If picking out a car off a lot is like picking out a handful of eggs from a basket, then assembling your perfect vehicle – fine-tuned to your specifications, BY you – is like picking out a few hundred grains of sand from the Sahara desert. At least, that’s how ZeroLight’s Barry Hoffman sees it. Hoffman shares this with
Alan: Today’s guest is Barry Hoffman from ZeroLight. Barry is the chief strategy officer of ZeroLight, a leading real-time visualization company in the automotive industry. He has a background with telco, gaming, automotive, and data science, and interactions with CRMs being the major thread in his career. At ZeroLight, Barry is responsible for their US operations, and also leads strategic partnerships and ZeroLight. This company, just so you know, is really incredible. They’ve taken virtual and augmented reality for the automobile industry to the next level; from AR apps where you can see cars in your living room, to full VR simulators where you can drive the cars and see what they interact like. It’s an incredible company, I suggest you check it out at zerolight.com.
Barry, welcome to the show.
Barry: Nice to be here, Alan, thank you for inviting me.
Alan: It’s my absolute pleasure. I’ve been a huge fan of your work for a long time. You guys have done one car after another — I think one of the ones that I saw on there was a Pagani. It’s just, I’m a carhead as well, so being able to see the work that you guys are doing and making things look photo-real is just incredible.
Barry: Yeah, that’s true. You mentioned . It’s funny because it’s quite a known car, of course — they only make 100 of series, like how the Pagani Huayra Roadster, I believe there were only 100 made. But the funny thing is that all those 100 were sold digitally first. So, there is no real car available. If you think about the starting price of $2.3-million, it’s sort of like a digital-reality sales case of $230-million. It’s something, if you do the math, how incredible that is.
Alan: So what you’re saying is, ZeroLight contributed to probably the largest use of VR for an economic benefit ever.
Barry: Yeah, that’s true. This one is, of course, flipped to VR and especially screens, because a lot of the clientele will want to use it on screens. I would say Pagani is definitely a case like that. Audi, we definitely contributed to that part. Most recently, we released a Cadillac in their showrooms as well, with VR.
All these different car manufacturers, they tell their story differently. They have different brands, and they use the technology differently. That’s the coolest pitch, and I like instead of just saying, “okay, there’s one type of showcase, and this is how you do VR.” That would be the same as, “there’s one type of app in the App Store, and that is all you can do.” It’s cool to see this diversity, these ideas coming out of all these different clients, and then working together with them and turning that into their story. And not just their story — because that would make it only a brand experience — but also a buying experience, because a lot of things of what we do is on the high-end personalization side, like what you just said. Pagani has 18,000 parts, and all those 18,000 parts can be changed into something unique. That’s the ultimate buying experience, I almost say.
Audi, for instance, if you take their custom build program, I believe there’s more Audis in variants available than there are grains of sand in the world or in the Sahara. That’s the small thing that I have to say. All these things, if you only do traditional photo shoots, or even traditional CGI, you can only show a limited set of those variants. What we did is, at one point, we took their… let’s call it their engineering bill of materials — in simple words, that’s basically the models coming out of their engineering cycle — those were turned into a marketing bill of materials. So, more marketing-ready CG models. We turned this into a library that can be picked up by any channel, in real-time, and turned into any variant that is available in that region (because of course not every region has the same kind of colors available, the same kind of trim levels, lights that kind of stuff).
In the end, it’s not just that one showroom. It’s being able to do that worldwide; being able to deploy it, being able to update it. It’s really cool.
Alan: Tell me, how did ZeroLight get started? I always wanted to know: how do you go from being a computer graphics company to now, you’re designing the new Pagani, and you can choose any color in the rainbow – plus, changing the spark plugs if you want?
Barry: It started out of a project which we did in collaboration with IBM and Jaguar Land Rover in 2012 when Jaguar Land Rover was rebranding their whole setup. They were just bought by Tata and they came out with the new F-Type and the new Evoque, and they wanted to have something that the world had never seen. So they said, “okay, can you bring the car on the bigger screen possible? Then we want to do stuff with Kinect and all that stuff.” Which was, at that time, the coolest stuff. We come from the gaming industry, originally; the company beforehand was like 26 years old, in various names, involved in probably 70-80 percent of all the car racing games ever built. We had a lot of legacy in the car world, and of working with interactive technology, with all the different console and PC cycles, always having to take the bleeding edge out of what was available.
So, when IBM came, they went to some of the larger games companies, who could not do that, because they were tied up to their mother companies. But those companies pointed to us, because we had worked with them in the past, and they said, “can you work with us? We thought it was a cool project. Plus, when we were doing racing games, we always thought, “can we actually sell cars from racing games?” That was the original thought — can you sell cars from there? But in the end, it turned out it’s the other way. It’s actually, “can you sell cars by using racing game technology?” That’s almost how it turned out to be. In the end, what you see is that people go into a racing game to be entertained; people go into a showroom to buy a car. Combining that technology-wise is possible, but narrative-wise is difficult. Also, a lot of people always ask me, “can you have a driving car in VR?” And I say, yeah, you can have a driving car in VR, because we do those things. We have drive-in experiences, we have drive-out experiences; where we show the movement of the car, but then they say, “can have the steering wheel? Here’s a Pagani Roadster or a Lamborghini — I want to drive that car.” I said, “have you ever played a real simulation race game?” And they say yeah, and I said, “do you remember the first corner where you have to go through on the track? What happens with you?” “I end up in the gravel.” I said, “well, that’s what’s happening with you in the shop as well. And do you know what happens in the shop if a buyer ends up in the gravel?” “No.” I said, “they walk out of the shop — they’re ashamed of their behavior, and they never come back. If you know that there are less than two people per day coming into a retail shop to actually buy a car, you have to take it a little bit more step-by-step approach.”
Slowly, we’ve been — on top of the graphical quality — we’ve been bringing in those moving and driving experiences, but always by keeping in mind, “does it contribute to the buying experience of the customer? Does it contribute to the selling experience of the client? Is there a good engagement? Is there a good conversion? Is there a high book of value coming out of that?” With every part of the channel, whether it’s with the media creation we do — which is not extended reality, AR/VR — whether it’s advertising, whether it’s web, or whether it’s in the dealership; in the end, we’ll get those components.
Sorry, I’m going a bit left and right.
Alan: No, it’s wonderful! It’s really interesting; in the automotive world, you have very discerning clients. They have big budgets, they know what they want, and it has to be right. The first or second interview I did for this podcast was actually Elizabeth Baron from Ford, and Elizabeth is a pioneer in this industry. She was at Ford for 30 years, and ran their immersive technology lab for 20 of them, I think. She was explaining that they’re using it for design. Their designers are putting the 3D models in AR, walking around them, and changing the lighting. And now, Ford is using those VR experiences to show every executive the car before they’re built. So, every executive has to approve the car in VR before it goes to production. You’ve got people using it for design. You’ve got people using it for sales. Then, you’ve got people at home racing them, driving them into the cabbage.
Barry: Heh, yeah — exactly.
Alan: Let me ask you a question. What is your favorite racing simulator?
Barry: I think, still, Forza. I’m playing that at the moment, on my XBox. That’s probably my most favorite, because it’s not just a simulator with tracks; it’s much more a narrative, as well. I kind of like that. I like stories; that’s the red thread. Next to data, I like storytelling. I like listening for stories, I like reading stories, I like viewing stories.
Alan: Iagree, and I think that’s one of the things that’s missing from current VR. I’m not saying all of it, but a lot of people — up until this point; up until maybe a year ago — were just trying to make it work. And it works; okay, great. Can we make it not make people sick? Okay, we got there. Can we make it so that it doesn’t cost us an arm and a leg? Okay, we’re good. Now you’re finally starting to see that point where the technology exists; we know it works, we know how to make it — let’s start telling proper stories again.
Barry: Like you say, if making it work takes up like 70-80 percent of your time and your budget, there’s no more time for a good narrative. Even though, if they had a good plan with a good narrative, in the end, the execution does not lead to it. At the moment, there’s a couple of blockers there. You still see it on the hardware, software, and interaction side.
On the hardware side, if you set up a high-end VR experience, it would have a freaking bloody big PC. It has those cables attached to it and all that stuff. So, cutting the machine; cutting the cord? That’s one of my missions in life, and that’s why we started working with Qualcomm together, as well. A sort of boundless XR thing with Hugo Swart.
Alan: I just posted about Hugo’s talk at AWE. Actually, I’ve been bugging him to come on the podcast. Hugo, if you’re listening. You’ve got to come on my podcast!
Barry: Send him an e-mail. That’s cool.
Alan: I have! That’s the problem now. It’s probably buried in a thousand others.
Barry: Yeah, that’s true. I had the pleasure of meeting him and working with his team. We worked towards the next Dallas event that… I’m trying to think, what is it? BrainXchange?
Alan: Oh yeah! Okay.
Barry: We will come there, and we will show some really interesting stuff there. Cannot tell too much about it, but if you look at the last press release that Qualcomm did, where our name was mentioned, it gives you a little bit of a hint.
On the software side, that’s another thing. Up until even maybe a half a year ago to a year ago, a lot of companies could not even get up to the level of 90 frames per second. So we had all those sick there, that kind of stuff in VR. Thankfully, a lot of that stuff starts to get done well. Some of the guys from the engine companies, they’ve been sorting it out, those layers. So that’s good. But in the end, it’s also about the quality. If you do VR or AR, the quality needs to match the world around you. It cannot just be uncanny valley, like digital people in there, or simple holograms — that kind of stuff. That is great to see those experimentations going on, but for the wider audience, they don’t see it. They think, “what am I looking at?” That’s where it really needs to push.
I was, this weekend, at Shape from AT&T.
Alan: Yeah? How was it?
Barry: It was great. They had some really interesting examples there. HTC did something with Batman; that Game of Thrones thing; some of the demos that Magic Leap had really. But if you take on an overall business, it was more still a technology show. Then it would have been “okay, this is the future of Hollywood” for me.
I think we’re still in the phase of artistry. When you learn how to appreciate art — especially modern art — you look through your eyelashes and you try to imagine what you see. That’s sometimes still a little bit of the work of VR and AR I have to look at, versus it’s immediately clear what you’re trying to do with it; the utility, the immersion. What you just said — when we started out a couple of years ago, you had incredible productions (and you still have, like the productions from Chris Milk and his team).
Alan: Can I tell you a quick story?
Barry: Oh, yeah. Please!
Alan: The first time I ever tried VR was that Curiosity Camp; that takes place in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and it’s put on by Innovation Endeavors, which is Eric Schmidt’s investment fund. I got invited to this DJ at it with my emulator board, and it was Robert Scoble and I; we both went into the little tent, and there was this guy showing these VR demos. The big huge was the DK1 with big headphones. I put it on, and it was Chris Milk who put the VR headset on my head. It was an experience where I was onstage, standing next to Beck in a concert, and I just had this “holy crap” moment. It was just amazing. It was from that moment on that I knew that virtual and augmented reality is the future of human communications, and I wanted to be part of it.
Five years ago, I said I’m going to be one of the experts in the world in VR. I tried to aim for that, anyway.
Barry: No that’s true. But you felt the presence. You felt presence, you know? You were there, you’ve got the goosebumps on your arm; that’s exactly the same thing. I just wonder, how does the industry as a whole — and maybe that’s idealistically talking — how does the industry as a whole make certain that every first entrance into…well, let’s call it in this case VR, gets that presence moment? Otherwise, it’s just a “wow” thing.
Alan: Here’s the issue: 360 cameras cost $200, and somebody can go film there their holiday vacation, make it all unstable, throw in a VR headset, and start showing people. And people will go, “that’s VR? Oh, that sucks.”
Barry: Yeah. It’s maybe elitist to think this way, but maybe this is the push. I was just thinking about it this morning, and when you talked about this DK1, I had the same thing with DK1; we had a racing game running at that time, and we got a DK1 for ZeroLight. I said, “I want one for that racing game, as well.” We went to China, we had ChinaJoy, and I said, “let’s do one side of the thing with the DK1.” That was the first time — at least on that show – that anybody had shown VR. I thought, “that’s a nice marketing tool.” And these guys go in, and everybody comes out of it, and their hair was standing straight up. They’d say, “it’s amazing!” You saw them almost dropping down because they were so wobbly because of the experience. Everything was amazing, and because it was a racing game, you were tied into this chair, you see your car around you, so you never had that feeling you were walking. It sort of works from the get-go. It was funny to see that.
But from that moment, up until today, in the streets? I would have expected it to go faster. And do you know what happened? The one thing that created that image now, in the streets, that I would have expected like XR to do; it’s those air pods from Apple. You see them now everywhere in the street. That was a revolution happening in a couple of years — even one-and-a-half years — and that’s sort of what was missing, you know? A big company like Apple, Google, really pushing the thing out and saying, “this is what it’s going to be,” and then making it part of everyday life.
Alan: You nailed it there, because you mentioned two big companies. I’ll mention a bunch more: Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Qualcomm, Intel, Unity — you’re looking at these massive companies now, and they’re all betting big on VR and AR. Billions of dollars have gone into this market, and I knew it was going to take 10 years. I kind of looked at the market — I got into it in 2015, I said: “okay, it’s going to take 10 years.” I built my schedule around that, and I said, “it’s going to start with enterprise. It’s not going to start with consumers. Consumers will buy it, but it’s going to start an enterprise.” And it’s exactly what we’re seeing.
Barry: It’s true, it’s true. Just to come back to ZeroLight for a second: when we started doing this, of course, we came from the racing game world. But I had so many companies talking to me to say, “oh yeah, and what’s your next industry?” I said, “well, to be honest, at the moment, we want to focus on automotive, due to the fact I only have a limited amount of people — we’re a 125-man company. We want to make certain what we do is the best that you can find in that industry. And if we’re going to all these other industries, there needs to be a case for it. It needs to be able to… because, like you say, enterprise was the first thing; B2C was far too early. And within enterprise, you need to find enterprises that are willing to spend the budget on it, and seeing the results coming out of it. Even though everybody sees it for architects and other things, because that market — and especially, the data for those markets — are so dispersed amongst architects, engineers, building owners, it’s a completely different market than when you have an OEM who controls, basically, the PLM cycle — the product lifecycle management cycle — and the CRM cycle — the customer relationship cycle.
Them actually owning both that part, and having high-end data available, was for us the sweet spot to be able to show that thing. That’s where you’re right, making that plan for 2025, pushing for that thing. We keep razor-sharp on what we’re doing. It’s the same with hardware partners. We’ve done a lot of support for new hardware makers; some of them are unfortunately no longer here. I think about Meta, I think about Star VR — incredible products, but also–
Alan: ROFvr, StarVR — yeah. There is a graveyard, for sure. ODG.
Barry: We all supported them; Last year at SIGGRAPH, we did the first foveated rendering with StarVR. But on the other hand, part of my strategic relationships, of course, is sometimes making a calculated bet that some of these partners will survive, and we are first together with them. Because in the end, we’re a startup as well — we not only want to go with big companies; we want to grow these markets together. So we did that. On the other hand, sometimes you see it working. We did stuff with HTC Vive at GTC — our first foveated rendering in the world with them. We did human eye resolution with Varjo at GTC this year.
Alan: I got to try the Varjo… or is it “Varro?” Or “Var-JO?” Anyway…
Barry: I always say “Var-Jo,” but probably, if you’re Finnish, you’re saying, “hey, Barry: shut your Dutch mouth! Let’s talk in Finnish.” [both laugh]
Alan: Varjo is a is a new VR headset; it just introduced a new one. They claim to have near-human-eye resolution graphics. They’ve kind of created a fake foveated rendering, where the center of your vision is really super-high resolution, and the rest of the screen is regular. It works, and it’s funny; unless somebody had told me that, I would not really notice that.
Their new headset is called the XR-1, and it’s got cameras on the outside facing, so you have a full augmented reality experience. Meaning, you can see the world around you. It felt amazing; it didn’t make me sick, it didn’t lag. I’ve done a lot of these things — it was a company out of Toronto here called… well, I can remember now. But they did a Passthrough camera type of thing, and it was nauseating, to be honest.
Barry: We’ve been doing some interior, internal stuff with the Varjo XR-1. The Passthrough cameras especially, because if you look at the whole AR thing, and especially the wearables, the headsets — think about Hololens and Magic Leap — I see the utility factor of where they are. The whole training aspect, doing it with Hololens or with Magic Leap — great, I love it. Unfortunately, it’s not directly my market to be in utility, although we’re working on some training utilities for automotive, where we use high-end quality.
But if you look at what Passthrough can do — what holographic, until now, cannot do — it cannot show black. It cannot show real black. If you try to sell a car — a black car — in that kind of stuff, it’s sort of muddy gray, or vague gray. That’s the stuff we’ve always said, “until someone comes up with the quality there, we believe — up until a certain moment — more a Passthrough, where you see the real world, and then the digital object is rendered on that. For me at the moment, that is still my bet: Passthrough. Seeing that Apple, of course, at one point bought… what was the company again? Vrvana? Which, for me, was the first time I saw that Passthrough thing, when they showed it. Of course, the model was not that high-end, but still; the experience they built with that helicopter flying around, and then all of a sudden, it was there? I thought that was amazing.
Alan: Somebody asked me why Apple bought them. The simple answer is, they figured out occlusion with single cameras. That was a big problem then, and they had figured it out. There was a company… I can’t remember. ~tsk~ I’ll have to look it up. It was a company that did inside-out tracking, before that was a thing. They raised, I think, $5-million, and I said, “look, if you guys are going to make a go of this, you should either sell your company now to somebody bigger, or you’re gonna need raise $50-million and make a go of it. But I think they went out of business.
Barry: It’s one of the things you talk about, of course. The moment you start a hardware company, raising those double-digit numbers is a necessity.
Alan: At Meta,I said, “if you’re gonna go at this, you need half a billion dollars; you need $500-million.
Barry: Yeah that’s true.
Alan: Hardware is hard.
Barry: Yeah, that’s true. I don’t want to go too deep there, Alan, because I know too many people there, and I think everybody made a great effort, but…
Alan: Oh yeah. Meta was a wonderful product. I had one of the very first demos. It was incredible.
Barry: But also a little bit, the problem is, the moment you get investor money in, you need to start showing results. Because they want to see results. For instance, with Magic Leap; Hololens comes out with Hololens 2, they need to show out some stuff as well. Even though you know — if you’re truly honest, Alan — it’s still a little bit away from what we truly want to see from it. On the other hand, they need to get their developer community there. They need to get ideas in, of course. So I get that.
Alan: It’s a different world we live in. Can we just bring it back? Because I think if there are people listening from the automotive sector, how can ZeroLight help people in the automotive sector? Let’s maybe talk about some of the use cases; you’ve built buying simulators, but more importantly, configurations and stuff in full 3D. On web, in-store, in VR, in AR. You’ve done all these creative things. What are the foundations of how car companies can reach out and connect with ZeroLight, to really bring this to fruition?
Barry: That’s a good one. Of course, we can talk about this for days. If you look at their traditional way of how — not even the traditional way of buying cars, because we’re already beyond that; more than 90 percent of people start their search online – still, most of the people go to either a car lot or to a dealership and buy a car from there. That’s current-days, how people buy cars.
Think about how a car company wants to sell cars at the moment, especially in the US; they have a lot of cars on the car lot, and they want to sell that from those lots. In the end, you want to lead them to those inventories. The start of that is the awareness cycle; basically, where people look, see certain media coming by — 50 percent of the digital ad market is probably owned by Facebook and Google at the moment; a couple other platforms and now you’ve got the rest — the first part is being able to produce high-end media assets that wow people, and get them to actually go to the next stage, which is the explorer pages, and the build-your-own pages on the OEM websites, or on some of the owned and earned media – like, the social media pages and that kind of stuff.
If you think about media pages, what we currently do is build a library for the car companies, which have all their cars, all their variants, all their things which they can produce for worldwide, and deliver that on the spot. In the case of media, we deliver on-the-spot, personalized views, videos and everything of those things that can be done through an automated process that is called RenderChain. Or, they can do it themselves with a tool called Spotlight. They can make images. They can make videos. But also, VR components, like a 360 panoramic shot of a car in a scene. That’s step one.
Once people are aware of that they click on things, they go to a certain piece of online real estate, which is either the OEM website, the dealer network websites, and there, they make decisions off, “I’ve seen this. I want to make choices,” and the choice could be, I only show what’s on the lot, or I show every grain of sand in the Sahara available, like with Audi in Europe, for instance. Then, they make choices there, and out of those choices — all those choices need to be shown on the screen. For instance, in our case with Audi, we’re rolling out to 31 countries — we’re beyond halfway there — where they do use a real-time 3D technology to show the cars on the screen. So, instead of the traditional images that car companies have of a car on a white background, you can order your car looking at an immersive environment. You can spin it 360 around, in real-time, open ooors, open boot space — you can view that car. And by doing that — and this is public knowledge — we’ve significantly increased conversion, engagement, and booking value of the car already online, before going into the dealership. That’s a great thing.
Alan: What kind of numbers are we talking here?
Barry: I cannot go into direct numbers, because that’s all Audi. But–
Alan: Not just with Audi, but in general. Are we talking about a 5 percent lift? A 2 percent lift?
Barry: Well, let’s say one of the things we can say; the engagement in one of the cases went up by 66 percent.
Alan: Holy crap!
Barry: Yeah. And a lot of times, they are they’re not just 1 or 2 percent — they’re significant numbers, very high-end numbers. Higher-end accessories being used. And that’s only online. When you go online, this is the results we had. And if you think about the fact, what what kind of XR components do we see there? We started building some showcase pages, which we released at CES this year, where if you go from the web page and you sign up for things – basically, we send you an email, and out of that email you can download your AR app, and actually see your car in front of your door, in front of your house, but also looking at the interior at a quality level that is the same as the level on the website. And it’s all automated; it’s not handmade. The cars are all coming out of the library, and we’ve created some technology where we take that car model — which is normally very high end, I believe it’s like 5 to 6 to 7-million polygons — and then we shrink them to fit the headsets or the handsets. In the case of an ARKit setup — a couple of hundred thousand polygons — you can look at the car, walk through the car with your tablet or your phone, and actually feel that you look at the real car. So that’s another accomplishment.
Alan: Barry, can yousend me the link? I’m going to put it in the show notes on XRforBusiness.io in the show notes, there’ll be the link to the Android and iOS apps.
Barry: Yeah that’s cool, and I’ll also send you a link to the white paper where all those results were mentioned; we did a white paper with intel about the XR results, so you can look that up as well.
But at the moment, what you see with VR and AR, in the case of like the online components, it’s more more-or-less like a breakout component. You know, “I want to see a bit more of the car, so I now go to the 360. I want to see my car in front of my house, so now I go into AR.” So that’s why I call the breakout technology; it is not yet the core technology. It’s a sideshow. It’s an interesting sideshow, and there, we are trying to determine: is this sideshow adding to the conversion? But that’s something we haven’t found yet.
Then the third part is, once you go to the dealership and you want to make a decision: on the one hand, you can say — and that’s a couple of years ago when I first landed in the US, because I’ve been here now for three years — the first discussions with dealers networks was, “we don’t use digital technology; we sell from the lot.” The funny thing is, that is true… except, a lot of cars are being sold already before they are on the lot — they’re still on the truck. That’s a cool thing, especially new models. That’s one use case. Another use case is, they might be on the lot but you’re in the… well, I believe you’re living in Toronto, isn’t it?
Barry: So, are you going — in the middle of winter — to a lot, and then look across the lot of 500 cars to think, “which car do I want to buy?” No, you don’t want to go on the lot. You want to only go into that car, which is the end thing. It’s the same in Arizona in summer. Those kind of things. So, there’s a lot of use case. And the funny thing is, one of the most traditional US brands, Cadillac. For me, that was amazing that they started doing it, because that shows that even though the car companies know, “we want to sell cars from the lot,” but they recognize it’s not just to sell cars but it’s to upsell cars. It’s to sell those accessories; it’s to sell those special wheels; it’s to sell that bike rack, those boats racks. It is to create those extra things where the salesperson doesn’t have time for. They’re not gonna put a bike rack on top of the car to show you how it looks like, and that’s a very good use case.
So I still think, at the moment, XR can be part of the core process of the dealership. XR, at the moment, is a breakout technology for BYO. XR, at the moment, is a breakout technology for media, in awareness. But although, at the moment, in Google — if you type in the words — you start to get those WebAR things. I think that’s where it shows. It slowly turns into a core technology, being used for media. Give it a couple more years and it’s mainstream.
Barry: Hopefully that helps to bring it together. We’ve got like a whole range of tools to deliver things in real-time, with as little use of manpower as possible. It gives our customers everything in time to do things. And because we’ve been able to do that all, of a sudden, tools or channels that were traditionally not available to do configurators — for instance, we just did a Facebook Kansas campaign with Audi, in the UK, and I believe it’s going to run in Germany as well, and a range of other countries — they could create 900 different content assets on the fly for a very economic value: for, I believe, a factor of 50
cheaper than normally, because it was all automated by our tools. They had that library available. We didn’t need to import it again. Because of that, they created those assets, and they created — on the fly — a new app that was then used in a campaign.
Because you organize the world for them — you organize their products for them in a way they can expose it in new formats — allows for them to work in that. Because otherwise, it’s always a new budget discussion. If you come up with an AR or VR tool and say, “okay, now I need another proof of concept,” you have to go through this whole budget range with every OEM. If you’re right in the budget cycle, are you going to get that money, yes or no? Then it still needs to prove a point, and they might be through the budget, and you’re a year further.
If you already have that technology, you have that library; every time there’s a new technology, we can just show it to our customers, because we have their library available. When ARKit came out, within a week, we showed them an AR viewerr of their car, and we said, “ this is how it looks like — how do you want to interact with it? What kind of story do you want to tell?” Because of that, there was one or two or three that said, “oh yeah, if it can do that, then it can actually solve this problem,” or, “it can solve that problem.” Otherwise, it’s just a PowerPoint show, and somebody has to visualize that problem and come up with a solution, then say, “because I see the solution in my mind, I’m now going to give you your budget.” So it helps to shorten sales cycles on our side. It shortens missed projects on the client side. So yeah, win-win.
Sorry — long answer.
Alan: No!It’s wonderful. I bet you people are gonna be making notes, and then going back and re-listening to this, because the power of what you guys have created — to be able to take even engineering assets and convert them into marketing assets, and then scale those across a whole buying decision tree for customers — you’re really making the job for automotive sales much easier and streamlining it. I think it’s a wonderful example of how XR is being used.
Barry: Yeah. I think the funny thing is, like at CES, we worked with Audi and with AWS on their booth, to show the buying journey of a car across those channels. You can go to our website — or I’ll send you the link to that one — where we used part of the thing, like using machine learning to help the buying decisions. But the cool thing was, a lot of my clients came by there — or potential clients, or new clients — and they said, “so, you’re trying to show here a CRM cycle?” I said, “yeah, that’s exactly what I’m doing.” “How would that work with salesforce,” they said, and I thought, “oh yeah, of course that’s what they want to do.” So what we focused on a couple of months ago, we started — instead of showing a generic CRM cycle — we started building it in leading tools; in the CMS, CRM, ERP-cycle, in SAP, CRM and Salesforce. Where can all these visualizations live? And then push at the right moment, the right kind of assets, out to the right kind of person.
We’re in the middle of that you; will see a lot more coming out this year. But having the visualization, and then taking the data off all those visualizations, and working together with the customers and saying, “if you have these special kinds of data that you didn’t have before – angles, for instance — how does a customer look at a certain angle with a certain timeframe? That’s data nobody ever had before, and all of a sudden, because you use a screen or an angle or a VR headset – or even if you go deeper, with foveated render — you use where the pupil is looking. What can you do that? How can we shorten cycles? How could we nudge the user further? (Nudge is a thing I can do another session on that whole thing.)
I think where we’re not we’re in a really good position here, too.
Alan: I think you are. I just clicked on the projects section of your website, and it goes: “Audi! BMW! Lamborghini! Nissan! Pagani! Porche! Toyota! Volkswagen!” Okay, so yeah, that leaves… uhhh… Ford!
Barry: I just signed up with a very big Canadian company. Hopefully in the next three four weeks, I can talk about that one — which is not cars! That’s the first time I’m going to do something mass market without cars. We’ve done Air Force/aerospace as well, but that was more on the POC side, and some of the of like Executive Decision-ing tools. But this is the first time going out there, and there’s a couple of more brands coming, which we can talk about in the near future.
Alan: Amazing. We’ll have to do another episode, not about cars.
Barry: AboutCanadian companies! [laughs]
Alan: [Laughs] Pagani could give us a car for the day, and we’ll do an episode from inside the Pagani.
Barry: The funny thing is, Pagani doesn’t own the cars; they don’t own any car. It’s the owner. So you need to find an owner of a Pagani, and then say, “hey, can I own your Pagani, to show a Pagani?”
Alan: Honestly? It would betoo loud anyway.
Barry: No worries. It’s a beautiful car. You can close the doors, and it’s as luxurious as can be.
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