In this episode of the DevReady Podcast, hosts Andrew Romeo and Anthony Sapountzis have an insightful conversation with Alan Smithson, Co-Founder at MetaVRse which is a proprietary, code-optional web platform that makes it easy to create and share interactive 3D experiences instantly. Alan is also the Host of XR for Business Podcast. Listen in as the three of them talk about the future of technology and the limitless possibilities that exist for those willing to embrace creativity.
“A minute of footage was like ten thousand dollars just to stitch together.” – Alan Smithson
Alan has led an interesting life, from being a student of Molecular Biology who DJed during the weekends to representing pharmaceutical companies and running a hostel to inventing the touch screen tech for the DJing industry—he has done it all and continues to add value to human experience with each passing year. Know of the iconic performance by the French DJ and pioneer of electronic music, Jean Michel Jarre on the 31st of December, 2020 where he performed live in a 3D visual reconstruction of the emblem of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris? Well, that immersive event that was available on the social VR platform VRChat, accessible via a personal computer or in virtual reality for those who have a VR headset was made possible courtesy Alan and his team. During this conversation, Alan shares how this all started; with him realising how truly transformative technology could be if only one were willing to looking for possibilities.
As Alan recounts, the path wasn’t easy and it was strewn with set-backs. Back in the day, the phones used would overheat rather quickly. Adding to it was the problem of having to manually stitch the seams of screens that overlapped because of having to use seven cameras. And if that weren’t enough the go pros would fail, battery would die—it was a battle to make it all work. But they did not give up and came up with solutions so much so that they shot a ton of footage and even built a library of content. All that paid off when they were featured by Samsung and eventually went on to pitch the idea of a VR photo booth to Samsung. Looking back, Alan knows that he has come a long way and along the way, since 2015, when MetaVRse was born, the company has done a well over 120 projects and has claim to eight World-firsts—AR sandbox being one of those. As the company grew, so did the challenges, two of which he highlights as being:
1. Asset Management at scale for enterprise
When they started out there was no system for digital asset management system for 3D content.
2. Content Creation
There was no easy way to create the content. It was expensive and there were only a few people in the world who knew how to do it.
Faced with the challenges, they set out to, overcome those as well. They set up a web AR project and realized a few key points: it has to be web, it has to be easy to use, and it has to not require code. As a result, an accelerator called XR Nights was set up—where there were 65 mentors from around the world and 160 companies applied. Among many successes, Alan takes an example of a company that was able to trigger AR with no loss of functionality. Amazed at the endless possibilities his company worked with theirs for nine months to finally reach the conclusion that the companies had to be merged: the former had a core engine that was able to render millions of plugins in a mobile browser and the latter had a brand and loyal customers. That is the origin story of the MetaVRse engine which fared well even during the pandemic as it was very showable on screen. As Alan states, the pitching was easy over Zoom and they had around 2500 meetings with customers. That ability to pitch gave the company not only customers and revenue but also insights into what enterprise customers needed and wanted from a product.
“The future belongs to everybody and the more people that can create the more it will be created in the ways we want it to be and not just created by a bunch of big corporations that see ‘this is how we are going to do it’.” – Andrew Romeo
Alan goes on to talk about their work on two verticals: training and marketing and how the end goal is to create value for customers. Like Canva allowed everyone to be photoshop wizards, with the MetaVRse engine, the goal is to allow everyone to be creative. As he puts it, ‘In the hands of the creators, it can get really crazy.’ He wraps up the conversation by saying that the future belongs to those who are willing to be creative as that is the only way to make a future that we want and not that is handed down to us by corporations.
· Touch Screen Technology
· Virtual Reality
· Overcoming Challenges Faced
· Building World-Firsts
· Working in Training and Marketing
· Creating Value
· Being Creative
Key Quotes (Time Stamps)
· “But it was that moment that I realized that this is something special, this is not a new type of app for a phone or something like that; this is a truly transformative technology.” (6:13 – 6:24)
· “A minute of footage was like ten thousand dollars just to stitch together.” (8:14 – 8:16)
· “We just did anything and everything as long as it had to do with VR, 360, 3D…all of this.” (10:57 – 11:02)
· “We did the first commercial web AR project in the world. We’ve done 8 world-firsts.” (11:18 – 11:24)
· “And really what it came down to: I was just looking at the whole industry of where are the opportunities, where are the weakness, where is the biggest challenge in this industry.” (12:21 – 12:31)
· “It was very-very showable on screen, right? So, you could pitch it in Zoom… Since June of 2020, we’ve probably done over 2000 or maybe 2500 meetings with customers.” (17:47 – 17:59)
· “In the process of building 2.0, we onboarded a ton of clients; we built virtual stores, we’ve been doing 3D training for a he medical company; we do all the trainings now in 3D; we’ve been doing Samsung’s trainings for their new models, for their new devices. So, we’ve been on-boarding customers using our platform to serve them and building 2.0 at the same time.” (19:09 – 19:33)
· “Some of the new features of the rebuild are like mind-blowing. You’re going to be able to create, in the editor, on the web, with your friends simultaneously.” (20:10 – 20:21)
· “Turns out training and marketing are very similar. You are either marketing the features of a product to somebody or telling them how to sell it.” (27:05 – 27:14)
· “Seeing artists and what they do with the tools really is what gets me jazzed because I am not the creative guy, I am the tool guy—here are the tools; if I can use them, anybody can use them.” (31:32 – 31:43)
· “Similar to like Canva which enabled everybody to be a photoshop wizard, we’re allowing everybody to be a creator.” (32:05 – 32:12)
· “We are enterprise first because if we can solve the issue of the enterprise, if we can give them the level of quality that the demand which is super freakin’ high, and the laundry list of things that we had to go through for procurement, it was bonkers… But, because we already went through that we now know our engine is battle tested and ready and can be used by anybody building their solutions on our engine and it will pass technical due diligence of any corporation.” (43:36 – 44:01)
· “The world is going to be built by creators—the MetaVRse, the web 3D—whatever you want to call it—it’s going to be built by creators and the tools are getting easier and easier and easier everyday…Don’t be afraid of it. Start learning how to create ‘now’ because the world will be designed by creators like ‘you’.” (46:58 – 47:31)
· “The future belongs to everybody and the more people that can create the more it will be created in the ways we want it to be and not just created by a bunch of big corporations that see ‘this is how we are going to do it’.” (47:39 – 47:50)
Social Media Clips (Time Stamps)
· Touch Screen Technology (2:54 – 4:03)
· Virtual Reality (4:09 – 7:08)
· Overcoming Earlier Challenges (7:11 – 9:37)
· Pitching VR Photo Booth to Samsung (9:41 – 10:52)
· Building Eight World-Firsts (11:18 – 12:20)
· Overcoming the Biggest Challenges in the Industry (12:21 – 14:55)
· New Mall in the MetaVRse (22:25 – 44:06)
· Two Verticals of Training and Marketing (26:27 – 27:20)
· Alan’s Advice to All Those who Want to Create Value (46:56 – 48:40)
For some cool video snippets that Alan shares during the podcast, please log in to YouTube. Here are the time stamps:
· Mall Experience (24:06 – 26:03)
· Medical Device Training (27:21 – 29:10)
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