A 2020 XR Year-In-Review, with MetaVRse' Alan & Julie Smithson, and Alex Colgan

December 29, 2020 NaN
A 2020 XR Year-In-Review, with MetaVRse' Alan & Julie Smithson, and Alex Colgan
XR for Business
A 2020 XR Year-In-Review, with MetaVRse' Alan & Julie Smithson, and Alex Colgan

Dec 29 2020 | NaN


Show Notes

2020's been a hell of a year, huh? Not just in XR, but for everyone around the world. But the COVID-19 pandemic and the year's other trials have definitely left their mark on the Metaverse (and MetaVRse), for good and ill. Alan chats with Julie, and VP of Marketing Alex Colgan, about all the biggest changes the XR sector saw this year in our 150th broadcast.

Alex: That's one way to start a podcast.

Alan: Well, I figured since we're about to end 2020, and I also figure that since this is our 150th episode, I would crack a beer while we record this episode, because what a year we have had. It has been awesome and awful all at the same time. This year has seen the demise of many companies. It has seen the birth of new companies. It has seen explosive growth of others. And wow, what a year. All I can say is, yeah, cheers to everybody who made it through this year unscathed. Even if you happen to be caught in the crossfire, lose your job, whatever the circumstances, know that as a community, we will get through this. We're all in this together. And I want to just say to all of you, thank you for the effort and the work you've put into the XR industry. It is wonderful. And on behalf of everybody in this industry, we're here for you. We're here to help each and every one of us get through this together. So I want to just start with that.

And moving on, I want to say that 2021 is looking pretty damn amazing to begin with for the XR world. We saw a world go into lockdown. We saw teachers try to teach online. We saw the entire economy move online instantly. And we're not going back to the old world, the way it was. So the virtual worlds that we know are now serving us in ways of gaming, which they always have. But now expanding that, that whole gaming idea and bringing it into retail. Balenciaga just did this amazing 3D retail experience. We're also bringing it into our concerts. We had massive concerts this year by Marshmallow and others, who attracted millions and millions of viewers. And not just viewers, but participants. And this is something that I think is really, really cool, because people were actively engaged. We saw Burning Man go online this year. And together as an XR community, there's no better time than right now to blow this up. Our VP of Marketing and Strategy, Alex Colgan, will turn the tables and interview me on what happened in 2020 and what we can expect from 2021. So, Alex, welcome to the show.

Alex: Hey, thanks for having me on once again. It's yeah, it's been a hell of a year, definitely the sort of year that could drive one to drink. But I think we're all looking forward to 2021, and what it's going to mean for all of us. I wanted to take this opportunity to look back not just at the industry, but also at MetaVRse over the past year, it's been a bit of a rocky road, an exciting road. We've closed a number of different projects. We've made some really major advances on some of the core features. I was wondering if you could maybe talk a little bit about that before we start looking at the big stories of the year.

Alan: Certainly. I think the biggest thing for us is that in June this year, we launched the MetaVRse engine and it was something that we were super proud of. But at the same time, when you look back, if you're not embarrassed by your first release of your product, you released too late. Well, I can say that in the last nine months we have come leaps and bounds. We have a full universal system now, that it works on every browser, every device, it works everywhere. And we pushed an update that allows you to do that, without having to code. Of course, we've always had the JavaScript editor on there and you can wrap code in five different languages into this. But the ability for non-programmers to participate in the 3D revolution, I think is the biggest accomplishment we did this year. And I think of all the updates we did, this one truly makes it a universally accessible product to the world. And I'm just super excited about that. And to everybody who worked on this: Walid [Abdelaty], our CTO; Paul [Konieczny], our chief product officer; Jonathan [Moss], our chief commercial officer, who takes us and brings it to enterprise; and Julie [Smithson], our chief learning officer. You, Alex, our VP of marketing. Thank you. I want to thank everybody. Sergei [Sachkov], our VP of Research and Development and of course, Octavio, our creative director. We could not be making this product without each and every one of these people, along with the long list of developers as well that are working on this behind the scenes. So I want to say thank you to everybody at the team. It's been a wonderful year. What we've accomplished in nine months is just simply incredible. And I cannot wait to make some huge announcements in early 2021 that will set this world on fire. Let's do it!

Alex: Picking up on Julie, by the way: we've got her on the line. Would love to get her update on the XR Collaboration project, which we had launched earlier this year to some fanfare and really has just been continuing to evolve a behind the scenes. Julie?

Julie: Thanks, Alex. Yeah, it's been an exciting year just in change of educating and learning. And I think COVID, what it has really taught everybody is that you need to consistently learn, and there's no stopping and learning. And learning every day is so important, especially at a time right now, where we need to be so agile about the changes that are happening in our ecosystems, whether they be personal, in our personal lives of what we're dealing with, or professional. So I was proud to be able to pull the XR Collaboration project together along with yourself, Alex and some other great partners, coalition partners in the ecosystem, along with Terry Schussler from Deutsche Telekom and Raffaella Camera from Accenture. Back six months ago when we started to create this project of providing everybody with a resource of how to collaborate online using XR technologies. So the two different components about that, one being the resource guide, just starting to learn about how to meet as an avatar, which hardware to use, the accessibility challenges that are out there and really writing. And we produced a 65 page resource guide on how this could take place in your world. And also with that, we also added a directory of over 70 different XR platforms that are out there, that support online collaboration and remote collaboration. So really, the lessons that we learned out of XR Collaboration is this new, immersive, remote way of connecting digitally online. And for the majority of the world, it's been that transformation of Zoom, and Zoom becoming part of our lives, over meeting after meeting. But the future is really taking a plunge into these immersive collaboration platforms and really honing in on that word, collaboration. So really proud to be a part of that. And Alex, you were an instrumental part of executing that project. Thank you.

Alex: And some significant updates coming to it fairly soon, too. We're recording in mid-December, but this will be coming out much closer to the end of the year.

Julie: That's right. One of the things I think that is a major challenge as we move towards exponential growth is dealing with hardware -- of VR headsets, augmented reality headsets, mixed reality headsets -- and what are their best use cases and which programs are best used for them. So we're really excited to be launching the hardware hub, where everybody will be able to come and take a look at these devices. We look to move them into 3D interactive experiences on the website and that'll be launched in 2021. But first and foremost is getting this information and resources out there so people can start to learn about this technology, what is out there, what their options are for multiple different use cases. Again, it comes back to learning, and that's the focus of XR Collaboration, is to provide that.

Alex: And if folks want to be able to access that resource now, they can head over to xrcollaboration.com, the resource guide, the directory, and lots of little extras all there for the taking.

Julie: Absolutely. And just to highlight a couple of new focuses that we're going to be implementing over the next weeks are a focus on resources for parents and families, as well as more accessibility, contributions and interactive design for accessibility, which is really exciting as a means of inclusivity. So really looking forward to having the support of our team. We're also going to focus on cybersecurity and also on mindfulness, introducing a brand new XR initiative of having the mind boosted and focusing on that healthy mentality. So collaboration comes in all forms, and I'm proud to be part of helping create this resource for everyone.

Alex: I think over the past year, one of the biggest pieces has been that everybody is looking forward to being able to meet in person again. I think everybody is looking forward to being able to shake hands and hug and all the rest. But at the same time, we've also been exposed to some of the possibilities and some of the challenges of collaborating at a distance. Everybody's familiar with the bad Zoom meeting, and the poor connectivity, or everybody sort of struggling to get on to the same page, and just staring at flat faces on a screen all day. We've seen how good it can be. We've seen how bad it can be. And I think that's going to create a lot more pressure for these XR collaboration platforms in the new year.

Julie: Absolutely. And switching over to just the biggest change, I think there's the work challenges that we had. But let's dive into education, which is a huge piece that I've been a part of in understanding, just like every other parent watching their kids go through the challenges of what's going on in your own household. How is your daughter, son connecting into their classroom? How are they communicating with their friends? Then seeing how the teachers are adapting. So I'm opening up a can of worms when it comes to education, because there's so many things that need to change. But what COVID has taught us this year is that education needed to change. It was forced to change. And while COVID obviously has a lot of negativity, COVID basically forced that change that was desperately needed to elevate our education to where it needs to be. We're going through a lot of really big challenges right now, from understanding that digital network and connectivity support systems are being built as we speak. And I'm happy to say I've been a part of them that are recognizing these bigger challenges of how we're going to support teachers. How are we going to support those new classrooms? How are we going to support families, and most of all, the students? And I think this is the power of this change comes back to this technology allows so many stems of education and support and outlets for us to continue to be social. It allows us to continue to be creative and almost draws us in to be creative. And that's what we need most, is we need these creativity outlets so that we can be the people who we want to be and allow those students to thrive in their places and teachers to be able to teach what they're passionate about. So I think this technology, what it's taught us this year is to embrace it and also to be supportive for one another in a collaborative way. Coming back to my XR Collaboration, we can't do this alone. Nobody can. And XR Collaboration introduces that way of thinking, that way of training each other, and mentoring each other, and using that technology to express our creativity. So education has got a lot of challenges. I think we have to be really patient and kind with each other right now, as we go through these. And I kind of accepted a while ago, I just thought, "You know what, this school year is just going to be all about discovery and figuring out what systems work, and also helping those who are very challenged with adapting to digital transformation." But it's certainly highlighted the good and what we need to do for education and building the skillsets for the future of tomorrow. And that's where businesses are changing so quickly. Our ecosystem of change is happening so dramatically. And this is where Alan's going to jump in in a minute and talk about all of these big changes that have happened in the corporate world. And right behind it, education's trying to adapt to all of these changes.

Alex: Well, why don't we kick that portion of it off, get into the big stories of the year? Obviously, COVID sort of in the background of all of them, but some of the big ones, we saw closures, we saw buyouts, we saw acquisitions. We saw some players benefiting from the new environment. We saw other players going completely out of business. Do you want to dig into some of that?

Alan: Yeah, it was a-- I mean-- COVID aside, this is just the way technology goes, when you have a new technology of the world and it has explosive start and lots of investment. Some things work, some things don't, it's just the natural order of things. But this year was just like, OK, if you weren't doing well before COVID, you're done, you're dead. Pfft, done! It just like-- it expedited the death of some companies. And rightfully they were going to die anyway, so maybe it's just better that way. It also expedited, I think, a lot of acquisitions by larger companies, because there's still a lot of money in the ecosystem. I mean, the US fed printed $7-trillion and pumped it into the economy. So there's money there. The problem is the larger companies have all of it. And so what they do is they end up buying up all the smaller companies. And so we've seen a lot of acquisitions. And because these acquisitions happened in maybe a time of distress, they ended up being a good bargain for the large companies, but maybe not so great for the small entrepreneurs that were doing them. But with that, we also saw the pandemic itself wipe out an entire category of this entire industry, so location based entertainment just disappeared.

Alex: RIP, LBE. [chuckles]

Alan: [laughs] Exactly! Sounds like a rap song. But honestly, I mean, that's gone. So you avoid the original location based entertainment. They were in all sorts of cineplexes. They were in theaters around the world. They had great locations everywhere. They had partnerships with Disney. Gone. Then you had Sandbox VR, which-- I think it was Andreessen Horowitz put a bunch of money in, a bunch of celebrities. It was super awesome. They were opening in malls all over. They had a great business plan. Yeah, gone. So they didn't deserve that at all, and there's no way that you could have foreseen that. So there has been those types of things. Then you look on the other side and say, OK, well, that's the doom and gloom. But Zoom is worth a 1000x what it was a year ago. So there's that. And then platforms like Hopin that are worth billions of dollars now. So anybody who had a reasonable platform for video conferencing and events and things like this skyrocketed. And so it just happened to have the right timing. If you were location based entertainment, not so much. But if you happened to have a video chat thing and-- we saw this with SPACES.

Alex: Mm-hm.

Alan: This is one unique identifier that sits on both sides. So a group called SPACES -- out of LA -- and they had locations all over the world. And I actually happened to be a part of the Museum of the Future Accelerator with Shiraz [Akmal]. Hey Shiraz, what's up? These guys, they had a location-based entertainment setup, and COVID hit and they immediately pivoted all their technology over to creating a plug-in for VR, so you could participate in a Zoom call from VR. Pretty cool technology, very straightforward. Once you see it, it's obvious. But they created it in reaction to not being able to do their real business. And so Apple bought them shortly thereafter. So SPACES was acquired quietly by Apple this year. And Apple also earlier this year acquired NextVR, which-- that company has all the licensing rights to real-time capture in 360 of NASCAR, and NBA, and all of the other sports. Golf, I think. everything. So now Apple has the rights to 360 stream or VR stream sports, so that's pretty cool. So if you kind of look at this landscape of acquisitions and what's happening, you'll start to see these things happen. Another acquisition that happened this year, which ended up being pretty large, was the Niantic acquisition of 6D.ai.

Alex: Mm-hm.

Alan: 6D.ai was a cloud mapping system, and it kind of really speaks to Niantic's long term vision of creating persistent 3D experiences throughout the world and with their massive success of Pokémon Go. And they launched this year, I believe, Harry Potter, which is a cool game. I got to play it. It's like just a story driven thing. It's a really great. Anyway, if you haven't tried it, try it out. But you've got this amazing company, Niantic, who's making hit after hit, but also obviously has a vision for a much larger kind of metaverse, if you would. Speaking of things like MetaVRse, you have Invidia, who just announced Omniverse this week, which is their kind of persistent, collaborative platform for high quality virtual reality running in the cloud. So they're using cloud processing to be able to stream that down to you. So there's a lot of big players and a lot of moves being made. Qualcomm announced this year they're XR1 chip, which is a chip that will power all the new kind of AR glasses and VR headsets. And it's a super powerful chip that will allow you to have AI built in for facial tracking and object recognition in these types of things, but also allow you to have-- I think it's up to seven cameras. So front facing cameras, IR cameras, eye tracking cameras, facial tracking cameras, all of these things. They're creating kind of reference designs for the world to build on. We also saw a growth of AR glasses, not in America and not North America, not the rest of the world, but in China. China launched this year a slew of different AR glasses everywhere, everyone from Oppo to Nreal to MAD Gaze, all launched this year. I believe that there's going to be this really fervent growth of AR glasses as the world starts to make really cool content for it. Right now, China is kind of leading the way. They're putting out the glasses in the world. But there's going to be a bit of a barrier to entry to there, because creating the content still requires you to code, which is, again, why we created the code optional system in the MetaVRse engine. But this is the stumbling block, is that we need everybody to be able to create this content for these glasses. So that's kind of a high level overview of some of the big acquisition, big things that are happening this year. There's a ton more, oh my goodness, it could go on and on. We have done one 150 episodes. This is our 150th episode of the XR for Business podcast. So I just want to say, if anybody's out there listening, thank you so much for listening to this podcast, for taking time with us every week to go through an interview and really listen to the industry leaders who are either making or using the technology. I really want to hear from you guys. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, send me a message. Let's continue the conversation. I want to know what episodes you want to hear. If there's something you want to learn about, we'll definitely do that. And don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss any episodes in the future as well. Alex, with that, I know there's been some updates from some of the guests on the show.

Alex: Yeah. Why don't we kick that over, actually? Bringing up China is a good opportunity to sort of highlight some success that we heard from Kai Liang from MEL Science. They recently made their VR education content available on China Mobile's cloud VR service, which is the first time that a major national telecom operator has invested in the copyright on branded VR education content. A lot of the times they'll pay for movies, they'll pay for entertainment, they'll pay for games. But this is really the first time that we've seen a significant move towards education. And again, this is within the Chinese market.

Alan: Yaaay! If we could only market education like we market Hollywood movies and AAA games, we'll be all right as humanity.

Alex: Yeah, seriously. There have been 150 episodes with this episode today. That we've had over 130 guests talking about what they've been up to. We reached out to them earlier this week, asking them what was your biggest success in 2020? What was your biggest challenge? And where do you see XR going in 2021? We heard from Alvin Wang Graylin from HTC talking about 2021 and beyond. He wrote that 2020 has helped to highlight the benefits of XR in a major way to many people that were unaware. The long term change in user behavior of people around the world to make the world more digitized will only accelerate the demand and adoption for XR globally. Alan, where do you see us going in 2021? And what are some of the core technologies that we're seeing right now that are going to help propel that?

Alan: So 2021, I think-- you have to kind of look where the money-- if you follow the money, you'll be able to map out where it's going. Twelve months ago I put a prediction on LinkedIn saying that I thought -- based on some of the things that we're seeing coming out of Unity -- that Unity was going to go public within the next 12 months. That was a year ago. Sequoia put $5-million into them at a $6.4-billion valuation back in December last year. And then fast forward to September 2020, Unity went public at-- I think they launched at something like a $24-billion valuation at launch. And today they're sitting at a $40-billion valuation.

Alex: You called it.

Alan: Now-- yeah, yeah I did. But I didn't see how much-- how big they are now. They are a $40-billion market cap company. You are talking about a game engine that makes video games on phones and computers, that's worth 40 billion dollars. Now, you could say, "OK, maybe that's an outlier." But then you look at Unreal. You look at Epic. And Epic just raised some money as well last year at a seventeen point four dollars billion valuation. So here you have these two massive game engines driving the content creation. And all these concerts are being built on Epic, and Epic's filming Hollywood movies now, because people can't go to sound stages. You're seeing the world go digital and the creation tools to make such exploding. And I think this is only going to continue in 2021, because ultimately the manufacturers of the glasses are making them cheaper, better, faster. Just all the things. We're experiencing exponential growth in chipsets, we're at five nanometer chips now. If anybody wants to see an evolution of technology, look at the M1 chip from Apple. Now, as soon as that M1 chip in, let's say, another two years is in your pocket on your phone, it's going to be able to power glasses that are ten times more powerful than your MacBook. This is where we're going. The hardware is just accelerating at an insane pace, because you got to remember, exponential growth is exponential. We're playing on the back side of the chessboard now. So if you-- long story, look it up.

Alex: [laughs]

Alan: Put a piece of rice on the first board and then double it every square and the second half of the chessboard gets nuts. We are, as humanity, on the second half of that chessboard. And so everything's compiling on itself. Research into computer vision is exploding, research into augmented reality exploding. And so if you follow the money and you follow the technology, what it leads to is-- I would have said that we were going to go completely phone-to-face in, say, 2025 to 2027. That was my prediction. I figured it was going to take five more years to do that. With the fact that there's now millions and millions of AR glasses -- very lightweight, inexpensive AR glasses that run off the power of your phone -- being pumped into the market right now, and with Apple being an outlier, having a whole bunch of technologies that wrap around that: eye tracking, they acquired Ventana for occlusion, all sorts of things, they even bought a game engine: Metaio. So you have this technology growing and you have these big players making big, long bets on this. Oculus came up with a $300 VR headset that rivals anything in the market. You have HTC in China dominating the Chinese market with their headsets. So I think really 2021 is going to be a year of extraordinary growth for 2D platforms, and as people learn to develop 3D games and apps on 2D screens -- phones, tablets, and computers -- that will be the gateway to lead us into the head-worn glasses. And probably mass adoption of that will start in kind of 2023 and progressed to 2025. So 2021 is going to be a real time of developing really great content for the mobile phones. We've got understand mobile phones are-- there's billions of them and they're growing incredibly fast. In fact, if you look at the entire gaming industry, it's about one $165-billion. Half of that is a mobile. And that's the most the fastest growing segment.

Alex: Daniel Blair from Bit Space -- and actually a couple of other respondents, too -- had said that one of the more interesting byproducts of this year was that more companies than ever are looking at XR technology for solving problems, except for the folks like the LBEs who were tied to in-person events or in-person experiences. It seems like almost everybody else has been more busy as a result. What does that critical mass kind of look like? Because I think if you talk to different people, you hear different years. "We hit critical mass in 2020." "We will hit critical mass in 2021." Is it that we're talking about different definitions of critical mass?

Alan: I think people are-- yeah-- I was going to say, what's the definition of critical mass? My definition of mass consumer adoption of the product is the 100 million devices. So when will we have 100 million VR devices in the market? We're probably going to do 20 million this year. I don't know, a couple of years. But people define it in different ways. I don't want to-- I hate making these crazy predictions. Look, we know that everybody in the world has a phone in their pocket. Build for that, knowing that the glasses are going to tether to that. So, just know. That's all you need to know. And it will probably be delivered from the web, because there's a lot of turmoil around app stores right now. So-- and I don't want to get into that. This is not the podcast for that. We'll have a whole separate one on that.

Alex: [chuckles]

Alan: What enterprise clients are looking for now are things that replace face-to-face meetings, and training is a big one because you can't train people now. You can't fly people in, you can't fly people out. There's a huge problem. And I think it's being solved nicely and eloquently with these technologies, whether it's AR on the phone or just 3D on a phone, being able to look at a machine and look at it from all angles and understand it. One of the projects we delivered for a large medical device manufacturer was just a simple training application. We took their 200 page manual. We took all their PDFs, all their videos, and turned it into a 3D experience where you could learn to unscrew every nut, bolt, and screw on it and replace the hard drive, or the fan, or the whatever. You could replace every part, never having read a manual at all. So I could give this 3D thing to anybody over a link -- it's just a web link -- and you could put it beside the machine and follow step by step instructions. And by the end you would be able to replace any part of that machine. That is where this is going, in my opinion. As soon as you see it and try it, you're like, "Oh. We can't go back to paper manuals." You can't unsee that. And I think that once people realize that they can solve a lot of their problems in training, marketing, communications with clients, sales. What about meeting up with a client in a little mall or like a little location where you can-- it's like a video game you're playing together, right? And I saw something really cool the other day called ComplexLand to me. This is the absolute future of retail. Look up complexland.com. These guys built a full game world where you could walk around the world fully free and go and just stick your head in places. It would be a little pop-up store that popped up with maybe new t-shirts. They were able to take the Main Street economy -- or the one and two person shops -- and give them a global presence and give them a place. And there was other brands, Pradas and stuff like that. But there was a lot of independent little stores in there. I think it was just a really great way for youth to go and shop in a way that is novel. It's exciting. Every button I pressed, there was something else [that] happened. There was concerts. It was really cool. They mixed art with shopping, music. It was just-- it was really, really cool. And it didn't feel corporate-y at all. It just felt cool. And I think you're going to see a lot more of that type of thing.

Alex: I also wanted to highlight something that we heard from Mike Campbell at PTC, which was really nice. We asked him what his biggest success of the year was, and he wrote "As limitations imposed by the COVID crisis, social distancing, and lockdowns made it hard for front line workers to do their jobs, the value of the industrial augmented reality market became abundantly clear. At PTC early on, we made the decision to offer our fully functional Vuforia Chalk available for free to anyone who could benefit from it during the crisis. This is for remote assistance. Over 25,000 individuals took advantage of that. The best part was knowing that we were doing our small part to help frontline workers who were struggling, in addition to giving them an opportunity to try new technology that they might not have before. In a year where there's been so much difficulty for everyone, doing our part to make people's lives easier goes in the success column for sure."

Alan: Oh man. PTC is an amazing company. It really is. I got to go to their conference when we had-- [chuckle] pre-COVID, when we had real conferences.

Alex: Real conferences!

Alan: With people! Holy crap! I had the distinct pleasure of going to their conference and I met some amazing, amazing people. The speaker lineup was insane. I ended up meeting Jonathan Moss there and DP Prakash and just a whole bunch of wonderful people. I digress. They bought a product called Vuforia back from Qualcomm, I believe in 2016 or 2017. Anyway, they bought the product. And they just they built an entire ecosystem around this amazing product. And that Chalk program is pretty simple when you think about it. I pull out my phone, it engages the front camera, and allows the other person to see what I'm seeing, and then draw on my world. Now, what they've been able to do with their object recognition, though, is truly amazing. Not only can you draw on the person's world, but you can leave it anchored there. So if I'm looking at a machine and I hold my phone up and then the expert on the other end can see what I'm seeing and say, "Oh, there's the screw!" They put a little arrow, and that arrow stays fixed in 3D space. Now imagine when you're wearing glasses, that's going to be perfect. But even just with your phone, that is enough to show you how to solve that problem remotely without having to fly somebody in and fly somebody out. Tools like that, like Chalk, and I think Microsoft has their version of it as well on Hololens and other things. Those remote assistance applications are truly magnificent and they don't cost a lot of money. They gave it away for free this year. So if you run an operation where you do any sort of manufacturing, you definitely need to have this on all your employees phones.

Alex: Yeah, it's just a lot of these technologies that we've been carrying around for so long, which are improving in terms of connectivity, in terms of processing capabilities, in terms of their underlying technologies like cameras, they're really being unlocked for new things. One thing that we heard quite a bit about throughout the course of the year has been this sort of rising tide of 5G. I wanted to know if you wanted to dig into that a little bit.

Alan: Yeah, 5G. It's faster than 4G, right?

Alex: [laughs] Well, I hope so.

Alan: [laughs] So actually I had-- was very lucky to be invited to a fireside chat with Deutsche Telekom's head of spatial computing, Terry Schussler. We got into why it's important to XR. One of the things that you realize is that the promise of 5G being a thousand times faster, a hundred times faster or whatever it was, was the millimeter wave 5G. And there's limited instances when you can do that, because it doesn't go through walls. It's a limited bandwidth, because it really doesn't have a line of sight path through glass and walls and things. But in an industrial factory or something where you can have line of sight to all your machines, you now have instant, instant, latent free zero latency-- not zero, but you get my point. Very quick.

Alex: Near zero latency.

Alan: And you have the ability to transfer data instantly. This is a game changer for enterprises. Now, what it means for consumers is totally different. Maybe you can download movies faster, you can do this. But imagine your frontline healthcare worker, for example, in a hospital. Now, that person who's in the field can beam out to-- they can put on a pair of glasses, you can see what they're doing, they can walk you through complex procedures instantly with zero latency, so that there's not any issues here and you can save lives. They've also carved out a bandwidth of 5G specifically for emergency services so that they're never affected by too much load on the system. So this is really interesting because you've got kind of these layers of 5G that will serve different parts of the world and communities. If you take it down to how this impacts XR specifically in order to have a persistent metaverse where we wear glasses and the world just is your computer, there's no way to do that without reducing the latency to effectively less than kind of fifty milliseconds roundtrip everywhere, or else you'll start to see glitches and then you'll start to feel sick. This is one of the reasons why cloud gaming has always had a bit of a struggle, because once you hit any latency in a cloud streaming, it really messes it, it gets all pixellated. Imagine wearing that on your face, it's going to make motion sick. So until that technology is a little bit further ahead, we're going to be able to beam things like locational data, spatial data, all instantly. And so 5G really is going to empower this. And the other part about it is that as technology gets better, of course, we want to jam more into it. You look at the first time I was on the Internet, you couldn't do video. Obviously, you couldn't do audio. You could literally type some thing. So I used to get emails with-- remember when you'd get an e-mail, "buffering".

Alex: Buffering. [laughs] You'd walk away from the computer, you'd get a cup of coffee, you'd come back, it's mostly loaded, you at least know what it is now.

Alan: You don't think about it these days, like look what we have now. I can instantly watch a 4K video on my laptop and my phone while watching VR, all at the same time. Like, it's just-- pfft! It's mind-boggling. [chuckles]

Alex: We're so old, Alan.

Alan: Yeah. When I started university, we had like three computers on the campus. Anyway, the long story short about 5G is that it's coming this year. It's really accelerating. T-Mobile bought Sprint this year and is really pushing. So the reason why T-Mobile and Sprint merged, actually Sprint had one part of the bandwidth, the 5G and T-Mobile had the other. They kind of put it together. Now they've got the whole thing. So it's really an exciting time. I think 5G is going to be prevalent in major cities. Now, we can't also ignore things like Starlink that are also happening. Obviously, you're going to have some serious latency issues if you're trying to do persistent XR with Starlink. But at least this can get to rural areas and the least they can participate in the digital revolution. So I think there's going to be a lot of filling in of the blanks where satellite just is the natural thing. You can't-- it doesn't make sense to run cables way out there, but satellite beam is there. So I think we're filling in the blanks for where there's no coverage for high speed Internet. We're in really good position in 2021 to really leverage these higher speeds and higher bandwidth, and push the the envelope, in which-- one thing I have to say about our MetaVRse engine is that everybody dismissed the web as a conduit to build and distribute high quality games and experiences, just because it sucked. It did. The Web just always kind of sucked. We're challenging that status quo. We're able to create very high quality experiences on the web and deliver them through the web. So the benefit to that is you don't have to worry about the app stores, just publish it and send it to anybody instantly.

Alex: There's some really incredible developers who have done a lot of really stellar work in WebXR. My experience generally has been that the web has been a very long time in catching up, for a number of different reasons. The browser is a very constrictive sandbox and there were a lot of workarounds that had to happen. JavaScript is not especially well optimized as a language, but there have been some really incredible things done beneath the surface of the browsers themselves. Chrome and Firefox and others have really come a long way. A lot of the core libraries have really been expanded and extended out, and we are really finally now starting to see the dawn of some really strong web experiences that are not just visual toys or experiments, but compelling environments.

Alan: Agreed to that. Complex Land was all running on the web. It was amazing. It's crazy what you're able to do now. And I think people dismissed the web for a long time. But I think it's having its renaissance moment, because it's literally so universal. Everybody's on the web. I mean, I have Slack, but I don't open the Slack app, I just have it as a tab on Chrome. Everything that I do on my daily basis is just a bunch of tabs across the top of my Chrome. I don't open anything else, hardly. Well, Zoom opens in app, but I mean, I'm sure they don't even need to do that.

Alex: Yeah, two words as far as web is concerned. And I know you're going to love this. "30 percent."

Alan: [laughs] Yeah, the app stores take everything. And actually we're going to see some interesting things. Epic sued Apple and Google this year over the duopoly of the app stores. That was in response to Apple kicking Fortnite off the app store when Epic pushed an update that allowed you to bypass the Apple store and buy it from Epic directly, which violates Apple's terms and conditions. So there's that. I mean, Epic took on the Goliaths of the industry. Now, Epic's not a small company, don't feel bad for them. But they're a $17-billion company. Apple's a $1.7-trillion company. That's a thousand times larger. So... [laughs]

Alex: That battle is still ongoing in different forms. Where do you see that going in 2021?

Alan: Well, the courts, I believe, are going to see it in-- I want to say June. I can't remember, I'll look it up while we're talking. But I think--”Epic v. Apple”... just, Google it. I actually wrote a whole article called "Could Web-Based Game Engines Be the End of the App Stores?" We'll put it in the show notes. And in there, I've actually been just keeping it up to date with all the news. So I just use it as my place to keep all the news for this.

Alex: The other big news that we've got just recently has been this lawsuit by the FTC, that's a direct shot across Facebook's bow.

Alan: Just blocked the sale of Oculus, because in German law, you can't have one product that forces you to get another to have it. And Oculus forces you to get Facebook to have Oculus.

Alex: So 2020 has been a year where the giants have really been enriched, despite the COVID pandemic. But in the tail end of the year, it does seem like there are some significant breakup efforts underway by regulators and by other players within the industry.

Alan: Facebook is going to get broken up for sure. Apple, I don't know how they've managed to stay out of the kind of crosshairs, but with this Epic lawsuit, who knows what's going to happen? We have a different leadership coming in and one that is more in tune to the needs of the people, it seems like. And the needs of the people is higher taxes on larger corporations. And so, we'll see what happens. This is for the US courts to decide, but I would I would predict that there's going to be some breakups of these companies, similar to the Microsoft breakup back in the 2000s or 90's, I guess. So I think we're in for some interesting cases. Maybe it's time, because if you look at everything that's happening in the startup world, startups are just getting gobbled up or put out of business. There's no in between right now. So it's hard to-- it's hard to compete with the goliaths in an industry.

Alex: I think it'll also be interesting to see how the Biden administration handles these companies. Kamala Harris was California's Attorney General. She has Wall Street and Silicon Valley support. She's known as being somewhat moderate as far as going after big business is concerned. But it'll be really interesting to see to what extent they might end up having some teeth, especially moving into the next four years and considering what Facebook has done to American political life.

Alan: If you haven't seen The Social Dilemma, watch it. And if you don't, delete your Facebook, you should. But having said that, I have nothing against Facebook. The people that work there, the company itself had not one malicious thought. It's a consequence of building a platform that billions of people use. There's going to be bad actors all over the place and you have to work on that. Have they done enough to to curb that? I don't know. That's for other people to decide. But inherently, the people that work there, they don't want to see the place they work at create turmoil in the world and create problems where there was none. So I think they're they're going to take a hard look inside and try to fix some of these problems. But maybe breaking them up isn't a bad idea, even for the shareholders. When Standard Oil is broken up in the early 1900s, it became 20 different companies, I think it was. And each one of those companies became bigger than the Standard Oil that broke up. Same thing with the telcos. So breaking up, maybe will can add some variety and spice to to the world and then just kind of shake things up a bit. I don't know if it's a bad thing.

Alex: Yeah, there's something stultifying about being so big.

Alan: When Apple goes from taking 30 years to become a trillion-dollar company and taking 12 months to become a two-trillion-dollar company. Come on, this is crazy.

Alex: And just sort of a little bit off side, Alan. I don't I think we've really covered quite a few things. Is there anything that we feel like we've sort of left off, I think, or do we want to move to the ramp-up?

Alan: I don't think there's anything else left. Nothing major, really, that we missed. Anything major that we missed?

Alex: I think we're good. It's one of those years where-- it was a year where centuries happened. But before we close out, we should take a moment to thank all of our past guests who took the time to write in and give us some of their feedback on the year that was and the year that we're moving into. We're going to be posting an article with some more of your feedback, as well as tweets throughout the last week of the year, just highlighting some of the people's thoughts and stories, book recommendations from Terry Schussler. If you haven't read Flatland before, give it a read. I've read it three times and I see new things in it each time.

Alan: Yeah. Thank you to the people who were on the show, but also to you guys for taking the time to listen to it. It really means a lot. And again, please feel free to reach out. I just-- I want to be part of a community that helps each other. And so I hope we can all help each other. If there's anything that I can help with you, please let me know. And on behalf of everybody at the MetaVRse team, I want to say thank you, and Merry Christmas, and a huge happy new year to everybody. Let's close off 2020 with a bang and let's look to the future with bright, rosy glasses. Because I think the future is bright, we're going to need shades. I'm Alan Smithson, the host of the XR for Business podcast and this has been our 2020 wrap-up. Thank you so much. Happy New Year.

Other Episodes


October 18, 2019 00:44:03
Episode Cover

Mass VR and Squeaky Floors, with PwC’s Jeremy Dalton

One of Alan’s favourite XR experiences was running into a room at the Royal York Hotel, filled with 200 people, all deathly silent and...



October 09, 2019 00:49:55
Episode Cover

The Age of Smart Information is Now, with Microsoft Garage Envisioneer Mike Pell

It wasn’t long ago that the concept of having a personal relationship with computers was the stuff of science fiction — everything from HAL...


Episode 0

March 17, 2020 00:26:52
Episode Cover

Building an XR Vocabulary for Businesses, with XR Bootcamp’s Ferhan Ozkan

Code is a big part of what makes XR work, of course. But for most businesses, knowing the DNA of the technology will be...