MetaVRse – Interview

Could virtual and augmented reality be the future of learning? Alan Smithson, founder and CEO of MetaVRse, certainly thinks so. We caught up with him for a chat.

Alan Smithson is the CEO and co-founder of MetaVRse, an company set up to help businesses get to grips with the potential of XR.

Q: Tell us about MetaVRse.

A: The future of learning is spatial. Technologies such as spatial computing, computer vision, 3D scanning, photogrammetry, virtual, augmented and mixed reality are being bunched together now commonly know in enterprise as extended reality (XR). When applied to learning, training and education, these technologies have been shown to increase retention rates, decrease training times, increase focus and enhance performance across the board. For example, learning science in a zero cost, multi-million-dollar virtual lab (Labster) or practising surgery multiple times before ever seeing the patient (OssoVR).

MetaVRse helps organisations find, curate, manage and create XR solutions across their enterprise in a secure, easy to deploy solution that provides one point of access for all things spatial learning.

Q: Tell us about some of your past projects, and things you’re working on now.

A: Over the past four years, we’ve built all sorts of XR-related projects such as the VR Photobooth for Samsung’s launch of the GearVR, Gear 360° camera and an AR Sandbox for Kubota Tractors so you could dig with a toy tractor and as you change the topography, the projection changes. We built an augmented reality teleportal for Adobe and Genesys to show a visual representation of their new AI engine. We even build an AR app for the launch of HBO’s Westworld, which was super fun.

We believe that by 2023, Apple will have released their Apple Glasses that promise to give us superpowers. Imagine putting on a pair of Rayban, Oakley or Prada glasses and all of a sudden, your vision is enhanced and you can now see for ten miles crystal clear using the onboard 48-megapixel dual cameras and Retina-quality microdisplays with pancake lenses allowing for near-full human vision field of view.

 

The future of learning is spatial. Technologies such as spatial computing, computer vision, 3D scanning, photogrammetry, virtual, augmented and mixed reality are being bunched together now commonly know in enterprise as extended reality (XR).

 

Q: So what is XR, and how does it help with learning and training?

A: Imagine starting your first day at a new company and with those same Apple Glasses, you get a VR orientation scavenger hunt where you learn the lay of the land before you step foot into the office, so you hit the ground running. Imagine arriving in the company boardroom in NYC, putting on your glasses and teleporting to the boardroom in San Francisco, Toronto and London all via photorealistic real-time avatars, so you can collaborate more effectively and with the same body language you would in real life, but without the long, costly flights.

Q: Do you think the tech industry is keeping up with the demands of XR? What extra steps are needed to make the most out of its potential?

A: People underestimate what’s possible with the advent of 5G, that promises to give us speeds of up to ten Gbps. Do a speed test on your phone right now and think about what could be possible with 1000 times faster data transfer. It’s mind-blowing to think about the possibilities. One thing I can assure you is every website and device will take advantage of spatial computing, XR and 3D.

As the phones get more powerful, 5G will also unlock sub-10ms round trip information transfer, which will make it possible for things like persistent AR experiences and autonomous vehicles to work. I’m certain Apple will come up with some ingenious ways to leverage these to make our lives easier.

I predict the new iPhones will support 5G by the end of 2020, or latest early 2021. This will unlock the true power of ARKit, Apple’s foundational framework for augmented reality experiences. By developing algorithm-based solutions to difficult technical challenges such as simultaneous location and mapping (SLAM), cloud mapping and occlusion in AR, Apple has been able to leverage the power of the phones and cameras to create the most incredible AR experiences. You can find these on Instagram by following #ARKit.

According to IBM, over 120 million people need to be reskilled or retrained due to automation, robotics and AI in the next three years alone. One report by management firm PwC suggested that XR technologies will create over $1.5 trillion through remote collaboration, immersive training and on-the-job learning. When you combine the massive problem with the massive solution, you have a recipe for our beloved devices to go from our pockets and wrists onto our faces soon.

Q: How do you see home XR developing over time?

A: For the next few years, companies will start to leverage this technology and perfect its use on learning and training, and these lessons and content will trickle down into the education systems. Combine this with spatial learning content creation costs reaching near zero, and we have new hope for an inexpensive, scalable solution to quality education for every person on earth.

Q: Smart glasses haven’t exactly set the world alight yet, with several false starts (eg Google Glass). What makes you think the next ten years will change this?

A: In 2018, Sony Playstation VR sold one and a half million units, and in 2019 over five million units, showing exploding growth. I predict this trend to head-worn devices will continue to grow as the content becomes easier to make and the glasses get better looking, better performing, less expensive and more comfortable. This year at CES alone, there were twelve new AR glasses announced, but missed from the frivolity as usual was Apple. By 2030, everyone will wear some sort of smart glasses at least daily for either work, play or both.

Q: What’s the single-most exciting application of XR that we’re likely to see in the next 20 years?

A: The single most exciting application will be a completely virtual, artificial-intelligence-driven avatar that’s indistinguishable from a real person when using glasses. This is a very hard problem to solve, but there are literally thousands of people working on it. Imagine having a personal assistant, coach or mentor who can not only guide you in being the best version of yourself, but can also teach you anything, anywhere at any time. This is a vision I feel will drive humanity forwards in ways we cannot fathom today.

Q: Where should an interested party go for more information on the future of XR and its applications?

A: We have several sites that serve the needs of the XR community:

• MetaVRse.com is our marketplace for future-proof learning
• XRIgnite.com is our community hub and accelerator for XR startups, studios and developers
• XRForBusiness.io is our podcast on how organisations are leveraging XR technologies to drive real value
• XRMindmap.com is an 3D/XR experience to teach organisations about XR and how to find the right development partner for their project.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A: Our MetaVRse platform is completely web-based and allows you to build your own XR experience in under ten minutes. Sign up for an early beta access at MetaVRse.com.

We’ve also developed the XR Industry Mindmap where you can learn about the terminology and technology while finding the right development partners for your XR project. You can find this at XRMindmap.com.

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Ian Osborne

Ian has worked on computer and video games magazines since the legendary Crash and Zzap! 64 in the early Nineties, so he’s seen many changes over the years (including an expanding waistline and receding hairline). A lifelong Mac user, he bought his first Mac in the year 2000. It’s a testament to the resilience of the Mac that his mother is still using that computer to this very day.

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