allow people to collaborate and not just have a web conference where you’re looking at slides, but really, to manipulate. “What if we put this thing over here? What if this was smaller? Can we make this out of carbon fiber?” We have those experiences in our lab. Companies like Spatial or Glue. You can go take a look at the future for that right now. And I think it’s going to be profound. You won’t have to go to the office to work. You won’t have to travel to Hong Kong to have the meeting. You won’t have to go to Palo Alto to have a design session. You’ll be able to just put on a headset or hold up a device and do it right there. It’s happening today and it just hasn’t been deployed at scale.
Alan: We’ve only just unlocked it and being being able to present and bring knowledge around the world without having to get on a plane to travel, because let’s be honest, travel’s fun business travel not so much.
John: Yeah. I mean, I think you’re already living in that future. There’s this great quote from William Gibson, a fantastic science fiction writer, and he says The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.
Alan: It’s true.
John: You’re already living in that future. Right.
Alan: And to be honest, let’s be fair. There are still challenges. It’s still not the perfect solution yet, but it’s very close.
John: If you can think of how many web conference tools there are out there, from Blue Jeans to Hangouts to WebEx. Slack has theirs; Skype has theirs. There are going to be so many of the companies that can do this. Like I said, we have it running in our lab. It is going to be transformative for people when it comes time to renew your expensive office lease. And you’ve already got maybe 30-40 percent of your workers working remotely. You begin to think of, “gosh, is it worth all that money per square foot?”.
John: I’ve had conversations with people in the banking industry that said, “you know, what about virtual branches? We spend a lot of money on branches. Could we start off in VR chat where you’re interacting with an A.I. and then you get escalated to a real person on the other end of the line?” Absolutely. The technology exists. It’s just spreading out.
John: So that’s exciting.
Alan: So my final question, what problem in the world do you want to see solved using XR technologies?
John: Well, I said earlier — and may have spent one of my good answers on The Matrix example — but having just-in-time education where average human beings like us could be activated or mobilized to do super-heroic type things on demand. I would love to see that, because humanity needs a lot of help right now. But, you know, I have a couple daughters, and maybe closer to home for me is with all the money that’s spent moving our carbon bodies around from home to work to an airport to another place to another office. I would really love to see spatial computing and XR helping with climate change. I think that logistically we’re smarter than… we’re still operating with 19th century technology to get around in a lot of ways, and we can do better. And I think that XR offers a chance for all of us to be more efficient and more powerful on what we do.
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