Businesses that were late adopters of the World Wide Web and the mobile realm are the butt of obsolescence-themed jokes today. Extended Reality evangelist Rori DuBoff from Accenture joins us to advise the businesses of today how not to miss the same boat, and shares strategies on staying ahead of the curve.
Alan: Today’s guest is Rori DuBoff, Managing Director and Head of Content Innovation and Strategy for Extended Reality — that’s VR, AR and MR — at Accenture Interactive. Rori is a strategic and innovations leader with over 20 years experience working in digital marketing, integrated media, creative brand advertising, and emerging technologies.
As a virtual, augmented, and mixed reality evangelist, Rori advises companies on strategy and marketing opportunities for brand and business transformation. Prior to Accenture, Rori was Global Head of Digital Strategy and executive vice president at Havas Media Group, where she led and managed strategic planning worldwide, with a focus on digitally-integrated marketing communications and innovation.
Previous to that, Rori was a partner and director of strategy at Ogilvy, where she focused on developing digital marketing strategies for health, retail, and media industries. Rori holds an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business and a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.
She is a regular public speaker, contributing writer for Ad Age, Guardian, Campaign US, Mediapost, and a jury member for the Cannes Lions. With that, I mean, what more can I say? Rori, welcome to the show, and Rori, I just want to let people know that they can find you on Accenture.com and they can follow you on Twitter @RoriDuBoff. Rori, welcome to the show.
Rori: Thank you. Nice to nice to be joining.
Alan: It’s such a pleasure to have you on the show, and I’m really excited. I want to dive right in and get an understanding of what Accenture Interactive does, and what your role there is, and how you’re helping businesses use these virtual/augmented/mixed reality technologies across their enterprise.
Rori: Sure. So, Accenture Interactive is part of the larger Accenture consulting company. So Accenture is a very large technology and strategy company with over 400,000 employees worldwide. Accenture Interactive was developed, I think about five… a little bit more than five years ago, to focus more on the brand experiences that a lot of our clients were looking to develop, in terms of engaging customers. So within Accenture Interactive, we focus on user journeys, on strategy, on experiences, on marketing, and we’ve more recently — in the last two years — been looking at this new space of extended reality. And extended reality is the term that we are using at Accenture, and I think across the industry others are also using this term “XR” to include virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D experiences; all different types of experiences that blend the digital and physical worlds, and work on extending your reality.
Alan: So, would the things like computer vision and machine learning, would that fit? Would you bundle those under XR as well?
Rori: Yeah, absolutely. Those are critical technologies that we are looking at, in terms of making VR and AR experiences smarter, more personalized. Accenture has different groups, like a group headed dedicated to artificial intelligence, things like cloud computing, and machine learning is a part of artificial intelligence. And we work together to sort of use those technologies within the immersive experience area.
Alan: Incredible. So let’s dive in: what are some of the best examples that you or your team has worked on in this type of role? So, you’re meeting with a customer, you’re saying hey, we’ve got a solution for you? Or is it a joint thing? How does the process work when you start to engage with a customer and then work with them on that?
Rori: I’d say, about two years ago, I think a lot of the time with with our clients was spent on educating people on what VR is, on what AR is. And it’s a year later; I think a lot of our clients sort of understand that now. They get that there are these VR headsets out there. Not all of them have tried it, but they understand what the technology is. And with augmented reality — especially, with the growth in mobile augmented reality — I think people are more aware now, of what these technologies are.
So now, what we focus on when we speak with clients is the use case development. We figure out these technologies, how can they be used? For our retail clients, we’ve been talking around different areas, in terms of how do you develop a mobile augmented reality strategy to drive growth through retail? So that could be creating filters or lenses for product visualization. It can also be around planning the future retail store, and using plan-o-grams to set up spaces for future retail. We also speak with automotive manufacturers, around how they can start marketing and merchandising future car models that might not even be done yet, but through the use of these new technology experiences that let us create 3D models of the car, and sort of market that to potential customers before they might even arrive in the showroom.
Alan: Can we unpack that a bit? Because that, I think, is an incredible use case; being able to start selling something before it even exists. And I mean, you can always sell things with 2D diagrams and pitch decks and stuff. But really, what you’re talking about is a completely new thing.
Rori: Yes. So, we were at South by Southwest this year at the end of March, and a lot of the stuff we’re showing is exactly that. We had, for DuPont Corian — which is a client of ours — we had an experience that showed bathroom vanities that you’re able to look at and place inside of your own space, similar to what IKEA is doing, and Amazon. There’s a whole growth around that area, in terms of product visualization, especially for larger, more expensive items that people want to be able to see in their own homes. We had an advance opportunity to start showing some of those potential items before they might be available in-store.
We also had for Kendra Scott, which is a jewelry maker, the ability to try on earrings. Now, some of those models you can buy now, but to be honest, I’m not sure if all of them were you could purchase them now, or maybe some of them were exclusively advance to be able to see there. So you’re seeing companies be able to test out the demand and interest in products, and sell them, and then adapt their inventory based upon how people, you know, what their experience is like trying them on virtually before they might even be physically built.
Alan: So let me ask you a quick question from an ROI standpoint: How much… you can give ballpark numbers in this case, but how much would something like this… let’s say for example I’m a jewelry maker, and I want to be able to try on necklaces and earrings, and I want to have — I don’t know — a hundred of my earrings on this. What would something like that cost, and what are the ROIs that you’re seeing? Like, what is the return on that? So for example, if it cost $100,000 to be able to put [up] my hundred earrings, what is the uptick that you’re seeing in sales? Is there a specific rise in revenues that you’re seeing because of this technology?
Rori: So I can answer that question in terms of the different variables that go into what the ROI would look like, but I unfortunately can’t answer the actual numbers right now because a lot of this stuff is completely new.
The models haven’t been fully developed and we haven’t actually gone out and evaluated their returns. What you have to look at when you’re creating these sort of experiences, though, is the quality of the models, and then the AR based on that. So we as an industry are still trying to figure out. We know that for, like, the automotive space for instance, the quality of a model that you’re creating, or the actual car that you’re experiencing: the higher the quality, the more realistic the car looks, and the end investment in that car, you can talk between 20, 30, 40,000 dollars. So, the process justifies the means at the end.
With things like jewelry, you have to look at how much the quality of the model — and when I say model, I mean the actual physical replica, or we call a digital model that you’re looking at in the virtual space. So the quality can vary; some virtual objects could be lower quality, like a Coke bottle. How much are you going to spend in terms of creating the replica of a Coke bottle, versus an earring? Is it a diamond earring? Do you need to make it uber-exact? When someone tries it on the virtual space, do they need to have intense detail around it?
Those are the kind of levers that we’re trying to look at, in terms of figuring out the costs into going into creating these experiences based upon the value of the object, and how much it can be sold for. And then that dictates how much effort goes into the creation. But we’re not at the point right now where we can give ROI figures, unfortunately.
Alan: It’s interesting, because a lot of clients — and I’m sure you get this every day — they say, we love this thing; we want it, but who else is doing it, and how much does it cost? And what’s my return on investment? Like… nobody else is doing it. We’re not really sure how much it’s going to cost. And we have no idea on the return. Still want to pay? Still want to buy it?
Rori: Well, I understand that. I think that this is where I go into the analogy with the digital space. It’s not just about replicating exactly what you’re doing. It’s about rethinking how you’re doing things. Companies, when the Web came along — or, sorry, “the mobile space,” let’s be more specific — companies like Uber or Lyft didn’t exist. Right? And if a taxi company said, can I save money by creating a mobile app, you would never have had an Uber or Lyft that were created. So I think part of it is figuring out a new channel.
And I 100 per cent believe that the immersive space is just like the web space or the mobile space, in the sense it will overtake everything, and there’ll be no opportunity to say “no” if you want to stay competitive. But I also think you need to say, well, how am I doing business now? Maybe there’s an opportunity to create even more custom offerings, or more personalized offerings that never would have existed if you didn’t have the opportunity to give people a [way to] virtually try things on.
Alan: Well I think you you nailed it there. And you know, people that are listening, if you’re looking to use these technologies and you’re thinking, should I wait? What is your recommendation to people that say, why don’t we just wait and see? Because with mobile, and with Web, there was always this “wait-and-see.” And I think the problem that people don’t understand is that Web came, and it took you know 10-15 years to kind of mature. Mobile took another 10 years to mature. Virtual, augmented, and mixed realities — or extended realities — are happening much faster. So, what do you say to… or, how do you overcome that objection where people say, well we’re just going to wait and see?
Rori: Yeah. It’s a common thing. I think the way to look at it is to think incrementally. You don’t have jump to go buying a three- to five-thousand dollar headset and creating some really complicated experience that only five people can use. Right now with the mobile phone, there are so many cool, interesting experiences that brands are doing, just with augmented reality, through filters on SNAP or Facebook or Instagram that are getting a whole new generation of what we call, I guess, Gen-Z excited and really, really engaged. And the results on that, in terms of engagement, drive to purchase, we did some data research recently with SuperData, which is part of Nielsen now, on the increase of likelihood to purchase through mobile augmented reality — even virtual reality. Mobile virtual reality on a headset like an Oculus Go, which is $200.
So I say, first, don’t think uber-complicated; start off more simple. Not simple in idea and not simple in strategy, but maybe more simple in technology. Start understanding those incremental changes. You have an email; you could potentially add augmented reality to it. You have video that you’re doing; maybe think about how 360 video could enhance the experience, or bring it a step further. So that’s what I would say, is that you have to start moving into that space. Because we are shifting from a world of everything being flat and 2D content-oriented, to a world in which people will be expecting more and more things to be 3D, rotatable, modular, and that’s where everyone needs to be headed, or you will be left out completely in the future.
Alan: I agree. You said that very eloquently. Let’s go a little bit personal, on what you think is some of the greatest examples. There’s tons and tons of examples out there. Last week, Game of Thrones had a Snap filter where you could take the Flatiron building and drop a dragon on top, and Nike had a Snap filter where LeBron James comes out of a poster and slam dunks in your space. There’s been all sorts of amazing marketing — Burger King allowed you to point your phone at a competitor’s ad; it would catch on fire and they give you a free Whopper. All in augmented reality. These are some really cool filters and experiences that are being done from the phone, from the mobile device in everybody’s hand, and this has instant scale. I mean, by the end of this year, we’ll have approximately 2 billion smart devices that will be AR-enabled. So, what are some of the best examples that you’ve seen, or maybe done?
Rori: Well, you named all three, and I knew all of them. And I’m thinking, is it because I’m just in the industry that I uber-focus on that? Probably. But I guess I remember all three of those, especially since I live right near the Flatiron, and I thought, oh my God I should…I need to go replicate that same experience that I saw posted on Twitter with that dragon sort of soaring over. It was really, really cool.
If you asked me if I can recall, that I remember any commercials, or more of the traditional media, and I’d be lost. I guess in many respects, those are just kind of cool experiences, and I stopped even thinking about them as advertising. To your point, we’re seeing a lot of really interesting, smart uses of augmented reality on the mobile phone, and getting people to explore and try and pay attention to brands that maybe they might not normally — I mean, all of those brands also have a high sort of engagement rate — but I think that half of using more and more of the opportunity to engage people through AR through the phone is going to be a continued path of opportunity for a lot of different brands. We are in discussions around that. A few interesting projects.
I think that some of the other spaces beyond mobile augmented reality that we’re also seeing a lot of potential interesting use cases are around virtual reality as well. What I’ve been impressed with is a lot of brands that we’ve had taking another look at VR. About two or three years ago, a lot of people were using virtual reality for branded content, and I think we had a sort of saturation point where a lot of people were questioning, what am I doing with this medium? Why am I spending all this money? What’s the return I’m getting on it? So they pivoted to mobile AR, which is a little bit more accessible — not a little bit; a lot more accessible — and you’re seeing the results, and the reach is pretty pretty awesome. So I’m excited to see that continue, and the connection to commerce we’re going to be seeing evolve as well.
So, you’re gonna start seeing a higher return on investment, because through the mobile phone and a lot of those experiences, the connection to commerce, and the ability to purchase and buy through those lenses — so you see a product and immediately be able to buy it — I’m excited for that path moving forward.
Alan: Yeah I think… well, pretty much everybody… So I would say, Google is leading the way with this, with Google Lens being able to take your phone out, open the camera, point it at a pair of shoes, and it will tell you exactly where to buy those shoes instantly from your phone. I think the camera as a lens to do commerce is really becoming powerful.
Rori: Yes. Yes, exactly. And Instagram as well. So you’re going to be hearing a lot of that.
Alan: So, I think Google’s leading. Snapchat is also doing it. I think one of the things that brands have to understand is all these big platforms — Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram — these platforms have users already there, and they’ve made it fairly simple and fairly easy for brands to create these new experiences using the Snap Lens Studio or Facebook Spark, which is their development platform. Are you finding that brands are starting to try to do things in-house, or are they still looking for advice and help with pulling this together?
Rori: Yeah. I think that there’s still a need to understand these technologies. And there’s also the creative teams that go about creating/producing it. And so we don’t see a massive amount of resource yet in this space. I think that the new generation of talent — say if you were studying right now — creative developer, understanding… I mean, these don’t necessarily all require Unity or Unreal, which are the software programs — the game engines — that often power a lot of this interactivity and experience. But there is a need to to have more talent to help with it, and to strategically think through why and how can I use augmented reality.
I think we’re still stuck in that frame, where it’s like, how do I move the same content I have into a 3D experience? And what we need to do is kind of rethink through what’s the best use of the medium. I do think that there’s a lot of excitement and interest amongst our clients, and some of them have in-house teams. But at the end of the day, there’s also a lot of external specialty companies and groups that are helping, and we’re looking to do that as well. And to also connect it into the broader ecosystem, right? So, if you want to do commerce with AR, how does it tie to your backend inventory? Has it tied to your personalization efforts? How does it tied to the broader system in-store so it’s not just fragmented? And I think, when we look to immersive technology, what we try to remember is what we’ve learned from the past, which is you don’t want to go out and just create a standalone experience. You want it to be connected to the rest of the ecosystem.
You asked earlier on about challenges, in terms of this moving forward. I’d say one of the biggest challenges is making sure that we’re thinking about immersive as part of a larger system of engagement; as part of a larger system of experience, versus a one-off. Because if it’s just a one-off, it’s not going to thrive long-term.
Alan: I agree, and some of the other interviews I’ve done on the show have been around the enterprise applications. So, you know, factories, training — that type of thing. And it really comes down to a lot of companies have done a ton of proof-of-concepts (or POCs), but when it really comes down to it, you have to make sure that whatever it is you’re doing with VR AR, or MR, whatever it is you’re doing has to synchronize with your current systems at scale. And I think that’s really where we’re at in this world, is everybody’s done the POCs, they’ve realized the value. They’re like, OK this is great. It increases our sales by 20 percent. It increases conversions. We’re all in. Now, how do we make sure that this is a seamless integration to our content management systems, or our retail systems?
One of the companies that is really leading the way right now is Shopify. They’ve been pushing towards VR and AR applications for several years, and they’ve just recently introduced their 3D view platform, where you can take your 3D model of your product and host it on their website. And now customers, instead of clicking through six photographs to see the product, they can see one 3D object; spin it around, open it up. And eventually, they’ll be able to hit a button and see that product in their space, whether it be on their dining room table, or on the floor, or whatever it is. So, I think the integration is key.
One of the things that you mentioned was marketing versus experiences. And the last one I would add to that is utilitarian use cases. We’re starting to see some really interesting use cases of AR, especially with the mobile phone, that allow people to maybe measure a table, or a room. What are some of the utilitarian use cases that you’ve seen that made you go, wow, that’s a really good use case?
Rori: So I mean, I’ve seen that measure the phone app. Utilitarian, I think of a kind of connection to mobile AR. So, the Bose AR headset – er, frames, excuse me — which I bought a pair of. I don’t know if you’ve tried them. The audio’s–
Alan: I haven’t. Are they any good?
Rori: They’re amazing.
Alan: I keep hearing about them. I’ve got to get a pair Bose! (If you’re listening, send me a pair of glasses).
Rori: They’re amazing. I listen to the news and music on them every day as I’m walking around the city. If anybody has any idea — which is just great — for people who don’t want headphones in your ears, or don’t like the feeling of headphones (and I’m one of those), it’s awesome. As soon as it’s synchronized with my Google Maps, which… actually, it could be right now. I could play the Google Maps with my ears, I haven’t tried that yet. In terms of maps, instead of having to hold up your phone, you’re able to walk around and your glasses say, you know, “turn left,” “turn right.” That, to me, is a very smart use case.
The struggle with some of the utilitarian uses on mobile AR right now is that you’re still holding up your phone, and that’s why I think AR on the enterprise side has succeeded for utility, because it’s glasses — which are more expensive, but you’re hands-free. Utility with mobile AR, where you have to hold your phone: yes, you can do some things, but they’re still having to hold the phone, which kind of, you know, holds back a little bit, in terms of being totally focused on utility and hands-free.
You already mentioned some of the use cases of that with Google Lens and being able to identify objects. We talked about placing furniture in your space, or other large items for sizing. Those are really smart use cases. For creativity, there are some really cool stuff you can do, in terms of sketching or drawing or designing overlays onto the space around, you which is also very smart. But surprisingly, I think for utility, just to jump back to the virtual reality space; we’ve seen in the immersive learning area, VR is huge growth around utility (immersive learning, I’m kind of putting in the category of utility, because it’s productivity, right?).
We’re seeing that people were questioning in VR, is this ever going to take off? Is it just gaming? In the consumer world it might not be taking off as much. But in the enterprise space, there is a massive, massive amount of interest. So, you know, retail–
Alan: It’s hard to argue when companies like Boeing and Wal-Mart start releasing their statistics, and they’re saying yeah, we have a 45 per cent increase in retention rates and near-zero error rates when using AR glasses and in-VR training. And then they’re going, okay, as an enterprise, even if you got a 10 per cent increase in anything, you’re going to adopt that technology. But when you’re seeing 25 to 50 per cent increases right across the board with this technology, it’s impossible to ignore it.
Rori: Yeah. So, one of the areas that we’ve been investing and exploring and developing a lot around is immersive learning and training, and we actually launched a project in the fall of last year called Avenues, which is a Accenture virtual reality experience solution. It’s spelled avenues, and it’s for social care. It’s to train social care workers using virtual reality. And the situation that we launched was a 360, live-action voice-based experience. Basically, you’re in a scene with parents, and you’re trying to identify whether the child should be placed in foster care. You have a real interview, where you interview and you speak and engage with the family. And it won an award at the Barcelona Mobile World Congress. It was up for an award at South By. And we’re actually building out that platform. It’s been so successful — we’re getting results in now, so we’ll be able to share those soon — in terms of knowledge retention, preparing social care workers for real-life experiences.
Alan: What a great use case. Let’s just stop for a second and take away all the technology; you’re enabling social care workers to make better decisions in high-stress areas, for children. That is just amazing. I have read that the case study, and I will put it in the show notes for anybody who wants to read it.
Rori: And I think one of the most important things that the team — the health and public services team that we worked with on this — pointed out, and I actually owe it to them because now I take it away with me and I think about it and it came up earlier when we are speaking, is this idea that there’s the “headset on” experience, and the “headset off” experience. You can think about it as, here’s just a VR experience to solve a solution. It’s the VR experience wrapped into a bigger strategy, and other materials; a larger experience that’s going to have impact and success. We’re succeeding with this because we’ve created this phenomenal, innovative experience using VR, but there was also a lot of thought and planning around when somebody puts the headset on, what’s that whole experience when they take the headset off, what materials are available for them and how do you support that.
We’re looking at other industries; we’re looking at talking to a large retailer in the technology space, we’re talking with other organizations in the public service sector. We’ve also spoke with a financial organization recently, and with all of them I say, immersive learning, the power we can bring through these simulated experiences of VR, but let’s also think about the broader transformation and broader engagement we need to do in your organization to socialize this work, to educate people on this work. And that’s been very successful.
Alan: It’s amazing, because there is a bit of a stigma around putting a headset on. I’ve done personally, I’ve done probably 500 events showing VR at different trade shows and things, and some people just don’t want to put something on their face and be completely isolated from the real world. I think there is a bit of a stigma there still. But it’s when you see the value that comes out of it, it really shatters that that stigma fairly quickly. It’s great, the work that you guys are doing. I love that use case. I’m going to talk about, you know, what are the most important things that businesses can do right now to start leveraging the power of extended reality or XR technologies?
Rori: Well one is I think just educating themselves, familiarizing themselves with the experience. I think a lot of organizations, they probably just need to go out or have people come in and help them understand what’s there. We were talking earlier that, you know, we’re in the industry. So we are immensely involved and engaged. But the truth is, the rest of the world, people day-to-day, this isn’t a top priority for them. So one is just education/awareness/engagement.
Then I’d say the second thing is, before jumping then right into the technology, sitting down and thinking through: what are my current challenges today? What are the current things I’m doing well? And what are the use cases in which my consumers — or my employees — might benefit from this type of technology? And so instead of thinking how do I create an AR thing or a VR thing, sort of holistically looking and saying, where does it make sense for me to start thinking about changing the way I communicate, train, sell? And that’s the right mindset, I think, going into this. As much as I’d love to see more companies do work and VR/AR/3D, there are still areas that they need to figure out — that’s just in digital media, or digital content — before they need to jump here. So, figure out what what are the right areas in the organization and then educating themselves on the technology and its potential, is where I’d be focusing.
Alan: What do you think is the fastest way for somebody that’s listening to then educate themselves? Do you guys offer strategic workshops? Do you have white papers or case studies? Where would be the best place for people to get this knowledge and educate themselves?
Rori: So we, like I guess all consulting companies, we do our workshops. We also have a bunch of white papers. I post a lot of the work on my SlideShare under Rori DuBoff as well, about different topics. Everything, ranging from marketing to the ethics of designing an immersive world. Accenture has a lot of thought leadership online. When people come to me to ask me how to get involved in the space, in terms of they’re looking to work in the space, I recommend, there’s a lot of meet-ups and a lot of groups that you can go to throughout wherever you live. I mean, I am in New York, but there’s other cities; Boston, on the West Coast, as well as Chicago, L.A. There’s a lot of groups.
This kind of space right now is so organic but so much energy and excitement. It reminds me of the early days of the web. People are out there talking and sharing, and it’s still developing. There’s no such thing as experts. I’d say get in now and learn. For people interested in working in the space, or just clients that are interested, reach out to me personally. We can certainly conduct a workshop or session, and then there’s there’s a ton of knowledge and literature online, through Twitter, through if you search for these topics.
Alan: Yeah and I think another resource that we don’t really touch, talked about, or you haven’t talked about, is the VR/AR Association. Are you members of that?
Rori: Yes, we are members of that. That’s another organization that has events and organizations on a citywide level. So that’s something to consider as well. Yes.
Alan: My wife is the president of the VR/AR Association, Toronto Chapter. If you happen to be in Toronto, we have events all the time.
Rori: Oh yes. Yes.
Alan: Shameless plug!
Rori: No, no; it’s funny. That’s a great organization, but there are a lot of people in the space looking to share, to develop knowledge, and to educate. So I’d say getting online is one step, and then obviously we want to still meet in person. We’re not quite there yet for all virtual communications.
Alan: One of the things that I always tell people is, talking about VR or AR is [tantamount] to try to teach somebody about what the color red looks like to a blind person. It’s impossible to describe it.
Rori: 100 per cent agree.
Alan: You kind of have to try it. And so, we run workshops where we show everybody, you know, here’s VR. Here’s AR. Here’s MagicLeap an HoloLens, and here’s all the different glasses. Here’s a pair of North glasses, here’s all the hardware. Here’s the different problems that can be solved with each one of them, and then go from there, as to, how do you think this can be used for your enterprise. So I think being able to be person-to-person and show people… unfortunately, there’s no advertising campaign for VR yet. In enterprise, anyway.
Alan: It’s still hand-to-hand combat.
Rori: I mean, just listening to you say all those devices, I’m thinking, it is quite intimidating. I think to most people, it is overwhelming and intimidating. I’m not surprised that the clients and consumers in general are kind of like, oh my god, what do I do with all of this? And with all the jargon — the VR and the AR the XR — I’m really looking forward to our space figuring out how to have less fragmentation, more fluidity. Simplification. I think, as we start to make the technology less technical, and it becomes a bit easier and more accessible for people to try some of these experiences, there’ll be a tipping point at some point, and I think that’s when we’ll start to really see the space skyrocket.
Alan: All right. So hold on, I’m gonna stop you right there. I don’t ask this — I’m going to start asking this is a regular question — when do you think that tipping point is going to be?
Rori: I’d say three-to-five years, maybe. Five years.
Alan: When you say “tipping point,” what does that actually mean? Like, is this when we go to a billion people using VR/AR on a regular basis? Or, what is your measurement around that?
Rori: So, my measurement is like, I’d say… where maybe the closest, five years out, would be where the mobile industry is now. Maybe ten years out, where social is, where you can’t not partake. So five years out… I mean, the mobile space is still somewhat optional. Not every brand or company has figured out how to have even their website mobile-accessible.
Alan: Yes, but they’re becoming more and more necessary.
Rori: Yes, exactly. I remember when being social was optional. You know, like, should I have a Facebook page? If you don’t have some sort of social page, somebody else will have created it for you. Right?
Alan: Yeah, true.
Rori: So, you’re not on Facebook yourself? Somebody else will have created it. And that’s not always a good thing. So most companies have some engagement in the social space, whether it be Twitter or Facebook. I’d say that 10 years out, where this will be a space that you have to be engaged. Now whether it will be called immersive VR/AR, or whether it’ll just have another name and it will be experiential.
Alan: Facial computing, maybe?
Rori: Who knows what it will be called. But the core of it, you said it earlier. Think about a 3D model, and think about when the web first launched, it was text-based. Then suddenly, people started using photography. And now video is very commonplace. And at some point — once again, especially for retail — if you do not have a 3D model of your product or real estate, if you don’t let me explore your property in 3D, you’re going to be like, you know, “inferior.” You’re not going to be part of it; you’re going to look outdated and gone. So, that shift… like right now, if you go to a website and it’s all text, you’re thinking, what, are they stuck in 1990? We’re going to be seeing that. And whether that’s, you know, probably 5-to-10 years is where I would be guessing.
Alan: So let’s talk about the outlier here, and the one that is kind of on everybody’s mind: Apple Glasses.
Alan: What do you think? Because I heard, I interviewed somebody from one of the big telcos, and they give me a timeline that was way sooner than I had ever anticipated. I mean, they don’t know either specifically, but what are your thoughts around Apple Glasses? Because Apple hired over a thousand AR developers in the last five years, and they’re all in on AR. Tim Cook has been on record saying AR is the future of computing. So, if Apple is going to release a pair of glasses — we don’t know what they’re gonna look like and what they’re going to do — but what timeline do you think? Is that within a year, two years, five years, 10 years?
Rori: So my answer to that one is, I don’t know the answer. I don’t know the timeline around Apple. I know they’re releasing glasses. I think everybody is excited, and some people are concerned, depending if they’re competitors. If you look at the history of Apple they obviously have massive success in terms of consumer adoption. But that being said, even if it’s an amazing product, we’re still at the “nice to have” phase. So what we don’t want is you know the glasses to be just considered a wearable, like the Apple Watch. Which, you know, is nice that people have that. But it didn’t transform the industry. So what I’d say is, I’m cautiously optimistic. But I don’t think at this point, I don’t really know what they entail. I’d be blown over if just these glasses in the next year or two sort of massively change the space. I think a lot more has to happen beyond just one device.
Alan: I agree. I think developers also have to start to learn how to develop in 3D. If you look back to the smartphone — the iPhone 1 was about 11 years ago now — and “app developer” wasn’t a job. That wasn’t something, there was no app developers. Now there’s millions of app developers. So they took a decade to build this ecosystem.
And now with ARCore and ARKit — ARCore being Google’s foundational framework for augmented reality, and ARKit being Apple’s — they’re really giving people that first ability to program in three dimensions. But that’s, I mean, there’s only maybe, I don’t know, a couple hundred AR programs in the world on iOS right now. So that needs to be in the tens of thousands before it would even be useful.
Rori: Yeah, yeah. And this idea, that there weren’t app developers; I believe that, for this space to be successful, there is a new breed of talent that’s required, which is thinking, how do you orchestrate the physical/digital experience. It’s not quite an architect. It’s not experiential marketing as we know, it in terms of retail store-based marketing. It’s the ability to seamlessly blend digital immersive experiences into the physical world and space. And if you talk to clients about that, or if you look at companies, there is very limited talent right now in that area. In that ability to think in that sort of digital integrated physical way. And that is where we’re going to succeed, I think, when we figure that out.
Alan: That’s some pretty exciting stuff.
Alan: I’m interviewing Matt from 6D.ai today, actually, on the show.
Rori: That’s great, that’s great.
Alan: Yeah. There’s a company… and for people listening, they’ve created a backend system that allows you, with your phone, to start programming cloud meshes of the real world. So it’s using the regular camera on your phone to put a point cloud map around the world, and create real augmented reality that uses the world in context. So imagine if your Pokémon Go could hide behind cars and people. That’s the easiest way to think about it, and that’s what they’re building. It’s really exciting.
Rori: Lots of terms for that, right? The AR cloud. Mirror World. There’s all these ideas around how do we map the physical to the digital world in a way that supports that connectivity, that seamless integration. Synchronicity. Those type of companies are going to be changing the world. So that’s exciting, that’s awesome that you’re connecting.
Alan: Quick question before we end: what problem in the world do you want to see solved with XR technologies?
Rori: A lot of discussion we’re having right now is on the ethics, in terms of sensible, smart thinking on how we handle data and privacy. I don’t think that has been solved for yet, in a way that is transparent, and that people understand, “this is the data providing, this is how it’s being used.” I’m hoping… space that we’re moving into is so personal and so sensitive, that we have to get it right. If we don’t get it right, the potential negative…
Alan: The consequences are very, very real.
Rori: Yes. So I think that figuring out things like accessibility and privacy and ethics, in a way in the space, to me, I’m really interested in it and trying to figure that out, and not take a passive stands to that. Because I think we have seen the consequences of not being more proactive, in terms of how we handle technology and experiences connected to it. So that’s what I’m really interested in solving for.
Alan: Amazing. Well, I’m going to just recap our conversation quickly for listeners. We talked about creating a powerful user journey extended reality, which is virtual/augmented/mixed reality, 3D, computer vision, and machine learning as well. And then really developing use cases around all of this in a strategic way, rather than just making something because it’s cool. We spoke about the DuPont Corian and being able to pre-visualize what some sinks and cabinetry would look like in your real space, so AR product visualization. We also spoke about jewelry try-on virtual trials, which if you go back to the cost of these things, it’s really based on the quality of the 3D models and the quality of the interactions. We spoke about Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram addressing that Generation Z with these new face filters and things that can be used for retail and marketing. And your advice was, don’t overcomplicate things. Keep it simple and then start right away, but use incremental value gains as you go. And we talked about different types of this technology; AR, mobile-based AR, 360 video, 3D visualizers on websites, stuff like that. Marketing versus experiences, and utility use cases. We talked about VR for branded content. You spoke about your amazing Bose AR glasses; they really give spatial audio, so you can have sound — we’re talking about navigation and having your Google Maps — the sound can come from 50 feet away and tell you to go over there, and really guide you through that AR experience using audio. We talked about VR and immersive learning and training. You talked about the Avenues project that you were working on with social care VR training. We’ll put that in the show notes. And really, the keys to getting into this right now are educating yourself, figuring what problems you can solve using this technology, and really the question comes down to; how will my consumers and employees benefit from this? Taking that lens. You talked about educating yourself through workshops; you can book Rori and their team at Accenture for workshops. You also have your SlideShare which I’ll put in the show notes. Then you mentioned about the tipping point being five years to 10 years out, where it will be a must-have rather than a nice-to-have. And the last part was about physical and digital interface interactions. How do we incorporate our computers into the whole world of the physical world that we live in. And then you mentioned, keep getting the ethics behind this right are the key.
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