Shorter Than a Goldfish – Capturing Mankind’s Ever-Shrinking Attention Span with XR, featuring Oncor Reality’s David Sime

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then a video is worth millions! That’s David Sime’s philosophy, anyway; he’s marrying online video marketing to XR technology, to reach people’s gaze — in a world with increasingly more competition for their attention — with Oncor Reality.

Alan: Welcome to the XR for Business Podcast with your host, Alan Smithson. Today’s guest is David Sime, founder and technical director of Oncor Reality. With over 19 years of digital media experience, David delivers promotion and analysis at strategic, tactical, and operational levels. Disciplines include virtual reality, augmented reality, targeted online video, and strategic digital marketing across social media, mobile, pay-per-click, smart TV, and out-of-home mediums. David directs the multi-award winning digital media agency Oncor Video and now Oncor Reality. Based in London and Central Scotland, this multimedia team delivers results based in immersive media solutions across engineering, construction, hospitality, and luxury retail sectors all around the world. If you want to learn more about his company, it’s oncorreality.com.

David, welcome to the show, my friend.

David: Thank you for having me, Alan. Can I start paying you to introduce me in events? That sounded amazing, I’m really impressed by myself now.

Alan: Okay, let’s restart. *David Sime, here we go!*

David: [laughs]

Alan: No? Too much?

David: No, I think that–

Alan: I mean–

David: I think that’s just enough for me. Just enough. [chuckles]

Alan: [chuckles] We’ll sell you the whole state, but you’ll only need the edge.

David: [laughs]

Alan: Oh man.

David: I’ve been watching what you’ve been doing on LinkedIn for years, man. And it’s super impressive. I really, really enjoy watching all your travels and all the places that you go. I can only aspire to that kind of activity. But, hey, I’m doing my best.

Alan: Well, I can tell you that I can’t go on LinkedIn anymore without seeing your smiling face, so you must be doing something right.

David: I think I’m developing an addiction. That’s what I’m doing. [laughs]

Alan: It’s like crack.

David: I can’t seem to stay off. I managed to wean myself off Facebook. And then this came along, the specter or the methadone of the digital marketing world. And now here I am. But it’s great, because people are super friendly and a lot less rude than in any other channel.

Alan: It’s amazing, because you really have– I’ve only experienced maybe 10 people — out of 30,000 connections and millions of views — that I’ve had to block. And that’s really amazing. I think it’s because people know that if they do dumb shit on LinkedIn, I know where you work.

David: [laughs] Exactly. I mean, I’ve always said it’s the anonymity of social media that can be the problem, that makes people not behave themselves. LinkedIn, you are the representative of yourself, your business, everybody knows who you are, where you live. You just have to behave. Although some people still don’t. And it just seems ridiculous to me.

Alan: The great thing is you can click a button, and they disappear from existence.

David: [laughs] I know! Because you get people that ruminate and ruminate over this kind of stuff, “Oh, that person said that thing.” and they’re working on their response for the rest of the day. Me, I just click “block”. Enough said.

Alan: I give people two chances. I call them out. I say, “Listen, you’ve got a problem. You cannot post that dumb shit on my LinkedIn. You can either retract it and stay connected to our community, or you’ll be blocked.”

David: Or you’ll be blocked.

Alan: That’s it.

David: That’s it.

Alan: Yeah. Let’s move away from LinkedIn, because LinkedIn’s awesome, but it’s how we got connected. And I want to learn more about Oncor Reality. Tell me what is Oncor Reality.

David: Oncor Reality. Okay, phew. For the backstory. Okay, listen, I’ve been doing kind of communications and education-related stuff for the last couple of decades — actually, yeah, 20 years this year — I started off by doing standard marketing and I was lucky enough to work with some very technical people and web development stuff like that. So I helped them with marketing, they helped me with technical stuff. And I’ve developed– I’ve actually maintained most of those relationships to this very day. One of my best friends, in fact, Alan Thayer, who runs a company called Contact Online — Contact Digital now, actually — he still works with me. I still help him with marketing. He still helps me with digital. That was all good. But I was trying to help people with communicating with the world, on usually very low start-up budgets without getting ripped off by — at the time — things like directories, and conferences, and magazine advertising, and that kind of stuff that rarely works unless you got a huge budget, right? So I was trying to get them to use more sensible ways to get to more people cheaper. And then along comes this new-fangled fancy-dancy internet thing. And I’m like, “OK, well, this is perfect, because this means that somebody with a wee bedroom operation can actually reach anybody in the world, anybody can be a multinational.” So that’s why I started — for most instances — started working with these techie people — who had the help — to learn more about this Internet stuff. And I’ve run a few companies myself. I applied the same stuff to marketing, that kind of thing. What I observed was, people’s attention spans were going down and down and down. We were using analytics systems like Urchin, which was subsequently bought by Google and became Google Analytics. And you would get maybe 2 minutes, 1-2 minutes of attention span on a website, which at the time we thought, “Oh my God, that’s nothing!” That’s hardly any time at all, in comparison to magazines, you know? And then as time passed, it went down and down and down. The options online got more and more and more. The speed of connections got better and better.

Alan: It’s crazy, I just heard a stat today, that the average American sees between four and 10,000 pieces of digital content a day.

David: [laughs] This doesn’t surprise me. Hey, do you know of somebody’s attention span when they make a decision about a message online, like a website or whatever? Do you know how long it takes them to do?

Alan: My guess is in less than five seconds.

David: Oh, it’s less than five seconds. Let’s go down, slower than five seconds. What’s your next guess?

Alan: Two seconds?

David: No, no, slower than that. It’s less than a second. Fifty milliseconds.

Alan: Really?

David: 20th of a second.

Alan: Is it really?

David: Yep, absolutely. Has been for ages, it’s probably lower than that now.

Alan: You make a decision whether to stay or leave.

David: Yep.

Alan: We have less of an attention span than a goldfish.

David: We do. We absolutely do. About two seconds less.

Alan: Oh my god. XR — or virtual, augmented, and mixed reality — how are these taking back some of those attention spans?

David: Well, here’s how I got into it. I went from online stuff — blogs and things — to heavily image-based stuff as people’s attention spans went right down, so they weren’t reading very much. So then I started Oncor Video, because that was all about targeted strategic online video marketing, because if a picture speaks a thousand words, then a video speaks millions. And so it’s a really good way to get a lot of content across. But what was happening simultaneously, Alan, was that people’s expectations of interactivity and communication had changed; gone from this kind of one-way hierarchical thing where Coca-Cola says, “Drink Coke!” and we all go out and drink Coke — that was their slogan at one point — to we actually expect to have a reply. We expect our brands to do stuff for us. And this is started to affect the way people work. They expect their bosses to listen to them, not just tell them. And I figured this was going to be the next thing. It was going to affect people’s behavior online, that they would require interactivity to the point of immersivity. So if I’d moved from just reading stuff to watching stuff in a video, the next logical step would be being actually fully immersed in that content. And boy, was I ever right. This was a good tour. Get on for four years ago, I said, “Right, this video stuff’s been working great. But I think this is gonna be the next thing.” No. Selling video in Scotland — which is where I’m from — we’re quite a risk-averse nation. We don’t like paying for stuff, until we know exactly whether it’s going to work or not. So selling video was quite difficult.

Alan: Very similar to Canada. We’re a fast follow country. We want everything that the Americans are doing, with one-tenth the budget.

David: [laughs] Well, that’s basically Scotland versus London, in the UK. So I’ve got an office in London, and you find that they are the early adopters. And we do a lot of work with the Emirates and stuff, and they are really early adopters, but they are coming from a place of plenty. They don’t have any scarcity issues, or as many scarcity issues. So they can just have fun things and see whether or not it’s going to work. It doesn’t matter. Whereas up here — and maybe even in Canada — there’s more to lose. I can understand why they labor. But, see, that breaks down entirely when it comes to augmented and virtual reality. Everybody wants it. They want it, whether they know what the return on investment is going to be or not, whether they have an idea of how it’s going to benefit their business or not. It’s the shiniest shiny new thing ever. And I feel like I’ve gone from trying to sell healthy snacks, to selling freshly baked cakes in a room full of hungry people. They just all want some, it’s great. And I’m doing my best to try to convince everybody. “Okay, look, here’s what you need this for. Here’s why we’re doing it. Here’s your target audience. Here’s how much you’re investing. And here’s how we’re going to ensure a continuous return on investment for you.” and half the time they’re like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just give me the shiny!” Which is fine. You know, that’s fine. I’ll go with that. But it’s meant that we get to do all sorts of things. You know, we’re getting.

Alan: All right. So let’s talk about that. Your website lists a number of different industries. You’ve got energy, construction, education, corporate, commercial. Let’s unpack that. What have you done or what are you doing in industry and energy, for example?

David: Right. Now, the energy sector is interesting, because it’s split up between traditional energy, fossil fuels and oil and stuff like that — and that’s big news in Scotland, there’s a lot of oil going on here, a lot of money there — to renewables, which is also big news here, because we’ve got a lot of wind — not so much sunshine — and a lot of waves. So there’s a lot of power being generated by these. And you would think that what these two bits of the industry would require would be completely the same. Or maybe completely different, where we are actually selling the same thing to them, but in different ways. So what we’re selling to the oil and gas industry is the live, remote, safe visits to places like oil platforms and high-risk places that are offshore. It means that we can send any number of people to these places. All we need is a 360 camera stay up there. They can do a lifesaving station, they can be guided around. We’ve even worked our way whereby that live 360 body has actually movement within it.

You can have avatars — virtual people — in there, you can have virtual objects and so forth, and see things coming alive. That means you don’t have to fly 15 people from all the corners of the globe to Scotland, and then give them an offshore safety training certificate, which is expensive and not fun. It’s going to be on the water in a helicopter — which isn’t very good — and then they get their insurance, and then you put them in a helicopter, and then you fly them to one oil platform. Now they don’t even have to leave their office. Bam, they’re in that oil platform with those other people, they go and have a wee confab about it. They come back, they move to another one. They can take in 5, 10, 15 different oil platforms in a single day. Savings there are huge. And the oil industry — oil and gas industry — are really interested in savings, because they’re not doing so well now. The prices have gone down. People are moving over to renewables. Qatar and places like that have actually done their best to artificially keep the prices down, to keep competition out from these renewables and so forth. That means that they need those cost savings. But when I’m selling this to renewables, I say to them, “Well, do you really want to be having people going in jets and flying around the world and leaving massive carbon footprints and unnecessary travel emissions, when you could just use this instead?” and they go for it on the carbon kick. So it benefits both of them in different ways, even though they’re the same industry and we’re selling them the same thing.

The next thing that we’re doing is that we are using drones to fly around buildings and take a– any drone operator anywhere in the world can just– we just tell them what to do. You go there, fly around this building, take photos from these angles. Send it back to us and we can fire you back a really, really accurate 3D model of that building. Now, the purpose of that is, we’re using it for solar energy installations. So basically there’s a dichotomy, there’s a divide between the people that invest in stuff and the people who care about the environment. Yeah, usually you just invest in stuff that makes you the most money. We’re trying to make caring for the environment make the most money. So what we do with these 3D models is that we tie in other information like the angle of the building, the orientation, the prevailing weather conditions in that part of the world, the longitude, the latitude, etc. And from that, we can actually calculate and even design these solar arrays on exactly how much power they will generate. Which means that we can say, “Okay, it’s going to cost you this much to put these solar panels, on these roofs, in this city. Here’s where you put them. Here’s how much it’ll cost you. Here’s how long it’ll take for this to generate enough power to pay you back for your investment. And here’s how much money you’ll make on your selling that power back to the people that live there at a reduced rate.” But it means that everybody’s happy, right? People are happy to have the panels and the risk, because they’re paying less for their power. The investors are happy, because they know exactly what bang they’re going to get for their buck, and when they’re gonna get return on their investment. The environment’s happy because we’re not using oil, coal, gas, etc for that purpose. Does that make sense?

Alan: A little bit. That “saving the environment” stuff; who really cares? Let’s be honest. I don’t think that the global climate change is a thing. I’m a denier.

David: Are you really?

Alan: No. [laughs] I watched the video of my friend, he’s a futurist. And today he had a post on LinkedIn. He’s like, “I met a guy who works for a big company, who is a legitimate denier.” And he goes, “By the time– I had an hour-long conversation with him, everything that he was saying was just a bunch of fake news. He was quoting a Time magazine article that was a fake.” And I’m like, “Guys, wake the [bleep] up! The world is on fire!”

David: [laughs] I know, right? Here’s the thing. I had a chat with somebody online and they were talking about “Oh, the plastic in the oceans, we should do something about it and clean it up!” You know, the usual kind of preachy stuff that they’re never going to actually do anything. And I said, well look, what you really need to do is, you need to make that plastic profitable. Because then the big corps will come in with the resources that they have, and they will literally and figuratively clean up that shit. You can turn that plastic into building materials or fuel or something like that, they’ll come in and they’ll get it done.

Alan: But what I saw recently that blew my mind was actually India is starting to use ground-up plastic in their roads. It turns out that it makes a great building material for roads. It’s resilient. It lasts longer than traditional concrete. And it doesn’t have the traditional cracks that concrete gets. So it’s actually a great building material for that. I mean, look, we have enough plastic on this planet to pave every road in the world over again.

David: We sure do. I mean, that’s it. You know when you go in like children’s play parks and stuff, you know that rubbery kind of material that they put there so that they don’t hurt themselves on concrete and spikes, the way we did when we were younger, you know?

Alan: I know. When we grew up, it was like “Go and hurt yourself. It’s OK. It’s part of growing up.”

David: Yeah. Yeah. “Here’s a ladder, it’s 50 meters high. You know, just try not to fall off.” But yeah, the stuff they got now, it’s all bouncy, these flakes. I don’t know the word. Anyway, that stuff’s made out of ground-up tires, and that’s been around for ages, right? Tire crumb, they call it. Because tires are a notoriously difficult thing to recycle. But that’s a really good thing to do with it. But you see, the road surface that they’re using in India, it doesn’t lose grip as it wears down. That’s the problem with using other materials; usually when they wear down, they get shiny and slick and they lose the grip. This stuff doesn’t, this is great.

Alan: You can re-use it. If you need to, you can pull it up, regrind it, put it back down. Plastic doesn’t ever go away. So it’s– if you have a million-year lifespan of a piece of plastic, you get a million-year life span of your road. Awesome.

David: Yeah. Yeah. That’s something you want to last for a million years. But I know they’re getting better at it all the time. Well, this is why I’m basically trying to do. I figured, OK, what’s an unlimited resource? All those poor buggers, photographers who bought into drones and were sold the dream. “Oh, yeah. You get drone, endless work will come in, and you’ll be laughing.” And most of them have got these things sitting on a shelf, gathering dust.

Alan: I mean, I actually was one of those people and I did the business model. I was like, “OK, we’re gonna have a drone company. We’re gonna do exclusive drone footage for high-end real estate, and all this.” And… yeah. We looked at it, and we were like, “These drones are dropping in price, and they fly themselves now. I don’t know about that.”

David: Exactly. And the thing is that there are some very– we’ve got a thing out in the UK — I don’t know if it’s spread out of the UK — called the Dronesafe Register. And you have to have a minimum level of qualification. You basically have to be a pilot practically, to run these things commercially now.

Alan: It actually makes sense. Let’s be honest, we don’t want people flying around with potential bombs on people’s heads, because if that falls in somebody’s head, that’s it, they’re done.

David: Oh, yeah, absolutely. And those things go so high now, and they go so fast. And then you’ve got things like you need to know about the flight path. You need to– so the guy that we’ve got in our team — oh, you’d love this guy — he’s ex-Royal Navy. He used to be a submariner, right? So in the Cold War, he was “Hunt for Red October” kind of stuff. Except his Scottish accent was legitimately meant to be in his submarine, because he wasn’t Russian.

Alan: [laughs]

David: And then he went and he was in charge of the coastguard in Scotland, like really, really high up in the Coast Guard. Anyway, he’s the guy who coordinates all of our global joint activities because he’s the guy you can phone up on Army base and go, we’re gonna fly a drone over here. And they say, “If we are, then what altitude and why are you doing this?” And he knows all the answers. He knows all the people. He’s just super good at coordinating that, predicting weather.

Alan: Let’s talk about that for a sec, because I have seen some of the stuff you guys do in terms of photogrammetry. So basically flying a drone over a space from multiple heights and flight paths, capturing photographs of, let’s say, an industrial building. And then from those, you’re able to create a point cloud map, a 3D model of that, which you can then import into VR. And you can now look at the building from all angles. Instead of climbing up the building, you just fly drone over, put it in VR and you can actually zoom right into all parts of the roof, and really give it a good inspection in the right amount of time, without having to climb the ladder, climb down, climb a ladder, climb down.

David: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when we originally put this to the housing associations, it used to be hard to deal with community housing projects and that kind of stuff. We say to them, “Hey, we can predict all your solar stuff!” and they’re like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Can you tell us what condition our roofing tiles are in?” Because that’s a big issue for us. Because normally what they do is, they just put in all the roofing tiles in all the houses, and then they go, “Okay, this thing’s got roughly 10-year lifespan, so in 10 years’ time, we just take all off and replace it.” You don’t need to, everywhere. You may find that in some places it wears earlier, and in some places it’s sheltered. They can save — I’m talking a small housing association here in Scotland, which is a small country — they can save tens of millions of pounds in a single pass. And then they can take that money that they’ve saved, and apply it to other things. Like we’ve got a problem with fuel poverty here, mostly keeping places warm. [laughs] This is a problem, you know. I don’t think there’s as many air conditioning units in Scotland. And they can apply it to dealing with fuel poverty. And we can even, if you fire off an infrared camera onto the same drones — which is cheap, a lot cheaper than things like LiDAR and laser scanners and stuff — then we can share the heat egress from buildings, so we can say, “Oh, that one’s actually got some seriously bad insulation. That person’s spending way too much in their heating, they’re losing most of it to the sky.” We go in and get them insulation. That save them money, saves us money, everybody’s happy. I mean, the thing is, the technologies are meeting, it’s finding solutions for it. As you know from my background, I’m all about things like education and communication and stuff like that. So I tend not to think too hard about the tech. I tend to think, “Okay, here’s the tech. Here’s what it *could* do. Where’s the need? Where can we find people who could benefit from this?”

Alan: Well, let me ask you a question. What is, in your opinion– because you’ve been doing this all the while, you’ve done all sorts of different industries. Where are industries seeing the highest ROI?

David: Highest ROI is in– it’s definitely in an engineering and energy sector engineering. That’s where you get the most bang for your buck. But that’s because their outgoings are so massive. It’s not so much return, it’s savings. That’s where it really seems to benefit them, because they can actually save money on travel, they can save money in insurance, they can save money on other forms of energy generation, that kind of stuff. They can, for instance, see with an offshore oil platform — here’s another example of our user — you fly a drone around that thing once a month, and you check the structure of it, let’s say using laser scanners. And then you just come back the next month, and we see if it’s moved. If it’s moved, you’re in trouble, because this thing is like hundreds of thousands of tons of steel, where it’s being battered by North Sea waves and stuff like that constantly. If that thing even begins to shake, it’s going to start to fall to pieces. And the repair bills for that are going to be vast in civil engineering. So, yeah, so those kind of savings, this kind of pre-emptively working out whether damage is occurring, or pre-emptively working out whether you need to get in there and just fix something, once that frees a station team, it saves time. That’s where the real benefits are. But my God, are they interested in the remote meeting side of things, because that’s going to save them an absolute fortune. The lost man hours, the transportation, the corporate and social responsibility to reduce travel emissions, to stop flying people around in jets for pointless meetings. Have you ever met somebody who works for a big company that actually enjoys business travel?

Alan: When you’re 20, business travel’s amazing. But no, I can’t imagine anybody who says, “Yeah, I can’t wait to go fly anywhere without my family.” And it’s fun once you get there, you meet with your friends, and it’s great. But no, I don’t think anybody really truly enjoys that, especially– there’s certain things– you get on a plane, you fly across the world for a meeting, and then fly back. That’s just ridiculous. We do it all the time. Here’s what I think is even better, because let’s be honest, you’re getting on a plane, you’re flying across the world, and you’re sitting in a boardroom. If you’re gonna sit in a boardroom anyway, you may as well sit in a boardroom. Now, instead of sitting in a boardroom talking about an oil platform, why don’t we meet in VR in the actual oil platform, and have a meeting about the oil platform?

David: Exactly. And then you can get other stakeholders involved, you know? I mean, it doesn’t just have to be engineers talking to engineers, or financiers selling to financiers. If everybody can see what they’re actually talking about, be where the are, they really get an understanding of each other’s disciplines. As a teacher — the modern apprenticeship scheme have created some content on digital marketing for them. And they got me into teaching regularly. I like it, keeps me grounded because it’s the younger people, early stages of marketing and business and that kind of thing — and I get to tell them all the things that they should be doing, which frequently reminds me of the stuff I’m not doing. [laughs] “Do as I say, not as I do.” I mean, most of my anecdotes are when I’ve screwed up, by not doing the thing that I’m telling them do. But they– I always tell them, like you can only be effective in an organization if you understand truly what everybody else in the organization does. And the only way to do that is to get your hands dirty and get in there, you know? Work with them, talk to them. See how they do it, where they do it. But that’s not always possible, when everybody’s spread out geographically, and there’s risks in all cases there’s hazardous environments and that kind of stuff. In virtual reality, not a problem, Virtual reality, you can be right in there, doing it, talking with the people, seeing how they do it. Because it’s really hard to explain how CNC lathing works, or even what it is, but you only need to see it for five minutes to actually get a gist of it.

Alan: We actually work with a group and they’ve built several just very basic hands-on training. And you just do it, and then that skill is literally transferable. All the configurations are the exact same as you just did. It’s transferable, 1-to-1.

David: Absolutely. That’s the difference, right? Because now we’re getting into education. They call what you just described there lower learning. It’s experiential; it’s doing, learning from doing. I remember my background and my family background says engineers, going right back to Watts, like, *the* Watts, where the name for electrical watts came from.

Alan: Oh wow.

David: Yeah, I know, I know. I’m quite pleased with that one. But they more recently, they all went– my family got into teaching. My parents were both teachers and I seem to have been born with a bit of both, because I’m obsessed with education, I’m obsessed with engineering. And so I’ve been learning and learning and learning about these forms of education. I got myself a qualification as a further education lecturer a few years ago. And that’s kind of what got me into modern apprenticeship training and Google, the stuff I do with Google and the stuff I do Chartered’s chief marketing, which is all training based. And I can’t see any better way to learn — having interviewed loads of candidates and so forth — than better theory, better practice, better theory about practice. But I remember doing this lecture in front of Glasgow University’s greatest in the good of their academia. And it was the toughest audience I’ve ever had, because basically I was telling them was education is screwed. Education has gone so far in the direction of one too many pedagogical learning, like Peter the father figure teaching, the sage on the stage. Now it’s moving in the direction of guide on the side, rather than sage on the stage. Let people do stuff, just guide them. And now, with virtual reality, it’s going right back to what we used to do in the Palaeolithic on our gatherer ancestors. We’re– if you wanted to learn how to debark a tree or skin an animal, some dude would show you. [chuckles] And that’s how we learn, that’s how we evolved to learn. Don’t get me wrong, rote learning and pedagogical learning has its place, but the best way to do it is a combination. And it’s the kind of things that we’re learning to do aren’t skinning animals and debarking trees. It’s like how do you turn this dial so that this thing doesn’t blow up? And that’s a big deal. You want to get that right first time. [laughs]

Alan: That seems important.

David: Yeah, not blowing up or blowing off everybody around you. And similarly, if you’re operating a digger or an excavator, god, you could cause a lot of damage with one of those things, you know? I’d love to get the opportunity to cause a lot of damage with one of those things. But certainly it’s a lot cheaper, better and easier to train people in a safe environment, where they can get it nailed first time. And then when they’re in that situation again, they know what to do. We actually came up with something for — again, it was oil and gas industry, as you can see, it’s a big thing here, right? — if you’re on an oil platform and the alarms go off, you’re in trouble, right? So you wake up in your bunk, you look at your laminated thing on the wall that says, “here’s your nearest exit” or whatever. And maybe somebody showed you the day that you arrived, in nice sunny conditions. But now it’s nighttime, it’s driving wind and rain. There’s smoke, there’s fire, there’s people screaming, and it’s chaos. That laminated card that tells you where your nearest lifeboat is, isn’t going to be that much use.

But if you look at people in life or death situations, there was talk about their life flashing before their eyes. Well, there’s a reason for that, right? I’m obsessed with psychophysiology and psychology and stuff. Basically what’s happening is your brain is accessing all of the other panic experiences that it’s ever had and going, “How did you survive? Is there a relevant survival plan for the situation that we can use here?” and see if you instead of giving somebody a laminated card, you stick him in virtual reality and you say, “Right, alarms are going.” You can actually smell the fumes, using the olfactory stimulus. “You’ve got to get out. You got to find your way to this lifeboat in time. And OK, you did it right this time, but *this* time the oil derrick’s collapsed in front of you. You got to find another route.” Now, simultaneously, somebody also there is observing you, what you’re doing, how well you’re achieving it. And see the next time that really happens in real life, and your brain flashes through all the experiences, it knows what to do. And that is going to be much more useful in saving lives than some placard or group training day.

Alan: The more I learn about this and the more I listen to people, the more I learn. It just– a lot of this is anecdotal — or up until recently has been anecdotal — we think VR can give you real memories, like real people. OK. Great. Well, now we’re proving it. Now it’s actually being shown. And if this can save lives, that’s incredible. And saving money is great. Saving lives is really important.

David: Absolutely. Absolutely. Although you do tend to find– this is quite sad, really. But when we’re dealing with, again, you know, offshore oil and that kind of thing, we were talking to them about using a drone that can detect hydrocarbon clouds, you know, like gas loads of explosives, from a distance so that human beings don’t have to go into that situation. So they’re not at risk. And I thought, “Oh, that’s amazing. That’s great that this industry is interested in safeguarding its workers’ lives.” It’s not. [laughs]

Alan: No, it comes down to each workers’ life is worth $347,521.

David: Precisely. And if somebody gets caught for doing something bad, their share values drop and they can’t be having that. So that’s why they’re doing it. But that’s okay. I mean, if that’s how they are motivated, then fine. I mean, we’ll do the right thing and get paid to develop these things. But the reason so that we can actually do something good for the world, save lives.

Alan: The end of the day, companies, the way we’ve designed capitalism — and I think it will change over the next 10 years, to be honest — the way we’ve designed capitalism is we have one measure for success of a business, that is economic. My personal purpose is to inspire and educate future leaders to think and act in a way that’s socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable. That three-phase of this is really what I think is going to be how we manage this.

David: Yeah. No, I totally agree with you. There’s a book I read — there’s there’s a writer here. I really like, he does science fiction, and he does fiction; he’s called Ian Banks (when he is doing his fiction, he is called Ian Banks, when he’s doing his science fiction, he is Ian M. Banks, right?) — this was one of these weird crossover ones where it was a bit Sci-Fi-ish, but it wasn’t fully, and it was called “Transitions.” Basically, Ian Banks is a bit of a socialist, and he describes these guys that can — these people — who can transition from one dimension to another. And some of these dimensions are slightly more or slightly less advanced or slightly further into the future or further back, or whatever. But they’ve defined them — there’s this organization called The Concern, which, that’s their job. They move through these different dimensions, attempting to find patterns and right wrongs or avoid catastrophes, that kind of thing — but they’ve defined certain dimensions as being cruel or kind. And the ones that they define as being cruel are the ones where shareholder capital and limited companies has come into being as a means of growing organizations, because it inevitably ends up with profit being put before anything else, because your shareholders — most of the time — they really know are disconnected from the actual activities of the company, or what they’re connected to — usually by like a hedge fund manager or whatever — are, “how much money am I getting back on my investment?” That’s it. So I thought, a company has two choices. One of them is, “let’s put out an oil pipeline across Alaska: If we put it above ground, it disrupts caribou migratory pathways and cause mass extinction; if we put it under the ground, it won’t, but it’ll cost us more.” They’ll put it above the ground, because they’ve got to get the best return on investment. And there’s our problem. But there are ways around this, like ethical investment planning and so forth. And there are ethical investment charters, and groups, which only allow investment — or basically, highlight which companies do not qualify for this investment — and those ones, the ones that do qualify, are doing better. So even if you are to take it as, “it’s just money,” people are actually moving in that direction. They will get more investment if they are ethical. And I think that’s a good move.

Alan: What problem in the world do you want to see solved using XR technologies?

David: Lack of communication. We’ve become a very isolated, insular society through a lot of stuff that we’re talking about. There are people out there who don’t get to talk to other people, so they don’t have an understanding of them. They don’t get to see other bits of the world. So they don’t have an understanding of the world. Maybe they’ve got mobility difficulties. Maybe they got communication issues. We have the ability to take anyone from anywhere, *to* anywhere, regardless of their physical condition, regardless of their place in the world for the purposes of education, for the purposes of avoiding loneliness, and for the purposes of just learning and working together as a… we’re a communicative pack creature. You know, species, right? So we work best when we weren’t together. And I think that with 5G, with connectivity, with virtual reality, with full Multi-sensory, fully-immersive, experiential communication like this, that isn’t restricted geographically, and isn’t restricted by your financial and physical means, we have no reason not to communicate with each other, you know? That’s what I would like to see: us, as a species, connected together globally.

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