Last episode was all about the value of VR in creating virtual meeting spaces; today, we’re looking at AR. As Jacob Loewenstein from Spatial explains, both have their advantages in an enterprise setting, but AR is best suited for people collaborating together in the same room. Listen to this edition of XR for Business to find out why.
Alan: Today’s guest is Jacob Lowenstein, VP of Business Development and Strategy at Spatial. Spatial’s mission is to empower people to be more connected, creative, and productive. Organizations are increasingly distributed across offices and information doesn’t flow easily; success depends on people working together. Their first product enables people to collaborate anywhere with AR. The founders have deep backgrounds in 3D user interfaces. Co-founder Anand
Jacob, welcome to the show.
Jacob: Hey, it’s great to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Alan: It’s my absolute pleasure. We had an awesome opportunity to meet at Charlie Fink’s exclusive dinner at CES this year, and I was really blown away by the warmth and passion that you bring. And so I want to just thank you for taking the time to jump on the show with me.
Jacob: I had a blast at that dinner, and I believe we both had delicious Indian food together. Shout out to Charlie for organizing that. I met a ton of wonderful people, and the compliment goes right back in the other direction. I mean, you have been at this for a while as such a positive and fundamental figure, helping shed attention and light on the projects in the space that matter and that are moving the needle. And frankly, you’ve been moving the needle yourself, and have been a builder in this space for some time. And so I’m excited to chat with you, and happy to answer any and all questions.
Alan: Well, on that note — and I thank you for that — tell me about Spatial. I know about it, but for the people listening — really, you guys have built enormously powerful tools. So, maybe give us the idea of what Spatial is, and how it’s being used.
Jacob: Totally. So, I’m going to give you the headline, and I think the backstory is a little bit illuminating. I know you spoke a bit about that already, but I’m going to dive deeper. But the headline is that Spatial enables people to collaborate from anywhere with augmented reality. And the idea is, essentially, we’re all big believers in the VR and AR space. I imagine folks that listen to this podcast are, or are trying to learn to be. And if you’ve done a lot of demos in VR/AR, you’ve probably encountered the same phenomenon, which is; you get someone to put on the headset and they say, “Oh wow, this is cool,” and they smile and they compliment you, and you probably never hear from them again. And it’s because most demos — in VR and AR — frankly, are not that useful, and they wouldn’t really generate particular impact for an enterprise or any given organization. One of the underlying motivations of Spatial was to say, instead of being trapped in this like, “OG experimental” phase of VR and AR, could we actually build something that we felt provided real utility for enterprises? And the way that we arrived at what we do — which is essentially enabling teams and companies that are distributed around the world to work together as if they were in the same room – was, we went back to fundamentals.
Anand and Jinha are two of the leading 3D interface designers in the world. And Anand, he built this first company called BumpTop, that he gave his TED Talk on. What BumpTop really was; it was AR before AR. Even before there were touch screens in phones, Anand was asking the question, “how can we use the touch screen to enable people to more intuitively interact with information, and really, to interact with information the same way they interact with objects in the real world?” After he gave his TED Talk on it, there’s interest from Apple, and Google ended up buying his company. The idea being, Andy Rubin felt that Android and the mobile phone could really transform how people interact with information, how they communicate with one another. And Jinha, several years later, gave a TED Talk. At that time, he was getting his PhD at the MIT Media Lab, but he shared a very common passion with Anand, which was this idea of blending the digital world and the real world. And so Jinha received a ton of acclaim while he was at MIT, for his research on this idea of the tangible pixel. That was the idea of blending the digital and real world. And Jinha built the world’s first desktop AR computer, which he called SpaceTop. He actually kind of named it SpaceTop as an homage to BumpTop, even though he had never met Anand. So when he gave his TED Talk in 2013, he showed off these prototypes and showed off the work, and he met Anand, and they both realized that they were spirit animals.
The funny thing was that they wanted to work together then and there. But Jinha had to go do his military service in Korea, and it ended up being that he worked out this special deal where he did it as a research fellow at Samsung. So Jinha built all these prototypes as the lead 3D interface designer for Samsung’s TV business unit, transformed how Samsung thought about interfaces. And Jinha started to really think about how he could change interfaces to enable people to access information anywhere, interact with it more intuitively, and even better connect people. And when Jinha finished up at Samsung, AR had sort of started catching on in earnest. It was around 2015, the first Hololens had come out. Jinha had worked at Microsoft Research and he had offers to go back to Microsoft Research and Google and all these other companies and do serious hefty work for them on AR. But Anand had had this original idea, which was basically to try and build the Android for AR. That was where Spatial kind of started.
Alan: That’s adventurous.
Jacob: That’s very adventurous. And they did a ton of experimentation. And what they realized was they felt that they were getting themselves a little bit down this path of… ingenious experimentation, sort of eye-opening bits and pieces. But they didn’t feel like the industry was ready for something that was that expansive. So instead they said, “well, what can we take from our experiments, that feels like it’s actually onto something, that’ll be really useful?” So they went back to the fundamentals of, “what does AR really do for a user, and what are their particular pain points that people are having?” What they realized was the following: firstly, in the crossing-the-chasm sort of path, it became clear to us that enterprise is where this was all going to get started, because enterprise folks were feeling the same pain points as consumers, but there were pillars in place that would make it easier for enterprises to adopt AR versus consumers, in terms of having a greater willingness to pay relative to the ROI they could get. Because AR was going to be expensive in the early going. And the pain was more pronounced and identified in enterprise level than it was at a consumer level, which enterprises were far more well aware of the problems they were having — that AR could solve — than consumers were. That’s where this “a-ha” moment came to say, well, it seems really clear that the biggest problem that enterprises are having — that other technologies are no longer moving the needle on — are enterprise. And I reference other technologies, because one really important thing was that AR not only has to do a good job at solving the problem, but has to do a better job than other technologies, or even just fundamentally human ways of solving it.
Alan: So, what is the problem?
Jacob: The problem is that companies are distributed — they have people all over the world — that need to work together, yet they can’t do it well. They have a couple of tools available to them that move the needle a bit. Things like voice or video chat. But as you go beyond having just a handful of people interacting, and as you go beyond trying to collaborate on one single piece of information, those tools break down. If you look at the size of the video conferencing market, estimates put it like $20- to $30-billion. And you look at the size of the business travel market, which is $1.3-trillion and growing, it’s very, very clear that people still have a very strong preference to be in the same room with one another in order to effectively collaborate.
And travelling sucks. It’s expensive.
Alan: It’s funny, because we’ve done 25 episodes, and there’s been at least five episodes where we talk about the fact that virtual and augmented reality allows you to travel and transport and collaborate with people without travelling. Because travelling to the beach with your family? Awesome. Travelling to a boardroom for a one-hour meeting? Not so much.
Jacob: It’s horrendous. I mean, listen: I’m not going to make the case that AR is going to eliminate all forms of travel. There are forms of travel that are still enjoyable or useful. And in the short and medium term, we’re under no illusion that a lot of business travel is this ritualistic form of relationship building, where the very fact that I’m willing to sacrifice to see you is some sort of signifier of the importance of the relationship. That’s going to continue to happen. But there’s so much frivolous travel that happens for interactions that could so easily be done in AR. We think that it would become very obvious and very easy, very quickly, for people to elect to travel this way than taking hours and hours and hours out of their life, sitting on this uncomfortable aluminum tube where people get sick and they hurt their backs and their legs get really, really cramped up. If you told someone they could avoid all that and do it in AR, I think people would be very interested. And the signal to us so far has been that, “hell yeah!”
Alan: Give us an example of this Spatial augmented reality, and why does it better in augmented reality versus virtual reality? Why would I want that? Or, is this maybe something that can be bridged across both, when you need a fully-immersive space versus that? Why would somebody use this over VR?
Jacob: It’s a great question. The short answer is, is that our goal is to enable people to choose what they want in the medium and long term. In the short term, our observations are the following: each medium has its own advantages or disadvantages. We feel that augmented reality — particularly in enterprise, for the use cases that we’re talking about now — has the following advantages. Number one: people are not quote unquote isolated. They continue to see the real world around them. And relatedly, they can also continue to see their other devices while they’re working in the media. We felt that just from a pure comfort perspective, we were hearing from a lot of folks in Enterprise that there was discomfort, not seeing their environment. There was frustration at not being able to see their other devices. And thirdly — and this is actually very important — in a lot of enterprise collaboration scenarios, you tend to have a mix of people that are not just entirely remote, but also people that are physically in the same space together, that want to work together. And those people found it kind of awkward that they were sitting next to another human being, but couldn’t actually see that real person even though they were sitting next to them.
Alan: There it is right there. Being in virtual reality, if you’re across the country or around the world, that’s great. But if you’re standing in the same room together and putting on VR headsets — even though you’re standing in the same room — doesn’t make sense.
Jacob: Absolutely. But to your other point, we do intend to experiment and support VR over time, because we do feel that in certain circumstances, it is beneficial to be in an entirely virtual space. In particular, the thing we’re hearing more and more is for workers that are entirely remote — and that’s actually increasingly common either because people are freelancing more and more, or because businesses are becoming more comfortable with remote work — there is an increasing demand for people to feel like they are in a certain space. And more and more often we’re hearing, either people want to feel like they’re in what we call “the center of gravity,” which may be the space where most of the people are collaborating from.
So, for example, if I am joining a board meeting and eight people are in one space, and I happen to be remote in an entirely different space, it makes me feel more connected with that group in that environment, if I’m in a simulated or streamed board room. Or in some other instances, that location that I see around me in the virtual space may have some real relevance to the task at hand. For example, if I’m going through some sort of instruction or training exercise where my environment really matters, then we can understand why it might be important to jump into a VR headset and limit the distraction from the real environment around me, and replace it with an entirely virtual environment.
Now, in Spatial — and your friend, Mr. Jonathan Moss, amazing human being who we were talking about before we started — they’re in trial with us, and doing some work in Spatial. And one actually really interesting thing that they’ve achieved — and this wasn’t even something that we had thought of, but they used our platform in a pretty interesting way — is they actually load up a Sprint room, and they actually achieve a pretty remarkable mixed reality effect in the Hololens, where they load up a life-sized Sprint store. And you actually– even though you’re in AR — you still sort of feel like you are in a virtual space. It’s hard to describe, because you kind of have to try it. But we’ve actually started achieving a sort of MR effect, where you can still see the world around you, but it’s without full occlusion, so you still see through it in a semi-transparent way; the real Sprint store, overlaid on the world around you. So, you’re not cut off from the world. You’re not cut off from people that are in the same room with you. You’re also not in this entirely isolated state as well.
Alan: We did an experiment a little while ago, about how to sell running shoes in mixed reality; so, in the Hololens. We brought the shoes in, and it was cool to see shoes in the room. But then we said, “Well, what if we change the environment? It’s not your living room, but it’s now a basketball court?” So we actually did exactly what you’re saying, and built this box around you; that you’re in a basketball court, the sounds of playing. And then it wasn’t that I was on the basketball court. It was around me. The sounds were there. I could see the basketball court. But the shoes were there, and it just changed the whole context.
Jacob: Right on. And there are these UX innovations. We try and develop some of them from the ground up, but some of them just happen through experimentation. And that’s the joy of working with our customers.
I should also give another example. Mattel is our biggest customer, and it was such a nice lock-and-key fit for what they were looking for, and what we could provide, because they have folks in Southern California and Buffalo (where Fisher-Price is located), and in China, and they have this value chain in terms of how they develop and create toys that involves brainstorming and engineering and manufacturing planning. It’s this lifecycle of the product that spans across multiple sites, where people really need to work closely together, and the friction that exists in that current process that results from people having to travel — or having to work in 2D in video conferencing — is really painful.
So you can imagine that being able to transport anywhere with AR and feel like you’re in the same room with people. Beyond just what it does from a communications perspective, but what it does from a relationship building perspective — just in terms of how humans bond around one another — smooths out working together enough. And then on top of that, the fact that they can then brainstorm in Spatial. So we have a feature that we call ThoughtFlow, where you can literally just throw up your fingers, speak out what you’re thinking of and visualize that information immediately and organize it on walls. So, you can brainstorm within Spatial, they can start to bring in their designs, or even using our new Hololens features, animate and draw within Spatial.
I have to give myself a little bit of a self-shoutout, because we were just on stage with Satya Nadella for the second time at Microsoft Build, which is their big developer conference. It was in Seattle, and we demonstrated the next step in our collaboration with Microsoft, which is not just developing more features that are native to Hololens 2 — which, in this case, included being able to draw just with your fingertips, having full hand tracking and eye tracking so the avatars really come to life – we’re actually doing really, really deep integration with the Microsoft graph. And this is a really important point: if AR lives separately from the existing ways that you collaborate not in AR, there will be a wall of friction that will prevent organizations or enterprises from wanting to adopt it. And I’m speaking to those that are listening that are thinking like, “yeah, this all sounds well and good, but I already have all these existing software tools. This sounds like a nightmare to have to adopt some other thing.” The really cool thing about Spatial is that you can jump into a Spatial collaboration straight from your existing collaboration tools.
Here’s what that looks like; I could be working in Microsoft Teams, and we could be sharing information, typing, doing video chat, and we might decide, “oh, well, we need to get into holographic here to really start to do things like annotate on a 3D model or visualize all the information we just loaded up”. Instead of having to jump into a headset and go through this weird system of uploading files that have some other login, we can literally use your active directory login. You can generate a QR code. You just look at the QR code through your headset. It detects your eyes — basically does eye scanning — to verify who you are, and you’re instantly in Spatial with all the information you were just working on, immediately visualized; your avatar, everything that you were working on, all ready to go.
Alan: [makes explosion sound] That was my head just exploding.
Jacob: People are always like, “BS — there’s no way”. So the demo we did at Microsoft Build on-stage with Satya was live; a fully-live demo of everything we did. And then on top of that — just to prove even more that this was real — we were open for demos for a couple of days to the public at Build, where they got to try it for themselves. We’re reaching that level of frictionless experience, that easy-to-integrate with the existing ways you collaborate. And oh, by the way, lucky us; it happens to be that the Microsoft Graph and the Microsoft stack is already being used by most Fortune 1000 companies, anyway. We’re integrating the stack that most these big companies are already using.
Alan: About a year ago, the Hololens moved from the devices division of the company over to the Azure cloud computing side of the company. That was the precursor to this. I believe Microsoft also saw this as, “hey, Hololens is cool as a standalone tool, but if it integrates with everything, then it’s a real enterprise tool.” And you guys have taken full advantage of that.
Jacob: I can’t speak for Microsoft, but I think anything I’m about to summarize is probably already out there in some form, from comments they’ve already given. But I think that’s exactly right. And I think that Microsoft’s vision for AR is that it is this interface that allows you to access information that lives anywhere, on any device. And the connective tissue that enables that are these series of Azure services that they offer, whether it’s pure Azure Cloud or some other Azure services that allow you to then go and load up or interact with that information in an effective way. I do think that that’s Microsoft’s vision. And I think that they’re building these groundbreaking devices like the Hololens 1 or 2 to accelerate the space. But in the near future, when lots of different companies are producing these AR headsets, I presume that Microsoft is just going to try and be essentially the fundamental OS layer and cloud layer that provides all the services that enable you to just collaborate effectively.
Alan: Well, you’re already seeing that with Microsoft giving their entire tech stack to their mixed reality partners. So they’ve said, “okay, here’s all the tech we have in the Hololens,” and they’ve licensed that out to HP and Lenovo and Dell so that they can make the hardware. You’re already seeing that distribution of the technology from a hardware standpoint, all running on the Microsoft Azure stack. It’s a really smart plan.
Jacob: But if you just look at how they work with developers, and in terms of the mixed reality tool kit, and the early access to Azure services that they’re offering — I mean, they’re really trying to empower developers to build the future of AR. And they just want to offer these fundamental services. Total pleasure working with Microsoft on that front, and it’s convenient for us that Microsoft is already the biggest show in town, in terms of enterprise services for these companies. It means that not only is it just a pleasure working with a good partner, but it also helps us get ready and up to snuff to work with all these big companies anyway.
Alan: It gives you global scale almost instantly, which is fantastic.
Jacob: But it’s also worth noting that Spatial is a cross-platform company. I say this simultaneously, which is; Microsoft’s an incredible partner, but we also know that there are other great companies helping make AR reality out there. And so we have our Magic Leap build coming out very soon. That’s really exciting. And obviously the Magic Leap 1 is a tremendous device and we’re excited about Magic Leap as they continue to push the space. And I can’t talk publicly about it yet, but we’re also working from some other big partners — big names — that are building hardware and building platforms in this space, because we think that a lot of people have good ideas about AR.
Alan: There is going to be some amazing stuff coming out. I just got invited to an event at AWE where it’s — a company that you wouldn’t think of — is gonna be launching something in AR. They’re coming out of the woodwork!
Jacob: Well, for sure. And they have to. We used to talk about this at Samsung all the time, which is; whether it’s glasses or a contact lens, until you get to some sort of deep neural uplink? To some extent, AR is the last medium. And there are going to be a lot of different house terms for how you plug into that medium. But this type of visual interfaces is kind of the last interface. I think a lot of companies realized that, if they don’t own some piece of it, they’re going to be locked out forever, because AR is going to be computing, period. Like, we’re not going to be talking about AR at some point; it’s just going to be computing.
Alan: I keep saying to people: within the next 10 years, we’re going to look back and say, “wow, I can’t believe we used to look at these flat screens all the time, and we carried around a phone.” It’ll be slow and it’ll take longer than most people anticipate. Then all of a sudden one day, we’ll be wearing a pair of glasses that does everything for us, and the whole world is now our computer, and we just don’t know any better. It’s like picking up a BlackBerry now. It feels… obsolete.
Jacob: That’s right. To that point, it’s really important for the big companies that are trying to produce things in the space, because… listen: you’re not going to have a cell phone, you’re not going to have a TV. Like, all these devices that some big tech companies produce. You’re not going to have a monitor. I mean, the Hololens 2 is already doing like 2K in each eye, which is basically almost at the resolution your monitor’s already at. Why would you own a monitor, if you just put on a pair of glasses that’s really comfortable, wear it for a while and by the way, have a ton of different monitors and be able to paint the world — to borrow Charlie Fink’s phrase — paint the world with data, paint the world with information? It’s a better offering for users. And actually, we talk about this at Spatial all the time. We have this feature that we haven’t really shown publicly yet, which is essentially this infinite desktop feature. And I do think that that’s also going to be a big part of the story of what pulls people into AR. I think AR — in the initial going — is going to be very fundamentally about only a few features, particularly head-mounted AR. And we think that it’s probably going to be some combination of single player mode, where you just can visualize a ton of information with the same fidelity that you would look at your monitor, but just don’t have to have a bunch of monitors. And then we think the combination of that, plus being able to collaborate very seamlessly, natively, in 3D on information — that combination probably surpasses what people could do with lots of different devices and other mediums. And it brings them together under one umbrella.
That’s a very compelling offering for people. You have all your information sort of under one umbrella. Then, once it’s already convenient enough to just jump into AR, then it’s going to be a lot more convenient to start bringing all the other apps natively into AR, because you’re already in the experience. And that’s kind of how it happened in mobile, right? It’s like, I started using my phone for one thing, which is essentially email and maybe taking a photo and using my calculator. And then it started becoming a pain in the butt to use my phone for one thing, and my desktop for other things. And so there are a lot of things we do on our phone that’s kind of better to do on a laptop or desktop, but because the phone already has this gravitational pull for the things that really matter, I just start doing the mobile version of it over and over, and I think that’s what transition starts to look like in AR.
Alan: Yeah, Google Drive. Google Drive on a mobile. It’s not fun, but it gets the job done.
Alan: One of the things that I saw — and I’m not sure what video it was — and this kind of blew my mind, because a lot of companies, they’ll bring everybody together and they’ll create a war room — they say war room — but getting together, putting all your ideas on the walls, putting your sticky notes up, and you’re really just brainstorming and coming up with collaborative ideas, bringing in photos, printing them off, stick them on the wall, and you create this room full of all your ideas. But then, somebody else has the room booked. You’ve got to pull all the stuff down and you end up taking some pictures, hopefully somebody makes some notes. With Spatial, you can create this war room, hit save — or it probably automatically saves — and then automatically come back anytime you want, into the exact room and look at the war room.
Jacob: That’s right.
Alan: That, to me, for marketing companies, is going to be a game-changer.
Jacob: 100 percent. And by the way, like, yeah, you can come back into the same physical room, or any physical room and just remap that information to existing surroundings.
Here’s an interesting little anecdote. One of the things we think about a lot actually is PowerPoint. The story of PowerPoint is essentially, if you think about the early 90s and how people did presentations, most people didn’t put together robust presentations to have meetings. For really, really big deal things, you might put together some slides and get some people who can draw to do it, or you might use some early presentation software to put it together. But most people weren’t great at using that. And so it was a special thing.
Then what happened was some of these Microsoft Office tools came out — like PowerPoint — and they embedded within certain groups of people. Like, MBAs going to consulting companies, and the MBA has basically started figuring out, “wow, actually, I could start preparing all sorts of meetings in slide presentation. And it actually makes it a lot easier for me to communicate the points I want to communicate in a manner that encourages recall.” And that draws attention and does all these things that actually, at the end of the day, make people just recognize the work you’re actually doing and recognize the message you’re trying to promulgate.
So what was originally a somewhat niche activity grew in popularity, because the barrier to entry to doing it diminished. So presentation went from a special thing to a very common thing. And part of our intuition is that we think something similar can happen with war rooming. Where right now, companies — for some specific task — they’re always going to set up this type of design thinking kind of room. And it’s kind of difficult to do. You have to take all these post-its, and you put stuff on the wall, then you have to reserve the room for a couple of days. All these things you just said. We’re saying, well, yes, for the people that are already doing that, certainly this is like bullseye for them. It’s so much better, they could take that room wherever they go; the Hololens sits in their backpack. It’s not limited to one room anymore. And they don’t have to physically use any of these tools. They can just use their fingertips and flick things onto the wall and it’s just so much easier.
But the other thing we’re trying to say is, if the barrier to entry to that type of exercise was insanely low, would that type of thinking become way more popular within organizations, and become a whole new way to conduct meetings? Because right now, most people are kind of lazy about how they run meetings. If someone even puts together an agenda, it’s like, “wow — 10 points for Gryffindor.” And then if you put together a PowerPoint, you know, “my god; promotion”.
Alan: We have a policy. We will not have a meeting without an agenda.
Jacob: Well, exactly. But if those are the only tools you have to run a meeting, it’s kind of bare bones. At the end of the day, all this brainstorming conversation happens. And the best you can hope for is that someone is taking some notes and sent them out. And then maybe two people look at that notes. But most people, never again. This idea of being able to manifest information — put it on the walls, use your physical space to organize that information — and then be able to return to it is pretty wild. If you can make it really easy to run a meeting that way, companies are going to find that it’s just a much more effective way to run a meeting. People are going to take away a lot more. They’re going to return to it. And it’s going to make the bang for your buck of a meeting that much more pronounced.
Part of what we’re hoping is for, when we’re creating in this design thinking room; it’s not perfectly analogous to the PowerPoint, but we’re hoping the crossover in terms of impact — similar impact — is similar. And by the way, we’re continuing to experiment with a lot more use cases for Spatial, and a lot more different kinds of meetings. So we’re definitely trying to get deeper into what else is improved by having that Spatial interface, or being able to intuitively, innately interact with 3D information without having to translate it from a 2D interface into your native way you process information, which is in 3D. And we think the potential is limitless.
Alan: It really is. So, let’s get down to some practicals here, because I think people are assuming that this is some pie-in-the-sky, “this may be something we’ll do in 10 years from now”. But the stuff that you guys are working on, companies are using it right now. You mentioned Mattel. You mentioned Sprint, and our friend Jonathan Moss. (Shout out to Jonathan!) Really, what is the timeline around this, and what are some of the costs involved? What are the key performance indicators that you’re using with your customers to figure out what is the value being generated here? What are the costs? What are the ROIs, and what is it gonna take for a company to start using Spatial now?
Jacob: The good news is it’s extremely easy. And relative to the ROI, not expensive. So here’s how it works. First and foremost, Spatial’s cross-platform. We actually even have a phone and web app that you can use, even if you don’t have headsets, which makes it really easy to adopt. Because companies, enterprises; it takes some time to adopt headsets in significant number. So, knowing that no one’s going to be left out of the experience is pretty important to them. You’re gonna need some headsets, whether it’s Hololens 1 or 2, or Magic Leap 1, to have the experience. And so companies need to come to terms with buying those headsets. And so that’s the first cost–
Alan: Is Spatial available on Hololens 1?
Jacob: We are in Hololens 1. You can download us today, we’re in the [Microsoft] Store and we’ll give you a trial account, willy-nilly.
Alan: I’m going to get it right now.
Jacob: Yeah, absolutely.
Alan: While we’re on this call. While I’m listening, I’m going to pull it up.
Jacob: Yeah, Spatial, just search that at the Microsoft Store in the Hololens. The other really cool thing is that — and by the way, we’ll need to set you up with an account, which, while I’m good at multitasking, I’m not great at doing that while we’re doing it, but I’ll set that up right after this podcast is over — the next thing is, the Microsoft Graph integration is pretty seamless. If you have Microsoft Teams, go under the integration, that’s super easy. But all you need to do is just download Spatial. We’re in the store. Email us, we’ll set you up with accounts.
In terms of what it costs, it’s quite reasonable. One single telepresence room from companies like Cisco or some other companies costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. For the same price, you can basically roll out Spatial for your entire organization with unlimited accounts. If you can justify the ROI, which most of these big companies do for one of these single rooms — which is, by the way, only in one location; no one knows how to use it, and basically, you have to get people to travel to the location just to use it. The fact that you can use Spatial on any of these headsets, anywhere in the world, it’s just a far stronger value proposition.
And then in terms of how you measure the impact? Well, that’s also pretty easy from our part. Some companies have very specific KPIs depending on what their specific use cases. But the general, KPIs are essentially just, if you look at the number of meetings that you’re conducting in Spatial, you can take a pretty reasonable average of what the cost would be to do that meeting and travel for that meeting. And it’s usually some combination of X hundreds of dollars for airfare. You’d have to look at the averages for organization, X hundreds of dollars for your hotel, X hundreds of dollars spent on meal, tens or a hundred dollars spent on your rideshare. And what you are basically finding, I mean… the company — I can’t disclose this, but one of the companies we’re in trial with — they do this research collaboration. For this one type of meeting — they use this for multiple types of meetings — but for one specific type of meeting, they do this research collaboration in Spatial. You do that once a quarter for this research team that’s located at around the world. That’s $40,000 in travel costs for one meeting. So you do that four times a year for just one meeting, you’re already basically paying Spatial back, as is. So if you roll this out even a little bit more scale than within your organization, the payback you get on it is insane, in terms of just travel savings.
The other general KPI we’ll do is we’ll just do a type of net promoter score, just for people to vote on, and tell you whether this is having actual impact and moving the needle, in terms of their effectiveness of meetings. And they’ll vote on that frequently, just to let you know the quality of meetings. That’s more of a qualitative measure. But between those real travel cost savings, and between the qualitative measure where people are weighing in on whether this is better or not, the signal is very clear that Spatial is enormously helpful for organizations. It’s extremely easy to setup. It’s very, very reasonably priced. And then, when they actually start using it, it’s an “a-ha” moment of, “oh, wow, I’m having not just a meeting that’s as effective as an in-person meeting, but a meeting that far surpasses that. Because in an in-person meeting, I don’t have the ability to bring in people from anywhere. I don’t have the ability to manifest any information at my fingertips — 2D or 3D — and place it on the wall. I don’t have the ability to annotate at my fingertips and draw and basically communicate in these very precise ways. When I’m in person, all I can do is just talk at you.” And so all that has added up to a real transformation collaboration.
I would end with; we’re not a future concept. We are real and available today. Enterprises right now, we’re exclusively working with Fortune 1000 companies. We’re actually going to be opening up soon and putting out a Spatial free trial version — just out there, for anyone to use. If you’re a Fortune 1000 company, reach out to us today. And if you’re not and you’re still clamoring to use us, the good news is we’re going to be opening up pretty soon. So watch out for us. Hopefully by the fall, we’ll have that out there for multiple folks to use.
Alan: I’m actually downloading Spatial. It is 154 megabyte file. So, very small file, too.
Jacob: Yeah, yeah. A lot of hard work went into optimizing that. We do a pretty interesting split between work on the device and in the cloud.
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