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AR, Architecture, Business, Design, Employee Highlight, Everything Else, VR

Ian Hall (IH) is the Chief Product Officer of Yulio Technologies. He leads Yulio’s vision of VR as a practical, everyday business tool and the perfect medium for visual storytelling. Ian is also the Co-founder of Pixel Tours Inc., a design consultancy specializing in human factors engineering and development.


We sat down with Ian to talk about his experience in digital visual storytelling, and where VR is going.




Tell us a bit about how you got into the industry.

IH: The founders of Yulio have been doing graphic-powered business applications for the better part of 20 years.

So, graphic-powered applications are all about visual tools and visual storytelling – it really means things like in the “dot.com boom” days, we developed an image server that let you do zooming, spinning and all that kind of stuff, and we were first in the world to do that. It eventually got bought out by Adobe, and powered half of the e-commerce sites being built when e-commerce was just getting off the ground. Then, we built a web-based shelving layout tool for a Fortune 500 company, like one of those BIG brands – the guys who are always laying out their products on grocery store shelves, and of course, you need to do it visually first, so we built them a tool to do that. We did an online classified ads engine, “Trader Media”, which was the Canadian branch of Auto Trader, and they had the biggest network of classified ads in the country at that time. We built an entire imaging platform for them to create online ads where users could spin the car to see all angles and zoom in. We taught them how to capture the photographs and create a web presence for the photos. They ended up getting bought out for over 400 million dollars and the buyer actually cited the implementation of the imaging and their web-presence as their main reasons that they saw that much value in the business.




So how did that bring you to VR?

IH: The imaging software we built was amazing quality. We’ve done 360-degree tours for real estate, and we’ve done 3D renders and pipelines for architecture and commercial furniture. So, all of that has one thing in common, which is that there is a customer who’s trying to understand what it is they’re ultimately going to be getting, while not being in the room with the thing. Every one of those shows you exactly the same underlying root pain for the buyer and a seller who wants to answer that pain with visual storytelling. We’ve been doing this for 20 years – and every one of those solutions had something in common. They’re imperfect.


“We’ve been doing this for 20 years, and every one of those solutions had something in common… They’re imperfect… [but] VR takes it to another level; It takes an imperfect medium and gets it a hell of a lot closer to perfect.” – IH


They’re all attempting to use visual storytelling techniques to convey what it’s like to be in the room with whatever you’re talking about – well you can’t do it. VR takes it to another level – It takes an imperfect medium and gets it a lot closer to perfect – and THAT’S why the moment this kind of thing came to maturity we jumped on it because we have been experiencing this pain on our customers’ behalf and coming up with imperfect solutions for decades. This is the first real massive leap forward in visual storytelling.

So to get to the root of it, VR is the difference between looking at the floorplan of a room and standing in it, and you can apply that same kind of parable to every other one of those points. And it goes back to things like scale, volume, emotional connection – and in every single one of the projects we’ve been involved with, helping people understand those things is exactly what we’ve been trying to achieve. For us, VR was the new way to achieve all of those things, and it has finally become simple enough that it makes sense for business.




So, what’s Yulio’s take on that?

IH: Yulio is turnkey digital reality. It is a platform that designers and marketers, and anyone else who uses visual storytelling to sell their products, can use to present their ideas and products in a way that their customers completely and instantly understand.

Unpacking that a little bit, it’s turnkey, which means end-to-end. So, we’ve got all of the building blocks so you don’t have to go and cobble together a bunch of assets – you can turn us on and you’ve got everything you need. You’ve got content creation, content management, publishing, distribution, you’ve got a way of delivering the experience on every major mobile platform – in other words, the applications on the devices that people actually use for that stuff, the closed loop, the business analytics, the presentation tools, the collaborative tools – it’s all under the same umbrella. So, turnkey, simple, and enterprise scale – this stuff works, it was designed from the ground up to be simple to use, and, it’s not for the consumer market – this is a business-centric product, which means that everything I’ve talked about is enterprise-grade security, performance, reliability, and all those hallmarks that a good CIO is going to be looking for their practice.

In terms of the customers, we created this originally for the architecture and design community, but that’s been evolving. We now have customers in construction, we have customers in real estate, product sales, product marketing – so as the technology is gaining acceptance, getting more exposure, and more winning scenarios are coming forward, it’s moving more and more into a broader business community.




Ok, now pulling you away from the business side of things – What was your first experience with VR?

IH: So, back in the mid-90’s was kind of the first renaissance of VR. There was consumer-grade, arcade-style virtual reality where you put on a big clunky helmet, the tracking was terrible, and it was kind of like vector graphics, but it moved with you and it gave you kind of a sense of immersion, and you could kind of get a taste of what’s coming, but it never made it out of the arcade. It was too expensive, too clunky, and content creation just wasn’t there – and a lot of the hardware building blocks and software building blocks just weren’t there either. Previous to that, I had been actually involved in an industrial design company and we got invited to a private showing of a little display chip, and there were, at the time, two of these ON THE PLANET. They brought it out of the lab – and this is from one of the big silicon valley manufacturers – they literally built this prototype in their lab, it was maybe a centimeter and a half across, and it was a high-definition functional display – the first of its kind on planet Earth – and we got to see it, and that was even before this VR stuff came out. So, I was sitting there, looking at this thing with the mad scientist who had actually created it….and it’s worth millions of dollars because there were only two of them, and you could see the potential even then. You can trace the Oculus Go optics, and the Hololens and the Google Glass – all of those underlying technologies back to this chip which was incredible. It was compressing high-quality visuals and streaming into this tiny little display technology that was ultimately wearable – and that’s gotta be 25 years ago. So, it’s taken a while for all of these little building blocks to form, but they’re finally all coming together.



“So, we were very well positioned to take advantage of this disruptive technology just because we knew what we were looking for – we knew what the blockers were, we knew what success looked like and we knew what imperfection looked like, so we kinda knew what the gaps were in the existing ecosystem.” – IH


My first true exposure to VR was when the Oculus DK1 came out – that was the first legitimately featured consumer headset that came out and we were all over it as soon as it launched.



 




We had prototypes of what became Yulio going within days of it getting out there. So, we were very well positioned to take advantage of this disruptive visual storytelling technology just because we knew what we were looking for – we knew what the blockers were, we knew what success looked like and we knew what imperfection looked like, so we kinda knew what the gaps were in the existing ecosystem.


In the end, all the hardware and technology has to be about visual storytelling or it falls flat. Basically, if you use still images, catalogs or brochures to tell your story today, you can do it better with VR.




We’d like to thank Ian Hall for sitting with us and sharing some of his experiences and knowledge of the industry! Ian recently did a podcast about practical and business-ready virtual reality, and where he sees the visual storytelling market going in the future. You can listen to it here! Interested in learning more about the digital reality industry and how your business can get involved? Ian was also the driver on our free 5-day VR email course! Sign up here to begin your crash-course surrounding practical business-ready VR, industry trends, and budget considerations!

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AR, Business, Industry News, VR, Your Business + Virtual Reality
We sat down with Ian Hall, Chief Product Officer and resident expert at Yulio Technologies about his experience with VR, his work within the industry, and where he predicts the digital reality market will lead in the future, and here are his top 9 major takeaways! 


1. Stop calling it VR!
This first thing that I want to note about the future of VR is a bit ironic – and that is to stop calling it VR – or at least recognize that that is a bit of a bucket term for a number of technologies. We’re starting to combine the terms VR, AR, and MR, into this kind of overreaching descriptor of digital reality (DR) – some people call it XR to fill in the gaps, but digital reality seems to be resonating a little bit better. So, we start projecting out 6-12 months.. even a year and we look at it as that collection of visualization technology blending, merging, and working fluidly together in digital reality.




2. Hardware is always going to get better.

As anyone who has tried VR today can attest, it’s powerful, but there are still challenges. Even people who have had an experience in a professional tethered rig, like an HTC Vive, or something like an Oculus Rift – you’ve got this cable running from the back of your head, it gets sweaty, it’s clunky, it can be a little bit off-putting. The mobile devices, while they’re getting more and more powerful – everyone wants it to be higher resolution, lower latency, bigger field of view, longer battery life, less overheating to solve the convergence problem because there are a bunch of things that are all understood and I point to the Oculus Go – it moves forward on five of those things I just mentioned, in a substantive way, while absolutely plummeting the price. Two years ago I would’ve killed for an Oculus GO, and now future of virtual reality is here with it. It’s self-contained, has a long-lasting battery life, great tracking, excellent visuals – that DIDN’T exist two years ago, and now it’s available $200 street – for the cost of a music subscription, you’ve got this powerful new communication medium. To do what the Oculus Go does today by combining a phone with an enclosure, you’re looking at about $1000 street to have something reasonable – meanwhile, the Oculus Go is $200 for exactly the same thing.. I mean, that’s a staggering drop in pricing.


You’ve also got a major player in the space Leap technology. They’re promising full-blown, functional mixed-reality headset with hand-tracking as a reference design for roughly $100 street price. So, that’s what I mean about VR, AR, and MR all kind of blending.. As that hardware comes forward, we will exploit it. So, if $100 AR headset is out there, our AR pipeline (which is obviously in-the-making) will be able to exploit it.





3. We’ve got so much to look forward to for DR technology 

So, we’re seeing the evolution of technology – if anything, we’re actually seeing the technology outstripping everything else. We’re seeing the software ecosystem is getting better, richer, so standards are starting to evolve, things like GLTF which is a 3D data format, optimized for delivering this type of experience, WebVR, and we’ve got the big players working on things like ARKit and ARCore to give you dial tone for doing basic mixed reality behaviours, and you’ve got just MASSIVE research going into data compression, 5G data transport, and we can go on and on. We’ve actually got an entire, what we call, “TechRadar”, where, Yulio as a company – all of our mad scientists and product people are looking at the major trends in all of these relevant areas in software, hardware, standards, in the UX/best practices, and we update that frequently and we use it to inform our thinking – that’s how we skate towards where the puck is going. We’re projecting these things forward, we’re looking at the scientific papers recognizing that those papers are gonna be turned into functionality, and open source, and things that we can use and then we’re figuring out where our opportunities lie through all of that. So a lot of it is having that insight into what those variables are, who the players are, and how rapidly things are adapting.





4. We’re going to see DR technology being used more and more as a standard in the construction industry

That is happening in other industries as well. That’s happening in construction now. Construction is already adopting augmented reality so you’ve got a pipefitter who puts on an augmented reality headset, and they will see, because of the plan, that there’s supposed to be pipes running along the wall – they’ll see where they’re exactly supposed to go in real-time, at-scale, where it’s supposed to be cut-in and cut-out – they can do the work and check their work. Then the inspector comes around – he can put on the same headset – looks at the original drawings and be able to compare workers efforts against the original design -and THAT is utterly transformative for the entire industry for bottom-line costs, maintaining clarity for regulations, quality working effort, at a level of fidelity that we’ve never seen before.





5. VR doesn’t always have to be flashy

Have you ever tried watching something in a headset? For instance, watching Netflix with your peers or something like that. It’s small and simple, and if you’re living in an apartment and you don’t have space for a 60” television, then you can sit there and have an IMAX size theatre screen in front of you in your very own living room and you can watch whatever you want! Entertainment executions like this will continue to help drive the future of VR.





6. DR is the next major gaming platform

So, we’re ahead of the game. The adoption of VR as a way of consuming traditional media in a new way is, frankly, disruptive stuff. If you take a VR mount into a gaming room, (and there are some really good titles out there that are breathtaking and forefront stuff in virtual reality) and you come out with this emotional high that you just don’t get sitting there with other mediums. That’s what’s transformative about future of virtual reality – it’s an evolution of a storytelling medium and it’s the emotional connection that drives it that’s so exciting. You see more and more of these big studios when they do these big quality AAA games with  – and they ain’t doing it unless they can get their money back. So you’ve got the Sony’s and Samsung’s of the world pushing consumer VR but frankly, it’s in the very early days – for instance, instead of 100 hours of play, we’ve got 5 hours of play but it’s a REALLY cool 5 hours. Things like the Oculus Go suddenly become an install base of millions upon millions of content will follow. So, the big leagues for consumer VR are going to be content production – content that has a little bit more awareness, a little more accessible hardware.





7. Consumer adoption of VR will come as fast as we invite it

Technology moves fast, moves strategically, and it’s moving to address fairly well-understood problems… the bigger challenge is when you move into the human side of things –   which is the consumer consumption of digital reality. Now, obviously, Yulio as a company, we’re primarily focused on the business applications of this… that said, the business applications don’t exist in a vacuum. As consumers get exposed to DR and AR, kind of like first harbingers, they will lay the foundation for further investment in the space. Business or not they’ll build the future of VR because as consumers use it, more people will build hardware, more people will build software, so the building blocks that we use to create our products will branch from user adoption of the tech.





8. Digital reality training is coming full force – and it’s working! 

Education is another big one. The best example is Walmart who started dabbling with virtual reality as a way of training employees. They have this massive training program; whether you’re the one greeting at the door, or you’re the one stocking shelves or at the cash, you go through this very rigorous training program that introduces you to the “Walmart way” of doing things – and they will celebrate improving those outcomes all day long. If you can improve testing outcomes and improve customer feedback through that training program it has a huge impact. They introduced VR – and they saw double-digit improvements OVERNIGHT. So, they went from doing this as a trial to rolling out a full training program to every Walmart training center around the world and that was in the course of 12 months. So, again, this is a BIG IMPACT of DR transforming businesses.


So imagine that the same person is stocking the shelves wearing an MR headset and it gives them reinforcement of that training because they’re seeing it  in real-time, and the social stigma of looking funny with a big headset on doesn’t apply if you’re stocking shelves – So, business applications, some of those constraints that are going to slow down consumer adoption, don’t exist in business. If I’m going and doing a ‘pick and place’ in a warehouse – Putting a load into a box to mail to you, I don’t care what I look like. To put on a DR headset to be better at my job to improve efficiency is just something you’re going to do. That is becoming deliberate – this kind of idea where you wear these headsets in warehouses and remote diagnostics is already picking up traction. Microsoft jumping all over the whole platform. They literally just announced that the entire framework that allows you to use their HoloLens platform to do exactly what I just described. Have an expert come in, look virtually over your shoulder, and point to something and say “noo don’t turn that gear turn that gear” and they’ve come up with an entire platform for building applications like this.





9. The A&D community was perfectly primed to use DR technology

Today, in the architectural community in particular and more so the design community, we’re starting to see DR as table stakes – it’s not just a nice to have, but it’s becoming a must-have. When we started doing this over two years ago, we had to explain to our early adopters, “what IS VR?”, and they really just had no frame of reference… but in the last 6 months, I don’t remember the last architectural firm who didn’t have some sort of active VR initiative, and some of the more sophisticated ones have already started dabbling in AR and mixed reality – so that is an entire industry, and we just so happen to be perfectly primed for taking advantage of this. Speaking directly to Yulio, our clients use visualizations to convey design ideas, so visualization is definitely key. So these businesses are primed to use this technology and in a matter of 24 months, we went from getting reactions like, “what the hell is VR” to “we can’t live without VR” and that is absolutely transformative.


So, the implications for business make sense in the areas with the greatest ROI – where you see a ten-fold improvement overnight as opposed to traditional means. But as time establishes, more people try things and they find that it works… it’s substantially better than the alternative – you’re going to continue to grow in the business environment and this is absolutely the center of where Yulio exists. We are addressing those problems, we are working with our customers and trying those scenarios, we’re eliminating the ones that don’t work all that well, we’re focusing on the ones that really do, and we’ve already seen those successes in a repeating pattern. Using Yulio / a VR platform to convey your design ideas – early stage / late stage is correct. And we know that today because we have architects backing us saying, “we’re trying for a year to communicate to a customer why this thing needed to be this big and we finally had the epiphany – we were already using VR for our designers, and we decided to turn it around and put it in front of the customer, and they looked at it and had an ‘Aha’ moment. They looked at it and went ooooh I FINALLY get why it had to be so big .. we didn’t believe you and now we trust you and they finally became a partner in that dialogue.”


Until that moment – using the best methods available to architects today – models, floor plans, renderings, and all that kind of stuff – they weren’t able to convey that in a year, and VR was able to convey it in a split second. And that is transformative.




The Future of VR 

It’s more of that. It’s finding those niches. It’s finding those applications and it’s just transforming how people do business. I think winning business patterns will drive the future of VR.





Ian Hall is Yulio’s Chief Product Officer and has been working in the industry for an eternity in VR terms. He recently attended VRX 2018 and recorded the top trends that he saw. Read about them here. To learn more about VR best practices for business, check out our Whitepaper on the right way to integrate VR into your business for maximum ROI.


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AR, Architecture, Business, Design, How to, VR, Your Business + Virtual Reality

VR is changing industries of all kinds, and it’s playing a major role in the transformation of the architecture and design industry. VR and architectural visualization are such a natural match when it comes to the need to create a shared vision, and the ability to immerse a client or prospect into what’s in the designer’s mind. Imagine being able, not just to show your clients the plans for the building, floor or remodel they’ve commissioned, but place them inside it. It’s a new world of presenting with VR to your client, which is critical to architects and firms trying to build trust and earn client buy-in.





 


Plainly put, presenting with virtual reality is the simplest and most compelling way to share CAD models with anyone. It is the clearest way to present your design vision to clients, suppliers, contractors, engineers, prospects, and other designers. So what does that look like? If you’ve never given one before, giving an architectural presentation in VR can seem daunting. Change is hard. It’s hard to divert from something you’ve done for so long, but rest assured, the way to ease into the technology is much simpler than you think!


When you use VR, make sure it has purpose

The simplest way to create a presentation that uses VR is to first determine what your purpose is. Make VR work for you and your objective, rather than try and shoehorn what it is your presenting into VR. That may sound obvious, but with shiny new technologies, there’s sometimes a temptation to let the technology do the heavy-lifting (anyone remember the slew of useless apps available in the mid-2000s?). VR highlights great design – but may do the same for bad design. So make sure you have a clear vision of what you want to share.



Start small!

Start small. Think of introducing VR into your presentation in a small way – until you’re more comfortable with using the technology for presentations.

For your first time presenting with VR, you may even wish to still bring your traditional renderings, whether they be on paper or a screen. Start small by presenting as you would normally. Don’t feel VR has to be the entire presentation. Begin with a simple few minutes immersed in VR, rather than making it the bulk. When starting out people sometimes make the error of assuming clients will be enamored with VR and spend a long time in its immersive detail. Our early adopter clients have discovered that this isn’t true – and it’s to their advantage. At Yulio we advocate a ‘pop-in and out’ experience, where you present a design element in VR and your client takes a look – then you put the technology aside and have a discussion. VR is a tool to foster great discussion, not a replacement for it. Using mobile VR makes this possible, as it requires virtually no set up or training to navigate and can be referenced several times during your presentation.

For the record, we also remove all the straps from our headsets at Yulio – which removes client fears of feeling foolish or nauseous trapped inside the technology and helps enable this idea of popping in and out.





 

Presenting with VR: Don’t let the technology do the talking

When you take your clients into VR, there’s a good chance they won’t have experienced it before, so let them revel in the novelty of it – how they can turn around and see what’s behind them.

But remember that it can be an isolating experience, so you’ll want to guide their gaze either with software tools in the VR presentation (like Yulio’s Collaborate feature) or with recorded voice if you’re not present (like our audio hotspot features). Another valuable way to create a social experience is to ensure the VR experience is also on a screen in the room so any participants not in the headset can see what’s going on.






Your client may be more vocal about their opinion, and that’s ok!

While you’re walking your client through the VR experience, it’s likely you’ll start to see the benefits of presenting with virtual reality early on. One key indicator is that you may get immediate feedback about the project you’re presenting. Your client may have opinions on the spot about what you’re presenting. Early adopter firms have told us they find clients have much more to say when they’re presented with VR designs vs. other formats, primarily because they have a greater understanding of where they are in your design, and its size and scale. They also report clients having a greater emotional attachment.


For more on this, see our case study with Diamond Schmitt architects and what happened when they started presenting with VR.


Be patient, and let the meeting happen naturally

After you’ve presented in VR a few times, you’ll also likely start to form your own pattern for which questions to ask. Will you let them roam around the space a bit? In our experience, the best presentations are those where you comfortable enough to let your time together roll out organically. They may want more time in VR than you’ve expected, and that’s ok. What’s exciting is that you will have a greater context to the feedback, understanding what your client was looking at when they expressed dislike for ‘that blue thing’ or wondered if the space felt “too big”.


Be prepared at the time to take notes for revisions to address. VR accelerates the decision-making process because people can react to it on the spot. You may no longer have to wait until the next meeting or email to move a design story forward.



With these tips, you can feel confident taking the steps towards presenting with VR. Just remember, like learning or using anything new, getting warmed up to it might take some time, and rehearsal and backups will make you better. Just know that you’re taking the necessary steps towards the future of design, and that’s an exciting step to take! So be proud of the progress you’ve had so far, and get excited about the work you’ll do in the future with the many possibilities that presenting with VR has.





Interested in VR? Sign up for our FREE 5-day email course to learn about the VR industry, or join us for a free training webinar, hosted every other Thursday at 1 PM EST by our Client Success Manager, Dana Warren – Grab your seat here.

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