If you want to master something, teach it.” That’s the old adage, and at Circuit Stream, the thinking is teaching XR helps you develop better solutions, too. Founder and CEO Lou Pushelberg created Circuit Stream courses to give companies the power to educate and empower themselves, and just make the whole XR ecosystem stronger.
Alan: You’re listening to the XR for Business Podcast with your host, Alan Smithson. Today’s guest is Lou Pushelberg, founder and CEO of Circuit Stream. Circuit Stream’s story began in 2015 with Lou traveling around North America, connecting with developers, designers, and creators, pushing the boundaries of immersive experiences. Rather than try to build the next big application like everyone else, Lou saw a bigger need for education and training that could help propel the industry forward. From this journey, Circuit Stream’s 10-week online course emerged. Their education platform has reached over 25,000 students. They’re a Unity authorized training partner and their team of 20 people is giving professionals the skills they need to build value-driven XR experiences. They have three business divisions: education, software development, and their platform. To learn more about the great work that Lew and his team is doing, you can visit circuitstream.com.
Lou, welcome to the show, my friend.
Lou: Alan, thanks so much forhosting me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Alan: It’s my absolute honor.I’ve been watching the work you guys are doing. You’re basically oneof the only educational institutions that are teaching people thepractical hands-on skills on how to create XR. How did this comeabout?
Lou: Well, I was working for another VR startup early in 2015. They were based out of Seattle. This was kind of the DK2 era — so early in VR’s history — and personally was inspired by a lot of the early pioneers, who were building some of the flagship VR content and titles that were coming out on the first wave of consumer hardware — so the Vive and the original Rift — and was basically looking for an opportunity and a need, where I could create value for the ecosystem and help accelerate the adoption of VR and ultimately of XR technology, and found that kind of service and value that I could provide to the ecosystem in education.
Alan: So how did you begin?Where do you start with building a course for technology that’semerging? Like, “Unity 101: here’s how to make a model.”Like, how did that– where do you even begin?
Lou: [chuckles] Yeah, that’s a good question. So we began with a kind of a core philosophy that was, the only way to learn anything really in it — and especially this technology — was to get hands-on and just start building things. There wasn’t a playbook for VR and AR, there wasn’t a series of best practices at the time. They were kind of just beginning to emerge. So we really wanted to focus a lot of what we were doing around getting people into Unity and some of the other major engines, and just helping them start blazing their own trails by just building stuff and sharing it with people. That’s kind of been our MO and what we try to facilitate with all of the professionals, companies that we work with. So in kind of architecting the course in the beginning, we would go straight to the source. So you mentioned travelling across North America. I had basically booked a trip through what were the four biggest hubs down the West Coast. So starting in Vancouver and then heading south through into Seattle, San Francisco, and LA and in each XR hub, I would interview developers, sometimes from startups who were kind of pushing XR forward, and other times from some of the major players — like the Valves, Oculus, Unity, Google — developers who were in VR building and creating and kind of the aggregated knowledge from the people actually building, the developers and designers. That’s what was used to kind of as the kernel for a curriculum that Circuit Stream started with.
Alan: Where’s it gone from there? Was it mainly game enthusiasts that people just wanted to make an AR game or VR game? Like who are the typical students? You’ve trained 25,000 students; is this people sending their company employees? Is this just enthusiasts wanting to learn?
Lou: What we found was kind ofto our surprise, we had a lot of working professionals and companieswho were looking at XR and saying “We can take the tutorialsonline, watch the YouTube videos and invest that time — which istotally a respectful way to learn how to create this technology — orwe can work with a partner.” which we ultimately became, beingCircuit Stream to kind of tap into some of our educational resourcesand almost help them kind of co-build. So we had a lot of differentcompanies who are investing in XR as an emerging technology. So folksfrom Boeing, IBM, General Electric, VMware, VM Builders, LockheedMartin. There’s more, but that’s just to name a few who we’vecollaborated with in a big way to kind of match some of ourinstructors and developers with engineers, developers, and designersinside the teams of those organizations, and really teach them theskills and kind of help guide them along inside of Unity, while alsohelping them build some prototypes and POCs and projects that theyultimately would like to deploy at scale in their businesses. So,yes, we do work with people with ideas for games, entertainment, andproductivity tools. But a major portion of our education and trainingis actually for companies who are kind of thought leaders andinvesting in building core capabilities in developing VR and ARsoftware.
Alan: It’s funny because wepredicted this about a year ago. We said, “Hey, as companiesrealize how powerful this technology is, they’re going to need toeither spin up a team or acquire a team.” Are you finding thatthey’re just kind of sending one or two people to go in and learn howto build stuff, or what does that look like?
Lou: What we find is thatcompanies, everyone will evaluate their own capabilities in-house andif they’re investing in building internal capabilities for VR and AR,or if they’re just looking to find a partner and outsourcedevelopment. And both are totally valid. I think what we find is kindof a hybrid model, where they’ll get support, but then they’ll alsowant to build up a certain degree of capabilities in-house, so thatthey can still manage the applications that we’re creating together,iterate on those applications without, say, having to call a partneror third party every single time. So that’s what we did. It’s kind ofan integrated approach, and it’s worked well for the folks who we’reworking with and it’s worked well for us as well. So to yourquestion, sometimes this is a single person, sometimes it’s teams of10, 12, 15 people. We’re working with the US Navy right now, and Ibelieve they have 8 or 10 folks from the US Navy who actuallyenrolled in the training program and pulling out some POCs andprojects alongside some of our instructors. So it’s been amazing forus to just work with big companies and organizations and see the kindof diversity in projects and goals and just be a part of that growth.It’s something that we’re really proud of, because this is our way tocontribute and accelerate the ecosystem.
Alan: I’m looking at yourwebsite, you’ve got Koch Industries, Lockheed Martin. I was actuallyjust in Orlando last week, which Orlando has kind of three distinctcustomer groups. They’ve got military. They’ve got Disney andUniversal, so tourism and entertainment. And they have Space Coast,they’ve got NASA. And so it’s this really amazing ecosystem of threeindustries driving massive high tech adoption of these technologies.The Navy’s got thousands and thousands of people in training and forthem to start really considering XR, I think it’s really interesting.One of the things that I really want to ask is what are peoplemaking? When you talk about XR AR, it’s virtual/augmented/mixedreality, computer vision, spatial audio, just kind of everythingwrapped into this spatial computing package. What are people leaningtowards when they’re building stuff? Are they building stuff forHololens? Are they building stuff for Magic Leap? Are they buildingto kind of scale to all devices?
Lou: Yeah. We see people building across platforms and across devices. In terms of the content itself, we’ve seen a focus around training and operations. I want to create value here, and not give you the generic answer. So maybe what I’ll do is tell you a story of one example, one of our partners and customers that we’re working with from a training capacity, because I think this story is enlightening. So this company — it’s a company called Vantage Airport Group — has been a really early partner for us, someone who is very taking the training and taking our courses early on in Circuit Stream’s life. And we’ve evolved with him to help him begin to deploy and scale VR training throughout his organization. And what their company does, is they manage the operations of airports. So airports, which are sometimes owned by the city, will subcontract them out to actually manage the training, the staffing, the operations so that the airport can continue to run smoothly. So they’ve got dozens of airports that they’re basically responsible for managing around the world.
In some of their smaller airports, theyhave this really interesting problem where they’ll get– when theyhave turnover and they’re training new people, they’re responsiblefor training all of the people who work airside. So the people who–the wing walkers who have those orange pylons and kind of flag planesin, the people who drive the pushcarts, the people, the baggagehandlers, the people driving any vehicles around the tarmac. And forsome of their smaller airports, one of the problems that they wouldhave is the folks who drive the pushcarts– often these airports willhave a left and a right section of the airport, and planes that arelanding on one path of the runway are responsible for then pullinginto the left section, other planes are responsible for pulling intothe right section. So what would happen with them, is they wouldoften get the people driving the pushcarts airside and airplanes haveno reverse gear. They can only go forward. So they need someone todrive a pushcart to– essentially it’s like a trailer hinge and theyessentially have to reverse this plane into the right spot. And ifyou’ve ever backed up a trailer, you know that’s not an intuitivemotion to get comfortable with, because when you turn left–
Alan: You’re steering in thewrong direction.
Lou: –and vice versa. Exactly.So think about doing that with an airplane. So because it’s thesegates, the left and the right gate — we call them gate A and gate B— the passengers board the plane, we’re relatively close together.And the airside professionals operating the pushcarts are basicallytrying to steer a giant trailer backwards. There would often push aplane departing from gate A along an L shape — kind of like a curvedright angle — into the departing zone for gate B. And then whatwould happen is they would literally have planes that were trying toland in the airport that could not actually land to debarkpassengers, because they had another plane that was supposed to betaking off that was pushed from gate A into takeoff zone B. So theyhad an operational challenge and a training challenge to make surethat the people driving the pushcarts would actually follow the rightcurve and make sure that planes from Gate A were pushed back intotakeoff zone A. And this obviously had financial implications, safetyimplications, and it essentially came down to better training andbetter operations. We’ve been helping him kind of develop this as atraining exercise to evaluate and measure that people are actuallycompetent to perform this task.
VR training is one of the best uses.I’m sure that’s not new for your audience, Alan. But it’s storieslike this that actually illuminate some of the benefits that you canhave, and giving people just the ability to practice that beforedealing with these real assets in a kind of a live environment,that’s an example. And there’s hundreds of different cases of contentthat we’ve taught people on or help people built through our trainingand our courses. This is just one and it’s evolved into aninteresting story. And now that’s fanned out to be everything fromtraining on the bridge. So that piece of equipment that’s connectsthe gate to the plane itself, to other vehicle simulation andtraining throughout their portfolio of airports.
Alan: Have they rolled this outat scale yet?
Lou: They’re in the process ofdoing that.
Alan: What are some of thechallenges around that, beyond just making the content? Because Iknow some of the challenges become around security. How do you getthis out to people? How do you manage the feedback? What are some ofthe challenges that they’re experiencing now, and how are you guysovercoming it? Are you working with them to help scale or are youjust–?
Lou: We are, yeah. So I’ll sharesome of the challenges from our perspective. And this ties in nicelyto a system that we’re building called the Circuit Stream Platform. Alot of the challenges around scale are IT challenges. So where areyou hosting the training? How are you managing the content? How areyou administering the content? How do you measure the key results sothat you can prove throughout the organization that VR training isbeneficial along these key metrics, that could be financial ornon-financial, could be time and productivity. We’re building atCircuit Stream a tool that’s meant for deploying, managing, andscaling XR content. So what that basically means is if you’re acompany, you may use multiple different VR and AR headsets anddevices. We give you a place to host all of your content and then letboth employees, training, and operations managers log in toself-administer some of their training or operations applications andthen manage those applications. Who gets access to the content, whouses it? Who has access to which modules, et cetera? And thenactually measure some of the metrics behind VR training. So thingslike again, who’s using it, session times, rates of error, trainingtimes, etc. that a company can use to, again, tie those back tofinancial or non-financial metrics.
So in terms of scaling, those are some of the problems that we’re trying to solve and trying to remove some of the friction so that if you have a VR or an AR application that’s effective and you validated, that you don’t go to the IT group and say, “Hey, we’ve got this application that we’re working on it, it’s actually really beneficial at solving a business problem.” and then IT says, “Well, that’s great, but we have 10, 20, 200 devices. And every time the developers update the application, we don’t want to go back and actually update that content on our 200 devices.” So we’re building a platform to basically manage that content distribution, as well as all the versioning and updates. And that’s what we can contribute for some of these market-leading companies, like Vantage, who are scaling and trying to realize and measure some of the benefits of XR. And we’re trying to help them solve that problem and really be a partner in rolling out at scale.
Alan: How are you guys managingkind of device management? Because I know that’s another one thatkeeps coming up that [chuckles] you’ve got these headsets and thenyou ship them out to people and it’s like, how do you just deal withthat? Are you guys working typically with VR, AR? Like, how do youhelp them manage that?
Lou: Device management is aninteresting one. Depending on the device, we’re working through someother partners, kind of depending on the needs of our clients and ourand our customers. Like we have the software development capabilitiesin-house to build solutions, be it the Hololens. And if someone needsto shut down or wipe their Hololens, if someone forgets it at anairport or whatever, or just other device management systems for someof the VR headsets, be that kind of like a log-in system or devicemanagement on a PC. So it’s something that we’re kind of investing inand evolving. And I think our philosophy is to truly try to positionourselves as a collaborator and our partner. So some of the peoplethat we’re working with, we’re trying to kind of identify their needsand then leverage some of our software development expertise to buildout the capabilities around device management that they need to runtheir organizations effectively.
Alan: That’s awesome. Theservice you guys are providing is really needed. And one of thethings that– I actually did a talk last week about this. Some of theresults, the early results that companies are starting to release. SoWalmart says we decreased our training times 900 percent. Sprintsaved $11-million on their training. These are really big, crazy,out-there numbers. But even if you’re increasing retention rates by10 percent — like, maybe it’s a 10 percent decrease in travel times— these numbers add up dramatically. And one of the things that Ithink is gonna be a really big problem as companies start to realizethe potential of this technology, we’re not going to be able to trainpeople fast enough to start building the amount of content that’sgoing to be required, at scale. Having Circuit Stream as an educationleader in this, have you thought about partnering with universitiesand colleges to deliver this education at more scale?
Lou: Interesting. So we havethought about that in the past. The educational model throughuniversities is tricky. There are quite a few universities that havetheir own VR and AR groups and divisions and part of differentfaculties. One of the problems here is that universities are like alot of their programs are, for example, going to look at the abilityto create jobs and have people go out and get jobs in the XR field.So based on our research — and we’ve had conversations with it witha couple of universities — they are often kind of beginning to buildcurriculum in-house. And like on a scale– if you were to plot thaton an X and Y graph, in terms of the rates of jobs and opportunitiesfor their students versus the timing, I think we’re still quite earlyon that scale.
Alan: The problem is that ifthey don’t start to implement it now, by the time– so the industry’sgrowing from about, let’s call it $10-billion this year, it will bebetween $8- and $10-billion as an industry. That includes headsets,software, everything. In 2021, they’re anticipating that will jump to$110-billion. So in a 10x growth of an industry, we’re not seeing theability to 10x the talent.
Lou: Right. Right.
Alan: And that’s– I mean,that’s where I think you guys have a very unique position. One,you’re able to deliver training quickly and practically. And I wouldassume that your system — and maybe you can speak to this — I wouldassume that your online platform — or your online system forlearning — is evolving as the technology is evolving. And that’ssomething that universities and colleges are going to struggle with,because as they spend maybe a year, two years to build a curriculum,by the time they start rolling that curriculum out, it’s obsolete.
Lou: Yeah, 100 percent. Comingback to one of our core philosophies and is just that in order to beeffective teachers– and there’s a great quote from Richard Feynman,who was a physicist, and he said, “If you want to mastersomething, teach it.” So that’s something that we live by. But Ithink the inverse is also true, that in order to really teachsomething well, you have to be doing it day in and day out. So we’vearchitected our training around the fact that we are constantlyevolving and adapting to best practices and new workflows, newpatterns in design, because we’re constantly building VR and ARsoftware for our clients. So that kind of flywheel of information wetry to funnel back into our courses. And aside from some of theeconomic challenges of universities, that’s one of the challengesaround curriculum that they have, where they are obviously doingresearch, but may not be working directly in industry, which isreally tip of the spear when it comes to XR, which is kind of forwardin terms of computing itself. So the industry is evolving so quickly.And to your point, that’s something that we’ve tried to leveragewhere because we’re in the trenches building XR software, we’realways kind of staying on the front of the curve in terms of what thebest knowledge and best practices are.
Alan: That’s gonna be essential, is keeping the content current, but also being able to use industry-leading techniques. And the thing is, you’re like, “Hey, well, let’s look to industry to give us what we need to teach.” But the thing is, we are the industry, so we’ve got to make it up as we go. It’s one of those things. And when I was first getting into VR, I listened to one of the podcasts on Voices of VR podcast. And one of the guys was saying that VR and AR is so early now that if you’re a Hollywood producer or you’re somebody making something in your basement, the playing field is completely leveled. Nobody knows what we’re doing. And it kind of struck home with me, that there are obviously now — fast forward 3 years or 4 years — companies and people that have more experience than others. But it feels like we’re still at that early phase, where anybody can be a Beat Saber or a Superhot or create a training module. It seems like we have only scratched the surface of what’s possible.
Last week I was in Orlando at the Simulation Summit in Florida, and I had the opportunity to try the haptics gloves, where you put on these giant gloves, but they simulate touch and picking up things. You were able to reach down, grab a virtual object physically and interact with it. And it feels like when you pick up something, it feels like it’s there. And it was– it was that combination of the touch mixed with the VR and the sounds and spatial audio. Everything together made this experience, that I was just literally blown away. And then when I– it was was a military simulator, so it was a bit graphic. But when I took off the headset, it took me a few minutes to kind of re-acclimatize to being in the real world. And I think that’s the power of this technology to really hijack all your senses, to give you that sense of doing it. And to your point about if you want to learn something, teach it. I think that VR lends itself amazing to kind of that, see it or watch it, do it, teach it. There’s something visceral about it. There’s something that that just locks in your memory. It just, it is there forever. And there’s another group teaching VR productions stuff, called Axon Park. Are you familiar with it?
Lou: No, I’m not.
Alan: What they’re doing isthey’re actually doing all their lessons in VR. So you actually go inVR, and you get lessons from the instructor in VR, about how tocreate VR. It’s very meta.
Lou: That is very meta, indeed.
Alan: OK, so let’s move on tospecifics around businesses, because I know you work with a number ofcompanies. What are you seeing as the killer use case? I knoweveryone talks about the killer use case, but what are you seeing asfar as use cases that companies are–? Maybe it’s universal, liketraining is one of them. There’s very little argument around the factthat training using VR and AR is better than not using it. But whatare you seeing as other use cases that are emerging that you didn’tmaybe think that we’re gonna be a killer use cases, but are?
Lou: So my killer use case istraining. What I’ll do, is I’ll try to dive into some of the valuedrivers in training that may be less obvious, to try to be reallyspecific and create value for someone who’s listening and interestedin rolling out XR training. So in that use case, there’s– what wealways try to do is, we try to make sure that we’re generating valueand can prove out that value. So in terms of return on investment orfinancial value, an interesting way to think about it is that there’stwo types of ROI. There’s a hard ROI, where you’re going to see,quarter over quarter, your applications and solutions that you’rerolling out with XR actually hit the PNL in terms of cost savings orfinancial impact. And then there’s a soft ROI, which is moreinteresting. And here’s a way to think about soft ROI: Let’s say thatyou’re a large company and you gave the example that this can reallymove the needle, even with small percentage gains when there’s macrokind of stakes at play. So you’re implementing VR training and we’relooking under the theme of soft ROI. If your company has thephilosophy of increasing productivity, saving people’s time, togenerally increase the value of the business. One way to look at itwould be to say, if we can virtualize all of our training, whichwas– for a portion of our training — which in the past was done ina training classroom, on a PowerPoint, one to one, on the jobshadowing — and we can virtualize some of that away, because we cannow, with VR and with commercially priced headsets. The pricing of VRis fundamentally right now. It fundamentally makes sense, where itdidn’t maybe 25 or 30 years ago, or even 10 years ago.
Alan: Let’s be honest, it didn’treally lend itself nicely to industry even two years ago. Because ifyou look at VR, you needed a computer. You needed to run updates allthe time. It was just generally a pain in the ass. It feels likewe’re just past that point where it’s now deployable at scale. Thetiming is everything and the timing for VR and AR is right now. Thedevices are there now. To quote OriInbar, “We have all the tools necessary to create massivevalue right now. If we never invented anything else, the tools wehave right now are enough to create enormous value.”
Lou: Right, I totally agree. Imean, you’re highlighting the past, kind of two to three years, justthe–
Alan: It’s nuts. [laughs]
Lou: Yeah, it’s totallytransformed to just some of the kind of IT enablements and hardwareenablements that have happened. Dialing back like 10, 20 years, 30years, that’s where a headset was 10 or 100 thousand dollars and onlythe military had access to it.
Lou: Yes. I totally, totallyagree with your point. So in that lens–
Alan: Can you imagine what we’ve come through in the last three years and imagine what’s going to be the next three years from now? It’s going to be these crazy, exponential improvements on everything. When you look at Facebook or Oculus’s announcement of their varifocal lenses: basically, they’re creating lenses inside a headset that will allow you to focus on multiplane. So if you look at something far out, it’ll be in focus. But if you look at something close up, it’ll also be in focus. And I mean, that’s just– somebody had to sit down and think of how do we focus on multiplanes using a fixed screen? It’s nuts.
Lou: Right. So, I mean, whatyou’re referring to is — for those of you who are interested — isMichael Abrash’s talk from OC6, which happened recently, and that’san amazing hardware development because it means smaller, better formfactor, more ergonomic, lighter devices, which is kind of where weall want to go. The hardware is just year over year just changing ata blistering pace, which is amazing for anyone who’s getting into theecosystem.
Alan: I mean, to put it in perspective, just to put a final point in that: four years ago we started doing 360 video for companies, and it was about $10,000 a minute. And you had to stitch it, you had to basically 3D print a rig, and put a bunch of GoPros, and then hand-stitch all the different seams together. Then we started seeing these consumer-grade 360 cameras that did almost the exact same work we were doing. It’d sacrifice a little bit of the resolution, but it stitched on your phone instantly. You kind of had this a-ha moment, where it’s like, “OK, this $10,000 per minute thing is no longer valid, when I can buy the camera for 500 bucks and it’ll do everything for me.” And then fast forward to now, you’ve got 11K cameras, stereoscopic stitching in the cloud, and that camera is less than 10– it’s less than one minute of what we were doing 10 years ago. And you can make as much as you want. I digress.
Lou: [laughs] No, I mean, it’s agood point. I’m reading this book right now called The Dream Machine,that’s about the invention of the personal computer. Michael Abrash,who’s — I think he’s the chief scientist or similar title at Oculus— he was talking about comparing VR to the revolution of the PC andit feeling very, very similar to that point in time. So it’s aninteresting comparison that you bring up just in terms of all ofthese different systems, in terms of content creation andconnectivity, hardware platforms all coming together to make thisreally economical and really valuable.
Alan: I got to say something.
Alan: We have a crazy idea.We’re actually in the middle of pitching investors right now, andwe’re pitching for a new product. And our mission for the new companyis to democratize education globally by 2037.
Lou: [laughs] I love it.
Alan: Think about it. But that’smy 60th year. When I turn 60, I want to be able to give away globaleducation. But it’s not as crazy thought as when you first say it.It’s like, “Oh, that’s insane.” But if you think about it,the glasses that we’ll wear in 10 years from now will be superlightweight. They’ll be inexpensive. The processing won’t be on theglasses, it’ll be in the cloud. And we’ll be able to push content toeverybody fairly easily, anywhere in the world. But the hard part isstill going to be creating that content, which is why we gaveourselves another five years to figure out how to democratize thecreation of the content. Because we can give content away, but who’sgoing to create all that content? And so yeah, add five years underthat, and platforms like yours and ours and everything that beingable to create content or allow anybody to create content reallyeasily, that’s going to be a thing. You fill that within a bit of AI,then all the sudden AI’s pulled some 3D objects from different gameengines or whatever, pulled it all in, you get the point. And movinginto kind of 15 years out, we’ll wear these glasses daily. Andanything we look at will have a layer of data on it, that can eitherteach us how to use it, about it, or purchase it directly fromlooking at it. And that’s what I think exponential growth does, andwe can’t really see past ten years from now, especially when we’reentering into exponential growth. So I think within 15 years weshould have all the technologies in place to democratize not only thehardware, the delivery, and the content development, and then giveourselves two years to figure out how to give it all away.
Lou: Hey. I mean, I agree. Andthat’s genuinely what we’re pushing for. Even if we only contribute avery small slice of that, that’s what gets me out of bed everymorning. And a lot of people on our team here have helped contributein some way to bring spatial computing to the world and try toaccelerate the adoption of spatial computing. So it’s a great point.I love your mission. It’s very noble around democratizing education.I think rewinding back to– we tangented off here, which is great,it’s good. But I think we’re– in this industry, you’re always tryingto find the balance between today and kind of also this vision andthe potential.
Alan: The business challenge;build for today, but design for tomorrow.
Lou: Exactly. So coming back tothe training use case, like you mentioned, education. But when wethink about training and the model that we use today, coming back tothat piece around a soft ROI, if you’re inside a company like gettingyour organization to buy into XR from a training capacity, one greatway to look at it is to say if, you can virtualize — which we can dotoday with the technology — if you can virtualize some part of yourtraining process — that could be an aerospace, that could be amanufacturing, whatever the industry is — you’ve essentially nowbought time for your training manager, where you’ve actually freed upbecause you’ve virtualized a lot of the training that they do throughyour VR or AR simulation or training aids. So what happens to thatperson now is they can, in theory, make a horizontal shift in theorganization and go work on something else that creates value for thecompany. So we often– training as a use case get people who say,“Well, it’s hard to tell the story and hard to convince the teamhere to buy in.” And that’s a story that we found is successful.
If your company is willing to make that investment and say, we know that this might not be a hard ROI that’s going to hit the PNL next quarter. But what we’re essentially doing is virtualizing away some of our training or saving time for the training manager, which lets him or her go work on other higher-value tasks — which may not hit the PNL this quarter, but it may hit the PNL in a year or two from now — and either help the company create more revenue, reduce its costs, etc. and essentially make the company more effective and more efficient. So that’s one way that we’ve been kind of looking at, you know, dialing back into today. And how do you make the case? How do you tell the story? This kind of model around soft ROI and increasing productivity through XR is quite powerful for someone who is open to that kind of thinking around value creation.
Alan: You know, there’s two other things that have come up on this podcast recently. One being it portrays your company as an advanced company, as a forward-thinking company. So companies that are using VR and AR training now, their employees are more likely to stay with them. And actually there was– can’t remember who was this morning. I was doing a podcast this morning, and they were saying that they’re seeing an increase just by using– oh, it was James and Justin from Immerse. They were saying there’s an increase in retention rates, not of the knowledge, but of the actual employees. Because they’re staying longer, because they’re getting better trained, they feel more comfortable at work, and they also have this kind of feeling that their company is doing the right things. And I think that’s a soft AR way that you can’t really measure. It’s very hard to measure. But the other one around soft ROI is that people when they go into virtual experiences, they have a very visceral, hands-on experience within virtual and augmented reality. But that translates directly into on the job skills training and management and people that are more comfortable at their work perform better, they come to work enthused. And I think we’re only scratching the surface with this. But at the same time, it’s important for companies to realize the real value is in all of those things combined. And one thing I always highlight when I’m speaking to a customer is like when you’re in VR, you cannot be on your phone. So you’re literally hijacking people’s entire focus. And it’s very rare when you have hijacked someone’s entire focus — even for a small amount of time, for 10 minutes while they do the training — they cannot be doing anything else. It doesn’t work.
Lou: Yeah, I agree. And peopleare finding benefits just in terms of the training environment, sobeing able to do it in a controlled environment, something that’ssafe, comfortable, maybe not noisy, you can get that personalattention that you may need. You can have effectively unlimitedrepetitions.
Alan: You can. Oh, and anotherthing is people don’t like making mistakes, because in all of ourschool, we’re kind of taught not to make mistakes because we’ll get alower grade. And people in VR, they can make as many mistakes as theywant.
Lou: Yeah. 100 percent.
Alan: It’s OK. Nobody’s seeingwhat they’re seeing. Now, on the other hand, on the flip side ofthat, the people that are instructing, they have access to unlimitedamounts of data about the learner. And if we can figure out how totake all of that information in — their head pose, gait analysis,speech recognition, eye tracking, biometrics, there’s so many thingswe can capture about a learner — and then take that and apply thatto customized contextualised learning for people, then it gets reallycrazy.
Lou: Data is another huge piece of this, capturing all that learning data as well as– just if I think of AR like other processes in terms of system checks, that are traditionally done with paper, part and component checks, audits, all of these certain things that if you can serve up contextual information at the right time and place, that you can take these from multi-step processes or multi-steps of gathering and reporting on data, down to maybe one or two.
Alan: I had dinner with ShellyPetersen from Lockheed Martin last week, and they are using theHololens to help people assemble these NASA space shuttles. They wentfrom eight days, it took two people eight days to put these bolts,these screws in. They switched to the Hololens, and because it wasreal-time, being able to look up and just kind of do your work,rather than look at the manual and measure and do all that, they wentfrom two people for eight days to one person in six hours, doing thesame exact task.
Lou: Yeah, that’s amazing. Imean, I heard a similar story. We were at EWTS, which is kind of theMecca for XR technology, at least for kind of at a business level.And there was the CEO from Thyssenkrupp, explaining how Thyssenkruppused to have a very paper driven process, that I think the number wasfour months around. They install elevators into people’s homes, forpeople who have disabilities or it’s difficult for them to get up anddown their stairs, they’ll install those personal elevators. And theold process was a paper process where they would measure dimensionsof the railing and of each steps, because each installation andmanufacture process is essentially custom tweaked to the person’shome.
They’re equipping their field service and installation teams with Hololenses, and what was a four-month process has basically been reduced down to two weeks. Because on the first site visit, the technician will go through with a Hololens and they’ve written software that’s able to take a fairly accurate measurement of all of those steps and it basically just scans the steps as he walks up them with the Hololens. That data is immediately streamed back to the designers and engineers who are going to tweak the manufacturing and installation process for the elevator equipment that’s being built in their home. And this from four months down to two weeks and hope those– I believe those are the accurate numbers. He was literally saying this is a piece of our business where we’re fundamentally changing our business model. And to me, that stuff is just fascinating. And it’s amazing that giving people computing in the form of XR that maybe traditionally haven’t had computing or have had it in a different form, is able to literally change a business model, that’s an amazing, amazing story of success.
Alan: It’s absolutelyincredible. So we’re coming to the near the end of this podcast, andI want to make sure that we’re cognizant of your time to let you getback to the great work you’re doing at Circuit Stream. But what isone problem in the world that you want to see solved using XRtechnologies?
Lou: Hmm. This may be a strangeanswer, but I’m fixated right now in helping doing what we’re alreadydoing, which is helping companies become more productive and improvetheir operations. Because my belief is that for many of the companiesthat we’ve been working with, they genuinely have great missions andgreat products and services that they’re offering. So if we can helpthem and enable them — through XR — be more efficient, then we helpthem free up time to continue creating kind of more value throughtheir products and services. For people like myself and all of thepeople around the world that they serve, keep safe, provide servicesto, provide products to. I know that’s pretty macro, but that’sgenuinely something that I’m passionate for and I’m willing to investand be in this for the long haul, so that we can build technologythat better serves those people and companies that we’re workingwith.
Alan: That’s a beautiful thing.And I think every time we create efficiencies in the entire ecosystemof a company, we’re actually reducing the resources that we need forthe earth. If we can reduce the time to get things done, we canactually reduce the resources that we need. And one of the thingsthat stuck with me years ago, I listened to the Voices Of VR podcast,and one guy was saying, imagine we as humans. We just love to buildthings. We love to build. We love to design. We love to strive tobuild new things. But what if those things — being our clothes orcars or our buildings — what if they didn’t have to be real? What ifthey could be electrons, which are very highly scalable? They don’trequire the resources of the planet to be used, other than energy,which I’m sure we’re gonna figure out unlimited energy in the next 20years. So being able to reduce the human load and impact on the worldusing virtual buildings and worlds and stuff. I think it’s aninteresting theory, anyway.
Lou: I totally agree.