Training employees can be like pulling teeth – both for the employees and management. But thanks to XR technologies, Jonathan Moss has had success in finding new, innovative ways to get the team engaged in training at Sprint.
Moss chats with Alan, discussing how XR can be used to invigorate a corporate team, save a company millions, and how it can all be done in-house with a moderate investment.
Alan: Our guest today is Jonathan Moss head of learning, technology, and sales enablement and XR strategy at Sprint. Jonathan and his team proposed to unleash everyone’s potential by evolving the experience and growing Sprint’s consumer sales organization, through learning and sales enablement. Concurrently, they are taking on the industry through utilization of technology to disrupt and design learning that is different from what we’ve ever experienced to date.
They are on a mission to eliminate dull and ineffective training. Jonathan is a lifetime learner that continues to challenge today’s norms by thinking in terms of possibilities and realities. His team is working with startups and experts to develop virtual training, mixed reality, real gaming for learning — not just points and badges — and has already launched the ability to serve up content at the point of need, using augmented reality.
Jonathan has had the pleasure of leading teams up to 250 people that spanned the entire country, with operating revenues of 14 billion dollars. They have implemented strategies that have changed the growth trajectory of people and results through leadership and employee development programs, redesigning sales processes, integrating technology for improved customer journeys, and cost saving efficiencies, creating operational models that optimize profitability and executing on the fundamentals of business using virtual, augmented, and mixed reality technologies. For more information about Sprint you can visit Sprint.com, and you can follow Jonathan on LinkedIn or on Twitter, and it’s @Jonathan Moss.
Jonathan Moss, welcome to the show.
Jonathan: Hey Alan, great to be here. Thanks for letting me join.
Alan: It’s my absolute pleasure. You and I have connected so many times, and you know I’ve been really looking forward to this interview. You are a pioneer, a leader, and an industry pundit. The work you’re doing — both at Sprint, but also on collaborating with everybody through the virtual and augmented reality association — is fantastic. So thank you for all the work you do. We can’t wait to learn more about what you’re doing, and really drive this message that virtual and augmented reality are not only here, but they’re transforming businesses.
Jonathan: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Alan: So tell me, let’s start with what you are doing on your day-to-day basis that Sprint, and what are some of the things you’re doing right now?
Jonathan: Yeah. Awesome. So a few things that we’re really doing now is trying to understand all the different technology. So, from mobile AR, virtual reality, mixed reality, and really seeing how we can utilize it for our learning curriculum. What we’ve understood is that this is not only a better scalable way for folks to learn, but also with the immersion it allows for elimination of digital distraction, as well as activating some of the brain regions that we need, and we understand from science, that will allow our learners to retain and apply the things that we’re trying to teach them better. So we’re super excited about the technology and all of its use cases that we’re using today.
Alan: Wow that’s incredible. So, what are some of the use cases that are kind of working right now?
Jonathan: Last July, we deployed a mobile AR application called Sprint ARx. It was our first use case, and what we found was, obviously, there’s a plethora of information out there on the Internet; phones, technology are ever-changing, with the features, the benefits, all of the new new things every single time one launches. And also, with the competitive nature of our industry, the pricing continues to change. Services continue to adapt, continue to change depending upon the plan that you get for consumers. It’s really hard to keep up with these days, for anyone to remember.
So what we did was, we really wanted to activate an experience inside of every one of our locations for our employees, is where it started, and then we eventually want to get to our customers. With our mobile AR application, what we do is we have over 20 experiences in the store that are triggered from in-store merchandising. So, the messaging on the walls, the POP — those types of things. What it does is it allows not only a training to happen — so, it delivers information about a specific plan, a specific product, a specific service that we offer — but also is a really good side-by-side selling aid for them to use with customers. So what we’ve seen is, we’ve seen our employees actually use this, not only during a customer transaction, but also during their downtime, and also when a new product launches.
So we’re really finding that they are utilizing it in multiple ways to not only learn about the new products and services, but also retain the information and continue to come back again and again. So that’s one of our first use cases that we delivered. Another use case–
Alan: It seems like a pretty great first use case! “Our first one, it increased sales, it made employee retention rates higher, training was through the roof.” Like… was there any downside to it?
Jonathan: No, absolutely not. It was very cost effective, easy to scale. We actually rewrote our entire new hire curriculum and, mobile AR plays a major component. So, not only in our store, but also in our classroom. And to your point, we’ve seen retention rates go up. We measure that through mystery shops. So, how knowledgeable are our employees, and how confident are they when they deliver the benefits about a product and service? And we’ve also seen decreased speed to competency coming out of new hire training; in fact, our learners coming out of our new hire training or actually beating the enterprise and all of our KPIs in their first full month of selling. And we have a lot to say around the AR technology, and how we’ve developed it and designed it and integrated it inside of our learning curriculum to thank for that.
Alan: Wow. So you’re, like, building this right in.
Jonathan: Absolutely. It’s part of, I think, six or seven days of our 15-day curriculum we actually have mobile AR components built in.
Alan: Wow. So, a lot of companies are just starting to create POCs, they’re just trying to starting to test this out. You guys, you’re beyond that; you’re rolling this out at scale.
Jonathan: Yes, for mobile AR we are. For some proof of concept, we are exploring mixed reality. So currently what we’re looking to do is, we’re actually looking to replace our instructor-led training and all of our product and service training inside of mixed reality. This will give us an ability to not only train more mercifully, we can…our goal is to replace our LMS. We would love to replace our LMS; I’ve never met an organization that says that they’re in love with theirs. So that’s obviously one of our goals.
What we can also do is we can decrease some of our operating expenses by bringing people in and we can increase our time to train as well. So, we can decrease them coming out of the store, the amount of time they’re out of the store; we can increase the amount of time that we train them; and then we can deliver it in such a way with the technology to where they retain it better and come out of the experience and are able to be confident and sell the products and services and be knowledgeable about them as well. So we’re really excited about this proof of concept that we’ll be launching here soon.
Alan: This is really impressive. Almost every single interview on this podcast ends up with somebody talking about virtual and augmented reality’s use in training. Whether we’re talking about airlines and putting headsets on people while they’re while they’re flying, it always ends up, too, “hey, we can also use it to train our flight attendants!” And then retail. “Oh, we’re using this for marketing,” and then, “oh, by the way, we also use it for training.” Are you finding that some of the other parts of Sprint are starting to come to you and say, “hey, we saw that thing you’re doing for training; can we use that for marketing?”
Jonathan: Absolutely. Marketing is the one of the first ones to knock on our door, to see, hey, how can we not only integrate ourselves into your existing AR in-store experience; we’ve actually ran some sweepstakes and some fun things inside of the environment from a marketing standpoint, but now they’re actually looking to see, how can we expand that even broader? Our customer experience team has come to us. We’re working with digital, as well. So, more and more people are coming to us to kind of understand the technology, its abilities, and how they can actually use it in their own business units.
Alan: Very, very cool. It’s really interesting. You and I have talked about web-based augmented reality and stuff like that. Are you guys… is this stuff you’re doing mainly on mobile apps especially, the mobile AR. Is it all app based, or have you been experimenting with web based stuff?
Jonathan: It’s mainly been mobile app-based. We are looking at some of the Web AR stuff for more of the digital and maybe some other things for e-commerce. But right now, for our training applications, we have our Sprint ARx app that we’re typically utilizing the most.
Alan: So people that are listening, they get it. They’re like, “okay, I understand, it increases the amount of time of training we can do, increases retention rates, it decreases the time out of the stores, all these features of it. What are some of the challenges that you have gone through that you could share, that people don’t have to make those mistakes?
Jonathan: Yeah, a couple of challenges. I think one is, initially, we were going down this route without IT. If you’re a larger corporation, one of the things I can tell you is that IT can be your best friend or your worst enemy, so engage them early on in the process. I think another one is having some, in some of the experiences — and not necessarily mobile AR, mobile AR was probably our easy one — but once we started getting into some of the virtual reality/mixed reality components, we were kind of doing it off the side of our desk. And what I mean by that is, we had this proof of concept, we were really passionate about doing this, we understood the benefits, but we didn’t really go hire anyone that had Unity experience, or didn’t hire anyone that had 3D modeling experience. That put us in some snags later on as far as timelines, as far as being able to deploy on our timeline, we are now deployed upon other folks’ timelines. We had to go source out some of this work in order for us to achieve what our goals were.
And then I think the third thing that we ran into was we got executive buy in, but it was one of those things where they were really happy, about it almost like a new shiny toy. But then that started to fade over time. Really, what we had to do is go back and understand how we integrate it as part of our business processes. Thinking about this as just another option or another way to do business, instead of just kind of a cool thing or just a techie thing that someone’s working on — how do you integrate it in every workflow, or every part of the business that you can, that it would be able to be beneficial for your employees and/or consumers? So those would be the three top challenges that we ran into that we had to overcome.
Alan: Amazing. It’s interesting that you talk about those, because often, companies will come to us, the head of marketing will come to us and say, “hey, we want to do something in VR,” and you’re like, “okay? Why?” “Oh, well, our CEO went to a trade show and he saw VR and he said this the future, we’ve got to do it.” It’s like, “okay, well, what is the problem you’re solving here? Is there a reason for this? Or do we just want to make something cool?”
Jonathan: And that’s exactly what we saw, even when we started showing off the original use case for mobile AR, which was our first use case technology that we went after. To your point, everyone was like, “oh my gosh, it’s cool! What can it do? How can it do it?” Those types of things. But then again, the conversation started to dwindle. So we had to keep it coming back as top of mind, and as we beat off these experiences in the store and we got over 20, we were able to showcase all the different ways. And even our network team is another team that came knocking on our door to say, “hey, how do we unleash, inside of the stores, the ability for customers and employees to see our network improvements? We’ve had a lot more root metric wins and other network wins this year than we’ve ever had before; how can we share that with our employees and customers outside of e-mail or putting it on the Internet?” This was an experience that we actually launched in our stores, and we’ll be doing a similar thing once we navigate and launch 5G here in the upcoming next 30-45 days.
Alan: Sorry, say that again? You launching 5G when?
Jonathan: Hopefully in the next week, we’ll put it out there the next 30-45 days. So we should be in a good spot.
Alan: Holy crap! So, today is April 29th. You’re looking at mid-June… July 1? by July 4th.
Jonathan: Yeah. So we’ve stated, by the end of May to mid-June, we’ll be launching in a few markets. So we’re excited to do that.
Alan: That is really, really exciting stuff. You are probably the best person to ask about this. What will 5G enable for the consumer?
Jonathan: Yeah, so for the consumer, I think the initial enablement is really going to be around entertainment and gaming. You kind of see this with some of the big things out there. And I don’t think it stops there. And I think for some of our use cases, specifically around mixed reality or virtual reality, I think it’s going to open the door for the technology to just accelerate. And I think that the abilities that’s going to have with the low latency, the additional speed, the coverage, the additional capacity that you’ll have on the network, some of these things that are not only transmitting a ton of data, but also that the amount of speed at which that data transmits, and being able to have that low latency, I think is going to be beneficial in many ways. But I think it’ll take some time to adopt at the consumer level, as most of the use cases are in enterprise. I would see those types of things coming out the gate.
Alan: So let’s take that to a practical use case: if I buy a 5G phone, and in 45 days I have access to a 5G network, why would I need that?
Jonathan: I think the main reason that you need is just depending upon how you use it. So you may or may not need it, depending upon who you are and how you utilize the device, where you live, work, and play. What I would say, though, is if you stream movies, if you want high resolution — so 1080p, 4k or even some of the devices that we’ve seen will potentially have these 4k streams, and obviously, they’ll keep getting better and better. If you’re gaming, obviously that’s a huge market, eSports. You’ll actually be able to do a lot of the things that you do now and you see via Wi-Fi, with these data-intensive multiplayer games, you’ll be able to do those on your phone.
Alan: So I could play Fortnite with my phone?
Alan: Hell yeah!
Jonathan: If you’re a Fortnite fan, you will be in good shape, my friend.
Alan: Amazing. So I’ll be able to actually keep up now! Getting killed because of the lag. Awesome. So you talked about one of the challenges being bringing the teams together, building everything in-house. And then you mentioned something about getting stuck where you needed to bring people in and you were kind of on their timeline. What are some of the team members that you’ve built because of your work in VR and AR? Like, if I was a business and I wanted to build an internal team to do it? Or, where would it be appropriate to build an internal team, where would be appropriate to go off-shore, and who would be on that team?
Jonathan: So, I think it really depends on your specific needs and how in-depth you want to go. So like I said for mobile AR, my team was able to handle it with the software that we purchased, the player that we got. It was really something that was self-learned, so it wasn’t that difficult. When we got into some more robust… like, with the HoloLens and some other platforms, where we actually needed unity and 3D assets, that’s where we started getting into that snag with not having experience. So in my mind I would say, depending upon the cost model that you’re looking at, how much work that you want done, and how you know how robust it is, you could probably set up a very small team.
We have one Unity developer; we’re looking at 3D design, a designer to be able to put some of these things together. Really, it’s just gonna be a couple of people that will be working on this. So, you don’t have to go out and have a very robust team, even with some of the concepts that we’re looking at. It is good that, when we did outsource some of this work, we learned a ton from it, which was really helpful for us in the future and the way we’re going to work. So I would just say, it really depends upon how fast you need to deploy, and then how robust you need the experience to be. You could do it in-house or you could outsource.
Alan: That’s great advice for people. What are some of the metrics and specific key performance indicators that you guys measure for success? You mentioned time out of the store time to training. You mentioned how you test retention rates using mystery shoppers and stuff like that. What are some of the golden rules? How did you measure your success?
Jonathan: Yeah. So really, what we looked at was a couple of big buckets, and then we broke those down into sub-buckets. The big ones were sales, customer experience, turnover, operating expense, and so those are the four big buckets that we were looking at and say, “here’s our baseline.” Right? Before this technology existed, we knew exactly where we were at as an organization with our learning, and with the tools that we had. So let’s look at those things, and then let’s see how they improve or don’t improve. In each one of those categories — like in sales — there were five KPIs that we measured. In turnover, we looked at zero-to-90-day turnover, and that was specifically for a new hire curriculum. Also, for customer experience, obviously we looked at our CSAT scores when we hear back from our customers. And then for operating expenses, we looked at travel. That was the big one. And so those were really the main KPIs that we looked at to really model out an ROI, and what I can tell you with the improvements that we’ve had, we’ve actually not only added millions of dollars of incremental revenue to the business, but we’ve also saved millions of dollars in operating expenses. So being able to model out that ROI has been extremely important for us to continue on and get investment, get budget, in order for us to do this. So those are really our ROI metrics.
And then, as I mentioned, we looked at some other things, like you know time to train. So, how quickly can I train and then how quickly after that are you able to you know to feel confident to sell those types of things? We looked at how much non-selling time do we take folks out of the store today to train, versus being able to train them in the stores and eliminate that kind of non-productive time. And then also, for me, and being in learning, I think a big one that you can’t really put an ROI on, but I think it is of huge benefit for this technology, is now I’m able to match up the trainer’s strengths to the curriculum. So, I have some trainers that are really good at teaching sales. I have some trainers that are really good at teaching how to coach, or how to lead. I have some trainers that are really more operationally sound. And so what this technology will allow me to do that I can’t do now, because I’m bound by geography, right? So whatever trainer is closest to the training location and closest to where those stores are that’s the trainer that you get. What I’m now able to do is match these trainer strengths up to the exact curriculum that they’re teaching to improve their effectiveness. And I think that’s a huge win for us, and we’re looking at some ways now to be able to measure that, but we haven’t figured that one quite out yet. But I feel like that’s a big one for us.
Alan: I think that… you know what, you nailed that one. Because, you know, and I keep saying this; my daughter is in high school right now, and my two daughters are in school, and they go to math class, and they are not learning math from the top math teacher in the world. Period. They’re not learning anything from the top person in the world, at any point. So, here you are, a trainer that know great at sales training — really gets it, really understands it — but is then forced to teach six other things, just because of geography. The ability to use VR and AR to overcome that, and really, like you said, let them be the expert in what they do. That is… wow. That’s the first time I’ve actually heard that. That’s something you know, that… if nothing else, that’s amazing.
Jonathan: Absolutely. And you’re spot-on; you’re as passionate about the education sector as I am, specifically where there’s technology and kind of its current state. I think that, even in the learning industry, in corporate learning, this is huge for us. To your point, you think about some of the other use cases, like for field technicians, or the remote SMI, for doing work. You can apply that same concept in learning, and I can put the right person with the right group of people to teach them the right things, and then have that experience translate over to them. So we’re super excited about that.
Alan: I can’t wait for you guys to start training the AI algorithms.
Jonathan: (laughs) yeah.
Alan: Is that something on your radar? Are you guys looking at AI in training at all?
Jonathan: We are. So, we’re looking at a few things for AI specifically. We haven’t gotten deep into it yet, but we’re in talks with some external folks about it. But then also, internally, we use AI in our digital and also our customer care. And so, we’re looking at how can we translate some of that, some of what’s been built over there, and some of the learning over into training. So, currently exploring it — not in-depth with it yet, but yes, it’s on our radar for sure.
Alan: You mentioned how, by introducing this training, you’ve literally made billions and saved millions as an organization. But how much did you spend on developing these first protocols, and these first experiments? If we were to put a budget, did you spend a million dollars to develop this? Or was it five million, or fifty thousand? What kind of budget did you start with to get this off the ground?
Jonathan: Yeah, so, for mobile AR, so far we’ve spent less than fifteen thousand on it. So, not a big budget at all, to deliver what we’ve done. For virtual reality, which I know we haven’t spent much on for the 360 degree videos that we’re doing, we spent less than twenty thousand on that. We’re doing some things with leaders and soft skills and those types of things. Some operational training. And then for mixed reality, with the HoloLens, that’s obviously been the most expensive one. And right now, we are we’re into a pilot proof-of-concept, and so far, we spent less than eighty thousand dollars on that one. So, total, with all of these things that I’ve discussed, really less than a hundred thousand dollars year-to-date so for.
Alan: So, OK..(laughs) for the people listening, when we talk about exponential growth of technologies and of these types of things, this is a a prime example of this. You’ve spent, let’s call it a hundred thousand dollars, and you’ve saved the organization millions and made the organization millions of dollars. So, is there any reason that you can think of — at all — why an organization wouldn’t start working on this technology?
Jonathan: Not one. I’ve racked my brain around it, why more organizations haven’t, and haven’t at least looked at specific high-ROI use cases. Or maybe it’s low effort high return, right? So maybe the ROI isn’t high, but at least to prove out a proof of concept or a pilot, it wouldn’t take a lot of expense and a lot of resources. And I just wrap my brain around, really, why more organizations haven’t done these things, because again, we’ve seen so much great success from it. And it’s scalable, especially the mobile AR, it’s easily scalable. And so, I honestly can’t tell you one. I haven’t figured out one yet, to be honest.
Alan: Well, that answers that question! (both laugh) Have you exposed this this information out there? Have you been featured in any learning articles, or media? Has there been any kind of media generated around this?
Jonathan: Not to the degree that I like to, outside of just social and internally. We did do a PR release internally, a couple of them, to showcase it, and we’re looking to you know obviously broad in that scope externally. Obviously, with the VRARA — which is the Virtual Reality Augmented Reality Association — has been great, and we’ve connected with a lot of folks and other members, other folks that have seen things on social, and just had discussions with them. But one opportunity I am excited about that I’ll just give you a little snippet — I can’t divulge many details, but I’ll give you some exclusive — is, in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be meeting with Microsoft, and we’re looking to partner on a possible joint PR campaign with some of the work that we’re doing in the MR space. So we’ve definitely caught their attention, and I’m pretty excited about potentially what can come from that.
Alan: That’ll be amazing. That’s gonna be awesome. I can’t wait to see that. Let me ask you, do the HoloLens2?
Jonathan: I do not, unfortunately. They’ve been really stingy on those. I know that some of the developers that we work with have been working in them, so this experience over the next couple months that I mentioned — or, the next couple weeks — that we’ll be up there, we’re supposed to be able to get our hands on them. So I’m pretty excited about getting in there, and ultimately being able to see how we can even transform our learning even more. With some of the additional functionality that the HoloLens2 has, we’re pretty excited about potentially even expanding what we were even thinking about doing with some of our experiences.
Alan: That’s incredible. I can’t wait. I mean, I have a HoloLens and a Magic Leap, and I got to try the HoloLens2, but they wouldn’t let me turn it on.
Jonathan: (laughs) They’ve been very secretive about it, but you know, for good reasons. But yeah, I think there will be a lot of folks like you and I who’re really excited to get our hands on it and test it out to see what it can do.
Alan: Indeed. So what, of these kind of developments in mobile AR/VR/360/mixed reality, what are the best lessons you’ve learned from these?
Jonathan: Honestly? How easy the technology is from a user experience standpoint. So, one of the things, when we got in this, we were concerned about — obviously, we’re concerned about the back end process, developing and stuff, and I know we’ve talked about that a little bit — but really, user experience. For folks that haven’t used AR before, or for folks that have not use mixed reality or VR, what would their… would they gravitate to it? Would they be more distracted, because they’re like, “oh this is great, this is cool,” and it was more of a cool factor than actually something that they utilized and then translate it into skill or behavior change? Education/information retention, those type of things. So we were really concerned about the folks adapting to it, and and really utilizing it. That was really something to me. What we did was we really designed it to be easy. Designed it to be intuitive, to where anyone, even if it’s the first time you’ve ever opened the technology — whether it’s an AR application, or whether was getting in the HoloLens, or really getting in virtual reality with the 360 video — we made it simple enough that people gravitated to it, and even the most un-techie person can get in there and actually know what they’re doing without instructions. That’s really what we had to think about with our design capability. So, I think that was probably the biggest for us.
Alan: Amazing. I’m just trying to think… what are some of the most important things that a business can do to start leveraging this now? If you were to give advice to the listeners to say, “here’s one thing you need to do,” what would that be?
Jonathan: I would really say, figure out what problem that you’re trying to solve. I think you mentioned it earlier, but what are some of the top problems that you have in your business that you’re either having trouble solving, or that take a lot of manpower or hours of work to do, or that are manual, and say, “hey, is there a technology out there that I can help solve, or make it easier for my employees, or reduce the time that they have to research something or find something?” Again, that was really our main use case for this, is that we wanted to think about organizing information for them at the point-of-need, versus them having to go search the Internet site for the latest How-To document or something like that. We really wanted to bring that experience to them, in kind of a push-versus-pull method. And we’ve seen great success with that.
And we’ve even done things to where you… think of this use case: So, if you have to fill out paperwork, how to properly fill it out — we still have paperwork that we fill out — now, we can open the augmented reality app, we can hold it over the paperwork, and we actually have an experience that will show you just like, it fills out the paperwork for you and shows you exactly what you’re supposed to do. Just little things like that translate into efficiencies, into less hours worked on certain tasks, less mistakes that we make that cost the business money. I think the biggest advice is list out the main problems that you have, and then have someone, either internally or externally, look at those and see how they could possibly be solved with mobile AR/VR/MR. I think that’s just taking that leap, and you’ll be glad that you did.
Alan: That’s some sage advice. Moving from advice to the listeners: I want to know, from your personal standpoint, what problem in the world do you want to see solved using XR technologies?
Jonathan: Me, personally? I would love to see education solved. I think that, just with the current state that education is in and looking at how we teach our youth — but then also we teach workers, right, so that translates into the classrooms that we have in corporate learning too — I would really love to see kind of a learning ecosystem developed for XR. Where teachers could easily design curriculum that would be unique to the student and the student’s interest, and give them that immersive learning to really help them not only learn the technology, but learn more about exactly what their interests are, and be able to translate that into the future. So if I had to say one industry or one thing I would love to be solved with XR technology, it would be education.
Alan: Well it sounds like you’re already paving the path for others to follow in. So, thank you for that
Alan: Is there anything else you want to leave listeners with before we go?
Jonathan: I don’t think so. I think the one thing I would say is to everyone, again, I didn’t have a background in XR. I didn’t have a background in 3D modeling. I didn’t have a background in Unity. I didn’t have any… I didn’t work at a tech firm, right? That develop these technologies. And so, the reason I say that is because I think there’s a lot of people that are scared to take the leap, or do research, or talk to the folks that have been in the industry for a long time and learn from them. I would just say, you’ve got to take that step forward or you’re going to miss out or be left behind. That would be the one major piece of advice that I’d give any listener that has not experienced the technology or tried to solve any problems in their business with it.
Alan: Incredible. Well, I personally want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule, and really, thank you again for being an industry leader, and the work that you’re doing and sharing it. That’s the other thing: there’s a lot of companies working on stuff like this, and they’re just keeping it really, really under wraps. And while I understand it from a competitive analysis, this is literally a huge competitive advantage for brands and companies. And so, I can understand them wanting to keep it under wraps, but this technology and the power of this technology is too great to be kept under wraps. So I appreciate and acknowledge the fact that you are willing to share that with the industry, and it means a lot. So thank you.
Jonathan: Absolutely. More we can get it out in awareness, I think the better everyone, you know, people and companies will be.
Why trek up to the Arctic circle to capture 360 footage of the aurora borealis yourself, when you can license stunning footage someone else already shot? That was Alan’s thinking when he availed Blend Media of their services, whose founder — Damian Collier — is our guest. Alan: Hey, everyone, Alan Smithson here. Today, we're speaking with Damian Collier, co-founder and CEO of Blend Media, a centralized hub for all things VR and AR content. From stock 360 images and videos, right up to fully customized interactive experiences. All that and more, coming up next on the XR for Business podcast. Damian, welcome to the show. Damian: Hey, Alan. How are you? Alan: I'm so amazing. It's been a long time since we spoke. I think the first time we met was probably four or five years ago, when you started this wonderful journey. How did you get here? Damian: Yeah. Well, I'm just thinking back to a panel that we did at VR LA, which must be at least three, if not four years ago. It must be about that time. Alan: Got to be four years ago, yeah. Damian: It's crazy how time flies. And obviously, having been in VR and AR, we've seen peaks and troughs, and ups and downs, and all in between. Alan: That panel, because it was with-- the one with Saul Rodgers, right? Damian: That's right. Alan: I haven't had Saul on the show, I haven't reached ...
The VR experience Firing Barry by Talespin is getting a lot of press lately, and on the surface, it may look like a slightly uncanny valley way to train someone how to give an old fella the can. But Talespin CEO Kyle Jackson tells Alan it’s more than that; it’s a tool to help humans flex their core competencies in everything from leadership skills to confidence-building. Alan: Hey, everybody, Alan Smithson here, the XR for Business Podcast. Coming up next, Kyle Jackson, founder of Talespin. You may have seen Barry the virtual human that you can fire in real life. We’ll be talking to them about their enterprise software solutions that leverage immersive technology to transform the way global workforces, learn, work,, and collaborate. We’ll also be discussing how you can use immersive technologies as an assessment tool to better prepare your workforce for exponential growth. All that and more on the XR for Business Podcast. Kyle, welcome to the show, my friend. Kyle: Hey. Thanks, Alan. Thanks for having me. Alan: Oh, it’s so exciting. Ever since I saw the video that popped up of Barry, the lovable older gentleman avatar that you can fire. How did that come about? Tell us about Talespin, and how did you get here, where you are now? Kyle: Yeah, Barry became famous very quickly, because it’s such an ironic idea. And that’s really what I think caught people’s attention; the idea that you could use virtual humans for soft skills training was something that just seemed sci-fi and ironic. But then once you started to peel back the layers of it, it just starts to make a lot of sense.So how we got there, was we started looking at all of the future skills gaps, surveys, research, everything that was surfacing from the Shift Commission, ...
Today's guest -- UgoVirtual's Michael Cohen -- describes the hospitality industry like a snowflake - add a little heat and, well, you can imagine. Hotels and cruises rely on proven practices to keep guests happy. Luckily, XR doesn't have to disrupt those practices; they can build on top of them. Alan: Coming up next on the XR for Business podcast, we have Michael Cohen from UgoVirtual. We're going to be talking about how virtual/augmented/mixed reality solutions -- or XR solutions -- can be used for front-of-house for customer facing activations, from AR to VR. Pre-experiences, what is it like to book this hotel, looking all around you? And also the back-of-house: how do we use this technology to give the best possible training for the staff, so that the customer experience is flawless across the board? All that and more coming up, on the XR for Business podcast, coming up next. Michael, welcome to the show, my friend. Michael: Thank you very much. Really appreciate it, Alan. Alan: It's my absolute pleasure. It's been a long time coming. We've been kind of doing the dance, watching each other grow. And I'm really excited to learn about what you guys are doing in the hospitality field. It feels like it's a greenfield opportunity in hospitality, from travel/tourism. A bunch of companies started with, "We're going to put a 360 camera and let you have a virtual tour." But explain to us, what are you doing at UgoVirtual, and what is the response so far in the hospitality industry? Michael: Well, first of all, timing is everything, as we know. [chuckles] And the global travel and hospitality industry is absolutely a greenfield ...