What are the best use cases for VR in Business? w/ Jeremy Dalton, Head of VR/AR at PWC UK
Hey friend and welcome back to the Alex Makes VR podcast. Today's episode is episode number 80 of the podcast. I cannot believe that we're Episode 80 already. Thank you so much to everyone listening for sharing and supporting the podcast. It's been absolutely amazing to hear the stories of the people listening to this podcast, listening to the and experiences I've shared, and the things that you’ve implemented that in your life. I've heard from people who have literally gone from knowing nothing about an immersive creation, to having a side hustle that pays as much as their full time job. I've heard from people that have landed their first five figure clients from the advice in this podcast. I've heard from people that have gone from, you know, sending out emails and getting nothing to sending out a new email following my email template, and getting tonnes of responses…that makes me so happy.
It's not too late for you if you are someone that's listening, and you haven't got around to implementing the advice yet, there is still all the time in the world and I'm hoping that today's episode will inspire you, and give you some insight on how to approach businesses when it comes to selling in VR.
This is a full transcription of the podcast episode and the conversation with Jeremy. If you prefer, you can listen to the podcast episode here:
So today's episode, I am interviewing a good friend of mine and also a client of mine, Jeremy Dalton, the head of VR and AR at Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC UK) Full disclosure, Jeremy has been writing a book which gets released on January 3 2021. It’s called Reality Check X R. It's basically the Holy Bible of why VR and AR is good for businesses. How businesses can use it, how you as a creator of VR/AR virtual tours, 360 video, whatever it is you do, can approach businesses. What are the use cases? What sectors does it thrive in? This book is also dispelling some myths around the technology and full disclosure as well, I actually got to write a whole chapter for Jeremy's book and it's called “A beginner's guide to 360 video”. It's one of the most in depth things I've ever done, I literally dissect the process of creating a 360 video for an enterprise, bit by bit. From pre-production, production, post-production and everything within that. Working with actors, working with presenters, working with certain cameras, working with certain crew members, what crew members do you even need? What things do you need to consider when scripting a 360 video? It's a real comprehensive breakdown and so if you want to get a copy of the book, I've left a link in the show notes of this episode, where you can preorder and get 20% off.
Absolutely no pressure, though. We do cover lots of really interesting subjects in this episode, including…I have written them down so that I could give you a little sneak peek. One of the best bits of advice I think Jeremy talks about is his five phases of implementation. So this is how you know…you've approached a business, you've sold them on the idea of VR and now what he breaks down the process, from the second that they’ve commissioned the VR piece to it being designed, developed, deployed, rolled out and what feedback you need together. He literally breaks down that process step by step. So listen out for that. It is really great. I also ask him about, you know, times that he's had to tell people that VR isn't quite right an of idea that a business has pitched him and we talked about the key use cases. We even talk about the mass adoption of technology and why it's actually a bit unfair to say that VR is kind of lagging behind in terms of mass adoption compared to other technologies because Jeremy goes into depth other technologies and how long they took to be mass adopted. How do we even define mass adoption? There are some real nuggets of gold in this episode that I really hope you enjoy.
I don't normally do guest episodes. You know me, I'm more comfortable just pacing around my room like I am right now and just talking to my iPhone but it's sometimes good to kind of get out there and get someone else's opinion. Jeremy obviously heads up a department who work with global brands and I've had the fortune (I'm very honoured) to have done a lot of projects with Jeremy over the last few years, and they genuinely as a department are constantly pushing the boundaries. Every time I think, you know, well, that can't be done, they prove me wrong and I'm always always up for hearing what Jeremy has to say, as he's literally on the forefront of convincing enterprises and businesses that VR and AR is a worthwhile investment.
So I'm going to stop rambling now. Enjoy my chat with Jeremy Dalton and like I say, if you want to support him, and in turn me, and also have literally the play by play of how to approach businesses and why businesses should be investing in VR and AR, you can pre order the book at the link in the description below. Okay, I'm stopping now. Enjoy this episode. And I will speak to you tomorrow, guys.
Alex: so I'm not gonna lie to you Jeremy, this is the first time that I’ve actually had to pre think about a podcast because as you may know, the Alex Makes VR podcast is pretty much on the fly. So forgive me if I'm a little bit rusty but Jeremy Dalton, you are by far one of my favourite people to talk XR with.
Jeremy: You say that to everyone?
Alex: Well, luckily, you'll never know because none of the conversations are usually recorded. But it's true. We've been working together, kind of known of each other now for a good few years and we've kind of seen the the hype, and then the die down of the hype, and then the re-hype again of XR technology. So I guess for this podcast, I really would love to just kind of pick your brains on behalf of the listeners about all things VR and business because most people listening are either new to VR, or they want to get into VR. Especially they want to know how best they can serve businesses. How can they sell in VR? When, let's face it, we're at a time where it's still really new. So before we dive into all that, though, give the listeners a bit of background. Who are you Jeremy? What do you do? How did you get into the crazy world of XR?
Jeremy: So I currently lead the virtual reality and augmented reality team or XR team at PwC in the UK, and also the author of a book that is specifically about XR in business and that's called reality check. I got into XR, probably I'd say around 2015, just after the the Facebook purchase of Oculus and I started to see that business potential there even though, it was very much a consumer item in the public's eyes back then and I felt that there was definitely something here for businesses to latch on to. So I spent a few years campaigning at PwC to try and get them to build a dedicated virtual reality and augmented reality team. Thankfully, in September 2017, after a lot of hassling they finally gave in and gave me the role of the head of VR/AR in the UK.
Alex: So no pressure, but you did wear them down and promise them that it would be a worthwhile investment?
Jeremy: Exactly, exactly. I'm still waiting to hear back from any praise on them, by the way.
Alex: Like, listen, guys, I don't want to say I told you so but yeah! That's great. So in the last kind of few years then, since the team was set up, what are some of the kind of…key use cases that you've identified that XR really accelerate in the business kind of arena?
Jeremy: So I'd say there are a few and a lot of people think about the applications of virtual reality and augmented reality, but they're different technologies, although very closely related, and that's why I put them under the banner of XR. But if you think about virtual reality, for example, a fantastic way to train individuals because virtual reality is all about immersion, it's about placing you in a different environment, a different set of circumstances, someone else's shoes, and because it excels at giving you that immersive feeling, It is really good when it comes to training on soft skills, when it comes to helping from a diversity and inclusion perspective in organisations. Even practical skills that were unique, to get hands on with a subject and you know, pick up a tool, attempt to communicate with someone over a walkie talkie, use a carbon monoxide monitor on an oil refinery and attempt to spotlight or find a carbon monoxide leakage in time, all of this sort of stuff…those scenarios can be created in virtual reality, and delivered to you as software. And that's really fantastic, because you think about the business outcomes that that allows, you to conduct this training in a cost effective way. Because you don't need to rent a site, you don't need to travel anywhere, you don't need to have anyone managing the site and in terms of human resource, so you can literally just have all of that contained within the software that sits on the headset, and just put the headset on in the comfort of your office and in the comfort of your own, you know, home bedroom, living room wherever and immediately get immersed into that world and feel like you're in that world. I think that's the real strength of VR, that's giving you that feeling that you are in that environment. Because otherwise, how do you train public speaking, for example? The only way to do that, or how businesses usually do that is you do it by trial by fire. So you go straight in, and you start delivering loads of tools to loads of people. Now, you can do that but opportunities to do that are going to be few and far between. Alternatively, you can role play but that's quite resource intensive, because you've got to bring loads of people in, you've got to, you know, set them up, you've got to agree a timing, things have got to align, they've got to work out. And it's expensive compared to a VR solution as well and especially if you're trying to mimic a crowd of 100 people, that is it's not even feasible at that level. But in virtual reality, I can click a button or probably more accurately, gaze at a button and then all of a sudden, I can be enveloped in this auditorium with 1000 people and you may wonder, okay, but that's software, we know these people are not real. So it's not really that effective, is it? So for those of you who haven't tried virtual reality and effective virtual reality applications of this sort of nature, you will very soon realise after trying it, that it does really tackle that lizard part of your brain that, in theory, is that flight or fight response. And so if you're standing digitally in front of this auditorium, of 100 or 1000, people, you will feel or let's say not all of you might, but a lot of you will feel a sense of nervousness, a sense of fear, anxiety, worry, and there will be pressure on you, and the learnings that you get from being immersed in such an environment, you can take to the real world. So in summary, virtual reality is a wonderful training tool for both soft skills and practical skills training. Those are really the big areas that we see but there are also loads of other areas. I mean, we can go on about, and you can decide where you want to take this, Alex, so I'll give you the option, but we can talk about remote collaboration, you know, working together and collaborating in virtual environments. We can talk about remote assistance, we can talk about forensic visualisation so going nickel into different industries, we can talk about using augmented reality to highlight hidden utilities and underground infrastructure below, you know, in the subterranean worlds beneath us, we can talk about using virtual reality as a new way of working from an operational perspective you know, there are so many different areas and places that you can go with this technology, that has applications across all industries. I would challenge anyone to find a business and an industry where there is absolutely no use for virtual reality and augmented reality. I guarantee you, there always will be some.
Alex: That's what I'm talking about. That just got me fired up like yeah, you're right. There's so much opportunity and it’s interesting because where we are right now, I feel like although literally every single thing you've just said I totally agree with and also it just again it recaptures the imagination, the fact that actually there are so many use cases, use cases that we might not have even discovered yet, but actually, when you start digging deep enough into a business, you could be like…well, actually anything that needs to replace something that is resource intensive or dangerous or would just be you know…not feasible to kind of scale quickly or roll out virtually or remotely and that is where VR is kind of best. But when you are a VR creator, and you go into a business, and this business has never really heard of VR before, if they have, it's usually some kind of gaming gimmicky context. It's harder to kind of to get them to buy into this idea, right? With where we are right now, what are some of the key things that you find, help when you're having those initial conversations? Because obviously, you guys within your department in PwC, you are like and I always say, you're kind of like a mini startup. It’s like you are doing what all of us are created to do and you're going out there fighting the good fight to get businesses to believe that VR and AR -
Jeremy: is the best next mission for us all!
Alex: Yes, exactly. So what do you find? How do you find some of those conversations go? What are some of the biggest things that make businesses go - oh I’m not sure about this…
Jeremy: I think…you do get a lot of disbelief, and you do get a lot of scepticism. And we encounter that regularly. Generally, what I find, though, is that the sceptics haven't tried virtual reality firsthand. Or they say they've tried it. But when you dig in deeper, they haven't really, because when they say they've tried virtual reality, they mean that they put on a cardboard headset once and stuck their phone into it, went on a roller coaster for 30 seconds, feeling super queasy, and said - Well, this is not really for me. So I think there's a lot of education that has to go on around it and you can tackle that I'd say in two different ways. You have to tackle it from a business perspective and you've got to tackle it from an emotional perspective. So from a business perspective, you've got to convince them on paper, that there is a business case for adopting this technology and there are many ways of doing that. You can you can bring in analyst reports, you can bring in… sneaky plug… some of PwC reports. We've done studies on the value of soft skills training in virtual reality, for example, and that's been quoted a lot and then part of the reason we did that is to provide people with that ammunition to take to businesses to say - look a study is being done! These are the results. This is the result of virtual reality versus classroom training versus elearning, for the same content and for the same objective. So that's thinking about it from a business perspective. Then you've got to tackle that from an emotional perspective, so once they've been bought in business wise, and they see it on paper, and they go - like, okay, okay… so PwC saying this, IDC is saying that, Gartner is saying this, we've got these startups here who've clearly succeeded in delivering to businesses, you know, with their their case studies as well. So that's all well and good but you still need to help them really, you need to drive it home. And the only way to do that is because virtuality is such an experiential technology, you need to take advantage of that momentum, and get a headset on them. So based on dumping them with all that information and connecting it to their business case, to their industry, to their problem, ultimately, you've got to then give them a valuable experience. And when I say valuable, it's got to be connected to their problem, preferably connected to their industry. Also preferably using the same type of content that you're advocating for. So if you're advocating for and this is going a little bit into the detail, but if you're advocating for a 360 video based solution to them, then ideally show them some 360 video stuff, because you're creating a sense of expectation with whatever you show them. And that has to be met. If you're planning on doing some 360 video, and you show them a volumetric, you know, video based application. If the example doesn't look like what they've seen, then it's gonna be a challenging conversation for you.
Alex: So true, and is interesting. I've never heard it articulated that way about the idea between, you know, the business case, but also then tackling the emotional case. Yeah, like, I've never really thought of it in that way. But it's so true. It's so true. One thing that you've kind of like, I mean…there’s so many different ways where I'll kind of want to take this but you've already kind of started to give us a picture. So you've had that first conversation and now that person is like right, yeah, okay, maybe, maybe this is for me. I've actually done the physical experience, so you know, okay, let's give this a go, we want to do a pilot. As you've already said, you are bringing out a book, Reality Check XR and chapter six is Five Phases of XR implementation. So I wonder if based on the fact that, you know, you've got a business excited, where you know, we're now doing a pilot, what then are these five phases?
Jeremy: So the five phases are discover, design, develop, deploy, and debrief. You notice how they all conveniently start with a D, that was on purpose. To come up with these deeds, it took a while, I have to admit, I was battling with different words, you know, things like devise, that was really sound great but doesn't really give you that right image. So to give you a brief on all of these:
Discover is the very first phase and these are all designed to be self explanatory. So we discover, you're helping the client discover the value of XR technology. So this is where you're showing them, where you're building the business case Aad the emotional case, as we spoke about, once they are bought in, and they think that yes, this could actually be a viable technology to solve some of our problems. And as an aside, I should have mentioned this, problems are not only current problems within business, but they are also potential future problems as well. Because yes, you and efficiency in your business, the fact that you haven't taken advantage of an efficiency may not be a problem right not aut when your competitors have taken advantage of that efficiency, and they're all performing at a higher level than you, then it does become your current problem.
It doesn't matter whether its current problems, or future opportunities, future opportunities are simply problems in the making. So those can be tackled as well. But basically, going back to the five phases, discover: you've got them bought in on the emotional case and in the business case.
Next, you're going to move to design stage. So this is when you start getting into the nitty gritty of an XR solution, you've got an idea, you know how it connects to the problem and now you've got to actually design that solution. Now, when I say design the solution, we're not only talking about designing the software, this is important, we’re talking about designing the deployments and we're talking about designing the debrief stage of it as well; the data analysis, the data collection, you’ve got to think about all of these things right at the beginning, before you bring in any software developers, you’ve got to think about the user experience of the software, you’ve got to think about what the scope of the software, what are you going to include in it? What are people going to be able to do? The user stories, you’ve got to think about how you're going to bring this? How are you going to make this work within the organisation? How many people are you going to run it with? Is everyone going to have their own headset? Are you going to have a central location where people go to, to hook into to run their session with? Is it going to be given to the whole workforce? Is it only going to be given to a small team? How many months is this pilot, if it is a pilot, going to run for? How you're going to communicate it to the organisation to make sure they buy into it? You know, so a little bit of change management there, a little bit of stakeholder management, media and communications, software development, design, user stories, user experience, what data are you going to collect? How are you going to collect that data? Is it going to be automatic? Is it going to be manual? Is it going to be within VR? Or is it going to be outside of VR? You know, in a survey or something on an iPad? All of that stuff needs to be designed right up front. And only then, when you're happy, when the stakeholders and the project sponsors are happy with how this says, has been written down and planned out, then you can move to the development stage. That's not to say, of course, that you can't change things, of course you can, you know, you got to work in an agile manner at the end of the day. However, you need to think about a lot of these things at least at a surface level to get an a high level idea of where you want to go with the product. So once you've designed it all out, you're into the development stage. This is where your software developers come on board, when you're starting to actually build the software and depending on how you are, on what sort of content you're using, that development may actually be more production based. So for example, if your VR product is a 360 video, then most of your work in the development stage will actually be 360 production. There will be a minimal amount of piecing things together at the very end from a game engine perspective within Unity. But whichever way you go, this is building the software or building the content, I suppose more accurately, once you've built it, you're obviously going to, you know, you're going to QA, you're going to do your testing, you're going to make sure everything's suitable, bug fixing, troubleshooting, all that sort of stuff, testing with your end users to make sure that what you thought was going to be effective is indeed effective. And then you're ready to move to deploy stage. Now deployment within the organisation is very often overlooked but as I mentioned before, to make this a successful implementation of virtual reality, you're going to have to figure out how you get this on to the heads of different people, or in the case of an augmented reality application, how you deliver the software. Is it on their mobile phone? Or if it's a head mounted display, how you deliver those head mounted displays? So it depends on the content, it depends on the hardware you're going to use. But those will all influence how you actually put it into practice. So this is rolling your sleeves up, actually going down to the workplace, with you know, with your team, and putting the headsets down there, training the trainer’s, communicating to the workforce how it's going to go down, how long is it and all those sort of details, and when you've deployed it, and when you start to run it with those people and those different teams, after a period of time, you know, you've got or after a number of people have been through it…let’s say 100, people have been through it. You know, in a month or two, you're going to have to start to look at those results, you're going to have to debrief, in other words, the final phase, the data that you collected during that deployment, and that's going to allow you to understand how effective that solution was. It's going to enable you to think about improvements you can make to it, it's going to enable you to hopefully build a business case for the stakeholders. The stakeholders to say, look, we deployed this with a small team, you know… let's say, the UK region, and it was only 100 people, but we got these results. You know it showed a 20% improvement in learning the procedure that we wanted to learn or whatever it is you're trying to achieve, you roll out all of those KPIs that you would have thought about at the design stage, in terms of how they relate to the data you're collecting and you build that report. Ultimately, in the debrief stage, you deliver it to stakeholders and once they are happy that it's been a successful solution, you can use that report and that business case, as a, in a way going full circle back to the discover stage to show them…look, here is the business case for something that is really close to your business. So now, we're no longer talking about data analysts and consultants and what they're saying, we're talking about an actual virtual reality deployment with your workforce, that deliver these results. And therefore, I would like more money and more time to deliver a much larger implementation in your workforce. And that's the ideal play, in my opinion.
Alex: So it sounds quite daunting, I would imagine for some kind of solo creatives out there, but when you actually break it down like that, it is actually so simple. And, you know, if we were to take that whole process and distil it into, you know, you are a solo 360 creator, and you're approaching a business…yes, I would like a simple, 360 induction of my workplace, to roll out to employee so that they can do their induction training before they enter the work, whatever it might be…you know, something super small and simple. What I want people to get from that and to really internalise is the fact that you may be a creator, you may consider yourself a creative but the most important stages of working with businesses and getting VR commissioned and working on these kind of projects is that upfront discovery and design phase, and the debrief because like Jeremy outlined, it is a full circle. And actually, if you just rock up to a business convinced them that they need a 360 video, and you go in there, create it and then you leave it with them. They don't know what to do with that. They might not implement it properly and then they might think of it as a waste of money compared to the money they could have spent on a traditional kind of video campaign or something like that.
Jeremy: Include, in other words, include within your project time and resource to develop that reporting to make it easy for them to invest further in the technology.
Alex: Have you ever had cases where people have come to you and said and said like, Oh, we want a VR solution for this? And you've said, No, actually this is this isn't the right use case.
Jeremy: Absolutely. I quite enjoy those conversations, because actually, I suppose I shouldn't enjoy them. But they make good anecdotes, let me put it that way. So one of these is a story I had with a hardware company and an individual come to me and say - Jeremy, we know about virtual reality, we're really excited about it and we want to use it for training. So I was like - okay, well that sounds brilliant, you know, training is one of the big applications of virtual reality so let's have a conversation about it. Let's dig into the detail and get stuck in and hear more about this. So I got on the phone with them and it very soon transpired that what they meant by training was training on a CRM - customer relationship management platform. So stuff like Salesforce, in other words, a web based database of customer details and, you know, conversations you're having with them and audit trail and that sort of stuff. They wanted to train their workforce on how to use that web based software. But do it within virtual reality? I thought, I can't really draw the connections of the strength of virtual reality here because you've always got to think about the strengths of the medium and make sure they connect properly to the to the solution or the problem. Let's say you're trying to solve…so in this case, improved training of how to use Salesforce, a web based platform. Virtual realities strength is in immersing people in a three dimensional world. I couldn't make the connection, I tried hard and eventually I said - look, it's just not the right technology for this and I tried to outline that, just what I said here, you know, you're trying to improve Salesforce training and Salesforce is a 2D web based product, you are talking about a technology which immerses people in a three dimensional worlds…there is no connection there. I wouldn't advise going ahead with using the app for this purpose. Thankfully, they didn't push it any further than that and that was the last conversation I had on this and potentially the last conversation I'll have with them forever. I think it is a duty on all of us, I think, to reject potential opportunities, and they sound like opportunities, but really, they're pseudo opportunities to use virtual reality or augmented reality where it doesn't fit. Because if you do that, a few things are going to happen. First of all, you're going to get paid, that's fine. Okay, but then you're going to deliver the project and you're gonna put it in the organisation and in the debrief stage, you're not gonna be able to produce a good business case and then takes you back, for the company to invest further up discover stage. Because the connection won't be there, the effects won't be there and as a result, people's feedback will not be positive. You're going to be left in a fairly embarrassing situation, where at best, you're just not going to do any more VR projects with that client again but at worst, you've not only screwed yourself over, but you've potentially screwed all the other people in the VR/AR industry over as well because the client now has this impression that virtual reality completely failed for them because they tried to shove a square peg into a round hole, they tried to use virtual reality where it wouldn't fit.
Alex: Totally and that's the thing…it doesn't do anyone a service. Like the quick Payday is not worth it, to potentially collapse the whole industry. How long have you spent like writing this book?
Jeremy: It's probably been a good…I reckon it's a good year because I signed the the contract with the publisher back in September 2019. And yeah, I delivered the book about September 2020, so yeah, took a good 12 months but not all of that was writing mind you, a lot of that was sort of feeling miserable for myself during the very start of the pandemic while I was holed up at home. I was thinking about that and then my editor at the publisher got furloughed, and I was thinking - oh, God, I just felt completely disillusioned at that point. So there was definitely a break, a clean break where I didn't do any writing for about…I think it was maybe two months or something but then my editor got un-furloughed very quickly and all of a sudden I had my deadline looming. So I really had a fire lit under me and from that point onwards, it was literally, you know, all weekends, all evenings, all mornings. I took holiday from PwC, annual leave to continue writing and for the first time ever in my life I pulled a triple all nighter. It was an absolute disaster.
Alex: That is a great effort though to be fair. I'm curious then, because you've said the better part of the last year, regardless of the couple of months feeling sorry for yourself and then all of a sudden, it’s oh crap, let's get this done of that year - what would you say is the most interesting thing that maybe came up or you found out through the research process?
Jeremy: Oh, I found out so much really exciting stuff. Something I found and it took me a long time to write this section, by the way…I’m just trying to find it, I’ve got a draft of the book in front of me here…yes. So here it is, so this section is called VR is dead. Okay. The important thing to bear in mind is that this is in quotation marks in the book, right. And the heading underneath, says “common misconceptions and criticisms of XR”. So bear that in mind, when you hear about the title of VR Is Dead and this is a bit of a bugbear of mine, because the reason you hear VR is dead in the media a lot is because they haven't done the analysis. They haven't looked at the data. They haven't looked at the numbers, what they're going off is very much anecdotal evidence and a knee jerk reaction to us, that sales expectations of virtual reality headsets were not met. Of course, our expectations weren't met, the expectations were set at a super high level and that's understandable. And even though they weren't met, and maybe they won't even be met in the future but that is, to a large extent completely irrelevant when it comes to the future of XR. Because first of all, when you look at sales, sales in the in the consumer space, that is what you're looking at, sales in the consumer market, the business market is a completely different beast. So bear that in mind, whenever you hear any news, whether it's from an XR manufacturer, or whether it's from the media, talking about discontinuing this product, or, you know, VR is dead because of X/Y/Z, a lot of the time, it doesn't have major ramifications on the business environment because the business world will use a tool. It doesn't need like mass support for business to use a tool. It just needs the project sponsor, and a state and a key influential stakeholder in the organisation to buy into it and dictate what needs to be done. So going back to your original question is, what I found really interesting in this section of VR is dead, I outline my whole argument for why, you know, this doesn't make any sense at all and I took it all the way back to the beginning of time, all those stands. I have to admit, this was when I was perhaps a little bit more philosophical when I was writing the book. But I basically I said - look, think about the concept behind virtual reality. Virtual Reality is designed to immerse you in a completely different world. It's designed to, to speak to or communicate to you about the environment and the situations you're facing and it tells you a story ultimately about and it could be anything, it could be for entertainment purposes, it could be for informative purposes, you know, business training, so to speak, it could be for persuasive purposes, to try and convince someone to, to buy, you know, an asset or an environment or whatever it is, to sell a vehicle, and so on. But ultimately, if you abstract virtual reality from technology, so from the headsets and things like that and think about the objective, the concept, It’s storytelling really, and storytelling has been around for as long as humans have been around. So I tried to look at you know, how far back the storytelling goes. So I found out about the Lascaux Cave, it's near the village of Montignac, in Southwestern France. This is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it's home to over 600 paintings that cover this cave, wall and ceiling. Now the paintings depicts a variety of animals, humans and geometric signs and in an attempt to interpret the paintings, one theory put forward by some anthropologists and historians is that it was a record of past hunting successes. Another theory suggests that it was to encourage the success of future hunting activities. But whatever the reason, these paintings are a great example of primitive communication and storytelling that are estimated to go back as far as 15,000 BC. So that's as far back as I went with it but you can find examples throughout the ages, you can find the Epic of Gilgamesh, you know, arguably the history's oldest known fictional story and that was 3400 BC. And then you've got you know, everything up until the modern day world, you've got traditional sort of text base story books, you've got cinema, as a film of storytelling, you've got theatre, you've got video games, you've got art, all of these are storytelling in different senses, and ultimately meet that objective of virtual reality. And to bring it home even further, think about specific types of paintings that have appeared in humanity's history, like panoramic paintings, they were famous in the 1800s, you know, they were these really sort of long and tall paintings. And if you stood in the middle of it, you felt like you were enveloped in that environment and that's exactly what we're trying to do with virtual reality. Right now, we're trying to envelop you, or immerse you in these different environments. It's just for different purposes and in different contexts. That's all and using different technology. So we're not using paint anymore, we're using, you know, screens, we're using sensors, we're using hand based tract controllers, all this sort of stuff to deliver you into that world effectively. But I'm just going to take you through one thing to add more on this, this long, circuitous route, Alex, because I think people will really appreciate it. And this, this goes back to what I was saying around a lot of the media don't look at the data that sits behind virtual reality. So largely, what I've told you, up until now, is has been somewhat anecdotal and it's someone just need building a case, you know, based on what I feel is a valuable argument. But from a data perspective, if people people generally are impatient about virtual reality, and how long supposedly it's taken to reach mainstream adoption, but how do you know it's taken so long? Who's done the analysis to say that it's taken a long time or a short amount of time or an average amount of time? I wanted to do that analysis to really put it out there. So that's what I did in this book. In this section, I first looked at how to define mainstream adoption, because that itself is arguable and I found my answer, in a book by by a chap called Geoffrey Moore and the books called Crossing The Chasm. Now, he takes a theory from the diffusion of innovations, if anyone's heard about the diffusion of innovations, this is where it tries to explain the the adoption habits of consumers when it comes to technology. So it says the first 2.5% of people who adopt technology are innovators. The next 13.5% are early adopters. Then the next 34%, after that are the early majority, the next 34% of the late majority, and the final 16% of the laggards. Now in Crossing The Chasm, Moore explains that when you jump from the early adopters stage to the early majority stage, in other words, at the 17% mark, that's when you really start to hit the mainstream audience. And it goes from becoming a niche thing to something that is basically on the path to mainstream adoption. So I said - okay, that seems like a reasonable argument and Moore has a load of arguments within his book about why he's chosen that particular point. But let's say 17%, the key thing is just to be consistent here. So taking 17%. How have other technologies in the world fared? Alright, how long did they take from and I took a fixed point here from being sold, you know, to consumers in a consumer type forum, like a supermarket or something to reaching 17% mainstream adoption. And the results may surprise you. So I'm actually going to start with the one that was quickest, the quickest technology. That's the radio. The radio took 6 years only to go from first being commercially available to consumers, to reaching 17% of US households. It beat out the Internet. The Internet was 8 years, right? How long it took the computer was next at 19 years. The tablets took 23 years. Wow, the microwave took 26 years and the landline, right…the telephone that many people still have, you know, I think it's a it's a very dwindling technology, but it's still around, that took 29 years to reach mainstream adoption. So Alexander Graham Bell, patented the telephone, and it was granted in 1876. The first home telephone was installed in 1877 and it took until 1906, for landlines to reach 17% adoption in 29 years. That is amazing. Exactly and now you may be asking, okay, so how long did virtual reality take? Well, it depends on how far back you want to go but according to my definition, how I've judged all these other technologies, the earliest example that I could arguably say, was a virtual reality headset that got sold to consumers, was actually in 1993 and if anyone wants to check it out, you may have arguments with me about whether this counts as a virtual reality headset or not but this was by a company called Cyber Max and they're not around at the moment, which don't get me wrong is probably a good thing once you do a little bit of research on this headset but the the headset was called the the Victor X and actually, I think it has another name as all, The Virtual Reality Stunt Master, I think it's called. The marketing for it is quite appalling if you want to check it out, but that was released as a commercial product to consumers in 1993. Right, so right now we're in 2020, about to hit 2021. So even if you count virtuality right now, 26 years, or even 27 years by the end of 2021, that is still within the realm of how long it's taken other technologies to reach mainstream adoption. So remember, the landline took 29 years, the microwave took 26 years, and we're now on 26/27 years for virtual reality and depending on which, you know, analysts, you talk to, the estimate for us to reach household adoption of VR sits between 6 and 16%. So in other words, within the next year or two, we should expect virtual reality to hit mainstream adoption and that would be the 27 year mark or 28 year market at most. So no, virtual reality hasn't taken an extraordinarily long amount of time. Many other technologies that have come before it, both old and new, have taken many, many years to reach this market as well. So it's important to bear that data in mind when you consider how VR is dead when you next read that on a newspaper article.
Alex: It’s such a fascinating way to look at it because I think, and I'm guilty of this, when people ask me when I think or how I think VR will go mainstream, my image is like, you know, a bit like we are with the smartphone, like everyone has one and it's the thing that we use predominantly, but actually, like you say that's just in my own head. That's my own version of what mainstream adoption looks like. But actually, if you're going to go on this way of judging all technologies the same, maybe that 17% is more of an interesting one to go on.
Jeremy: And it's arguable as well, it doesn't have to be 17%. But the point is be consistent in your analysis. Whatever point you choose, just be consistent with it when you're analysing how long it's taken the landline, the internet, radio, all that sort of stuff, which is what I've done here.
Alex: So if we're looking to the future of VR, then what kind of…because we are at an interesting point aren't we? We are, it seems anyway, having a bit of a slow growth. Obviously the pandemic is probably equally done us favours as well as kind of knocked a bit of the wind out of our sails as an industry but where do you see the kind of general trends happening with VR for the next couple of years? And maybe in your own opinion, when do you see it being this kind of mass adopted technology that most people and companies will have adopted?
Jeremy: So most companies is a difficult one, because that requires a hell of a lot of analysis to try and put that down on paper and figure it out but if you're following my definition, or more accurately, Geoffrey Moore's definition of mainstream adoption at 17% mark, I have no doubt that, I'd say within a maximum of three years. So in other words, by the end of 2023, it will have met that definition of mainstream adoption and possibly even admit that as early as 2021. And so I think we're really in for a really exciting time for virtual reality over the next two to three years, I think the consumer market and the business market will feed each other. So the more popular it becomes in the consumer market, the more familiar people within business will find it and and be more willing to engage with it as, as a business tool, as long as we remain very helpful in terms of educating businesses and business leaders that virtual reality is not just for funding games, as we're seeing it. You know, in the media and with our families and how they're using it, but it's actually a really powerful business tool too. I think it has incredible potential and more specifically, in terms of where I think it's going on a more micro level, I'm particularly very excited about volumetric video. So for those of you who don't know, the way I see virtual reality is, or virtual reality content, I should say, is that it can be based off 360 video, which is literally video in the real world, and then introduce to you and in some sort of immersive display could be a headset could be a cave system or projection system. Or you can use computer generated type content, so you can build stuff in 3D in Unity, Unreal, or other other game engines and volumetric video, to a large extent is kind of the best of both worlds of 360 video and computer generated. So with 360 video, it's very realistic, because it literally is, you know, it's a video from the real world. However, you don't get the full set, the full six degrees of freedom when you're using 360 video. So you can look around from a fixed perspective but you can't physically move left, right, forward, back, get a different angle or a different perspective on the scene you're in. Now you can with computer generated environments, however, the disadvantage with them is that it takes a hell of a lot of money and resource to get computer generated environments to a level where they could be considered realistic and acceptable for some stakeholders. Whether we should be pursuing super realism or not is another argument for another podcast probably.
Now volumetric video is effectively it's like a three dimensional video, so not only do you have a material or a skin or a texture, that is the actual video of the person, let's say walking around, but you have their 3D model as well. So there's depth information as well as that textual information, really realistic textual information as well and it just brings together, it makes it look realistic and it can be optimised to such a level that it actually runs on standalone headsets as well. So that's another bonus there, that you don't necessarily get with pure computer generated content which has to be you know, built to such a level that it needs tethered headsets or headsets that are connected to computers and powerful systems to run. So I'm really excited about volumetric video, it's currently quite expensive at the moment or relatively expensive compared to the other types of content within VR that you can use. However, I would hope that and I would be prepared to place a bet on it that it will become cheaper, it may even become more accessible for us as individuals to use within our own homes in the future. If you look at the progress that's been making, that's been made on the iPhone, in terms of you being able to map your own environment using what is effectively a consumer phone that's pretty amazing and you extrapolate that progress to volumetric video and you think as a personal individual may be able to produce volumetric video in a few years time. I think that is a very exciting idea and concept for everyone in the XR industry and even for the end users who will get to be able to consume ever increasing immersive and impactful content that comes out of the XR industry.
Alex: I mean, I couldn't say it better myself. Absolutely phenomenal. I'm going to wrap this up now, Jeremy, because I realised that this is been a wonderful conversation, but you've probably got to get on with your day. There's still so many topics that we could cover, and I'm sure we will in future episodes, including the fact that, you know, we recently worked on a volumetric video project together and as both big fans of the kind of photo realism, and optimising for a headset that can be massively rolled out, I'm sure that we'll do. We'll do some more future content around that stuff when we can talk about that project. But in the meantime, where can people go to pre order the book? When does it come out? Give us all the details.
Jeremy: So it's coming out in the UK, and a lot of the world except for the US and Canada on January 3rd 2021 and in the US and Canada, it will be available on January 26. Now you can get more information at realitycheckxr.com and I should finally say as well, that I don't think Alex has plugged it hard enough, but she has a chapter in this book as well that she's written and it is a beginner's guide to creating quality 360 video, which I'm very grateful for. So thank you very much, Alex for delivering what is effectively a one to one manual to help businesses and content creators produce some really quality 360 video content.
Alex: It was an absolute honour actually and just so interesting for me to go back to that roots of explaining this to someone who had never picked up a 360 camera before. How would I explain the process of making a 360 video? It was it was very cathartic and I really enjoyed writing that chapter. For anyone listening, you might be thinking - okay, but I'm not a business person, so why should I buy this book? This book is your playbook on how to approach businesses, why it would be useful for businesses, this is going to give you that kind of that confidence to go into a sales situation and say, these are the areas that VR excels and this is the return on investment and you can achieve these other kinds of contents. You could explore the kinds of sectors, examples of work, it's got everything. And yes, I might be biassed, because I wrote a chapter.
Jeremy: I was just gonna say I need to hire you as my PR person. I've never sold it as good as that.
Alex: So make sure to go over pre-order the book at realitycheckxr.com I’ll also leave a link for that in the notes. Jeremy, thank you so much for your time and we will speak again soon.
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