How Developers and ISVs are Accelerating VR Adoption in the Enterprise | Facebook Connect 2020
- Hello, everyone, and welcome to our panel discussion. I'm Claudia Backus, and I lead enterprise and productivity partnerships for Facebook Reality Labs. Our team works with enterprise developers and ISVs to bring VR applications to businesses around the world. And now I'd like to introduce our three panelists.
First up, I'd like to introduce Jacob Loewenstein. Jacob is head of business for Spatial, where he leads partnership, sales, and marketing. He came to Spatial from Samsung Next, where he led AR and VR investments in New York City.
Next up, I'd like to introduce Justin Barad. Justin Barad is the CEO of Osso VR. He's a former amateur game developer turned Harvard-trained orthopedic surgeon. Because of the problems that he was seeing in how we train surgeons and health-care professionals, he cofounded the surgical training platform Osso VR. And last but certainly not least, I'd like to introduce Kyle Jackson.
Kyle is the CEO of Tailspin. He brings a unique ecosystem perspective to our panel as a serial entrepreneur who has built companies in media, entertainment, enterprise hardware, and SAS prior to founding Tailspin. Welcome to all of you. Thank you for being on our panel.
I'm really glad to have you here today to share your unique perspectives and experiences in our discussion. - Great to be here. - Thank you.
But before we actually start our panel discussion, I'd like to share a few key trends that we're seeing in the VR ecosystem. The opportunity for VR in the enterprise has not shown any sign of slowing down, and enterprise developers and ISVs like you are helping drive this momentum. When we launched the Oculus Independent Software Vendor Program at Oculus Connect 6 last year, we had two key goals in mind.
First, we wanted to help enterprise customers find VR applications. And, secondly and most importantly, we wanted to help you, our VR solution providers, grow your business by connecting you with our enterprise customers. Now one year later, over 600 ISVs have joined us in the program, and we're very excited about the progress that we have seen so far. I'd also like to share some emerging trends in the ecosystem that we see with application development. Compared to a year ago, customers are coming to the table with a better understanding of how VR can meet their business needs, and they're realizing the value of working with ISVs.
The first trend that we see is the shift from custom to off-the-shelf applications. We know that most customers don't have Unity or Unreal development skills in-house, so the cost of engaging with a developer to create a single, custom VR application can be a real blocker for them. So as demand for VR accelerates, we see developers creating more scalable, off-the-shelf applications which can deliver unique value for many different kinds of customers. The second trend that we see is the emergence of new-use cases. Immersive training has been a fantastic entry point for many early adopters.
However, with remote work becoming the new norm, customers are looking for new ways to deploy VR to increase collaboration and employee productivity. And, finally, in order to deliver value and make VR a differentiator against traditional practices, ISVs are leaning into their specialized knowledge of their vertical industry segments to create and deliver more targeted applications for their customers. Though we don't know what the new normal may look like for us or our businesses in a post-COVID world, we do see some important changes happening in the deployment and business models for VR applications. First, due to concerns over hygiene and a need to remain productive as we shelter in place, headsets can no longer easily be shared amongst employees. These issues are leading us to consider one-to-one usage models that are opening up the world of VR applications to individual knowledge workers across many enterprises.
Secondly, because of physical distancing, the days of white-gloving headset deployments may be over. Our customers are expecting their VR experiences to work out of the box, and we all need to think about how we can lower the friction of provisioning application distribution as well as headset deployment. And, finally, VR is not just for training anymore. Companies want to be able to provide access to all their employees to maximize their IRIs, increase collaboration, and workforce productivity. We know that deploying VR solutions in the enterprise is a very different business than selling and marketing your applications to consumers. VR for work is possible today, so we remain committed to continuing to invest in the ecosystem to support you.
To this end, today we announced Quest 2, a new product that builds off the momentum of Quest and makes it even better and more affordable. With a high-resolution display faster processing than Quest, text is more crisp, complex models and experiences load much faster, and more people can collaborate in your VR sessions. Today we also introduced business release channels, a new Oculus for Business feature that makes it easier to distribute your applications in enterprise environments, and, finally, we're providing new ways for you to be discovered with the Oculus ISV directory. If you have qualified for the ISV program, you'll have the opportunity to be listed on this new website.
And now with this additional context, I'd love to kick off our panel discussion. So my first question is to all panelists. I'd like to ask each of you to spend just a few minutes to tell your story. How and why did you become involved in this VR technology? Did you choose this path, or did it choose you? I'd like to start with Justin.
- Thanks, Claudia. It's been an interesting journey into the world of VR, and I actually started in video game development and being very passionate about computer science and developing games when a family member suddenly became ill. And it got me wondering if there was a way to use software and technology not just for entertainment but to help people. So I pivoted from gaming to health care with the goal to invent health-care technology, but I didn't know how to get started with invention and innovation. So a mentor told me, "If you want to invent something, "you need to understand the problem you're trying to solve first." And he felt that the best way to understand medical problems was to be a doctor.
So that led me to attend UCLA for medical school, and then I stayed there to do my orthopedic surgery training, which I completed. And it was really during my training that I experienced the problem firsthand that I felt was one of the biggest problems health care is facing today, which is how we train our health-care professionals in their technical skills, and it was around this time that I was still very involved in gaming and encountered VR. I put on the Oculus DK1, and immediately I was like, "This is gonna solve this problem." You can use it anytime and anywhere. You could train on any procedure.
You can use your hands in a realistic way. You can train remotely, or you can train as a team, and you could get objective assessment, and that's how Osso VR was born. - Thank you, Justin.
I would love to hear from Kyle next. - Awesome. So thanks for having me. This path definitely chose me.
So, as Claudia mentioned, I had built four prior companies in the media and entertainment space, and they were across software, hardware, services, and content, and so the intersection of those four different businesses really opened my eyes up to, like, ecosystem development and the impact of standards and workflows and other distribution models and things like that that really add up to form a new ecosystem. And so it was that journey that eventually led into virtual production and computer vision, a lot of the things that I was involved with prior to being pulled into VR in 2015, and as I was exploring those other technologies-- machine learning and the computer vision and AI side of things-- there was one thing that really kind of hit me, you know, most about it, which was the level of disruption that was gonna come to the workplace and how little people were talking about that in 2012 and 2013. And so, for a period of time, I was living a very dual life, where I was looking at those emerging spaces and still solving very media-centric problems. And it became apparent that maybe this technology could be part of that new backbone and that new ecosystem for how we, you know, empower people as jobs change and as skills, requirements rapidly change. So it was kind of that hypothesis that we started Tailspin.
We've been building a platform, and now, more recently, this last year, off-the-shelf solutions to help kind of put a new backbone behind this concept of skills mobility and really what, you know, is gonna become a growing trend and need for reskilling and for us to be able to explore new opportunities as, you know, the nature of work changes. So we're five years in, and it's been quite the ride. - Jacob, love to hear from you next.
- Totally. So it's so great to be here. I guess I would have to say that VR and I both fell madly in love with each other, but it really wasn't supposed to be this way. You know, for most of my life, I had zero exposure to VR.
I think I tried a Virtual Boy once, and maybe seen it on a rerun of "Murder, She Wrote," and that was about it. And I was supposed to be a chemical engineer. That's what I applied to university to do. And I had a sort of big epiphany early on in college that said, "You don't want to sit in a lab all day"-- although shoutout to the people that do-- but instead I became really, really passionate about the intersection of media and technology. I felt that really interesting things were happening in terms of how the information people consume was shaping how they see the world and how they perceive their own reality.
And after sort of an initial stop in my career working in finance, I found myself as a relatively early employee at Buzzfeed who, at that time, was really disrupting a lot that was going on in digital media. And I found myself, you know, really interested in what was coming next because I found that there were these innovations in terms of how media was distributed, but I thought the way that things were gonna be fundamentally represented and communicated would also change, and when Facebook decided to acquire Oculus, something went off in my head. I saw the story.
You know, I had this rush of vision where it kind of all made sense to me all of a sudden, and I never really looked back. So, from then on, I ended up going to MIT for grad school, where I was so passionate about it that I founded MIT's overarching VR/AR group and cofounded the media lab's VR/AR Hackathon. That led me to Samsung Next, where, as you mentioned, I focused on investing in the VR and AR space out of the New York office, and we met these two incredible entrepreneurs, Anand Agarawala and Jinha Lee, our CEO and Chief Product Officer, and decided to invest in them when Spatial was really just a very simple idea in a very early stage, and it's a rare opportunity where, as an investor, you get to roll up your sleeves and work so closely with two people like that. But it became immediately obvious to me that one of the really profound areas, as Kyle talked about, that was about to be disrupted by VR was how we work and how we share information and how we collaborate with other people and how we connect and share our lives with other people throughout the day. And as Spatial evolved to address that problem, this problem of being distributed around the world and feeling alienated and feeling friction in how we be together, more and more just fit into place and started to make sense. And so joined Spatial officially full-time, crossing over from investor to Head of Business in 2018.
And since then, we've evolved from coming out of stealth to being an enterprise company focused on working with some of the biggest companies in the world to now offering Spatial even for free to small, medium businesses and regular users that just want to use this to meet with their family member or their worker or whoever it is, because no matter who you are, feeling close to other people and being able to collaborate with them is a universal problem. - Thanks, Jacob. I love how your stories, the three of you, are so unique and different and how your relationship with VR just started from such a different point of view. That's just great. So the past year has been quite something. I don't even know if I can really define what that something really means.
It's so hard to even think about it. I would love to know how the pandemic and what's happened in the past few months has impacted both your business, as well as how you think about your relationship with your customers and what you're hearing from your customers. And I would love to start with Kyle, and then we'll follow up with Jacob and Justin. - Yeah, it's been a pretty drastic effect-- not surprising. I think there's two pieces for that in terms of what we're seeing. So there's first the problem that we're actually working on, which was this concept of reskilling and the time horizon of, you know, work changing for roughly, you know, a billion people is what the World Economic Forum set out to say in January, and then, you know, by June, you know, we were talking about 300 million people being affected inside of 12 months, so you're talking 30% inside of the first 12 months instead of 10 years.
So that timeline got really aggressive for, you know, solving the problem about helping people to find new opportunity. So, for us personally, you know, as Tailspin, that's a huge challenge and responsibility that we're really trying to step up and do what we can to help there. As a broader, like, enterprise perspective, I think it's been drastic as well because we've seen, you know, the conversation go from very kind of, you know, interested and curious to-- and generally pushed aside as a, "That's cool, we'll try it. And let's keep it in a small bucket"-- to conversations where, you know, the inbound has conviction instead of just the outbound, right? Like, we've all been part of the outbound, where we have conviction for years, but to actually have your customers, you know, new customers come in and all of a sudden be viewing this space as one of the potential solutions to a number of problems, from, you know, as Jacob was talking about, collaboration to the problem we're working on to what Justin's working on and other people are working on, I just think overnight that that conviction is there, and now people are asking for a different scale of problem to be solved, right? It's no longer just an introductory problem.
We like to call it a program-level problem, which is we want to look at whole tracts of things to try to figure out how to transform to a new model, and with that comes a lot of other challenges and responsibilities of course. So, it, I think, holistically, has been a several-year acceleration in the ecosystem and presents a whole new host of problems for us to have to solve. - Jacob, what's your perspective? - Sure, well, shocker of the century-- as a remote collaboration company, who would've thought that COVID, with everyone working from home, was gonna go and change the way that people collaborate remotely, but we basically went from one day in February, you know, being very focused on this problem of connecting offices, thinking about this as, like, a five-year trend of increasingly distributed work to having that five-year trend accelerate in a month to the extent where, without exaggeration, the entire world was working from home. I mean, the magnitude of it-- we're numb to it when we talk about it now, but putting it in perspective is jaw-dropping, right? It's probably, like, the most rapid change in how people work, like, maybe ever and certainly in the last 100 years, and it just happened, and we lived through it. And so, from us, it necessitated a radical change in our strategy.
You know, before COVID, we had a very top-down approach where we would really work very hands-on with each and every one of these Fortune 1,000 companies that we work with, and that worked really, really well, but the demand surged so much because of COVID that that no longer was feasible, you know, by the end of March, and we couldn't give that sort of attention to every customer that was knocking on our, you know, virtual door, so to speak. And so we pivoted to what we would call a bottoms-up or product-first approach, right? And what this meant was that we removed all the barriers that were preventing people from using Spatial on their own. We completely redesigned the product to be much, much more accessible and easy to use to people that didn't have someone teaching them to use it, and then we offered a free version, right? And what we said is, "Okay, you know what? "The world can use this, "and now we're gonna alter our business model "to just focus on-- "you know, once folks have proven it, "used it, and are ready to go "and scale the deployment even more, "that's where we're, you know, willing to grab your hand and help take you, you know, to the next level of scale." And so it's been fabulous, and, you know, we're honored to be able to help a lot of folks who are struggling with this feeling of isolation during this hard time.
And I'll echo a little bit of what Kyle said, which is, you know, before COVID, we had a lot of folks at a lot of companies who knew about VR and were interested, but going from knowing about it to being ready to deploy overnight was pretty wild. Going from working with some middle management to finding that, without exaggeration, each and every one of our biggest customers has engaged their C-level in this project goes to show you the profound impact that VR can have and how important the problems that it's solving are to the companies that we're working with. - Thank you. So, Justin, given that this pandemic really has to do with our health, I cannot imagine that you haven't seen a huge change in the way you're thinking about, you know, your focus on health care with your platform.
So I'd love to hear your perspective. - Yeah, I mean, I don't think there's enough time to discuss, you know, all of the many ways that, you know, health care is being affected, so I'll try and keep this focused on, really, two areas. One is when it comes to health-care professionals in training, so residents and fellows-- these are people that are practicing but learning to become surgeons or physicians, and early on in the pandemic, elective cases just went to zero. And, basically, these residents were getting no experience whatsoever when we're already facing a shortage of providers, and there's a lot of concern.
So we saw huge outreach and interest in Osso VR so that residents could continue to practice and wouldn't miss out on valuable training time. On the other hand, we're also working with the medical device and technology industry, and, for them, training is the lifeblood of new medical technologies. These newer techniques, like robotics and minimally invasive approaches that are coming out all the time, as a surgeon, you need to learn how to use them, and the way that we learned to use them was to get together in huge groups of hundreds or thousands of people and practice on plastic models or donated bodies, but that's really no longer an option. And so there was a general feeling that people who had made the investment in VR, once the pandemic hit, like, felt really good about that decision and wanted to make a bigger investment, and people who hadn't yet made that investment, you know, I think a lot like Jake and Kyle are alluding to, were like, "Okay, now's the time." And we had customers who literally a month beforehand had spoken with their leadership team and said-- given a presentation-- "Here's why we won't use VR."
And then they tell us a month later-- they told us that they gave that presentation. "Here we are talking to you." That's how big the need is. And I think right now we're trying to get through this, which is, you know, the inter-COVID era. We can't get people physically together very easily, and so how do we train individuals to do these complex procedures safely? But I think what people are really thinking about is, what is after this, whenever that is? What is the new normal? And I think that goes beyond health care. Does everything go back to the way it was before? Does it stay this way forever, or is it some sort of mix of it? And I think people are trying to prepare for any variety of scenarios in the future, and they're starting to look at, how can I support a more remote workforce with something like Spatial? How can I train up my workforce very quickly so I can scale and scale down as necessary, which is just the world we live in? And then how can I train my customers in these very complex medical technologies that patients need so badly, but they need to receive it safely? So that's kind of the dynamic we're seeing in the space at the moment.
- Thanks. That's a great perspective on the health-care focus. I'm curious--I know we don't have a crystal ball, and we certainly cannot predict what the new normal really looks like, but maybe you are already thinking about what we need to stop doing and what we need to start doing more of as a result of where we find ourselves today. So I'd love to get your perspective, Jacob.
- Totally. I mean, not that I'm a negative person, but I will start with what we should stop doing just 'cause I have an idea of it, which is I really do think that, when the opportunity is this real, focus is everything, and part of focus is the ability to understand what you're good at and what you're not good at and recognizing that you can't do everything. And I would say that, like, a very key philosophical approach of Spatial is to say that, like, we can't do everything, right? Like, we're not gonna build the headset. There's amazing companies like Facebook that do that.
And so it's all about finding the right partnerships that enable you to focus on what you do best and leave other problems to other experts that do that best. And, you know, I think it's a true story, right? Like, I know both these guys now for years. I mean, I sat for lunch with Kyle.
Justin and I literally had pizza back in Boston in 2015 days, like, at meetups. Like, the community is everything in making VR actually happen, and so what I would say is, like, we all need to stand on each other's shoulders. I mean, this is, like, a carnival image-- we're all kind of building the pyramid-- but it's true, and so you just need to figure out where in that pyramid you need to set yourself up, because if you want to be the entire pyramid yourself, you're gonna wind up doing nothing, but if you find that area to really focus whether, you know, it's training with soft skills or whether it's medical training or whether it's collaboration, you know, then you could work with other companies and help with some of the infrastructure, or you can partner with other companies that help you reach certain customers that you couldn't reach before. But having the broadness of vision to see how the pieces fit together will allow you to focus, and that will allow you to be successful. - Kyle... maybe you can focus on what we can start doing more of.
[chuckles] - Yeah, well, and it really harkens back to a lot of what I saw happen once before, right? Which is when we watched, you know, the media and entertainment space go from analog to digital and then from digital-- or from physical distribution to digital distribution-- two massive changes-- there was all of these downstream economies that happened, you know, what seemed like overnight, but they were really over years, and there was opportunities for a lot of people to, like, try things and fail, and there was the benefit of time, right? And we saw a similar thing with, I think, the early mobile app days, and I think we need to think about this as, like, that time has passed, you know? Like, now we're at the doorstep of really having to solve really big problems with this technology and on a timeline that's more aggressive than we've seen in some of those other transitions. And so, you know, focusing on standardization, focusing on repeatability in terms of the way you produce--in our case-- produce content, right? We have a never-ending sea of hard-skills and soft-skills training problems, and if we take a constant innovator's approach to that without setting on some standards and then iterating over time, you just create this really complicated mess inside the enterprise world in which they can't understand how to adopt a technology. And so I think we're really at the point in time where we have to focus on some of those more important and sometimes less sexy pieces, which is really, you know, kind of the plumbing of what's gonna basically scale this thing up. And, you know, we've seen the headset distribution and some of the other app distribution work that Oculus has been doing, and that's a huge piece of it, but just as much is all the work that we all do in terms of what goes into a collaborative experience and how easy is it to get in there. You know, what are our standards for measurement? What are our standards for, you know, content production? And all that is gonna basically need to happen, you know, relatively overnight to meet the challenge.
So I think focus on those things. - Great, so we're getting close to the end of our conversation, so I would love to end with a final question for each of you to get your final thoughts in terms of where we go from here. So we have a couple minutes.
I'd love to start with Justin and then Kyle and then Jacob. - Well, I think, you know, where we need to go is forward. I think the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.
The second best time to plant a tree is today. So, you know, these problems are never going away, and you need to start working on them now because it's not just picking the right partner and the right technology. There's expertise that you need to develop internally, and that will take time, and waiting will take a longer time total to get to where you need to go, and I think what we can start doing today is to look at this technology less as, you know, one headset, one application, but as a really, like Jacob says, a community, and there is an ecosystem of applications that Oculus for Business brings to the table that really creates a beautiful value picture for a large enterprise organization that can address the needs of communication and collaboration, of training for technical skills or soft skills, and all sorts of other interesting applications that are popping up all the time. So I really think the time to invest is now.
The problems have never been bigger, and there's never been a solution like this for some of these challenges. - Kyle, your final thoughts? - Yeah, I think we have to realize that this is no longer a trial run, right? Like, we're now solving, you know, some of society's biggest problems, and we actually have the capability and technology sitting right in front of our faces to do it. And the last five years, we've all had the permission to be more in the POC or a trial-run phase, which came with great benefits and a lot of fun and a lot of great learnings, but now, you know, we have real problems to solve, and we need to start taking that responsibility, I think, more seriously. And that takes on a number of different responsibilities in terms of communicating collectively as a group and as a community as to the benefits so that we can help customers and businesses understand the overall ROI of this.
And so, again, standardization, unification, community building, those are the things that are gonna basically shoot this from, you know, the early days that we've all been a part of to, you know, being another major platform that people depend on throughout their days. - Totally. I couldn't agree more. And last, just very quickly, right? Like, it's all about the people. And so I think, like, the thread through everything we're working on, right, is we're trying to use VR to help people and either better prepare them, to better train them, to better enable them to work with each other, but people are at the center of it, right? We're trying to design experiences that work for people, and so that means that it was more difficult a couple years ago. You know, the scale of VR usage wasn't as big, but now you have many users that you could talk to and test with and learn from.
You have a whole wide community of people that are all working on this that can share best practices together, so talk to your users, talk to your community, and make sure all that information flows, because if we keep that piping working beautifully, it's gonna accelerate the whole industry to take advantage and to tackle this perfect timing that Kyle and Justin both talked about, so let's do it. - I love it. I love the common theme around building community. Thank you so much.
So we're at the end of our panel, so I would like to, first of all, thank you again to the panelists for taking the time to participate in this great discussion. And to our audience also, thank you for joining us. I hope with what you have learned here today, you will be inspired to join us in building and delivering great VR applications in the workplace to businesses around the world.