The Business of XR: Interview with Doghead Simulations CEO Mat Chacon

MatChacon_squareBW-1-500x324.png

Virtual, augmented, and mixed reality: together, these three technologies are commonly known as “XR” or Extended Reality. But just what exactly is Extended Reality (XR), and why should business leaders across all industries be considering its implementation to positively impact their bottom line?

Recently, we had the opportunity to discuss the business of XR, and its implications for enterprise and education with regional leaders looking to lead their companies into this new revolution with immersive technology. Hosted by World Trade Center Seattle and moderated by IME, a technology and entertainment firm creating future-ready law in film, television, video games, augmented, mixed and virtual reality, and artificial intelligence, the discussion, “Seattle Immersed: The Business of XR” addressed the challenges and opportunities associated with XR implementation for enterprise.


The following dialogue reflects a conversation between Jessie Irwin, IME Law’s Chief Strategy Officer, and Mat Chacon, CEO of VR company Doghead Simulations, about what business leaders should know about XR, the solutions it presents for enterprise, and the future of the workplace.


Jessie Irwin (JI): Hi Mat. Can you please introduce yourself, and tell us a little about your company, and your work?


Mat Chacon (MC): Absolutely – I have the great fortune of being the CEO of the virtual reality (VR) company Doghead Simulations. We use VR to fundamentally improve the way people educate and communicate. Our product is named rumii and it is currently in use by educational institutions, enterprise companies and governments around the world to perform instructor-led, distributed education and training as well as conduct daily status meetings with remote teams.


JI: Clearly, we’ve entered a new technological wave. We’ve gone from the first wave (PC) to internet to the arrival of mobile + smartphones, and now immersive technology. What parallels do you see between immersive tech and the first three waves, and what do you see as unique opportunities presented by this fourth wave?


MC: XR is enabling us to be more socially connected and have immediate access to information through new paradigms of input devices. Immersive technologies are bringing the same
efficiencies that came with the advent of mobile devices and the Internet, but with the added benefit of true immersion. Just like the smartphone replaced our land lines and our input devices, XR technologies are already replacing our screens and becoming our standard input devices. However, the industry is still suffering from issues with adoption and disbelief. It’s odd that this is the case given that there’s so much proven, recent history that shows how this new paradigm will become our new norm, just like the mobile revolution and the Internet.


JI: The latest IDC report projects total spending on global AR/VR products and services to reach $215B by 2021, achieving a compound annual growth rate of 113.2%. How do you expect such rapid-scale growth to impact the industries and clients your companies serve?

MC: It’s all about customer service. We need to make sure our XR companies and employees are ready to address such rapid growth in order to keep customers happy and productive. Sustained, exponential growth puts tremendous strain on people and culture. Our processes need to handle increased business volume and employees need to be empowered to deal with the customer support issues that will surely arise. Small, stable teams are the core unit of scale and they help any company respond nimbly which keeps customers happy.


JI: According to Deloitte, as of last April, more than 150 companies in multiple industries, including 52 of the Fortune 500, reported that they were testing or had deployed AR/VR
solutions. Why is it important for other leaders to consider integrating immersive technology into their business?


MC: Competitive advantage. Specifically, in retaining key employees and customers. XR is the world’s next computing platform, there is no doubting that. As a leader or employee of your
current company, you don’t want to be following in the footsteps of your competitors and straining to take market share away from them or poorly replicate what they’ve already done more successfully than you. XR is already being proven to result in increased efficiencies at companies like Boeing and Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab has already shown increases in learner improvement using VR due to the immersive nature of the technology.


JI: Mat, your software, rumii, is revolutionizing communication and collaboration in diverse environments. In your experience, how can VR solutions improve educational and workplace effectiveness and organizational culture?


MC: We’ve entered an era where people no longer go to work and school… they simply attend work and school. Gone are the days of travelling long distances to attend college for years at a stretch or travelling for corporate training for days or even weeks at a time at ever increasing costs. People now slip on a Head Mounted Display (HMD) and transcend the realities of learning, with costs as low as a monthly subscription service. Our new reality is re-engaging
people in immersive and social environments that leverage our natural desires for socializing, learning, and self-expression and rumii is already enabling people to do just that. The number one benefit of rumii is monotasking. While we may feel pleased with our perceived abilities to juggle many things at once, the fact is that we’re horrible at it! We’re far too distracted. How many times have you heard the ominous keyboard click during a conference
call, web meeting or online lecture? That’s a sure sign that someone isn’t paying attention. This sort of behavior makes us less effective at not only our jobs, but also our lives. We’ve got over half-a- century of cognitive science and studies on multi-tasking and we now know that people who attempt to multi-task actually do less, they’re less effective and crucial information bypasses them completely. Every time you hear those keyboard clicks you can be confident that it’s going to take that person an average of 15 minutes to reorient to a primary task after such a distraction. Efficiency drops by as much as 40% and long-term memory suffers.

Here’s an example: When you’re listening on a phone call, your visual cortex becomes less active. So when you talk on the phone and work on a computer, you literally hear less of what the person is saying. rumii is a VR solution that improves educational and workplace effectiveness through immersive monotasking and organizational culture improves because people are simply more effective at their jobs.


JI: We’ve discussed some of the opportunities immersive technology presents as it relates to solutions for education and enterprise, but what about the challenges? What are some of the common barriers to adoption and implementation of this technology among your customers?


MC: While the benefits of XR are clear, we do have some realistic barriers to adoption and implementation: price, usability and application. The most common barrier is price. At Doghead Simulations, our buyers are price sensitive and the total cost of ownership for a complete VR package is still a difficult pill to swallow for a lot of our customers. Though, this is quickly changing. In fact, this year we’ll see the release of stand alone VR HMDs at much more palatable price points like the Oculus Go and the HTC Vive Focus among many others. The other is usability. Quite frankly, no one wants to do their hair and makeup and then slip on a
clunky HMD that ruins all of the work they did to get ready for the day. The Magic Leap One HMD is the clear leader that is starting to solve this problem. Then there’s application. People largely understand that XR is our new computing platform, but we’re all desperately trying to figure out how it applies to our daily lives; how it improves our lives and exactly where it applies most.


JI: How has your company helped enterprise and education clients resolve these barriers, and how do you predict these challenges will change in the near future?


MC: At Doghead Simulations, we’ve targeted each of these challenges and have addressed and solved them for the immediate-term and our customers could not be happier. We’ve helped our enterprise and education customers resolve these barriers and set them up for future success.


● Price: Our software - rumii - is multi-platform and works on any PC or Mac built within the last 4 years. We also work on Android smartphones and are releasing an iPhone compatible version of rumii this year. This solves the issue of high total cost of
ownership for VR hardware and makes rumii immediately accessible on existing devices that our customers already own and are comfortable using.


● Usability: rumii can be used outside of VR on the platforms I just described as well as in VR on every major platform on the market, like the Vive and Oculus. HMDs are getting smaller and more practical with every new iteration. We’ve already gone from wired HMDs to wireless HMDs and we’re in the process of supporting the standalone HMDs being released this year.

 

● Application: We’ve already garnered significant market data around how our customers use rumii every day. We’ve been able to see that rumii improves the online learning experience and dramatically reduces the cost of travel while also reducing the carbon footprints of our customers.


We’ve also seen our users respond quite positively to rumii’s natural immersive social messaging environment. Our brains are wired to respond positively to social messaging, regardless of whether it is verbal or non-verbal. So, any information that expands our awareness of self and our awareness of others in our group is important to us and is automatically processed, regardless of what we’re focusing on. At Doghead Simulations, rumii enables our users from across the globe to immerse themselves in our social environment that provides visual messaging that enhances the learning and collaboration experience.


JI: Mat, your co-founder, Chance Glasco recently appeared in Forbes quoting Henry Ford, who said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
In other words, Ford knew that consumers wanted the car before the consumers knew that they wanted the car. When it comes to the workplace meetings and education of the
future, how is VR the car of 2018?


MC: That quote resonates quite loudly for all of us at Doghead Simulations. Namely because we believe that Henry Ford was referring to was something much more visionary than knowing that consumers wanted a car before they even knew they wanted a car. We think he was referring to giving people access to an interstate highway system that was yet to be built or even
envisioned. He was giving consumers access to motorized transportation that could move more than one person at a time, including their belongings. He was referring to giving consumers
access to people, goods and services in distributed geographies. The motor vehicle not only responded to a need, it created many needs that would never have been envisioned without the
advent of the car. He helped improve the world by shrinking it. We’re doing the same. All of us at Doghead Simulations believe that XR gives people access to the world’s next computing platform and responds to the needs of globalization while creating needs that are yet to be envisioned. XR disrupts our ideas of social networks and transforms them into knowledge networks, the same way the first motor vehicles did. XR gives us access to proxies of the
physical world in the form of “Digital Twins” that are already leading to new collaboration and problem solving opportunities. There is no doubt that XR is the world’s next computing platform
and Doghead Simulations is a key part of this new reality.


JI: Oculus Chief Scientist Michael Abrash predicts that “the distinction between VR and AR will vanish…the real and virtual worlds will just mix and match throughout the day, according to our needs.” Is this what the future of the workplace looks like? Do you agree? Disagree?

MC: While this may seem to be a bold statement, it is not at all far-fetched. XR is already becoming a very real and normal part of our daily lives… just as the mobile phone has become. The smartphone is our first screen when we wake up, our primary screen throughout our day and the last screen we view right before we sleep. We’re already craving the integration of the real world with the digital world and XR is making this a reality. At Doghead Simulations, we’re working hard every day to make rumii the first thing you experience when you wake up, your primary experience throughout the day and your last experience before bed. While rumii is already being used around the world for immersive education, training and distributed meetings, it is quickly becoming a lifestyle. Why simply meet when you can rumii?


JI: Of everything we’ve discussed, what, in your opinion, is the one key take-away for business leaders?


MC: Unification. XR is an undiscovered country and we’re all here exploring this fascinating place. We’re forging new realities, staking claims and doing our best to create a better world for the next generation. XR is unifying the world in ways we’ve never seen before. Our social networks are becoming knowledge networks that challenge our choices rather than confirm them. XR is linking the two-dimensional screens of the digital world in front of us with the 3-dimensional physical world around us. XR is having the unifying effect of bridging social class, closing the resource gap and freeing our distinct human capabilities to simulate, visualize and interact across each of our very personal and unique realities. XR is already making our world a better place!

There is nothing we don’t do online any more. We date, we shop, we work, we collaborate, we educate and we do countless other things that we never before imagined to be possible. We’re
entering a new reality and will soon look back and marvel at what we once thought to be impossible, but is now a very real and normal part of our daily lives. This is our new Extended Reality and the next computing platform we call XR and here’s the kicker… it’s already here!