Today’s guest got his start in the world of game development. But soon, Arash Keshmirian saw the writing on the wall that XR’s current usefulness was better-suited to the worlds of industry, retail, and journalism. Arash and Alan discuss how he made that transition.

Alan: Hey, everyone, it’s Alan Smithson here, the host of the XR for Business podcast. Today we have Arash Keshmirian, co-founder of Extality. His personal goal is to create powerful content that delivers results. We’re going to dig into using Magic Leap and Hololens and mixed reality headsets as a tool for business. So all that and more, coming up next on the XR for Business podcast.

Arash, welcome to the show, my friend.

Arash: Thank you for having me. Great to be here.

Alan: It’s my absolute pleasure. You guys have done some pretty cool stuff. I was on your website playing with a shoe. What is Extality?

Arash: Were a lot of things to many people. So we built Extality out of a long, 10 year experience in the games industry, building mobile games. Did a lot of games, including Zombie Gunship, which ended up being this kind of worldwide sensation of shooting zombies from an airplane. That company — Limbic — we ended up doing a lot of XR stuff. And kind of around 2016, 17, 18 we built a game for ARKit, called Zombie Gunship Revenant. And that ended up being a huge hit across the app store. Apple featured it a whole bunch of times. It was one of the 2017 games of the year. And it spread ARKit to a lot of people, trying new things on their new iPhones. And we later did a project called Zombie Guns Raptor with Oculus and Oculus Go, Gear VR. But really kind of around that time — 2017 — we started to feel like it was getting way too crowded in the games business, and we were starting to look around and try to figure out what we could do with our experience in high-performance graphics and making cool experiences, immersive experiences. I started talking to a guy named Ryan Peterson, who’s the founder of a CEO called Finger Food out in Vancouver. And he was telling me about all these exciting opportunities in AR and VR for enterprises. He was talking about how they’d saved millions and millions of dollars for a truck company that was looking to move their design to virtual reality from using clay models. And this got our head scratching, we were like, “You know, maybe there’s an opportunity to use all of our games experience, to help big companies and do more than just give people an entertaining hour on their phones.” So we founded a new company called Extality. And we set out to essentially discover companies that really wanted to explore XR, be it on their phones, on headsets, iPods — every type of XR — and leverage our background in doing just really hard graphics problems, building scalable global servers and connectivity, all those hard things that you learn how to do making games, we quickly realized that we’re super, super applicable to building enterprise solutions as well.

Alan: Actually, I know Ryan very well from Finger Food, really great guy. And they’ve done some amazing work in the space. What are some of the highlights that you’ve done for enterprise? And first of all, I just want to say that having a flying zombie shooter game? Pretty awesome.

Arash: [chuckles] Thank you.

Alan: The fact you guys had a hit with ARKit is pretty amazing, because there’s not too much out there leveraging the power of ARKit yet.

Arash: Yeah. I mean, if you want to talk about games for just a second, it’s an interesting thing. I mean, it gives people a totally different experience using their phone as the controller and running around the room. We have all these videos during our user tests of people crawling on the ground, shooting zombies and jumping up and down. And it became a very athletic experience, playing games this way. But what we quickly found — and part of why we started to look at where can we use AR outside of games — was that I think session times really suffer because if you want to play a game, you want to be lazy, right? You want to sit on your couch. You want have your beer. You want to take your phone out and just play in the least movement, sort of laziest way possible. And asking people to get up and run around for 30 minutes — not surprisingly — led to really short session times. And so we gained a lot of people wanting to download the game to try out AR, but we lost a lot of retention, because people weren’t interested in spending the kind of time they would normally spend on a mobile game, running around their house shooting zombies. And so that was kind of the impetus for us to say, “Well, we’ve got a lot of downloads on this, but it doesn’t perform in the way games were supposed to perform.” But we still just love this technology and we want to keep using it in a place where it really will make a difference for people.

Alan: This is why PlayStation VR has done better than the other full room scale experiences, because most people when playing a game are just sitting there.

Arash: Exactly.

Alan: And they want to play the game from the comfort of their desk, chair, or couch, or whatever. And PlayStation VR lets you do that. Most of the games are on rails and you very rarely have to give it in 360 degrees.

Arash: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I think that just sort of underscores the importance of knowing how things are going to be used and building experience for it. I think a lot of people get carried away with, “We have this great technology. We can have a 10 meter square play space. Let’s use every corner of it.” And the reality is, that doesn’t always make sense for what your user is after, for that particular game.

Alan: Rarely makes sense to use it 10 meters by 10 meter. I mean, when is the last time you had a 10 foot clear space anywhere?

Arash: Exactly. Yeah. It’s really just outdoor experiences that can really compete.

Alan: Enterprise. What have you guys done in the enterprise side, what solutions have you created?

Arash: Yeah, like I said at the beginning, we’ve been kind of all over many different industries. And so we got– our main first break as Extality was leveraging some of our game connections and things like that, to get close to Magic Leap. And Magic Leap, of course, did an amazing job of evangelizing mixed reality across the world. And one of the companies that they’d been talking to for a while was CNN, Turner Broadcasting Cable News Network. And what they wanted to do was essentially explore with CNN. What does it look like to do news in mixed reality and how do we augment the experience of essentially what you might do in the morning — which is watching headline news — how do we augment that? How do we use these new display technologies? How do we make that a richer, more interesting experience? And so what we ended up looking at with them was at first, really, how do we show news and what’s the benefit of having, for example, Magic Leap device on your head when you’re having breakfast and maybe getting ready for your day? And we started to play around with the first thing that comes to mind, which is, well, we can have virtual televisions on multiple different channels, in different sizes all around the room. And so we started to explore with building user interfaces to create just like a really great channel selector. And you can have maybe a little TV with the stock market over at the end of the breakfast table, then a really big TV that’s got a particular show or maybe a Anthony Bourdain telling you something about food. Have that at a larger scale and then imagine even potentially multiple users seeing the same TVs or some shared TVs and some individual TVs. How do we make that a cool experience, so that you can have a TV wherever you want it floating in space? And that was definitely a new way to to consume media. And that’s where the conversation started, I think. But as we got deeper into it, you realized that, of course, there’s a lot of stories that really benefit from being told with 3D content. And this isn’t something that’s new for news, right? I mean, we’ve seen a lot of 3D rendered imagery. I think it started with weather. But a lot of the time, a lot of even local news stations do this now where there’s a rendered fly through of the crime scene. Looking around the world for something or showing different objects in 3D, so they can pull apart parts of it and show the pieces of the latest SpaceX rocket, or something like that. And we started there, because a lot of companies — including CNN and Turner — they have teams that are dedicated toward building the sort of content for broadcast news, where they prepare a rendering and send it along with the video feed. But we thought, “Well, what if we can take that content and somehow make it more interactive, and make it so that you can place it on your breakfast table, or on your coffee table?” And so we looked around for a good story that might have been a good sort of starting point for maybe exploring these types of interactions in this kind of presentation. One story that was really coming out in the news at the time we were working on this project was the Thai cave rescue, where these soccer players got stuck in a cave in Thailand and they were stuck in there for quite some time. It was a situation where the whole world was watching and they had to find a way to rescue these kids. And there are a lot of technical challenges. There were a lot of weather challenges. It was just a really interesting story. And I think where we were really excited to show that with mixed reality was actually showing the cave itself and giving people a sense of how deep were these kids, and how far below the ground, and how quickly did the water rise. And so we started to work with CNN’s team that builds this kind of contact, to create 3D models of the actual geography and the terrain around where this cave was. And we even got down to doing things like where did the water rise to, and where were they at the time? And building these timeline experiences, where you can drag a timeline back and forth and see what kinds of things happened during the course of the rescue. But what was really exciting for me was actually being able to start to make it in your own home. And what I mean by that is we took a cross-section of the cave. So there’s some parts where it gets as narrow as 16, 15 inches. That’s really, really small. But you hear that number and you don’t know what would it be like to crawl through a space that large. And so one of the interactive experiences we built for that story was an actual cross section that floats in your room and you can actually put your hands through it and you get a feel for like, “Wow, that’s going to be really tight to squeeze through. I can’t imagine crawling through two or three meters of that.” These types of things bring the news in in a different way. But what got interesting with this sort of presentation of factual journalistic material in 3D was — this actually came up from the CNN creative director — was how do we know what we can show and what we can’t? What I mean by that is if you were to show in 3D in a fully explorable by users kind of way a crime scene, there’s a distinction between what we know– what we know for sure. And what we may have added to kind of fill out the scene. So, for example, let’s take the raid on Osama bin Laden, for example. If we were to create that on your coffee table, we’d have to show the whole building. But it’s possible that we don’t know what’s in the other rooms. It’s possible that we don’t know what the content is of one of the back rooms. And we have to make this judgment call, because as game designers, we would have just filled that up with all kinds of set dressing and filled that with stuff to make it look good. But for the news, it’s– they’re held to a higher standard. They have to know that everything they put into that building is actually based on facts, or based off a photograph, or based off satellite data. So this is a huge concern for CNN. And they’re like, “We can’t say that this is there, if we don’t know that it is.” And so there was a lot of conversation around in the future as this develops as a key part of the way media is presented. Do we show it in some way? Do we draw cross hatches through those areas? Do we say, “Hey, this area was added for visual effect, but we don’t know that it conforms to the news.” And so it creates a lot of actual questions around this new type of media. How do we tell the news and how can we verify that everything in it is true, because the user can literally poke their head in anywhere and we don’t want someone saying, “Well, I poked my head in the back room of the Abbottabad compound. And I found that there was — whatever — a table and chairs in the back. And so there couldn’t have been more than six people, because there were only four chairs.” And drawing conclusions that are completely unjustified by reality.

Alan: What an ethics dilemma, right?

Arash: XR touches everything.

Alan: It’s funny how the average user of this technology would never even consider these types of things, and the fact that the CNN team considers these things, it really does kind of speak to the real power that they hold as journalists in holding themselves to a higher standard.

Arash: Yeah, exactly right.

Alan: I wish the whole XR industry was held to a higher standard.

Arash: Yeah, absolutely. I think they set a good standard for what is information, and how is it presented, and what what sorts of assumptions do we project with that, what’s implied in the things that we show. So yeah, it was cool. And that was really exciting for us as one of our early big projects, because it did the exact thing we wanted as founders of this company, which was to get a glimpse into how do big companies run. What are the exciting challenges that they have under the surface? What are the conversations that they’re having? We wanted to learn — kind of like Alan Peterson had — how are trucks designed? How is news made? What are those conversations inside the conference room and what does all that look like? So for us, just kind of our personal curiosity as founders, this was super cool, to go into CNN and talk to all the people that are involved in making the news, and then present to them this incredible new way of showing their work.

Alan: I guess one of the things the major a-ha moments for you and your team started to deal with these big companies, going from a gaming background, sitting in these board rooms with these big companies. What was something that was kind of totally foreign to you that revealed itself?

Arash: Well, first of all — in terms of the sales process and decisions — it’s a real challenge, because you’ve got so many different stakeholders at so many different levels. And not everybody is gonna be in the conference room with you. Not everybody’s gonna be in the same conversation to give you the chance to convince them that that XR is the way they should go. Sometimes that happens outside and and people– someone you’ve never met and never knew will torpedo the deal because they think, “Oh, my son had an Oculus Go and had a terrible experience. And this entire technology has no future.” One of the things for us was just learning who the stakeholders are, and dealing with just large scale of an organization that’s trying to avoid risk. And for us, learning how to — in the same way that that Magic Leap does so well — learning how to really evangelize this within an organization and deal with a lot of the objections was a big challenge. And the other piece of it is that a lot of companies at this point now have tried some form of XR. And many of the folks that we talked to are like, “Well, we tried that two or three years ago and it didn’t work at all” or “We tried that with this other vendor and it was too expensive.” They have some preconceptions about what this technology is capable of or how much it costs or how much work it is.

Alan: And to be honest and frank with everybody, it was expensive and it did not work all that well three years ago.

Arash: Absolutely. And now in this industry, we have to come back and say, well, it’s different now. Will you please try us again? [laughs] And then every year it gets better.

Alan: We all have better quality, lower prices right across the board. Just take 360 video, for example. Four years ago when we started doing this — or five years ago, whatever it was — was $10,000 a minute. Because you had to hand-stitch– you had to, first of all, 3D print the camera.

Arash: Yeah, exactly.

Alan: And then you had to use software and manually stitch every single scene together. And this was a crazy tedious process. And then all of a sudden, these all-in-one 360 cameras popped out and you’re like, “Oh, OK. Well, great. I don’t have to spend a month stitching this.”

Arash: Yeah, handheld for $200. Yeah, exactly. These kinds of things are huge, huge game changers.

Alan: I went from $10,000 a minute, to a $200 camera.

Arash: So, yeah, I think a lot of it’s “Come back and take a look at what it is now. It’s a lot different from three years, we promise.” And what helps a lot is also that I think overall in this industry, we’ve done a good job as a whole of recording a lot of really good case studies. There have been a lot of case studies where I would have expected this to be something that either the company or the developer would have kept super secret. And this does happen from time to time where they’re like, “No, no. AR is our secret sauce. We don’t want anybody hearing about what we did. We don’t want anybody to copy us, we don’t want our competitors to take any of this stuff.”

Alan: And that actually, from a business standpoint, makes a lot of sense.

Arash: It does. But then by and large, a lot of companies are looking at this as “Well, let’s look at the other side of the coin, which is that, hey, we can protect ourselves as a very innovative company.” This is just now and we’re already working on the future. So even if you did what we’re doing now, you’re still behind, which I think is great, because it gives the industry overall a look at what’s working, what’s not working, and what kinds of gains are people seeing. And then when we go to talk to a company that’s, for example, a construction company, we can pull a lot of different use cases for where other companies have been super successful. And that helps to turn that tide, where companies that are super risk averse and really slow industries, they can say, 2Hey, wait, actually, a lot of companies like us are doing this already, and they’re really happy with that. So maybe it is worth it for us to give it a try.” And Alan, I’ve got to say, thanks for all the stuff you’re doing to promote the industry. I think it’s important to have a lot of conversations around this stuff. I think the more information that’s out there, it keeps developers like us doing our best work, knowing about all the solutions that are out there to be leveraged and not reinventing the wheel ourselves when we need to do something, and then helps companies to see how much exciting stuff is happening in space.

Alan: Wholeheartedly. And actually AR new business model with MetaVRse, it’s a combination of us realizing that we can’t possibly build everything for everybody, even though we’re really focused on training and education and learning. We can’t possibly build everything for everybody. So what we’re building is a platform marketplace for learning technologies and content. So, for example, you guys have built this player on Magic Leap that you built with CNN. Well, maybe they want to resell that player as a generic player for other companies to leverage that technology. Well, there we go. We can now put that on the platform marketplace and make it available to every company, without having to pay the million dollars of development costs upfront. And this can be done for all sorts of content. We’re really focusing on training and education and learning content, but having a platform marketplace or managed marketplace of this technology will lend itself nicely to scaling this technology. As you know, it’s not easy to make, and companies like Extality are few and far between right now.

Arash: Absolutely. I think standing on each other’s shoulders is really the way to go to the next step.

Alan: I think there’s room for everybody. And if we all work together, then good luck if you’re not part of the fold. [chuckles]

Arash: Exactly, yeah. And I think we’re going to see a lot of technologies raise up as the gold standard of doing certain things the right way. And I think the benefit of having people just take things that have been established as, “Hey, this is the good one, use this.” and then build all the other stuff yourself. It’s kind of like web technologies, right? Like there was a point where everybody was implementing their own authentication software. And now you don’t do that anymore. You just use one that’s established to be really good and you can make sure that it’s already secure, because there’s people that are dedicated to solving that problem. Versus you want to build an XR solution and you have to build every piece of it yourself. You may not be an expert in the security part of it, or the network layer part of it, or the graphics part of it. And we can lean on people that are, to really get to what’s really driving value for the client.

Alan: Yeah. I think the the billion dollar question is which technologies serve which industries best, and which products are best to deliver these results.

Arash: Yeah, absolutely. And we’ve been all over in different industries and we’re seeing pretty much every single industry demands something different of us. I think of ASICS. That was another client of ours where we ‘were talking with them about building prototypes around some challenges that they had with essentially with their distribution model, where essentially you’ve got folks that are buying shoes to sell them. So a company like a Macy’s or a large retailer in Europe. And one of the challenges for ASICS — and pretty much every other shoe company — is that they have to come to these meetings with all the shoes for a particular season. And if you consider all the different color ways and all the different models, they’ve got a pile of shoes that are being shipped all around, everywhere around the world. And it starts to kind of give you this a-ha moment, if you’re deep in the XR world of “Well, why can’t we just digital twin everything? Why can’t we build really, really beautiful, very realistic looking shoe models, and then put these in the hands of the sales and distribution reps, instead of having to actually send around giant crates of shoes or whatever.”

Alan: It’s crazy. And the same with apparel. Apparel’s a little bit more difficult, but shoes lends itself perfectly. We spent a lot of time modeling shoes. Shoes, watches, handbags, glasses, and apparel was kind of the–

Arash: Exactly. The rigid goods.

Alan: Yeah, rigid goods. And then things that are fashion forward, they’re always changing, right. So when ASICS shoe — although they kind all at the same eventually — but the shoes of 2019 are going to be different than the shoes of 2020.

Arash: Exactly.

Alan: And ‘having to create physical models is kind of– it’s almost useless now. You don’t need that. For how much money just in shipping that stuff.

Arash: Right. It’s crazy. And it’s just like, you can take down all kinds of– it’s not just money, right? There’s carbon that you’re saving, and there’s– it does a lot of good for everybody. They can do the meetings more quickly, it’s easier to show things, pulling it up is much faster. Like, oh, you want the blue, whatever GT-2000? We can show you the model really quickly, versus “Oh hold on, let me go dig this out of the crate of 300 shoes.” And the thing that’s interesting is we have companies like Audi, where they’ve they’ve taken the digital twin throughout the entire chain. It’s used both in the design side, to the production side, to the retail — or in their case, dealer — side. I see that for a lot of different industries. I mean, with shoe companies, it’s the same thing, the same way that these shoes are being sold to retailers and they can figure out for their buyers and that kind of thing. You could imagine these same models showing up on websites to be used in the retail side, on the e-commerce side. Use it in a lot of different places. You can get a lot of value.

Alan: A lot of times big companies, their marketing departments don’t talk to their training departments. And one of the things that we realizing is that it’s expensive to make a 3D model, but you can use it across multiple parts of the business. You can use the same 3D model to share with designers. You can share with buyers. You can use it on your website for marketing. You can use it for training. All of these things. Yet it’s kind of take some time to re-educate businesses on the fact that this content can be reused and really creating this digital catalog of 3D content.

Arash: Exactly. And it goes back to what you were saying earlier is where in some ways now helping businesses talk to their individual parts. And it’s almost like a transformation challenge and we end up being agents in that way as well. It’s more than just delivering XR solutions. It’s “Hey, have you talked to your marketing department? Has the sales talked to marketing? Does — like you said — design talk to marketing? You guys are all using the same file here. You should have a system that shares everything.” And then you go back to the question of, well, the decision maker for marketing is different from the decision maker for design. And you start to get into some of these interesting corporate challenges. And so, yeah, you asked originally how is this different from games? Yeah, that’s a huge area where we just learn a lot about. “Wow, this is inefficient. And we’re not just giving them efficiency by giving them XR tools, we’re giving them efficiency by — in some ways — just changing communication inside the organization.”

Alan: Arash, you’ve done your work with ASICS. You’ve done work with CNN and Magic Leap. Is there any other products you want to discuss?

Arash: Well, there’s a project we did with a small refrigerator company — well, I don’t know if they’re small, they’re pretty big — it’s a refrigerator company that’s doing refrigerators with solid-state electronics. And so normally refrigerators got compressors, and it’s got all these like fans and stuff like that. These guys found a way to make a refrigerator essentially with no moving parts. So it’s electronically cooled. And this was an interesting marketing project for us, because we had this refrigerator. And it’s unique, because there’s no space taken up by a compressor. You can fit it in a lot of different form factors. And this was interesting, because their marketing team just had this vision and they said, “Can we put this in people’s homes? Can we put this in stores where they want to use this? Can they customize it on-site? Can we make it interactive?” And this was an exploration in just, “Let’s say yes to everything.” Let’s make a really cool ARKit tool that you can download off of the app store, so that anybody — no matter whether they’re a sales person for the company, whether they’re a customer, whether there’s somebody who just likes refrigerators — they can try this and then experiment with how do you work with this? Where can I put it? What does it look like when it opens? Can I change the skin to say “ice cream”? Can I change the skin to say “yogurt”? Can I change it to something completely different? And exploring taking models from CAD, rendering them realistically in ARKit in this case. Can be headsets, can be anything. And that started to become a model for us. Are there other companies that can really quickly give us their CAD models or give us something that we can photograph and create 3D models through photogrammetry? And so that’s kind of been our focus in recent months, is looking at companies where they’re just ready to go. There was a bike company, same thing. They have a really innovative bike platform, it’s an electric pedal combo bike. And they just wanted to show like, “Hey, this is a really cool new carbon fiber bike, and you can get it in a lot of different colors.” And creating these just really easy — kind of goes back to the thing we said with shoes, versus in handbags — can we create a really easy model, where people can navigate it to their heart’s content, where with photos you’re like, oh, I don’t know what that part looks like. I can’t see that angle. But with a 3D model, and especially if it’s on the web or in an app, you can just rotate to whatever angle you want to and peek at the smallest, most minute detail and get whatever answer you’re looking for. Kind of see it however you want to see it. So that’s that’s been interesting. And looking at how do we get that data? Does it come from CAD? How do we get materials? That’s been an area we’ve been really focusing. But then the other really, really big area for us has been construction. We’ve been working with Unity’s Reflect team. And for people that haven’t heard of Reflect, it’s basically a tool which allows construction companies and architects who are working in a tool called Revit — which is kind of one of the industry standard .BIM building information modeling tools — to export those .BIM data files, which are usually huge and contain millions and millions of triangles, transfer those onto a mobile device so that you can actually look at a model while you’re on the job site or somewhere else in an office in a meeting. And it creates a two way relationship. So if you were to change the file in Revit, it instantly updates in mobile. And we’re looking at a lot of challenges in construction and other large manufacturing organizations, where there’s just a lot of data, a lot of 3D data and getting that on to mobile devices, onto mobile VR/AR devices. It’s just a horsepower challenge. And by being able to do these operations off-line, over the Internet, we’re talking a lot about remote rendering. We saw some cool stuff coming out of Microsoft with that, the Apollo demo and things like that. I think that sort of starts to paint the future of how we can use this in larger scale industrial operations. And so what we’re working on, building tools around Reflect, that’s been a really big area of internal development for us with some of our large construction clients. Visualizing things like build sites, build process, how does the 13th floor come in, and what are the crane swing operations that we have to do. And helping them really just communicate better, being able to put the building right in the middle of the conference room table and have everybody, all the stakeholders looking at it in one place. With a model that’s that heavy, normally that’s just not possibly, you’ve got to look at it on a high-performance PC and you can’t do it on an iPad or a Magic Leap for something like that. So we’re seeing a lot of big technologies that are starting to push us in that direction, which is really cool, making that possible.

Alan: I’m enamored by these programs that are taking CAD files and BIM models and transferring them into 3D for AR and stuff really simply, because that was a big problem. How do you take these CAD models that you have that you’ve spent millions of dollars on and convert them to 3D? It’s in 3D, just not the right format. So there’s like a– and then having this mess of 3D versions and 3D model formats, you’ve got FBX, and glTF, and OBJ, and all these different– and then you’ve got Apple with USDZ, and there’s really a lack of standardization across industries for this. And I think we’re starting to see these things work themselves out of it, which is great.

Arash: Absolutely. It reminds me of the early days of images, too. We got BMPs and PCXs and every kind of– there were so many different formats, if you remember early days of graphic design on the PC. And those all sort of consolidated. And really, I think it ends up being, what are the major formats that people support? What are the major formats that are becoming interchange formats for different operations? And we saw it kind of in the games industry, where things all kind of centered around FBX and COLLADA. And I think we’re gonna see that sort of with USDZ and glTF. I think there’s just a lot of tools like SketchFab and things like that, where your experience with certain formats is lot easier and we see people gravitating toward those formats.

Alan: It’s interesting you say that, because everybody in the world was moving towards glTF, until Apple said, “Oh yeah, we got our own one!”

Arash: “Oh, by the way.”

[laughs]

Alan: [laughs] “By the way, we’re Apple. So you can deal.” But there’s a pretty cool program called Meshmorph — meshmorph.io — that will convert file formats into USDZ.

Arash: Perfect. Yeah. I’m speaking with Apple, and they’re investing a lot in making that process a lot easier. And again, those types of investments are what will make people gravitate toward USDZ over something like glTF. Yeah, let the best man win.

Alan: The biggest problem I see is– I’ve got a 3D graphic designer, who built just an AR business card for us. Sent it over to another group that were posting the same graphic on our website in 3D. And back and forth, back and forth. And like oh, the textures weren’t right and all of the bumpmap wasn’t right. It’s like, God, this is– there needs to be a standard, how hard is it to send a bloody file? But it’s apparently hard.

Arash: Yeah. I mean, the challenge that I think we see is as we work more and more with this is, that there’s so much more data to 3D than there was with images. In an image it’s like we got pixels and what color’s the pixel. But here it’s what are your materials, what is the shininess, what is this thing, which map is being allocated to which channel, and where you’re dealing with these photorealistic physically based rendering models? And it’s important to get it all right, because different renderers are going to use the bumpmap a different way. They’re gonna expect a normal map. I mean, there’s all these kind of technical gotchas that you can get wrong if you’re importing from one format to another. And again, I think that just underscores the importance of this stuff starting to get more standardized. But at the moment, I think I agree with you. It’s a big mess and different exporters are exporting differently. And you’ll see two different ways the same file formats are being interpreted. I mean, we had challenges with FBX where it’s just like, “Hey, you can store animation different ways, or you can store the materials different ways.” And people aren’t getting what they expect and leads to clients getting on the phone and being angry.

Alan: Yeah. And when you’re dealing especially with retail, when you drop something in AR, it needs to look like — or even on 3D — it needs to look like the product that I’m going to buy. People are used to seeing a photo of the product I’m going to buy. If it’s skewed in some way or a different colour or different shape or whatever, then you’ve failed in doing that. And then, of course, the challenge becomes, “OK, we made it look photo-real. It looks great. How do we make it smaller, so that it works on all devices fast?”

Arash: Right. Exactly, yeah. Still lot of model data is quite large. We’re getting better with compression. But yeah, you’re right.

Alan: Oh, yeah. It’s getting way better. And then you’ve got 5G coming. People are like “Oh, 5G will unlock this!” I’m like “Yes, but if you can get compression great now, when 5G comes along, then you can just do more.” It still doesn’t shortcut the fact you need to get compression down.

Arash: Yeah, things need to be efficient.

Alan: They do. Well, Arash, what problem in the world do you want to see solved using XR technologies?

Arash: Oh, that’s a really good one. So me personally, I’m a pilot and what I’m looking forward to is being able to wear a headset while I’m flying an airplane, and have everything just laid out in front of me out in the open, kind of like I think F-22 pilots have this with a $20 million headset. I want to see every pilot being able to see other planes, all their runways, all these kinds of things. And that being extended later to drivers and that kind of thing. I think there’s so much opportunity to give lots of information to people operating vehicles.

Alan: Interesting you said that, I was just at the I/ITSEC conference last week–

Arash: Oh, yeah. How was it?

Alan: –the Interdisciplinary/Industry Simulation and Training Conference[sic]. It was amazing. I got to fly a helicopter. I don’t know which one, but it had the articulating propellers. So it actually can fly like a plane as well.

Arash: Oh, right, yeah.

Alan: But I was in a giant multi-million dollar simulator flying helicopter at one point. I was– I shot things. There was lots of things to shoot. I also got to drive a tank, that was pretty cool. Out of about 400 and– I’d say it was about 450 booths there, over 100 of them had VR at them.

Arash: Yeah.

Alan: The fact that there’s that percentage, at least a little bit over a third of every of these booths had VR in them. Or AR. I mean, I tried a gun range using the Magic Leap where you’re shooting a gun. But when you’re looking through the Magic Leap you see a full range in front of you, with grass and trees. It was like, whoa. And it was a one to one exactly to the gun. So when I looked down the barrel of the gun and shot it, it was very accurate.

Arash: Yeah. That’s no accident that even early days, like in the 90s, 80s, we had heads-up displays on airplanes, like it’s just– it’s huge, huge game changer to have information exactly where you’re looking.

Alan: You’ve got kind of pioneers in the space. People that have been working this since the 60s, 70s in these heads-up displays. And you don’t really know what you’re missing until you have that data in front of your face.

Arash: Yeah.

Alan: Do you know Tom Furness?

Arash: I don’t think I do.

Alan: Tom Furness was one of those– he’s known as the grandfather of AR, because he was building heads-up displays — or HUDs — for the US Navy and Air Force back in the 60s, 70s.

Arash: That’s amazing.

Alan: He’s never left the industry. So he’s actually one of our mentors with XR Ignite. Yeah, it’s pretty cool.

Arash: Good stuff.

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

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