Robert Scoble Interview

robertscoble_uploadvr

“Mixed reality iPhone will be a Big Bang for the industry”

Robert Scoble is one of the greatest tech influencers in the world of VR and AR. The author of The Fourth Transformation: How Augmented Reality & Artificial Intelligence Will Change Everything” gave an *exclusive interview to SuperToast where he shared his insights into what the future holds. We hope it will give you relevant leads on how to innovate using VR/AR/mixed reality.

You’re an Entrepreneur in Residence at Upload VR. What can you tell about this experience? How is it going?

That’s going very well. Upload VR is a media company that covers immersive media space, which includes virtual reality and augmented reality. It is, probably, the best media company that covers this space exclusively. I work inside the co-working space where they have 43 startups, so I get to see a lot of people everyday that are doing mind-blowing things and it gives me insights into where the future is going, that other people don’t have because they’re not able to see this kind of stuff in person.

In your opinion, what are the most promising startups incubated there and why?

I don’t think about it in that away. Augmented reality glasses are coming and Apple is shipping a new iPhone that does mixed reality – or this next generation augmented reality – in September. A lot of things will happen this year and I expect to see 10 to 15 new brands pop up into this scene. We don’t know yet which ones will be the most important ones. It’s unfair to ask for one startup because this field is a damn mind-blow.

You can put someone in Microsoft’s HoloLens and let them watch aliens coming out of the walls and it’s absolutely mind-blowing. If you ask me if it is going to be a commercial success, I have no idea, but it’s mind-blowing to play it. First, we should talk about what it does and why this space is interesting.

A lot of things will happen this year and I expect to see 10 to 15 news brands pop up into this scene. We don’t know yet which ones will be the most important ones.

VR and augmented reality are two emerging technologies that have long held the promise of moving beyond gaming and meet the business world. In your point of view, what will be the major impacts of these technologies across different industries?

VR, actually, started in business first. Disneyland’s new theme park in China was designed in virtual reality and Ford uses VR to design cars in their R&D lab in Silicon Valley.

This stuff has been used in business for a long time. What we are talking about and why this space is interesting is because these technologies are about to go to consumers and we know that when you over-index on business you lose, but when you over-index on consumers you win. Microsoft thought that enterprise was all that mattered to selling mobile phones and turned out to be absolutely false, that the consumer brings their favorite device to work.

Could you give more examples?

There are some specialized use cases. One of the startups that I work with is building augmented reality for PACCAR. They are building an augmented reality app for their employees and for the customers of these trucks that is saving millions of dollars per year. You can point at one of those things and say “Oh my God, look at the business that’s happening here” but the really interesting stuff is gonna be when the consumer gets this and uses it for everything. There, we gonna see a real shift in society.

You can point at one of those things and say “Oh my God, look at the business that’s happening here” but the really interesting stuff is gonna be when the consumer gets this and uses it for everything. There, we gonna see a real shift in society.

What will the future look like?

In 3 years you gonna be wearing some glasses – small glasses, not the big, ugly ones, like HoloLens or Meta’s glasses, right now – that gonna give you certain things right away. For one, you’re gonna get as many virtualized screens as you need. So, instead of buying another thousand dollars’ screen, you can open up a virtual screen with your hands and have another screen for free. On my HoloLens I have 5 virtual screens sitting in my desk, in front of me and I have a physical keyboard that I type on.

Then it starts mapping your room and you can play a game like Fragments that gonna put a murder mystery in your room. I can also put things around me that let me work. My friends and I have set up video links so we can have almost 3D video going back and we just click with our finger in the air to make a call, and on, and on. There are a lot of things coming for this, but it really hasn’t arrived yet.

What we’re talking about is coming. The iPhone that does mixed reality – this new style of augmented reality – is coming in 9 months. That’s what we should be talking about, that’s a Big Bang, that’s gonna change the industry and will give consumers all sorts of new capabilities that they are not able to do today.

So…do you think that mobile will be the first platform to get scale in mixed reality?

Yeah, beacuse everybody needs to buy an iPhone or an Android phone. Nobody needs to buy a Magic Leap device or a HoloLens device. I think we will need more 4/5 years, but today, if you have a thousand dollars gadget budget for your family, you’re gonna put that in your phone. You’re gonna buy a better phone if yours is old and crapping. This year a clear iPhone is coming out with a really high-end 3D sensor and it’s gonna do new things that are completely impossible with your old phone, things like virtual reality and this next generation of augmented reality which is quiet stunning.

This year a clear iPhone is coming out with a really high-end 3D sensor and it’s gonna do new things that are completely impossible with your old phone, things like virtual reality and this next generation of augmented reality which is quiet stunning.

Facebook has unveiled a new social virtual reality experience with Oculus Rift. What are your thoughts on this new kind of social interactions fostered by virtual reality?

In this case we are talking about social VR, which walk with you. It can be something that looks like a hotel room, a field, a nightclub kind of thing and then, you’re talking with other people, or playing with them, or shooting them, or playing basketball against them, etc. Facebook is pretty fun. I don’t know if Facebook wins but they are aiming at the right thing. The act of using VR instead of being at Facebook is very fun, very social, and very interactive. Zuckerberg sees that this is going to take minutes away from the old style Facebook, and the old style Instagram, and is moving into putting on a headset and playing with other people or working with other people.

I think that what Facebook is doing is stunning – it is absolutely fun. I just don’t know if it wins in the marketplace because there is competitors – High Fidelity, Linden Lab with Sansar platform that are coming next year, Altspace VR and a few other that are in social VR space. And then, there’s a whole raft of things that you can do with other people, there’s a social component. It’s stunning to be in here. 

And this opens a lot of opportunities in the education field, for instance…

Yes, mixed reality is the best education technology humans have ever invented. They are already using it in Caterpillar to teach people how to fix a million dollar tractor. So this is gonna be quiet interesting for education.

Let’s say the 2 of us were wearing either HoloLens or using the new iPhone. We were able to see a virtual heart if we were learning biology; an atom, if we were learning chemistry, we would see it in 3D and we would be able to touch it with our hands, move it, make it bigger, and it could move in reaction either to the environment or us. It’s a way to learn faster. You gotta learn faster to stay ahead of the automation that’s coming for our jobs. If you’re a truck driver right now, you know that within a decade, your job is gonna start going away. You don’t wanna be in that job for more than 10 years so you better start learning something else to do in your life, something that’ll put food on your family’s table.

This mixed reality glasses is gonna be the way to do that but it’ll take a couple of years before it’s out and before all the software that I am seeing in development to afford a new kind of education plan before that becomes obvious that’s the way to go. It will take a year to get it, to see it, to understand the power, and then the software engineers will gonna need a couple more years to start building interesting things for education.

(…) Mixed reality is the best education technology humans have ever invented. It can be used to teach people how to fix a million dollar tractor. So this is gonna be quiet interesting for education.

Microsoft, Magic Leap, Meta and Google are some of the companies that are working on these technologies. Will mixed reality be the next big thing?

It is definitely the next big thing for 2017 and Apple is gonna be the big tech story unless our political system becomes an even bigger story and disrupts Apple’s plans – I hope that doesn’t happen. Donald Trump is so unpredictable and seems, likely, to do things that could dramatically alter the world. I don’t know that any such thing might be aimed at Apple specifically but I can see a bunch of things that Trump might do that would dramatically alter Apple’s position in the world. If a trade war with China starts, it might be very hard to get one of those new iPhones made. But as it looks right know, Apple is gonna be, by far, the biggest story of the year, and that’s gonna drive a whole lot of product introductions and a whole lot of marketers who gonna have to position new products against Apple.

Mixed reality is definitely the next big thing for 2017 and Apple is gonna be, by far, the biggest story of the year, and that’s gonna drive a whole lot of product introductions and a whole lot of marketers who gonna have to position new products against Apple.

Elon Musk claimed that we are living in a matrix-style simulation. Do you think that we’ll be living in a mixed reality world inside this computer simulation that Elon talked about? How do you foresee the years ahead?

Yes! What we are doing with mixed reality glasses and its 6 technologies it’s a sensor that sensors your room and builds a new kind of database of your room. It’s an optic that puts virtual things on top of the real world. It’s an eye sensor, so your eyes gonna be able to control new kind of user interface. It’s a hand sensor so it sees your hands and you can gesture to it. It’s the new kind of speakers in your ears so it can bring new kinds of audio – both surround sound audio and a new kind of process sound. It’s a new kind of artificial intelligence that is gonna know what I am looking at – whether I am looking at a table, a wall, a ceiling or a floor, and it’s gonna be able to work with other systems to put virtual things on top of the surfaces. In one of the games I play, aliens come out of the wall; they drill through your wall and blow holes in your real wall. That’s mind-blowing stuff and what’s coming with these new glasses with these technologies on it.

Stephen Hawking claimed that black holes offer a way to another universe although talking to aliens could be dangerous. He also fears the consequences of artificial intelligence…of something that can match or surpass humans. What are your comments on that?

Ain’t my problem (laugh). That problem is not gonna play out until quantum computing arrives which is about 15 years away. And even then, I don’t believe it’s gonna completely do away with humans maybe for another 15/30 years after that – maybe even longer. I see this as an assistant technology that will take away jobs. The real question is what happens to the jobs and we don’t have a good answer to that. I believe that you gonna get retrained from your old job to your new job in mixed reality glasses themselves, because we can already trained somebody to work on a million dollar tractor with this glasses, or fix a jet engine. So you can train people to do a wide variety of things from welding, to cutting grass, to coding even all because the education technology is gonna be really good in this stuff.

It will take time to retrain people. You have to guarantee minimum incomes for the people hit by this and it will need a full approach from a variety of different angles but I think the mixed reality glasses will play a huge role. Our expectation is that this glasses are gonna show us sporting arenas, shopping malls, hotels while walking on parks…and we gonna create billions of jobs to make those experiences. It’s like Hollywood. Hollywood really didn’t exist a hundred years ago because there was no movie distribution, no TV distribution to make Hollywood possible and Hollywood would be much bigger because of mixed reality stuff.

It will take time to retrain people. You have to guarantee minimum incomes for the people hit by this [job automation] and it will need a full approach from a variety of different angles but I think the mixed reality glasses will play a huge role.

*The Portuguese version of this post could be reached here