Alan Smithson is focused on developing VR/AR business applications and platforms for Marketing, Retail & e-Commerce through his role as CEO and Founder of MetaVRse, which prides itself as one of North America’s leading VR & AR consultancies. Alan also serves as a Mentor at Techstars Accelerator in Toronto, Canada and is also a Pitch Board Advisor for SXSW. Alan is revered as a thought leader and pioneer in the VR & AR industries, having first discovered the technologies through his career and love of music and DJ’ing.

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Show Notes

 

Hello everyone and thanks for tuning into the VR AR Pioneers podcast. My name is Danny Halperin and I’m the Developer Evangelist and host of this podcast. This is sponsored by Admix, which enables programmatic advertising within VR and AR. And today we have an exciting guest on the podcast named Alan Smithson. Who most the industry knows has been a leader in the virtual and augmented reality space for the past several years and I don’t want to take any more of his introduction. So thank you so much Alan, for joining us. And I’d love for you to introduce yourself to our audience.

Alan: 00:54 Awesome! Thanks so much Danny. Thanks for having me on this podcast I’m really excited. As you mentioned I’m Alan Smithson and I’m the CEO of MetaVRse and we’re North America’s leading virtual and augmented reality consulting firm. But we also focus, a majority of our efforts right now in V-commerce space in creating tools for brands to utilize these new platforms like Facebook and Snapchat and you know web based AR tools to really leverage mobile based E-commerce. And that’s what we’re working on now and we’re working on a complete toolkit for that. And in the meantime, one of our consulting efforts is we were accepted to the Museum of the Future Accelerator in Dubai. So we’re going to be consulting with the Museum of the Future on how we can show the world what’s coming in terms of you know, healthcare and transportation and education and really gives people an understanding of how do exponential technologies like VR, AR, AI, blockchain, how do these contribute to our economy? But also how are they going to impact people as we move forward into this exponential growth phase of humanity.

Danny: 01:58 That’s amazing stuff and it certainly sounds like quite a promising opportunity for you to share your knowledge with the world. I would love the audience also hear a bit of your journey up until this point and you know, how you got into VR and AR and you know, I think your story, in particular, is one our audience should hear because it’s, it’s quite motivational in the sense of, how you discovered technology and sort of how you just threw yourself completely into it and immersed yourself without.

Alan: 02:32 Yeah, in university I was studying molecular biology at university and I actually ended up DJing at the nightclub and bar. And so I actually learned how to DJ while at university and it’s something I just kept doing my whole life actually last weekend I just DJed a dock party for over a thousand people. But over the years, I just kept DJing and I was always looking for what’s new, what’s hot, and this guy sent me a youtube video. And it was a guy playing on a giant C2 touchscreen and I googled it. It didn’t exist and it was just kind of vaporware. So ended up finding a guy who created the code for the software. And together we ended up making the Emulator which is a giant feature touchscreen DJ Controller, which is used by, you know, Lincoln Park, Armin van Buuren, all sorts of different artists around the world. We got invited to perform at Coachella. And we made some really cool marketing tools that have been for Heineken and Microsoft really just had a wonderful with it and we got invited to, um, to perform well I got invited to perform at Curiosity Camp. Which is a camp put on by Eric Schmidt from Google.

Danny: 03:44 Wow

Alan: 03:45 And there was this kind of out of the way camp in the middle of the, you know, the boy scout boy scout camp. And, uh, one of the exhibits, there was this little tent and inside was this guy putting on this huge headset and headphones on people and it was Chris Milk from Vrse. And um, yeah, the first experience I ever tried was a virtual reality concept. I was standing on stage next to back and I had this this kind of holy crap aha moment, that this is the future of human communication and this is how we’re going to do this. So from that point on, my mind was kind of made up, that was the next thing I was going to do. And so, uh, you know, fast forward a year later and sold our company and jumped right into VR right away. And we started a company called Shock Creative doing augmented reality and virtual reality and really just kind of learning what the possibilities were. And then we ended up rebranding as MetaVRse. And yeah so fast forward three years and here we are MetaVRse became MetaVRse.

Danny: 04:48 Yeah I love these types of stories of just like how one discovers VR. And there’s always seems to be that moment like you mentioned, where it just occurs to you the significance of that technology. And, uh, so I’m sure a lot of our audience will resonate with that. Why I think your background and entry into this industry’s really fascinating with the music side of things is because music and entertainment in general, aside from the typical gaming vertical of VR and AR I think is somewhat of like an emotional experience. It’s not something that, it requires an actual feeling of presence or at least somewhat of a real connection that makes a musical or audiovisual experience enticing and moving. And so when a lot of people think that the consumer experiences of a VR, in particular, are just gaming, you know, I wouldn’t consider products like the way VR or others that we’ve discussed as necessarily a gaming experience. It’s…

Alan: 06:13 You have a number of different subsections of immersive technology. And so I think what’s going to happen is virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality and kind of real reality on the far end. And really, I think what’s going to happen is enterprise is already leveraging these tools across, uh, across all sorts of divisions from marketing and sales to training. And you know HR and so you’re going to see these technologies because you know, fundamentally if you took all of the other benefits away, just being able to put a trainee in a VR headset, means they’re learning faster, just simply by eliminating distractions, like looking at their phone. You can’t look at your phone when you’re in VR. The other thing is that VR and immersive technologies really do give people a sense of space and give them the opportunity to practice on the thing. So surgeons are using this for practicing surgery.

Alan: 07:10 Um, you know, wine workers are using this to learn how to, you know, prepare food there is all sorts of ways that technology can be used across multiple industries and entertainment and gaming. So you know, the wave would be, I would say entertainment definitely not a game, but it’s entertaining and you go in there and basically share an experience with other people where you’re dancing different DJs and well it’s pretty awesome. But it still falls under entertainment. So educative gaming, my estimate is going to be around 50 percent of the market, maybe 60. And then the other 50, you know, 40 to 50 percent are going to be these enterprise use cases that we’ve only just scratched the surface of. Walmart is using VR to train their staff on things you really can’t train on. So you know Black Friday how do you train your entire staff to deal with the madness that is Black Friday? And you can put people into VR headsets. So there’s lots of ways you know, these headsets can be used.

Alan: 08:10 But also something that we realized is that augmented reality and AR just based on the mobile phone is a massive, massive market and by the end of this year you are going to have a billion and a half devices are AR-enabled. And so for us we just kind of naturally gravitated to retail and e-commerce with that. Okay. Well if everybody’s phone can be a powerful demonstration device where I can see all the floors in my house, changed out to title or I can see all the paint in my house changed out to green or I could you know replace the paintings in my house with paintings from the store and just order them online with my phone. These really are revolutionary technologies. And you know like we are already seeing virtual firms for sunglasses. You ever virtual firms for makeup. These are all app-based phone based things that give consumers a much better shopping experience from their phones. And I think that is really the growth potential of this technology is in kind of mobile-based AR market.

Danny: 09:15 That’s really interesting that you bring that up because it does seem like mobile AR tools with AR kits, AR Core, and you mentioned social AR products like Snapchats on studio and Facebook’s I think is called AR studio as well, or camera effects in their messenger product. That does certainly seem like it over the past, I’d say 18 months has had quite this surge like you said because it can be implemented on the devices that people have in their hand already. But that, of course, is getting developers more and more businesses to think about 3D development and 3D content, which I’m hoping and you are as well likely will accelerate the transition into an actual, what, what would be considered a real consumer AR experience within a headset? Is that right? Like by developing content.

Alan: 10:18 Yeah, so if you kind of kind of look at the timeline. I think it’s important for people to understand the timeline of XR technologies and where we’re going with this. So you know over the next three years we are really just training developers. You know when the iPhone came out, there weren’t very many things that you could do on it and it took, developers a couple of years, kind of really get into the swing of things and now you have millions of apps coming out a week, but what you need to do is you need to train developers to start programming in three dimensions and this is a whole different workflow. It’s a whole different process. It’s not difficult, but you still need to. You need to be able to make 3D objects, you need to be able to deal with compression algorithms that take these massive datasets because now you’re not only competing in 2D you’re competing in 3D. So there’s a lot, a lot of the learning to happen over the next couple of years.

So you know over the next three years we are really just training developers. You know when the iPhone came out, there weren't very many things that you could do on it and it took, developers a couple of years, kind of really get into the swing of things and now you have millions of apps coming out a week.

Alan SmithsonFounder of MetaVRse

Alan: 11:06 So I think in the next three years you’re having kind of massive mobile AR and then, of course, you’re having gaming VR and VR in training in VR, but you know, they’re mainly training people to code in three dimensions. So using Unity and Unreal Engine and maybe web VR tools like Sumerian or Sumerian which is that Amazon’s web-based tool, so using these tools as a catalyst to get more developers on board. And I think in the three-year term that’s what’s going to happen. You are going to see a lot of AR apps come out for the phone and a lot of games come out of VR. And then, you know, in five to seven years you’re going to start seeing kind of these glasses that pop up magically, all of that. And obviously these glasses are going to show up and they’re big and bulky, they’re ugly and they’re not really like ready for a consumer development.

Alan: 11:58 And normally, you know, 20 years ago we would have just, you know, sent them to 100 developers locking it up. But the world we live in now is moving so fast that you can’t wait a year for developers to catch up. You just have to put everything out there all the time, which is why you magically just putting out weekly reports and developer tools. So it really is, the next five years is about building the developer network. And one of the things that we’re doing is we’re actually partnering with a science center here in Toronto and we’re developing the XR learning center, which will be a museum based or no, organization based, training and our goal is to inspire and educate the next generation of developers because, you know, when you walk in and say, okay what’s VR, that’s cool, it’s a headset, but how does it work? With the optics do you? What is 3D spatial founding mean what does it entail?

Alan: 12:56 What is a 3D object? And really kind of answering those questions in a fun interactive way. And then giving them the basis for taking this knowledge and doing something with it. So here’s the basics of Unity or here’s how you make an AR app quickly. And let them take that home with them and you know, really what’s going to happen and what our goal is to inspire, you know, even just one percent of the visitors to a science center to say hey that’s an amazing technology. I can solve XYZ project that which really falls into alignment with our mission and my personal mission, my personal purpose to inspire and educate the next generation of young entrepreneurs to think and act in a way that is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. So that is really our way and you know, MetaVRse is kind of aligning itself with companies and organizations that do that, like the Museum of the Future.

Danny: 13:47 Wow. This is incredible. I want to thank you very much for your time today, but of course also for everything you’re doing for the VR and AR industry and ecosystem as a whole. So thank you so much, Alan, for joining us. And, uh, do you have any final takeaways for our audience or, or anywhere that they could reach you online?

Alan: 14:11 Sure, you can add me on Linkedin. I’m prolific Linkedin. I publish every day something new. So Alan Smithson on Linkedin. You can also email me alan@metavrse.com and stay tuned to our blog if you want to sign up for that metavrse.com/subscribe and we’ll be making some announcements with Admix soon. So I don’t want to spoil it but just a little teaser for next time.

Danny: 14:40 Yeah, that certainly will be exciting, so thank you so much again, Alan, and I look forward to chatting again soon.

Alan: 14:49 Amazing. Thanks Danny and yeah let’s keep going on this XR thing.

Danny: 14:52 Yeah, to growth let’s do it!

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Key Points:

  • You have a number of different subsections of immersive technology. Enterprise is already leveraging these tools across all sorts of divisions from marketing and sales to training.
  • It’s important for people to understand the timeline of XR technologies and where we’re going with this. So you know over the next three years we are really just training developers. You know when the iPhone came out, there weren’t very many things that you could do on it and it took, developers a couple of years, kind of really get into the swing of things and now you have millions of apps coming out a week, but what you need to do is you need to train developers to start programming in three dimensions. There’s a lot, a lot of the learning to happen over the next couple of years.
  • To inspire and educate the next generation of young entrepreneurs to think and act in a way that is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable is what is really important going forward.

Know someone we should have on the podcast?

Juan F. Campos

Juan F. Campos

Juan Felipe Campos serves as Head of Growth at Admix.in and Partner at Manos Accelerator via Google Launchpad. He has graduated his company NomadApp from the largest accelerator in the world, Plug and Play, and the Go Silicon Valley program. Juan helps run the largest digital marketing community in Silicon Valley with over 20,000 members. He serves on the board of directors of green construction tech company Greenovate Construction and Argentina’s Examining Board of Tech Accelerators (+$34MM fund). His companies have been featured in major publications including Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Inc. Magazine, and Forbes.

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