Event Recap

Event Recap: Virtual Spaces: Going Beyond the Headset with Spatial

Aug 3
Aug 19
Alley Team
Event Recap

Event Recap: Virtual Spaces: Going Beyond the Headset with Spatial

Aug 3
Aug 19
Alley Team
Event Recap

Event Recap: Virtual Spaces: Going Beyond the Headset with Spatial

Aug 3
Aug 19
Alley Team
Community Over Everything

Event Recap: Virtual Spaces: Going Beyond the Headset with Spatial

Event Recap: Virtual Spaces: Going Beyond the Headset with SpatialEvent Recap: Virtual Spaces: Going Beyond the Headset with Spatial

Technology has powered remote workforces globally, but there’s definitely room for improvement. As a society, we are accustomed to using body language and social cues—both of which have historically struggled to translate digitally, but with the evolution of virtual spaces, we are seeing how meeting in 3D can unlock new ways for teams to create, collaborate, and communicate.

In this event, we’ll get into all things Spatial—what the platform is, how teams can work in a 3D environment, and how XR conferencing is the future of remote working. Our panelists will dive into the how and why teams should invest, and adopt this product for their future

Verizon 5G Labs:

Verizon's 5G Labs works with startups, academia and enterprise teams to build a 5G-powered world. We work on 5G trials, hackathons, industry partnerships, prototyping challenges and more.

Noelle Tassey
Brianna Scully
Niko Chauls


Noelle Tassey  0:00  
We're gonna give our other panelists just a second to turn their videos back on. But in the meantime, my name's Noelle Tassey, I'll be your host today, I'm the CEO of Alley. For those of you who do not know us, Alley is a community agency. So we unite rich, diverse communities around the country with our corporate partners, such as Verizon 5G Labs, to provide the resources and catalysts to drive innovation and positive change through technology. So we're going to introduce our other panelists in just a moment. But before we do that, I believe we have a quick video to show you guys.

Video Narration 0:48  
Spatial is the world's most advanced collaborative computing platform. From a 2D photo, you can generate a 3D avatar, which enables you to meet with anyone anywhere in the world. Your avatar enables you to feel a true sense of presence with coworkers or clients you would otherwise need to travel to see. Give high fives, make eye contact, and collaborate around information in a new, exciting, and immersive way. You can add your own content to customize project rooms, upload photos, videos, documents, and full 3D models. Spatial is able to help every industry to better visualize projects, iterate on their designs, or connect around ideas. In Spatial you can also screen share, share your real-time video, perform searches, annotate with notes, and draw with our scribble feature. Using Spatial has the potential not only to save companies thousands of dollars but also serves as an environmentally friendly and safe, reliable alternative to business travel. Spatial works entirely cross-platform working on the Microsoft HoloLens, Oculus Quest, Magic Leap, and Unreal as well via mobile phone and our web app. As our cultures and our workforces become increasingly global, Spacial enables remote users to transcend their physical space and collaborate, search, and brainstorm ideas as if they were in the same room sharing meaningful connections. Work closer in augmented and virtual reality.

Noelle Tassey 2:31  
Awesome. So really excited to kick off today and talk about some of that amazing technology we just saw as well as where this space is going in the future. So I'll wait for the rest of our panelists to come on. I think we've got almost everybody. Wonderful. So without further ado, we've got an incredible lineup here to talk through virtual environments, especially the ins and outs of Spatial, specifically, but we're gonna also have a wide range in conversation just around what this means, especially in our current moment. So I'm going to hand it over to our panelists to all introduce themselves and tell you a little bit about who they are and why they're here today. So Niko, do you want to kick us off?

Niko Chauls 3:13  
Sure. First of all, thank you, Noelle, thank you, Alley, thank you to everybody for this panel. Hopefully, we'll make it as productive as possible. My name is Niko Chauls, and I work at Verizon on a product innovation team focused at seeing what is possible and creating new products at the intersection of XR and 5G. And being part of a telecommunications company, the future of communications or advanced communications is a major area of focus for us. So looking at new methods of communication at both the enterprise and consumer level, as well as across social media is a big area of focus for us.

Noelle Tassey  4:03  
Terrific. I'm super, super excited to hear more from you on this. It's gonna be a fun one. Bri, do you want to go next?

Brianna Scully 4:09  
Sure, absolutely. One, thanks for having me and doing this whole thing. I'm Bri Scully. I'm the customer experience manager at Spatial, which is an augmented and virtual reality collaboration platform. So my role at Spatial is to really support and work with all of our users and be really hands-on with especially our enterprise customers to use Spatial to the top of its potential. Before Spatial I worked at Iris VR, which was a collaboration, a C company, and prior to that, I worked at Meta, which was a hardware company but still focused around this idea of collaborating through XR. So I'm really passionate about that. And previously, I've done research in the space. So I love Spatial.

Noelle Tassey 4:56  
Awesome. We do, too. And I think our final panelist does as well. Gene?

Gene Feldman  5:02  
Yes, I do. So, my name is Gene Feldman. I'm one of the training managers for Nestle Purina in North America, supporting our sales and our functional areas with training. And just a little bit about myself, I've been in the— in some type of field of education for over 25 years. So always looking for new, innovative ways to bring training back to life and learning and development. And have been part of the Spatial family now for about two and a half years. And actually have a team at Nestle Purina that's fully live and running on the Spatial system.

Noelle Tassey  5:41  
Awesome. So we've really got the entire, I would say array of perspectives on this in the room, I'm really excited to kick off. I think, even pre-COVID this was a topic that really captivated people's imaginations. I know we talked a little bit earlier this week, Gene, about Ready Player One, and just VR/AR, and how much, you know, how excited people are about it as a topic. And now as we can meet in person, this becomes even more important. But to get started today, I'd love to hear from all three of you just how you think about virtual workspaces. And, you know, your kind of unique perspective on why these are needed. Specifically in the VR/AR space, right? Because we're in a virtual workspace right now, and I think a lot of people who maybe aren't early adopters of this tech would think, Okay, well, we've got Zoom.

Brianna Scully 6:35  
I think that Spatial is really a way to meet where you don't have to think about the difference of Zoom and Zoom fatigue, but really, you create an avatar from this photo, it looks just like you, it takes 30 seconds to do and you can be making eye contact with somebody, shaking their hand, giving them a high-five and working as if you were in that same space. And so I think that it solves, you know, imperfectly, of course, it's never going to fully replace being in-person with somebody, but it can get us so much of the way there. And that's what's really powerful about it. We always talk about Spatial as being, you know, the first layer of Spacial is just that feeling of presence, that feeling that we're there together.

Noelle Tassey 7:23  
Definitely. And that is, I mean, I think everyone's learned it's surprisingly hard to recreate over Zoom. And to your point about Zoom fatigue, I think it's something that— we talked about this earlier this week, actually, but just how much you're actually missing by not being physically present, not picking up on other cues with people.

Gene Feldman 7:43  
Yeah, I mean—

Noelle Tassey  7:43  
(Inaudible) — a lot on this.

Gene Feldman 7:45  
Sorry. I was gonna say, yeah, I mean, to kind of go off that. I mean, for us, it was really twofold. It was one, bringing nonverbal, the cues, the nonverbal communication back into our conversation. The minute we went to digital, whether it was text messaging, emails, it was fantastic. It made our lives so much more easier. However, 70% to 80% of our communication lies in the nonverbal. And for training and development specifically, we rely on certain cues that, you know, to determine comprehension, you know. Like right now, I could see Noelle's head going up and down, but she could be reading another email and agreeing to that. There are so many other parameters. And I'm not saying you are, Noelle, I'm just— sorry, I didn't mean to pick on you. But where I'm going with that is that when we are in Zoom, yes, we could see facial, we could see some nonverbal, but we don't know— but we all have a habit of multitasking in this era of Windows applications. And so with the VR, especially with Spatial, not only are you focusing your attention back on to the topic at hand, whether it's training, whether it's a meeting; because you eliminate all that multitasking, but now we have that nonverbal cues that now we can start feeling like we're more engaged than just watching TV screens all day long.

Niko Chauls 9:08  
Well, first of all, I would just say I can't believe Noelle would read emails while moderating a panel.

Noelle Tassey  9:13  
I'm secretly really good at multitasking, apparently.

Niko Chauls  9:20  
I take a more philosophical approach which is, you know, we're starting to identify where XR communications can have differentiating elements. Sense of presence and sort of nonverbal cues, etc, etc. But I think we really don't know yet as an industry, we're still figuring out what is it like to interact in 3D space with— in digital 3D space? And if you think about the forms of communication that exist today, we might not be able to articulate very well how and why we choose to send a text message, versus write a letter, versus send an email. I think there are times when we pick up the phone and choose to video call, you know, FaceTime or Zoom, or whatever. And other times when we choose an audio-only conversation, and we have an instinctual feeling that might be a little different among all of us, but we have a feeling of what those modes of communication are all appropriate for. And I think that you know, this form of immersive communication is just becoming known to us. And we're just starting to figure out what is it that's different about it in terms of capabilities, in terms of presence, etc, etc, that make it more appropriate for different forms of communication? And I think we all instinctually feel there's something there. And it's kind of awesome. And we're identifying some of the more obvious ones in terms of, you know, remote collaboration over 2D and 3D assets. But I think we're also just beginning to scratch the surface, and in a year or two or three of usage, we'll probably look back on this and say— and be able to list you know, four or five, six differentiating elements. And probably say, "Man, that was so obvious, couldn't believe we didn't think of that at the time." But I don't see this form of communication replacing anything, as opposed to taking its place alongside these other modes we have.

Brianna Scully  11:48  
Yeah, right? I mean, I spend a lot of time meeting in AR and VR. And I definitely still, you know, have reasons to pick up the phone or to get on a Zoom call. But there is this element and something I will talk— I talk about is I'm kind of stuck in a rectangle, which I hate being stuck in a rectangle. You know, whether it's looking at my phone, looking at my computer, being in a Zoom cube, I enjoy being one, like embodied of my avatar, and also being able to put information all the way around me. And so I mean, humans, the way that our brains work, we are spatial beings, you know, no pun intended, but that's just how we operate. And it makes more sense. It's how we, you know, think about information. So I find it really helpful and more engaging.

Gene Feldman 12:42  
Yeah, I mean, agreed. I mean, even— and what we're starting to see is people are even embracing it and they're finding the bridge between that physical and virtual world that we're trying to find here to where we— Bri was actually training a class of people this past week at Purina and they were going all around the room, they were exploring everything. But what was really nice was, Bri was like, "All right, let's bring everybody together. Let's go through it." And everybody kind of formed their own classroom setting. And so what we're— so what we were seeing was that bridge was coming where people are accepting it as a form of communication. But to Niko's point, we really do have to watch that it— that we don't just expect this to be the catch-all solution. This is another enhancement to the language. I mean, Bri and I talk, I think sometimes entirely too much. And there are times where we're on phone, we're on instant message, I mean, we actually use the gambit of communication styles. But when we really want to explore, we start getting into Spatial for that imagination to bring back into our conversation.

Noelle Tassey  13:54  
Yeah, that makes so much sense to me, you know, having been stuck in a box Bri, like you were saying, for now, four months, and— (inaudible). I don't know, what do we think like, eight to 12 months of being, you know, in this little Brady Bunch box. Yeah, you know, you miss being able to truly like gesticulate or even just move around for people like me who, you know, just kind of like to be active or get fidgety if you're sitting in front of a camera for too long. It's why these panels are only an hour. So that makes a lot of sense. And it's really interesting thinking of it kind of as a continuum of different interaction. Something that comes up a lot when we talk about digital space and especially like virtual— 3D virtual space is like, in what cases is that preferable to physical space, right? Because they're not one-to-one. One doesn't fully replace the other. There's still a need for both, but for you guys, you know, especially kind of out there in the wild using this on a regular basis, kind of— what is that differentiating factor? And sort of gearing this towards a post-COVID world which hopefully is coming soon, because right now obviously, it's just virtual space.

Niko Chauls  15:13  
I can take that to start with. We are— one of the reasons we're really excited about— we call it XR teleconferencing, internally, is the ability to do things that you can't do in physical space. So if you're in a conference room with other people, not that anybody is these days, but remembering back to what that is like, that probably is the best way to do a lot of things. So we look at XR teleconferencing when that's not possible. But beyond that, we also look at what can you do in Spatial, or in other places, that you couldn't do, even if you had the option of being together. So one example, during design reviews, the ability to scale, rotate, and change content, to see it from different perspectives. To, you know, take, say, an architectural model CAD drawing of a building under construction or worksite. And really, you know, make it huge, make it tiny, move it around. That's— you can't do that in a conference room, where you're all collaborating over 3D content. But more importantly, you can't do things like stick your head inside a room to see the interior, or inside an object that might have interior components that are worth looking at. And where it's possible to include things like live data in, say, 2D or 3D data visualizations that might impact physical objects, like the flow of traffic or electricity or, you know, something through a pipe. And then to be able to stick your head inside the pipe and see that data visualized in some way. You can't do that. And that's, you know, that's crazy talk. If you bring that capability to an engineer and say, you know, "do you want to actually look inside that bridge structure that needs repair and see the data elements that will help you determine if it needs to be repaired now or in a year?" So new cases abilities that 3D space allows and Spatial enables, are amazing. And we're still sort of figuring out what they are.

Brianna Scully  18:11  
Yeah. I mean it definitely, it gives you almost an element of superpowers, you can, you know, pick up your hand and start drawing right in front of you in 3D, spawn content just through searches, or pulling up your own content. But as you know— from a— of course, like there's awesome 3D use cases, but we also— and this was even before COVID-19. But one of my favorite examples of just a perfect solution that Spatial was for these— for people is a wall of two walls of sticky notes from offices in different countries that were being— over Zoom, people were making sure that those note walls look the same. And so in Spatial, they could just have that persist, they could have one wall, they could have the same notes, the same type of experience. But instead of looking at two separate conference rooms from across the world, they could just all be there together in the same room and have one shared wall that they could go back to and iterate on in these weekly meetings. And I think that you know, there's so much that we were talking about before COVID, and I think that's something that— a lot of that has changed now is that more people are realizing, oh, hey, like, there's something there?

Noelle Tassey  19:29  
Yeah, for sure.

Gene Feldman  19:31  
Yeah, I think for us, it's kind of a blend that what we're seeing is the ability to recreate the physical world in a digital space, when it makes sense to. So like for us besides doing— I mean, we're a CPG company. So deep data dives are kind of our daily routine. And so being able to bring data into a 3D space where you can expand it, you can enlarge it, you can drill down to very specific endpoints, it brings the data alive. It's no long— I think we're past the day of Excel spreadsheets making our eyes cross, I really do. And that's one piece. But the other thing is for us, COVID really brought this to the forefront we couldn't get in the stores. For us, we need to be in the stores to be able to read merchandise shelves to ensure that the pet category is meeting the needs of the consumers and changing shelves, doing all that in real life takes time and effort, disrupts the shopping experience. But with COVID, all the stores were closed, we couldn't get in. With Spatial we can actually bring any of our shelves that we plan, alive into Spatial and now, not only can we walk through it as with ourselves to be able to say okay, this makes sense, this doesn't, but now we can bring one of our customers into the environment say all right, you know what, here's your new pet department. You know, and we didn't disrupt floor and you know— so while all these businesses are closed, we can actually prepare them for reopen by utilizing the virtual space. So it just— it provides us that other avenue. Bri has known me for saying that we are the— this is the closest to the Oasis that I think we've been able to get to at this point. You know, I mean, it may not look exactly like the Oasis, but the ability to transport from room to room, and the ability to reach everybody, regardless of technology, I think is just fantastic. Sorry, I'm all for my Spatial commercial now.

Noelle Tassey  21:31  
No, no, don't worry, we're gonna be coming back to that. And also, you know, for those of you who want to join us in the Oasis, we'll be in Spatial next month, so more on that later.

Brianna Scully 21:44  
I— disclaimer that you know, meet in Spatial to bring people together, but you know, don't spend your entire life and AR/VR. For— we're talking about the book Ready Player One, it's great if anyone hasn't read it

Noelle Tassey  22:00  
Required reading for the next panel.

Gene Feldman 22:01  

Noelle Tassey 22:03  
Awesome. So Bri, I want to kind of throw it back to you. And we've talked a little bit now kind of broadly about the category, gone a little bit in-depth on Spatial, but just to really bring it back to the product. We obviously saw that awesome video at the beginning of the hour, and would just love to hear a little bit more of the Spatial story from you like, the origins, why Spatial was created. And you know, some of those differentiating factors, everything from like avatars to just the meeting room experience. I know this is all like, incredibly thoughtfully designed, and we'd love to like, explore that.

Brianna Scully  22:38  
Absolutely. So, I guess starting with the story of how Spacial was founded, two have the best human-computer interface designers in the world, our founders, so—Anand Agarawala, he founded a company called BumpTop, which was a touchscreen desktop. He sold that company to Google in 2010. And that was, you know, (inaudible) touchscreen. He then became a product manager on Android and built that into Android phones. Our other co-founder, Jinha Lee, was a Ph.D. at the MIT Media Lab working on creating AR desktop. So desktops you could reach through and grab things and move them around. The two of them actually met through the TED Talk community and ended up you know, through common interests, founding Spatial in 2016. So they— you know, the story goes, apparently they were, you know, they had these all these ideas of what Spatial— they wanted Spatial to be, but it was at the same time as the HoloLens 1 came out, so they knew they were excited about AR and creating new interfaces. And then they had this idea about what if we could create something that people can collaborate in and, you know, have, you know, better interaction through this technology. And since then, you know, that we've gotten— a lot has happened since 2016. So we were in stealth until 2019, and then announced to the world that Spatial exists during those period, you know, Anand and Jimha got a really great team. Our head of design, Peter, designed Google Hangouts. And, you know, every single person at Spatial, you know, I could tell a whole story about how awesome they are. But now we're about 30 people, and we recently raised a $24 million Series A, so that's kind of the story. So like, you know, my spiel about Spatial's background, but really just an awesome team and something that— there's a lot of things that set Spatial apart. One, just how great our, like interface designers are and our engineers, and then you know, the focus on presence and collaboration, and also the, you know, focus on making this something that's accessible to people. And being cross-platform it's no small feat: Spatial working on HoloLens 1, HoloLens, 2, Magic Leap, Oculus Quest, UnReal, mobile, and a web browser. So people no matter what devices they have, can participate in something— you know, any company doesn't have to choose one headset that they're going to go all-in on. They can kind of experiment, you know, if I have— you know, if Gene's on a Quest and I'm on a HoloLens, which is often the case, we can still meet and hang out in Spatial. And it's not an issue.

Noelle Tassey 25:37  
As just as part of that push to be even more accessible, you guys are launching mobile soon, right?

Brianna Scully 25:42  
Yes. So, we are actually— probably like sometime in early fall, September-ish, going to be launching on the app stores. We're currently running a beta program of the mobile version, so—

Noelle Tassey  25:59  
Very cool. I know that's something that comes up so much when we're talking about this space. It's just, you know, accessibility and even distribution channels, you know, it's hard to get your hands on a headset, it's expensive, not everyone has one. And it's kind of rare to find a platform with this— it is extremely rare, I should say, this kind of quality of product and experience that actually does work across so many disparate delivery mechanisms. What kind of— you know, and so kind of with that adoption barrier out of the way, what industries are you seeing adopt this? We've had a lot of people in the Q&A asking about everything from like, education to more like B-to-C.

Brianna Scully  26:38  
Yeah, it's a great question. And the answer is really, almost every industry. You know, if you have a product or if you have meetings, most people have meetings, no matter what they do, they can probably get better by using something like Spatial or being able to interact. You know, just experience what you're working on differently. So we do work with, you know, for example, people in manufacturing or you know, product design. Those are usually more of our— like, our sexiest use cases that we show off. Like, Mattel, who's one of our really big customers, you know, doing toy design, of course, Purina doing, you know, packaging design for dog food. And I think that there's definitely a lot of people in the education space who are experimenting with Spatial, and I could honestly go on and on and on, you know, with— from buildings to oil and gas, about different industries that are utilizing Spatial.

Gene Feldman  27:40  
Yeah, I think to kind of add to that, COVID really brought the virtual to the forefront. I mean, before it was, it was a nice novelty, but now we've seen the need for it. And as we know necessity is the mother of all invention. You know, it's— when we're all of a sudden now we're in homes, you know, the high schools and schools are talking about whether they're going to open or close in the next month. Spatial provides now that option, that alternative that doesn't rely strictly on a digital space even though it is. It— there's a personal effect to it. I think a lot of places are starting to see— even the people that have been the most reluctant about VR are now coming around to seeing the power that it offers.

Noelle Tassey 28:26  
Definitely, and Niko, I know that you've got a slightly different perspective on this kind of approaching it from the Verizon angle. You know, I would love like your perspective on it just as a product, its uniqueness, and how you're approaching working with them.

Niko Chauls 28:42  
Yeah, so the XR conferencing space is a red-hot one. And there are lots of players you know, in that marketplace, a very large number in the VR space, sort of VR-only solutions, and a smaller number that either support AR or are cross-platform. I will agree and sort of echo with what you and Bri said, which is that cross-platform capability across, sort of classic devices, as well as AR and VR HMDs, that's really important because that's just pragmatic. It's practical when you look at things from a company enterprise perspective. I also appreciate that Spatial has really thought about the capabilities when you're joining a meeting from different devices. So they're not trying to replicate everything and every device. It's what can that device do and sort of do well? I would say that that right now, Spatial is, you know, in our opinion, having surveyed the industry, the ecosystem, the leading cross-platform XR teleconference provider, or collaborative computing company that's out there. But there are lots of others and they are coming along quickly. And depending on your needs, whether it's on the company side or on the consumer side, it is worth looking at a bunch of other— at everything that's out there because there are so many. So it's an exciting time to be in the space. At the same time, what I think— and this might be the last nice thing I say about Spatial, what— another major thing that sets them apart is that they really think about what do you do when you're in those sessions? You know, how do people actually communicate and collaborate with each other? And I really get the sense that their focus is on that, as opposed to, here's some amazing technology and let's cram it into a conference room of some sort, which a bunch of others have done. At the same time, there are lots of limitations. Some of the limitations are the network that you operate on. So if that's Wi-Fi or 4G network, and that's largely where we're looking to collaborate with Spatial because 5G is going to address many of those issues. And then the other is on the devices that people use. I can't wear an Oculus Quest, and I'm assuming nobody from Oculus or Facebook is listening, I can't wear one for more than about a half-hour before getting a headache. So when we're using Quests or VR headsets, we usually limit our meetings to 25 minutes. If you're using other devices that might be more comfortable, they potentially can be longer. So the device landscape, as that continues to evolve, is going to help a lot. But it is, unfortunately, a limiting factor right now that isn't in— Spatial is not making devices, they're making a software experience that runs on them, so the network and the devices also have to come along in tandem with the development of the collaboration experience.

Noelle Tassey 32:53  
Definitely. And I'd love to kind of follow up on the point you made about the network, right? Because I mean, obviously we work quite closely with 5G Labs, so, so much of what we do with our community is kind of exploring the transformative power of, you know, improving network across the country and what that'll enable us to do and I'd love to hear from all three of you how you think more widespread 5G deployment is going to transform this space. What you see kind of accelerating, what you see getting added, maybe even subtracted from the experience in a future 5G world.

Brianna Scully 33:29  
I think that you know, where— from— from where—what's Spatial— what is limiting Spatial as Niko was talking about being able to render larger models is something that is definitely a limitation at Spatial. And as well as, you know, you have to be— have your device on Wi-Fi to even— showing spatial to start with, and the better your connection is, the better your experience is. And so from just those two factors alone, that's a huge impact on just the experience that you're gonna have when you are in a virtual conference.

Gene Feldman  34:06  
Yeah, I think for us, it's more of getting Spatial— utilizing Spatial to alleviate people's fears. So— because for us our roadblocks that we hit is not so much storage size, because once we get to the factories and start expanding there, that, you know, hopefully, Spatial will have the memory issue fixed and we'll— you know, and we're going to— because we're kind of been working in tandem with Spatial, as they get functionality, we open it up to that area. So that way we're very controlled in how we deploy it. But where we get at is we get a lot of— we're starting to find a lot of the roadblocks that we never anticipated. So we knew there was going to people that just VR was not their thing, and we thought it was going to be just because of technology or it made them sick from the vertigo that we know accompanies VR at times, but I've actually been getting the radiation response. That people are worried about the radiation of a headset being on their face, kind of going back to the microwave, the cell phones, all that, that concern. And what Spatial has really been able to do for me is alleviate the concerns because once we get people in that environment with other people, no longer is VR, a solitary experience, you're not sitting there anticipating 20 people watching you doing this. Now all of a sudden, you're with people. And now people— now all of a sudden we have peer teaching going on. Where the other day Bri and I were watching people train other people in Spatial and they just got into the system. So what we're— so even though there's some of the technical limitations, we also have to remember there are some psychological limitations that are just going to prevent people from embracing this. But again, we go back to the personal aspect of Spatial that I think helps us overcome some of that. But like anything, it's— this is work in progress. I mean, we're definitely not at the end, we have yet to peak, we are slowly still climbing up the hill.

Noelle Tassey 36:07  
Definitely, I think something that we always feel like— that always comes up when we're talking about VR/AR is just— it's the adoption hurdle, and you see it on both ends. So typically, we end up discussing it kind of in terms of just access to headsets, you know, ability to just even get into platforms. But— so it's super interesting kind of to hear from somebody who's a power user that you can run into similar issues on the back-end in terms of adoption that you might not have anticipated. So I'd love to, Gene, just—

Gene Feldman 36:40  

Noelle Tassey 36:41  
Yeah. And we— just, I mean, I have lots I'd love to know, honestly, just how you became an early adopter of Spatial and then a power user. What was the impetus behind you know, this is how we want to start teaching people?

Gene Feldman 36:55  
It all started with a wonderful movie in 1982 called Tron, in all reality. The whole i— I see Nikko laughing. No, Tron, to me, the whole idea of being able to utilize a digital world in a physical space was just mind-blowing. And so, like with Bri, when the HoloLens came out, it was just— really it was an eye-opener that we are— we're, right now we're not at a false start anymore. If done right, VR can take off again. And so once I first started really diving into VR again, and with the HoloLens, is when I met Jacob and Bri over at Spatial. Because I was actually looking for a virtual meeting, it was— you know, it was more like a virtual training space is kind of what I was looking for. And then I got a chance to meet them, and it was— really it was a match made in heaven. They had the same philosophies that we had, but what was really great was about two years ago, Bri, correct me if I'm wrong, we had a showcase at Purina. So what we wanted to do is, all the VR apps that we were even remotely looking at, we basically had about six headsets, we had— we invited senior leadership, we invited our sales department to come and play with VR. And Jacob and Bri were both on-site, and what was really great was, they were able to answer questions, they were able to walk people through it. And it wasn't a sales conversation, it was truly okay, here's the power of it. For us, it was really getting it exposed— that exposure to people and then for the past two years, we were really using it to really fine-tune our use cases for deployment. Of really— because Spatial can be used for anything and the first thing people see is when you start talking about the happy hours and the get-togethers, people think immediately okay, well it's got to be more than that. It is. And so for me, it's really— I am fascinated by iceberg theories that you know, it's— there's so much there that we only are aware of the very beginning of it. And to be a part of something like this and to be able to make your mark on unpaved snow is just a beautiful experience. And so it's just been that partnership of us getting together and saying, Okay, well what can we do? We're not asking— you know, very seldomly do we talk about what we can't do. It's what we can do and how far we can push the system within the confines of it to where I mean, for— and I know I'm belaboring a point, but to show my belief in it, when I first started Spacial two years ago, I experimented— my wife works at a hospital, so I took a Spatial call on a HoloLens on a 4G Wi-Fi adapter through my cell service, in the basement of a hospital. And I was able to be on a Spatial call with three other people seeing their full avatars in full interaction for that meeting. And to me, I mean that's running through the wringer. And I was so impressed by it that it was just like, you know what, there's power here. And the rest is history.

Noelle Tassey 40:20  
I love it so much. I want to put a headset on right now.

Gene Feldman  40:29  
I have that infectious attitude.

Noelle Tassey  40:31  
You really do. We gotta get you on more of these.

Niko Chauls  40:36  
Gene, I gotta say, I'm just glad that you didn't reference the Lawnmower Man instead of Tron because then this conference would have been over.

Gene Feldman  40:46  
Yeah, no, no, Lawnmower Man is— I always talk about pop culture because whenever I try to get people convinced on VR, I immediately go to movies. The one I am really fond with is Brainscan. Nobody's ever seen it, it was Natalie Wood's last movie, and it talks about reliving memories in virtual reality. It was an 80's movie from '81/'82. But absolutely fantastic if you're looking for some good use cases, yeah, no Lawnmower Man, I wouldn't put a part of this.

Noelle Tassey  41:18  
Wow. I have some good stuff to add to my movie list now. That's awesome. And Gene, you know, on kind of on this topic of just this being like, you know, like, fresh now, right? This is like a real blue sky space. And you're— I mean, you guys are working so closely together. For instance, in terms of even I think, figuring out how features work or like, finding potential problems. One of the interesting— I don't even know if I call it a challenge or an opportunity that comes along with that is you know, all of a sudden, there are all of these added complications you never would have thought about, you know. Cultural norms, how do those work in virtual environments? What are stumbling blocks around etiquette even potentially, HR issues things like that, that you never think about when you're— when you're kind of living in Ready Player One Land and I'd love to just hear from you guys some of the things that you've come across that were surprising, how you dealt with them, other potential issues you anticipate— or otherwise that changes engagement.

Brianna Scully  42:22  
I think that you know, there— I'll let Gene, you know, talk about how Purina experience is, but when people first start using Spatial I think that they're— especially as your avatars you know you're in— if you're an AR, you're still in your own space, you're not thinking about the fact that you know, this avatar that I'm seeing is actually a— this is a person, they're a full, embodied person experiencing this with me. And you know, if I need my coffee on their other end of the room, I shouldn't walk through them to go get it. Like, that would be pretty rude. And there's a lot of that just, you know, I really only see that the first, maybe second time people use Spatial. By then, you know, by the time that they're actually using this for productive meetings, you know, there's— you know, Spatial is fun, so like, there's always going to be a little bit of an element of that, which is a good thing. I'm very pro-play, but the— you know, a lot of the social norms that would happen in a regular conference room revert back. People are acting the same way the same— you know, giving people time to talk, not talking over each other, not walking through each other, that disappears pretty fast.

Gene Feldman 43:34  
Yeah, I agree. And the thing is, is that majority of our norms that we have because the thing is in our mind, we have two norms we have for physical and digital. What we need to understand that with Spatial it's really finding a way to merge the two. It's much more, to me, I found it's much more in relation to our physical norms that we don't walk around people. You know, I've seen people in Spatial going to raising their hand, you know, I mean, we start bringing in the things that we're already used to because now our eyes are reading that these are— that these are physical things. And so we revert back to it, but we have to now start salting in some of the digital. And these are things that, you know, we've been able to kind of glean from the video games/cell phone industry. But for you know, the two big things that we've kind of hit is, as part of the current culture in— one, gender assignment. You know, that we have to be respectful to if somebody identifies to a different gender, because Spatial does give you that option for male or female, but also you have to be more cognizant of where your hands are, that we've started realizing, you know, when we started going to Zoom, we were able to start doing all these hand gestures because nobody ever saw us, you know, so we talked with our hands 10 times as much. But with Spatial you start talking with hands, especially when hand control comes up, somebody could say, you know what, I felt uncomfortable, you were talking with your hands and your hand kept going over this person's avatar, which looked like you were doing— it gave an inappropriate look, you know? I mean, it's the elephant in the room we'll talk about. And so that was one of the things that was a big surprise to us was that the physical proximity you need to maintain in real life, you need to maintain in Spatial. Not the six feet thing, but the elbow room. You just need to provide that personal space.

Brianna Scully  45:32  
Absolutely. And I think—

Noelle Tassey  45:33  
(inaudible) on this call just broke into a cold sweat. For sure.

Brianna Scully  45:39  
That's kind of what I was getting at, Gene, you know, there's, you know, you wouldn't stand— there's no reason when you are in an unlimited space to stand shoulder to shoulder with people. And so being able to have that like, you know, normal social, you know, things, not walking around someone, not standing like this close to somebody, you just don't need to do it. So I— there's a lot that comes— that comes with learning about what is it? How do I act—

Noelle Tassey 46:08  

Brianna Scully  46:08  
— not to say normal but like, if you're in normal space, in AR and VR, and, yeah. I think that there's also this element of you know when it comes to— I could go more into the avatars, but just you know, just to say we are adding like gender binary avatars and putting a lot of thought into the avatar creation and you know how people can feel even more secure in what their avatar— and how they're representing themselves.

Niko Chauls 46:40  
Avatar etiquette or how to, you know, how to behave or what's acceptable in holographic space is I mean, there's a ton of information out there, a ton of questions that the conversation is sort of hot and heavy already, as it should be. But in many ways, it's sort of both completely different and exactly the same as how you should behave in a physical space. You know, why do you think it's okay to do, you know, horrible things in 3D space that you would never ever do in a conference room, is sort of one extreme approach. But in many ways, it's just, the newness of the 3D space that we need— everybody needs to get used to, then get over, and then recognize that what they do matters and that's largely education and experience. By experience, I mean time in the space. You know, for example, in showing Spatial and similar products around Verizon, when people learn that they can either walk around and their avatar follows them, or they can teleport and move around, then they usually spend 10, 15 minutes teleporting everywhere and bouncing all over the place and into other avatars and on top of, and around and they're just, you know, getting used to that capability. And then after they use it for a while they get over the newness of it and then start to realize, wow, this is awkward because I'm actually occupying the same digital space as another avatar. But you can't actually have that conversation with that person until they've experienced it. Because if you do, it's a total waste of time. They'll just sort of look at you like you're talking in another language and maybe smile and nod and think that you need some help. But until they've experienced it themselves, they're not ready to have that conversation. So there's a process there, and we need to, as an industry, as an ecosystem, have that, you know, have those conversations, those educational sessions, and have that understanding in place to grow that knowledge, but it is critical to have, particularly in today's climate.

Brianna Scully  49:43  
I'm sure that we've all seen people who go in an AR/VR headset for the first time and freeze. That's the first thing they do is they freeze and like they're looking around with their eyes. They're not sure like, Oh, wait, and they slowly learn, like, Oh, I can turn my head, Woah, look at that. And then they learn that they can move around the space normally. So there's like that initial Whoa, what's happening, how to act in a space kind of dance that happens. But it's also a big reason why when people first join Spatial, so, like we do onboardings every day for— that are people— whoever makes a Spatial account, you know, you can go make a free Spatial account and sign up for an onboarding. We do them every single day. And people can jump in and meet with either myself or my colleague, Aaron. And we, you know, go through every step, like, this is how you teleport, this is how you even point out things. Like, here's how you move your hands. You know, the difference between AR and VR and like, through all of our features. So that people— because you do need that layer of comfort and you know, maybe we could do it a different way. But we like having that hands-on. Realizing like, Hey, hi, like, just first time in Spatial. Hi, like, I'm Brie like, I'm a real person. What's up? Is an important step.

Gene Feldman 51:00  
Agreed. I mean, even from our initial survey results, which, this will be a surprise for Bri, because she doesn't know this piece yet. So we did some survey results from our initial thing, snd we asked specifically questions about the training of VR and Spatial. And it was a resounding that the most important piece was Bri training Spatial. So I haven't told you that yet. But yeah, it was— that was the most important piece because one, it wasn't something internally, it was somebody who is passionate about the system who could talk fluently about the system. But also, it was showing that Spatial truly cares about their customers, you know? They understand it's a symbiotic relationship that we need each other. And it's been fantastic for providing that level of training and confidence to where they had an hour training in Spatial and for the past week, they've been using Spatial without question, you know, I mean, it's— it really is that powerful.

Noelle Tassey 52:02  
That's, so amazing to hear and really exciting. So I want to be cognizant of time. I have one last question for Niko and Gene and then we're going to wrap. and Bri only (inaudible) can answer this all employees and evangelist, but what would you both like to see sort of from both perspectives in Spatial's future in terms of feature development, or the direction the business goes in with the product?

Niko Chauls  52:29  
I have three things that come to mind.

Noelle Tassey  52:33  
Love it.

Niko Chauls  52:33  
One of them is a clock. Like, I need to know what time it is and how much time before I have to get to my next meeting. On a more serious note, I, you know, beyond the sort of general cleanup of any new product in development I would actually say 3D data visualizations, the ability to plug in large datasets and render them and show them in real-time, I think has tremendous capability, particularly as you start thinking about, you know, less about the conference and communication side and more about doing work in a virtual space. So 3D data visualizations being enabled in some way. And then while I love the simplicity of the avatars and how realistic they are in terms of face and movement and gesticulations, I do think the sort of T-Rex arms need a little bit of help, a little bit of improvement there. So I would like to see some avatar develop, but still great.

Gene Feldman  54:00  
But everybody fears the T-Rex.

Brianna Scully  54:06  
It's— the arms are a bit different on all the headsets but there's a lot of work that we're doing to make those you know, it's a— in the Quest is definitely, we've done a lot of work to make those the arms different, a little bit more natural. And we are— I don't know if you heard me, but we are adding a clock in our next build, we're releasing our next build 1.7 in— towards the end of August, and there's a whole list, I couldn't probably— I couldn't even name them if I tried, of things that are changing about Spatial and the clock is actually, surprising, one of our— our number one feature.

Niko Chauls  54:40  
Fantastic. Thank you very much.

Gene Feldman  54:43  
so I think for me, I mean, they're not going to be A surprise to Bri, but I'm trying not to give anything away. So the first was, I agree with Niko, 3D data visualization, even to the point if we can build feeds directly from Power BI, you know, where we can get those data sources and they real-time feeds into the environment to where we can expand and look at it. Just anything to bring the data alive. The other thing is proximity talking. So being able to not only change the environment if you want, but let's say Niko and I want to have— we want— we don't want to go to a different room, because we still want to see what's going on, but we want to have our own private conversation at the back of the room. So we walk away the main person speaking, we lose their volume, and we start picking up an individual conversational volume. And then the last— they actually put it in last build, which was a lightsaber. Thank you.

Noelle Tassey 55:40  
Oh, Woah! I can't wait— Okay, so we're at time but I have to say what a note to end on. We're going to be doing another one of these panels in Spatial in September and you can definitely look out for the clock feature. my T-Rex arms, and my T-Rex arms clutching a lightsaber. That is awesome. Super excited. Again, just want to be respectful of the fact that it is time because I could talk to you guys all day. I just want to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much to our panelists today. It's been really fun. I've learned a lot. I hope all of our attendees have as well. And thank you to all of our participants and audience members for spending an hour of your Thursday with us. This event has been recorded and it'll be available tomorrow if anyone wants to distribute it to their community. And for future events, especially the next Spatial even, definitely check us out at alley.com but thank you all so much. Have a good one.

Gene Feldman  56:39  
Thank you, Noelle.

Niko Chauls 56:39  
Bye, everybody.

Gene Feldman 56:41  
Thank you, guys.

Read Next