Bringing VR and AR to the Enterprise: A Conversation with Handsome’s New EVP
Jeremy Kidd, co-founder and former CEO of Banjo Digital, recently joined Handsome’s leadership team as our new EVP of Development and Client Services. Jeremy recently sat down with Handsome Co-Founder and Technical Director, Alexander Zub, to talk about his experience with enterprise software, the future of augmented and virtual reality, and the ethical dilemma this emerging tech can create if we’re not careful.
AZ: Outside of entertainment, what industries have the greatest needs for AR/VR applications?
JK: Every organization found out they could leverage mobile when it reached critical mass. But, what I see as the tip of the spear for the enterprise market is training and simulation. For anything that’s costly, for anything that’s dangerous, for anything that’s inaccessible, let’s put someone through a simulation first. The other area right now where people have a need and budgets exist for this tech is in marketing. We even have a term “VR for PR.” It sounds negative, but an activation that you experience when you put on a headset is incredibly powerful.
AZ: How would you describe the biggest differences in what companies are looking for when they’re choosing an agency to work with?
JK: I naively walked into this a few years ago and said, “Hey, this is just a new platform for a new kind of app.” But, it’s much more akin to scripting a movie than it is to building a traditional application. Things like scripts and storyboards become key. So, the question becomes: how do we take the multi-dimensional experiences of gaming and entertainment and marry them with traditional digital capabilities to bring data and integrations into an immersive experience? This is what will define the future of digital experiences.
AZ: What would you describe as being the most difficult aspect of creating an excellent experience?
JK: The difficulty with creating an AR/VR experience for an enterprise customer is that the person involved has already developed a mental model of the experience. Imagine having a product owner, a designer, an artist, and a business person in a room describing an immersive experience. Everyone will describe how they see it and how the user will experience it from their perspective. But in reality, the concept that’s in your head and that’s in my head is completely different. Aligning customer expectations with what we’re producing requires extraordinary upfront communication and new ways of sharing early prototypes — wireframes and key screens can’t communicate these types of experiences.
AZ: What do you think will be the adoption phases of VR and AR — and how will they become a part of our everyday life?
JK: What we are talking here is very computationally expensive — relatively speaking — and, as a result, is driving a slower adoption curve than some other recent technology advances. It takes an incredibly powerful PC and, specifically, GPU to bring premiere experiences to life, yet already, in millions of peoples’ hands today are platforms that can now run AR and light-weight VR applications. It will happen incredibly fast after we reach mass-market, after everyone has headsets where they can have these kinds of experiences on a daily basis.
AZ: What has been your approach to augmented reality? Where do you think is the market for augmented reality right now, and where do you think it is going?
JK: The market is divided into two categories. The first is head-mounted display (HMD) augmented reality, and the second is mobile or tablet-based augmented reality. For head-mounted displays, the majority of what is in production-use today is 2D, and the ability to take 3D into production-use is still 12 to 24 months out. However, mobile-based AR is driving value today and opening new business models for folks like PLNAR — an early customer of Banjo’s. I still don’t think we’ve figured out where the key future areas of value are. The truth is that it always happens twice as slowly as you hope it’s going to, but the days of the 2D digital device are numbered. AR is going to be, at the very least, a component of almost all digital experiences, if not the core of every digital experience.
AZ: What is your opinion on the cautionary tales regarding AR/VR that we see in television and literature?
JK: As product designers, we should definitely be thoughtful and aware of the invasive power these platforms give us. From an ethical point of view, it is our responsibility to think about how to use this technology appropriately. It’s one thing to show you a piece of propaganda in still or video form that attempts to inform your opinion. It is a completely different thing to immerse you in an environment and use your own empathy to inform that opinion. If I want you to donate to a cause and I immerse you in, let’s say, post-earthquake Haiti, I could very effectively manipulate what you think and feel based on my choices as an experience designer. So, two things. First, we have a responsibility as ethical product designers to use that power in a responsible way, and then second, to disclose that transparently.
It is a privilege to welcome Jeremy to Handsome’s leadership team, where his breadth of knowledge is already having an impact on the accelerated growth of our agency. We’re looking forward to sharing more of his insights around AR, VR, and other emerging technology.
Handsome is an Austin-based holistic experience design agency.
In partnership with our clients, we create deeply connected brands, services and products that enable powerful relationships between businesses and people. From research and strategy to design and implementation, clients like FedEx, Audi, Nickelodeon, AMC, Facebook and Keller Williams trust us with the ongoing transformation of their brands and businesses.