Bert Nepveu is a co-founder of VRvana, which made a enterprise mixed reality headset that was acquired by Apple in 2017 and provided a number of key innovations that have now shipped with the Apple Vision Pro. I had a chance to sit down with Nepveu to capture a comprehensive founder’s journey from the beginning inspiration in 2005, the first prototype in 2013, the failed Kickstarter in 2014 after the Crescent Bay prototype at Oculus Connect 1 stole their thunder, and then their pivot into more enterprise applications of AR via mixed reality passthrough that eventually led to their acquisition by Apple that started at GDC 2017 and closed in September 2017, and then was leaked to TechCrunch in November 2017.
Nepveu was also able to talk about his experiences of working at Apple, the challenges of point-of-view correction to minimize warping for mixed reality, and how the multiple stakeholders of human interaction, industrial design, and secrecy dictated by legal departments ended up battling it out over a number of different design decisions.
Nepveu left Apple around three years ago to become a general partner of a VC firm called TripTyq Capital that is funding content creation innovations, and he didn’t know if the Apple Vision Pro would ever actually ship or if he’d ever be able to talk about his many aspects of his journey with VRvana. But now that it has finally launched, he’s able to speak more about his journey and why it was so emotional for him to finally get a chance to do a demo of the consumer release of the Apple Vision Pro last week.
Apple is notoriously secretive about so many technical details of their product development and business in general, and so this is a very unique and rare peak behind the scenes on a portion of the timeline for how the Apple Vision Pro came about through the lens of which parts of the VRvana mixed reality headset were able to be shipped with the Apple Vision Pro.
[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR Podcast. It's a podcast that looks at the future of spatial computing. You can support the podcast at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. So in today's episode, we're going to have a special inside look into the evolution of what ended up becoming the Apple Vision Pro. Bert Never is the co-founder of Vervana, which was sold to Apple in 2017, but he actually started this back in 2005 with the aspirations to become a VR gaming headset. So this is a good seven years before the Oculus Kickstarter had launched and It wasn't until 2013 that Vervana was able to create their first prototype. They had a Kickstarter that happened right around the time of Oculus Connect 1, but then with the Crystal Cove prototype that was being shown there, their Kickstarter flatlined and they ended up having to do a pivot looking at the potentials of mixed reality. So then focusing a little bit more on the enterprise use cases. So they had a lot of really advanced mixed reality demos from 2016 to 2017 actually had a number of different clients And so Burt shares his overall entrepreneurial vision and journey where he wanted to take the company public but given that at the time so many other venture capitalist firms had already invested and made their bets and different hardware companies and they end up having to bootstrap themselves and talk to a number of different companies that were competing with Facebook, one of which was Apple. That started the conversation in 2016, and then at GDC 2017, the deal had started and then wasn't finalized until around September 2017. And then that information leaked out to TechCrunch in November of 2017. So Bert shares with us the whole journey of Nirvana up to the point of acquisition and also shares a bit of what he was working on in Apple and some of the culture clashes of being a really rebellious, open, independent hacker mindset all within the context of Apple's a lot more rigid and secretive culture. So a lot of really interesting insights into the technological story of how the Apple Vision Pro developed. So it's some of the deepest looks that I've had so far into some of the nuances of the technical developments of the Apple Vision Pro. and perhaps maybe not really ever get anything more detailed than this because Apple is very secretive and doesn't really give a lot of interviews like this talking about the technological evolution of some of their products. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Bert happened on Friday, February 4th, 2024. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.
[00:02:40.298] Bert Nepveu: I'm Bert Never. I was a startup founder, started Vervana, and I was called True Player in 2005, way too soon. I was passionate about gaming, wanted to play my games in VR, so started with the announcement of the Xbox 360 in 2005, and I said, well, KCAS NVIDIA card in that, I think we'll be able to do VR with it. So that was the premise. And started in my basement, two people at the beginning, then we grew to 17 people. And then in 2017, we won best in show at CES. So it was kind of a long journey, but it's like Lego blocks. You need to start small and then you build up. And then after that, you look at it and you're like, wow, something else.
[00:03:36.052] Kent Bye: Great. And maybe you could give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into starting Vervana in 2005.
[00:03:42.116] Bert Nepveu: Sure. So I come from a, an entrepreneurial family, but in really, um, traditional business. So bleach some from Montreal. So Canada for people doesn't know where Montreal is. I come from the French-speaking province of Quebec. And in Quebec, La Parisienne, which is the brand of the bleach, is very well known. My grandfather started that. Unfortunately, I never met him. He died before I was born, but he was kind of the mythical grandfather where I was like, Oh, this is cool. You know, our family can enjoy nice things because of what he started. So I was raised in that. I was like, entrepreneurship is pretty cool, but I was a hardcore gamer. geek science lover technology gadget all that so for me like selling chemical products was not really something I was passionate about. So I went to do my engineering in Sherbrooke University, which is about an hour and a half from Montreal. And it's a co-op system. So you work while you study, a bit like Waterloo. So for people who know Waterloo, we're like the French Canadian equivalent of Waterloo. And I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I knew that I liked electronics and hardware and gadgets. I was like, I need good co-founders. I'm a computer engineer. I did firmware for most of my internship and my first job. So I knew I could do that part, but I was like, I need to find good co-founders. So I decided to go work at an hardware company that did frame grabbers. So we were capturing for industrial purposes, camera feeds and processing it on a PC with a specialized card called a frame grabber. So I was a test engineer at first. I learned quite a lot about all the different protocols and technology and all that. And after that, I saw like, okay, I kind of learned what I needed to learn. And I told myself, I know the geeky stuff engineering side, but even though I have a good sense of the business side, I think to do an MBA would be a good thing. So I went to do my MBA. And that's when the Xbox 360 got announced in end of 2004 when I was doing my MBA. So I started Vervana that was called True Player Gear back then because I was a gamer. So True Player Gear resonated more. And yeah, I approached a colleague from my old job and say, I want to do this VR set. Do you want to help me? So that's all it started, but, you know, it was very primitive at first. It was just like, okay, let's just take the feed from the Xbox and just display it on two screens and have an accelerometer to kind of know where you're going. But there were no, like imaging was not really big back then. No. So the only really screens I could find was Elkos based. and they were made for projectors. They were dissipating heat like crazy, so it came on an aluminium block. But, you know, we were able to display something. It was 16-bit, not even 24-bits. And the accelerometers were horrible. So, for people who don't know, like, if you wanna, if you don't know how much you move, you know, you need to do an integration of the acceleration. But they were so noisy that you would move just a little bit and they would go, like, crazy. So it started like that, but you know, each year there was a new technology block that made things better. Then we came along and then with better accelerometers. Then, for people to remember, there's the Wii Motion Plus. It was an add-on that added the gyroscope, so then you could have better spatial representation of where you are. It was like, oh, shit, how can I make the games 3D? Like, good luck for me going to see, like, Ubisoft or whatever and say, you need to make your game in stereo for me. But then the 3D TV came along, so that kind of solved that problem. And then I was like, yeah, the screens aren't big enough. You know, we need bigger screens because if you want a big field of view, you need bigger screens. Then the iPhone came with the retina displays that pushed that. So with the years, even though we started in 2005 and we got our first proof of concept in 2013, it took like eight years, you know, we were, acting shit, just like trying things, things were getting better. And in 2013, we had a kind of Splinter Cell look at set and we showed Avatar in it at CES to Ubisoft and MadCatz. And we had great, great response. We're like, OK, I think we finally got something. And then we tried to raise or precede with that with Angels. But Canada is very conservative, so people were like, VR? What's that? Like, is it going to happen? I'm like, well, there's a little startup in California called Oculus. They did a Kickstarter. They have big names, excited. It's going to happen. You should join now, or we're just going to lose a bit of the ad start we have. But anyway, I had to do a round with friends and family instead of angels. And then, um, Less than a year later, Oculus got bought for $3 billion. And then all the people who said it's not going to happen came back. So we raised a small seed round of three quarters of a million. We did a Kickstarter that failed, you know. In hindsight, it was a good thing it failed because it would have put us under a lot of pressure to deliver something that was not really what people wanted. But back then it was... Pico back, when we launched, it was the DK2 time. So the DK2, if I remember correctly, had a 720p resolution. So we launched Kickstarter with 1080p. We had inside out positional tracking instead of the cameras looking at you. So we had some cool added advantages, but what happened is we launched two days before Oculus Connect, the first one. So we did 100k the first day, which was really exciting. But then they showed their CV1 and then like, her campaign flatlined completely. But people were like, oh, you have cameras, this is exciting. Can you do AR? And I'm like, no, but it's a good idea. So we just raised our seed round. We were six or seven people, so the burn rate was pretty low. And we had more than a year runway. But I knew if we would keep our current architecture, we would just die slowly. So as I always do, I slept on it. And then I said to the team, you know, we need to go all in. We need to double the team, scrap everything and redesign everything for mixed reality in mind. Because back then, the camera feed were just internal. And we needed to be able, because back then it was PC of course, because mobile chipsets were not fast enough, but we needed to be able to bring back the camera feeds to the PC to do AR and everything. We went from this very simple architecture with this 8051 microcontroller that was programmed in C, I was doing it all myself, to Zynq FPGA that had an ARM FPGA running embedded Linux. So it was a much more ambitious project. So we doubled the team and we knew that our runway would be like less than six months. So it was my first dive in the abyss kind of moment. But even though it wasn't perfect, we pulled a little miracle. We were able to redo everything in five months. And we had a demo at E3. So we started the project in February and E3 was in June. So we showed our next generation at Set where you were able to do AR also. It wasn't great because back then we were still targeting gamers, so we didn't want to bomb costs too expensive. So we had like hybrid cameras where it was RGB and infrared, because we knew that we needed infrared for tracking and we needed RGB for AR. You know, where the geeks are there, you know, we were receiving less photons because some of them were for infrared. Then we had a filter and everything anyway. So it was like seeing the world through sunglasses. So it was impressive because it was low latency, it was wide field of view, but it was a bit too dark. So what we did is like with the new version, we were able to raise more money. It was already, I don't know, a couple of months that the co-founder didn't pay themselves. So we were really skin in the game, all in in that. And it was a little bit of money to do the next generation. And then for the next generation, we pivoted. So I was like, okay, if we can't have a minimal viable experience, with cheaper parts, let's go Lamborghini style, you know, best of breed. So we went with Sony industrial sensors that was like 10 times the cost. But we said, let's try it. And then that's kind of when the magic happened. When we did the new version, like the pass-through was super nice and the colors were great, the latency was great. And it was kind of with that that we won Best in Show at CES. We were also showing the transition between AR and PR. Back then, the standard was the Samsung, if people remember the Samsung Gear VR, it came with like a little controller on the side. I was like, it's not very intuitive. So I said, you know, I need something intuitive to control the headset because we had different modes. So we wanted a push button. So one of our mode was matrix mode. So we had an FPGA. So we could do on-board processing real-time. Since I'm a big Matrix fan, it's my favorite movie of all time, so I was like, wouldn't it be cool that you see the world in the Matrix with green contours and things like that? So one of our FPGA gurus said, yeah, sure, I can do a little hack and do that. So we had that mode. It was really cool. People from time to time still tell me about it. And then we also had LSD mode, just like having fun with the color table and just distorting things with colors. So we had that button to kind of switch the mode. And I was like, would be cool to be able to have like a transition from AR to VR, you know, so that when I came up with the idea of having a button that turns, so if you turn it towards you, You're in VR and if you turn it towards the world, you're in AR. So whatever demo that really impressed people was a virtual chopper. So I had an Xbox controller and you could fly a chopper in AR at first. So you fly it in your room and like a drone and you're like, oh, this is amazing. And then after that, you can like turn the button and then the chopper stays there, but then you're like in the mountains. So that was pretty cool. And I think one of the things I'm most proud of that still exists in the Vision Pro is that button. Of course now it's more like the watch, you know, they retook known things in the ecosystem, which totally made sense. But I was surprised if the first thing they ask us when we joined Apple was to patent that. Because when I demoed that to Johnny, I was really, really impressed by it. So it was kind of something that they wanted to protect. And since we were a poor startup, even though I was like, this is really cool. I decided not to patent it back then because we're really cash strapped. But yeah, that was kind of something interesting.
[00:17:27.742] Kent Bye: Wow. So that's a really comprehensive look back of your journey from starting in 2005 and then getting acquired by Apple in 2017. And so when you're all the way back in 2005 and launching the first prototype in 2013, I know that Oculus Kickstarter had launched in August of 2012 and they actually started shipping the DK one in the spring of 2013. And so When was the first time that you actually tried either some of the existing VR headsets or what was the attraction to VR? Cause at the time there was so much of VR was really super expensive. You know, there wasn't any consumer model up until from what the public was aware of with the Oculus Kickstarter and 2012. And of course you were working on the same vision. And so when did you actually get your eyes into different VR headsets?
[00:18:21.503] Bert Nepveu: I think the first seed was when I tried the Power Glove. I started gaming on the ColecoVision Donkey Kong. I'm 46. I look younger, but I started quite young. And after I did the NES, too much of it. Uh, but then I remember I went to, um, a store and tried a power glove and was like, wow, I was playing punch out with the power glove. I was like, wow. Like I could see the next step, just asset, you know? And then, yeah, unfortunately like the, the Sega VR didn't launch. And then the Nintendo one was horrible. Uh, yeah. Virtual boy. But you know, I was like, it's gonna happen one time and I'm gonna be excited. And then I remember I tried the Sony Glastron way back and I was like, yeah. I mean, it was still a small field of view back then. There was also a cyber cafe in Montreal, I remember that I'd like a VR headset. I was in high school, so maybe mid-90s. It was just little lines and it was a shooter kind of thing. And I was like, okay, we're still a long way to VR. But, you know, I learned a lot through video games. So through my son, I found out I'm dyslexic. So, you know, even though I did engineering and my MBA, I was never really a big fan of school, the curses and everything, the way to learn. So I think without knowing, you know, I learned a lot how the world works through video games. You know, video games are great simulators, like Civilization, whatever, you know. learning economics and resource and all that, you know. So I was like, this is something I'm passionate about. And yeah, when I remember I was working at my first job, and we were doing frame grabbers for cameras. And one of the setup was stereo cameras to capture on the production line products that were made and you could find EFS, whatever. And it was like, I went to see the VP of R&D and said, look, we have all the expertise to grab things. We just need to do the thing in reverse, you know, grab it and then show it. And he's like, yeah, well, we're an initial company. Like we won't do a VR headset. But it was already like into my mind that we should do that. And as I said, when Xbox 360 got announced for me, that was, okay, this is now. So that was kind of how it grew into my mind that I wanted like to be inside my video games and just like play to a flat screen. And then, yeah, it was more like now I need to build a team because hardware is hard and there's no way I can do this myself.
[00:21:24.270] Kent Bye: And so when was the first time that you tried like a professional headset then, like a headset that was super, super expensive?
[00:21:31.627] Bert Nepveu: I think it was the Imagen Z800. I remember at CES, so I've been to CES since 2005. And the Z800, I don't want to say stupid things, but it was 2010, I'm not sure. And we were already using some Imagen, like in early prototypes, we're using Imagen OLED displays. And then it was the first time I was like, okay, it's getting there. I see the potential, but imagine they don't know nothing about gaming, so they didn't design it the way I would do it. But, uh, I saw it was getting there. And of course, when I tried a DK one, you know, I was, I was a backer on their Kickstarter. And I remember, haha. Yeah, the first time we said VR is gonna dominate is when I played Team Fortress for the first time. So I remember I was on the DK1 playing Team Fortress with two of my co-founders on regular PC. And the fact that I could shoot straight and look gave me such an advantage that was like, okay, like this is great. So I was super excited. about that, even though DK1 was not a great experience. But still, if you're a pioneer and you can extrapolate, I knew that it was the start of something amazing.
[00:23:07.647] Kent Bye: And you weren't getting motion sick at all?
[00:23:11.985] Bert Nepveu: Sometimes, I mean, I have good VR legs, let's say. It's for when the frame rate goes down or like if I turn my head and doesn't like, I can get sick. I remember when I was at Apple, I did the team building offsite and we went to the sandbox, the startup that do VR backpack and things like that. We were doing the experience and the frame rate dropped on my headset maybe to 15 frames per second, but it was almost the end of the experience. So I said, okay, I'll cut you playing. But then I got sick for like 45 minutes and I was like, oh shit, this is bad. So, but from the DK one, no, I don't remember really getting sick. It was more like the screen door effect was really bad. And there was no positional tracking back then, so it's more rotational. So, I mean, if you don't know too much when you're playing and you just go like that, I guess you can make it not too bad.
[00:24:18.586] Kent Bye: Well, I know that when I look back at the early history of Oculus, there was the meant to be seen 3D forum.
[00:24:24.969] Bert Nepveu: I know Neil quite well.
[00:24:27.330] Kent Bye: And so were you a part of that community or were you pretty stealthy in what you were working on?
[00:24:32.300] Bert Nepveu: I mean, I was not like Palmer, you know, a moderator on meant to be seen or whatever, you know, but I went from time to time just like looking around and seeing like what was happening. But yeah, it was more like, it was really a passion project, you know, I wanted this to become big and everything. But it was mostly like doing something for me at first and I knew that I was not alone. Who would want that? Yeah, I was not like too much involved in those forums. But yeah, I mean, Neil Schneider, who ran to be seen, you know, he's from Toronto. He used to have Immerse there, a trade show. So I would go there and actually it's because of Immerse that we won Best in Show at CS because that's where I met someone from Tom's Hardware that was there. And then he was so impressed that he told his editor-in-chief that he should absolutely try our demo at CES and he did and that's when we won best in show.
[00:25:48.077] Kent Bye: Yeah, I was just actually reading the article that was written from Immerse 2016. Cause then you went to CES in 2017. I was actually there in 2017. That was the only time I've ever been to CES. After that year, I was like, you know, I'm not sure if I'm really going to be covering hardware just because there was so much stuff that was there that I was like, I don't know how much of this is going to ship. It was just lots of stuff that was from like a lot of Chinese companies that were there that year. that there was a number of demos that I did in suites of going up to rooms. There was one group that was doing like inside out tracking. My takeaway from that year was I was like, you know what? I feel like if I just go to like augmented world expo or go to like I triple E or these other conferences that I'll pick up on some of the stuff that is maybe not like this overwhelm of stuff that may or may not make it. I'm sure that CES is great for other big tech companies, but I figured the people that are going to really make the difference in the VR industry are going to be these huge companies and that maybe some of these companies are going to get picked up and acquired. But the signal and noise was so low that there was just so much stuff that was there. I agree.
[00:26:55.038] Bert Nepveu: That's why we never had a boot at CES. For us, it was more like to meet the big guys because everybody was there. So it was more about. building commercial relationships. You know, I remember pitching to Asus and things like that. And after that, I was able to go to Taiwan and all that. But you're right that like most of our, so, you know, we did pre-production and sold about 50 at set at 5,000 each. And I remember like when we pivoted and And we said it was 5,000 people got really upset. But I was like, look, she won the best. That's what you need. And look, now it's cheaper. It went from 5,000 to 3,500. So there you go. Thank Apple for bringing the price down. But kidding aside, yeah, like when we found our first industrial customer, it was mostly to specialized trade show like SIGGRAPH, Augmented World Expo, or IEEE, like you said, because yeah, there's less copycats, you know? Like this year, I saw some cheap knockoff of Division Pro. It was kind of funny at CES, so yeah.
[00:28:14.909] Kent Bye: Yeah. So you mentioned that along the way after the CV one, but like the first, uh, I forget the code name that they had, but it was at Oculus connect.
[00:28:24.548] Bert Nepveu: Crystal Cove, something like that.
[00:28:26.108] Kent Bye: Yeah, the, right, the Crystal Cove that was launching at September of 2014. I actually bought my Oculus DK1 on January 1st, 2014. So, and I had gone to the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Conference that May. And that was like the first gathering of a lot of the modern resurgence of VR. But then when I went to Oculus Connect, then I saw that demo. So it sounds like at that same time you were trying to do your Kickstarter and then flatline. Somebody told you about AR. Do you remember what that conversation was? Cause that seemed to be a pretty big turning point.
[00:28:58.222] Bert Nepveu: Well, you know, when you launch the Kickstarter, you have like an internal forum or whatever, you know, and people are like, Oh, so I can do VR. Oh, I can do AR blah, blah, blah. And like, it was more seeing the excitement of people were like, okay, like VR is amazing, but imagine if you could merge the two, like the realm of possibilities. That's why like now I'm a VC and I help the next generation of entrepreneurs to realize their vision. And I always tell them, don't wait until it's perfect to show it, you know, because you need feedback from the customers, you know, and that's what we did. We taught like what we were launching was amazing and people were like, Oh, we want more. So I'm like, okay, sure. And it was a big risk to redo the whole architecture and everything. But we have amazing talent pool in Montreal and we were a very sexy project. So we're able to hire really amazing people. So yeah, sometimes like ambition is what you need sometimes. So we were ambitious and we pulled it off in Extremis.
[00:30:16.032] Kent Bye: Well I remember from CES 2017 I saw like this cube thing where it was using QR codes and AR tracking and then I did actually go to IEEE VR 2017 in LA But like I said, it was after I had gone to CES and I had made a statement to myself. I was like, I'm not going to be covering innovative hardware stuff until it gets to the level of seeing it at like a big company. Cause I just thought there's so much that's out there. It's hard for me to know what is going to make it or not. I actually did a demo of Vervana that was at IEEE VR 2017 in LA. And I remember a helicopter that was going around. Maybe there'd been like QR codes. But I regret not doing an interview because, you know, ended up being tech that like at the time there was like gear VR and pass through stuff. And I didn't see the vision of mixed reality at that moment. I didn't see like, oh, this is going to be the next big thing just because I felt like VR was so immersive. And so what was it that you saw like this mixed reality as a potential? Because at that time I was like, it wasn't on my radar at all.
[00:31:21.031] Bert Nepveu: Yeah, I think it's more like AR is more accessible. So. we would always start demos in VR and then transition to VR. Because, okay, gamers, they can go directly to VR. But sometimes, you know, her bank would come in her office and they would say, oh, and I would say, do you want a demo? Oh, no, like, I'm not into games. I'm like, no, look, put it on and you'll just see the world. And they're like, oh, okay. So it gives them confidence, you know, it's less intimidating. And then our demo, you know, we would start, like you said, with QR codes, like Pikachu, the DeLorean, and we had an interaction, so you could poke Pikachu in the belly and he would interact. You could zoom in the DeLorean, like I would say, like, tell me the date on the dashboard, so they would start it and go inside. So, I saw that like and I don't know if you remember like it was like market estimation I don't remember which firm it was but the 90 billion kind of thing by 2020 the industry will be worth 90 billion and it was always like 30 billion VR 60 billion AR and even Tim Cook you know will said he's excited about AR and they never mentioned VR because there's a negative connotation with VR that it's isolating and blah blah blah which is not like my son plays VR and if there's not a social aspect to it he will not play it. So VR is like the real life. You'll do the same thing you enjoy in real life. If you're a social person, you'll do social things in VR. But AR, you know, you can, as I said, it's more accessible. You can use it like for everyday life, cooking, for whatever, I'm sure you saw. a few reviews out there where people cook with it, but I think it's more that. Personally, I prefer VR to AR, but when I was doing demos and things like that, I saw how powerful AR was to get people into the medium. Then the fact that Pass-through AR, you know, it's wide field of view, you know. If you use Waveguide right now, maybe the biggest you'll have is 45, 50 degrees. I don't know the latest, like Xreal, how much they are. But anyway, you're kind of limited to the field of view. You don't have opacity, you don't. And Apple understood that, you know, like they understood like all the added advantages of pass-through AR. And since like Tim Cook was mostly excited about AR, the collaboration kind of made sense.
[00:34:11.900] Kent Bye: Now you were talking about, there was some moments where you're about to run out of runway and you're essentially going to be trying to push this out and get some of your first customers. Talk about who were some of the first customers that were actually interested in starting to use Nirvana as a thing that they're using when the course of their work.
[00:34:32.183] Bert Nepveu: Yeah, so it's funny, I was doing a talk yesterday about open innovation and because we had great first customers and we met them at trade shows because we were providing a solution and they had internal problems that we were not even aware of and they saw, oh, this can solve my problem. So our first, actually our first headset that we shipped was to Disney, the Imagineering group. And as you can imagine, I was a big fan of Disney and everything. So like just to go, I think it's Glendale to go there and like visit the lab and see all that. So I went, uh, I flew actually to deliver a first headset. It was just before 4th of July, I remember. So I think I. I delivered the third, third of July. I made sure everything worked perfectly and then was able to enjoy the fourth of July in the States. Also, like another customer we had was Audi. So I was invited to their Volkswagen as an annual trade show, internal trade show there where they bring startups. It was in Wolf, Germany. So I went there, met a few executives there. They said, look, you know, Audi, we're always trying to push like design and things like that with new technologies. So we also shipped them on our first headset. Tesla too, was one of our first customers. And then also aerospace was a sector, healthcare. So. It was exciting and I remember people would tell me, yeah, 5,000, you can sell it even more than that. I'm like, okay. For me, as someone who was a gamer and was trying to make it as cheap as possible, 5,000 for me was already quite outrageous. But, you know, Vario after that, it kind of proved it's possible. And I think they sold it for 8000 euros, something like that. But yeah, I mean, it was very exciting, like from summer 2016 to 17 when we sold. And I don't want to sound pretentious, but I think we had the most exciting demo on the planet. We were kind of the chat GPT of that era. And it was crazy times. I was always traveling. You know, I demoed to Johnny Ive, the chairman of Asus, CTO of Quanta, Phil Spencer at Microsoft, Kipman. You know, I was able to see almost anyone on the planet because it was quite an exciting demo.
[00:37:29.343] Kent Bye: So it sounds like that the first time you started shipping was that July 3rd, 2016 then? Yeah.
[00:37:33.947] Bert Nepveu: 4th of July, 3rd of July, 2016 was probably our first delivery year. Okay.
[00:37:41.898] Kent Bye: So then you, you go to Immersed 2016, and then you get coverage from Tom's hardware. And then you go to CES, you win best in show. I remember that you were there at, there was a booth of a silver sponsor, IEEE VR in Los Angeles, where I got to see the demo. And then it was in like November of 2017, that was announced by TechCrunch that you were acquired by Apple. And so when, when did that start to come about? Maybe you can just talk about whatever you can in terms of Apple.
[00:38:09.739] Bert Nepveu: I mean, as everybody knows, Apple is a very secretive company. So, you know, I remember the first time I met Apple was at GDC 2016. So, we were trying to raise our Series A. Canada was a dead end. So I said, no, I need to be where people get it, you know, and it was California. So I went to pitch all the VCs in the Valley who were specialized in that field. And it was always the same thing. Oh, sorry, we invested in Magic Leap. Oh, we, sorry, we invested in Meta, you know, the old Meta before, I don't know if you remember, with the big plastic thing.
[00:38:51.860] Kent Bye: The Meta AR glasses.
[00:38:53.601] Bert Nepveu: Yeah. Anyway, so it was really frustrating because even the VC would tell me, oh fuck, yours is much better. But sorry, we already made our bet in the space. So I was kind of frustrated and we had a board meeting and one of the board observers said, you know what, if you can't race from VC, the enemy of your enemy is your friend so like go see the competitors to Facebook and others who are not in the space yet and maybe they'll make a bet on you as like a contingency plan. I'm like okay that's a good idea. So I started like that's when I started like I saw like Amazon, Microsoft, HP, Huawei, Asus, can go on and on. And Apple. So in 2016 at GDC, I went to see Apple and showed them just the generation before. So it was March, 2016. And it was still a version. I was a bit dark, like looking through sunglasses, but they were like, Oh, this is interesting. But you know, Apple is Apple. And I didn't hear from them anymore. And then when they saw that we won best in show at C, and you know, back then I said, okay, we're looking for investment. They're like, yeah, we don't do that. If we like, we buy. I'm like, and it was not back then 2016, my exit strategy was not selling, it was like IPO. So I was still like trying hard to raise a Series A. So I kind of put them in the whatever list and stayed like that and continued to go see other companies that were investing in the space. And then when we won Best in Short CES, well, I got an email back and I said, you know, next time you're in the Valley, like, come see us. We'd like to see the demo. And I was like, sure. But back then I was more in Asia and Seattle. Valve was one of our first customers too. So I didn't want to sell yet. So I said, yeah, sure, maybe at GDC. So when I went back at GDC, I went to see them and show them the demo. And that's when things got really serious. But yeah, to close the deal took another six months. So the deal officially was in September. And then of course with Apple, they didn't want us to say anything. And to this day, I still don't know who leaked it, but someone leaked it to TechCrunch. And yeah, it was frustrating for me because I was so proud, but at the same time, I couldn't talk to any media back then because it was leaked, there was an internal investigation to make sure it was not current employees. And then from what I heard, it was someone not working at Apple who leaked it, more of an investor or whatever. But still, you know, I got like media inquiries from all over the place and like said, sorry, can't confirm or deny the news, blah, blah, blah. So, uh, yeah.
[00:42:37.703] Kent Bye: So did, then did you stay in Montreal? Did you move to California? Where did you go from there?
[00:42:45.345] Bert Nepveu: No. So as you can imagine doing hardware, um, You need to be in the hacker's den together. So no, like me and 800 people, we moved to California to work at a secret location in Sunnyvale.
[00:43:02.977] Kent Bye: Did you say 800 people? Is that what you said?
[00:43:06.518] Bert Nepveu: No, no, no. When we sold, we were 17, 12 engineers. And Apple, they only take like highly specialized people. So they took nine out of 12 engineers, which is a really good ratio. And all those, like most of the people are still at Apple and they're rockstar there. So yeah, that's pretty cool.
[00:43:33.424] Kent Bye: And so how long were you working in Sunnyvale or in California working on this until you went off and now you're, you're back in Montreal and as a VC, how long were you there?
[00:43:43.272] Bert Nepveu: Three years. I was three years in California and then during the pandemic, I said, cause my son to like finish schools and everything. So it was summer and I wanted him to come back in the French system. So, um, we move at the summer of 2020 and then I, I started their R and D office in Montreal to make sure that. No, even if I leave, because like at the beginning, everybody went in California, but some people had families that couldn't move. So they were doing back and forth. And, you know, after a year and a half, like it was unsustainable, they would do like three weeks in California, one week in Montreal. So I pushed like, look, they showed their rock stars. So like, why don't they work from Montreal? And they said, okay, sure. So anyway, started like just remote work from home, but I wanted to make sure that we had a physical office in Montreal. So when I came back, I work hard for that and stayed another six months in Montreal and then started Triptych Capital.
[00:44:55.680] Kent Bye: Hmm. Well, as you could imagine, as somebody who I've been talking to thousands of people over the last decade. And so, you know, I think it was probably when like Doug Bowman went to go at Apple and he's a really renowned researcher within the VR academic community. And I was like, they're gotta be working on something. And it was long rumored that something was going on. I would keep hearing that they're working on something, but yet at the same time, nobody knew. Maybe Mark Gurman is somebody who is a Bloomberg reporter who was digging into it. Other reporters as well were getting information that it was happening, but it still was like, nobody knew when it was gonna actually be announced. And so when it was finally announced, when the Appalachian probe was finally announced on June 5th, 2023, It's finally confirmed that Apple is actually going to be getting into this game. But what was it like for you to be in this stealthy position of working on it, knowing about it and just anything that you could share about your experience about that? You're the first person that is on the inside of that, that I've been able to even like talk to. But I'm just curious, like, what was it like for you to be in that position of being in the super stealthy position of working on what is really super advanced virtual reality? Or I guess spatial computing, I should say.
[00:46:11.658] Bert Nepveu: It was a love and hate relationship. So like my favorite artist of all time is Steve Jobs. You know, people laugh because they say an artist, but for me as an artist, you know, it was just using technology to create beautiful piece of art. So I've always been a big fan of Steve Jobs. And when I started Vervana, I wanted to be the Apple of ARVR. So why I chose the Xbox 360, it was because it was a plug and play platform, you know, frictionless. You just put your DVD in and you play and that's it. So I'm a PC master race kind of gamer, but you know, I love playing, like, NHL on a console because, you know, you're on the couch, just play, and it's easy. So, for me, it was like, if we want VR to take off, it needs to be easy. So, you know, when we were selling, there was a few contenders, and we had kind of to decide if we would go with Apple or HP or others. And I was like, no, like Apple, they're very aligned with my initial vision. And you know, they're vertically integrated. If there's one company that can pull it off, that has the resources, that has the know-how, that has the ecosystem, it's them. So was super excited to join. And you know, When you look at the ads, you know, it's all about creativity and blah, blah, blah. So that's kind of the outside culture they're projecting. But once you work there, it's very different. It's very military. So, um, you know, when you're a manager there, they send you to the Apple university thing. It's like a internal university for manager to kind of learn the culture and everything. And one thing they tell you is like, if you go at Microsoft or others, they're by business unit. So you'd have their budget, blah, blah, blah. But Apple, you don't work like this. They don't say it's like the military, but if you know a bit like the military works, it's like by area of expertise, you know? You have a mission, and then you talk to infantry, you talk to Air Force, you talk... And then you need to negotiate to get resources for your mission. Apple is the same thing. The product is the mission. And then you need to get resources from the display group, camera group, OS group, whatever. So I'm kind of a oddball, you know? So me, entrepreneur, rebel, like hacking shit, you know, to go in this structured place was a challenge for sure. And some people You know, when I joined, we were 300 people, so still small. But there were some people that didn't approve the acquisition. They're like, we're Apple. Like, we can do anything. Like, why do we need those Canadians? Blah, blah, blah. So I had... No, I've been underestimated all my life. So it was nothing new, but it was frustrating for sure. And I'm very intuitive too. So sometimes like this is the way I cannot tell you exactly why, but my batting average is pretty stellar. So like you should trust me, but Apple is very data driven, which is fine. You know, when you ship it, iPhones, every mistake costs millions of dollars or hundreds of millions of dollars. So you need to be data driven. But when you're innovating, it's not how it works, you know. So there were some parts where like, and now that we shipped, you know, I can talk on what we work, you know, we worked on point of view correction. So point of view correction for people who are more left side brain, you know, very analytical and things like that. It's like an impossible problem to solve. Because for people don't know, like, point of correction is like, you capture the world through the cameras. But the cameras, unfortunately, are not where your eyes are. So there's a distance there. And if you don't correct it, you just get sick because your brain like, the world is not behaving like I'm used to. So you need to compensate for that. And, um, after doing my onboarding and I was like burned out from Vervana. So at the beginning, I was like, I just need to get my bearings, you know, and learn the culture there. But after a few months, it was like, we knew at Vervana, we need to solve that. And nobody was responsible to solving that. So I volunteered and, um, accepted. And then I brought back a few colleagues from Vervana because when we joined the nine people, because we're doing everything, you know, we were doing our own optics, we're doing our own computer vision, we're doing low latency and tracking, pretty much everything. They like spread us out all over the org. But as one of my colleagues told me, he said, you know what, Bert, something that would take one day at a Vervanit, it's taking a week at Apple. And it's driving me crazy. So when I got assigned to Point of View Correction, I brought back a few of my frustrated colleagues into our team. And we said, you know what, if we don't solve Point of View Correction, there's some products. Let's do this, you know, let's bring our startup mentality inside Apple. So we started like maybe six people because, you know, to be able to reproject the scene to the right perspective, you need depth and it's imperfect information. So it's a really, really hard problem to solve. If you look like on the Quest, they use like codecs to estimate the depth and reproject. And it's very wobbly kind of thing. And there was no way that would fly at Apple, you know, they aim for perfection. So we needed to kind of find out to act a brain, you know, to make sure like it was, good enough so that people don't notice it, but at the same time, it's comfortable in the long run. And it was really hard to grow the team internally because I would go see brilliant people that I knew could help. They were like, no Bert, this is an impossible problem. I won't I won't bet my career on that. I'm like, okay, whatever. So I was able to hire at other division at Apple. So Apple is so secretive. So like I would go get someone I knew in the camera group, not in TDG, but I couldn't tell him on what we were working. I was just like, oh, I'm just exciting new project. It's based on computer vision. It's a P0 objective. Like there's priority features. So P0 is like, it needs to be solved or there's no product. So like, are you willing to come? And they're like, you're asking me to jump and I don't know anything. I'm like, sorry. So anyway, we're able to grow the team. We had a simulator done in Unity and things like that. Anyway, it was really exciting stuff. And that was the thing that made me cry during the demo last weekend, because I left like three years ago, Apple. And we were on the brink of like solving it when I left. I knew that everything was in place to make it happen, but to see it live, low latency, maybe 90% perfect, I was like, wow, this is amazing.
[00:55:27.501] Kent Bye: Yeah. For anyone who's used the pass-through mode for both the Quest 3 or Quest Pro, there's a lot of like warping that happens in that reprojection. I didn't necessarily notice it so much when I got my Apple Vision Pro last Saturday, but when I was looking at my phone, I noticed like, I know what my phone should look like. And as I'm like looking at my phone, I'm like, wait, I see subtle warping, but then I was like trying to like. find the contours of it and it's still difficult. So there's something about, I can like perceive it in the gestalt, but I want to try to like find the nuances of it. It like, so yeah, there's some magic that's happening that you were able to kick off that is a whole nother level. When you look at the reprojection warping that's happening between the Quest 3 and the Quest Pro and look at the Apple Vision Pro, it's like something that, like you said, it's 90%. Like, I feel like it's super good, I was noticing very timely, but I wasn't able to kind of like refine my perception to really break down some of those seams as it were.
[00:56:24.247] Bert Nepveu: Yeah. And like, I've seen people playing ping pong with a vision pro like skateboarding in New York. I mean, this is the ultimate test of like that. The point of view correction is good enough. You know, I wouldn't do that with a quest.
[00:56:41.711] Kent Bye: Well, I wanted to ask because you started your whole journey with being like a really hardcore gamer, and then you end up making this pivot into something that is a little bit more of the enterprise with creating something that's mixed reality, augmented reality with virtual reality. And, you know, with Apple's launch, they're calling it spatial computing, which is trying to create this experience that is much more productivity focused. And when you look at something like the Quest versus the Apple Vision Pro, The Apple Vision Pro is much more of like, you're here to do work. You're not here to play because it's not sort of... It's a Macintosh.
[00:57:15.231] Bert Nepveu: It's a Macintosh moment. It's not like the Quest is, is an Xbox on your face. And like the Vision Pro is a Mac on your face.
[00:57:24.794] Kent Bye: Hmm. Yeah. And people have been calling it the iPhone moment, but yeah, there have been other comparisons that this is more like the Macintosh launch than it is with the iPhone launch. So for your own journey, though, in terms of gaming, have you been getting all the quests along the way? And have you been are you a VR?
[00:57:42.653] Bert Nepveu: Yeah, of course. Of course. I have all the quests. You know, I'm still a hardcore gamer. I have less time, unfortunately. But, you know, I played Assassin's Creed Nexus, Asgard Rat and, you know, Any new cool game that comes in, you know, I try to spend a few hours in it to wrap my head around it. But yeah, I mean, I'm a hardcore gamer, but what I'm most excited about the Vision Pro and Spatial Computing is the education sector. Because I think everybody learns differently. And the school system is optimized for like maximum output. You know, you give your curriculum, blah, blah, blah, and your courses, and it's one, two, 40 people or whatever. And you need to learn by yourself and you have an exam and all that crap. But I think that, especially with AI now, generative AI and everything, you'll be able to have like a personalized tutor for you. And right now I'm doing like online MIT course on like quantum computing. And like, I haven't done like Euler equation, like for 20 years. And I'm like, fuck me. So, but I'm like, imagine if I could learn more intuitively about how like quantum computing works. Indivision Pro with exercise, like, because it's very visual too, you know, superposition and anyway, I won't get into details but For me to learn through like, like reading and our teacher just saying the things I'm like, sure, but it's less efficient that I'm an actor, you know, I'm a gamer. I like to break things and fix them. So I think that's a possibility that excites me. That's why I say it's a Macintosh moment. It's like the Macintosh at the beginning was in schools, was in libraries, you know? So I think future of work. future of education. That's where I think it can make a huge impact.
[01:00:02.927] Kent Bye: Yeah, and it reminds me of YouTubers like 3blue1brown who's doing all these math visualizations and how with XR and spatial computing, we're going to have all sorts of ways of having this kind of interactive spatialization of concepts and ideas that is going to be this translation from 2D to 3D that's going to take many generations to take our existing knowledge base and put it into this spatialized format. But I'd love to hear some of your other reactions of like actually getting the Apple vision pro what you've been doing. What do you think of it so far?
[01:00:31.547] Bert Nepveu: So people always say, Oh, so you got to have free version, blah, blah, blah. I'm like, no, you don't know Apple. Like once you're out, you're out, you know? So I, um, I pre-ordered it, uh, in the morning I was, uh, my iPad and like, Bye, bye, bye, scan my face with my phone. And I'm in Montreal and it's only available in the US. So I said, okay, what's the closest place? I thought it would be Burlington or Plattsburgh, but I couldn't pick it up last weekend at that place. So closest place was Albany, New York. So me and my friend, we, we left Saturday morning and we drove up to Albany border was an hour of waiting. So anyway. We arrived quite late. We arrived like at 5 p.m. And then it was kind of a surreal moment. So like when I knew I would be emotional, but I didn't think I would be that emotional. So just getting into the store, seeing the beast, you know, in the store, touching it, reminding me the seven times I almost went bankrupt. all the sacrifice and hard work we did at Vervana and at Apple, I just cried. I was like, fuck me. But it was really interesting. I didn't expect that. One of the store employee said, are you the CEO of Vervana? And I'm like, yeah. Why the fuck do you know me?
[01:02:16.591] Kent Bye: I'm like, oh, I read about you and everything.
[01:02:18.613] Bert Nepveu: Like, oh my God, I'm starstruck. I'm like, okay, whatever. So, and then he went to get the manager and she was super nice to me and kind of do a VIP treatment. So we, I did the demo. Of course, when I saw the pass through for the first time with the point of view correction and everything, like I cried a second time. So, Yeah, it was kind of, I was like, finally, you know, like it's in the store because, you know, the bar Apple is so high. So, of course, I was always afraid that it would never ship, you know. Because, you know, when I joined, it was supposed to ship in 2019, then 2020 and then 2021 and 2022. When I left, like it was supposed to be 2022 when I, I knew when shipping 2022. So I was like, hopefully like it's going to be 2023 or 2024. So when they announced it, you know, WWDC 2023, I was like relieved. But you know, until it's actually in the store, you never know. And for me, even if like it's limited things you can do so far, the hardware is rock solid, like, and it's only going to get better. So like, sure. It's expensive, but it's 10 times better than a quest. Like, so sure. If you're a gamer, you don't need a vision pro. But I watched Avatar 1 on the weekend. I was blown away. It's like IMAX theater in your home. but even better because the 3D is out of this world because like, let's go either IMAX here, maybe at 10 meters, like 30 feet from the screen, you know, and they always do the stereo inside the screen, so it's more comfortable. So like, it's like a window far away in 3D. But with the Vision Pro, it's like 10 feet from you, super wide. It's like you're on the set with the actors. It's like amazing. So, and people complain about the personas, but they'll get better. It's called better for something, you know? So yeah, it was very emotional weekend and week for me. But, um, in 10 years, we'll look at this as like, I really think a historical moment.
[01:05:09.572] Kent Bye: It feels like that. It feels like a inflection point where it's a level of quality that is beyond what anything I've seen. And certainly with the screen quality and yeah, I watched the second Avatar movie and just was really blown away. I had to plug it into my soundbar just to get a full theater experience. Cause the, the internal sound, Wasn't matching the visuals that I was seeing in a way like I feel like the frequency response of the audio is good for normal spatialized audio and it feels like maybe on par or probably better than the quest but in terms of like the theatrical experience with the 5.1.2 Soundbar, it wasn't like it they support the new air pods to low latency mode.
[01:05:50.847] Bert Nepveu: So that could be an alternative to the soundbar. I
[01:05:54.553] Kent Bye: Yeah, I have to try, I haven't, I'm sort of one foot in, one foot out of the Apple ecosystem, so I'll have to, you know, I'm slowly buying, like I just bought a Magic Trackpad, I just bought like a keyboard, and I don't have a Mac laptop, so I have to sort of slowly get more fully integrated into the Mac ecosystem to take full advantage of it. One thing that I had an interview with Ben Lang, and I think we both agree that a lot of times, the barrier for VR was more of a content side, where what's the stuff that's gonna be drawing people in, And that, if anything, the Apple Vision Pro has solved a lot of those issues. Now the bottleneck seems to be comfort and ergonomics, where the strap and the weight distribution has not got the front to back. And so it seems like, for me, of all the stuff that Apple got, the one thing that they totally missed on was the ergonomics of how it feels for long-term use. Curious what your own experience of it if you feel like sometimes it's fine for people or like I'm trying to figure out like what went wrong here with not having the best practices from the VR industry that has front to back if it was aesthetics or like what happened. with that because it seems like such a big mess in terms of everything else is so good. It's just the ergonomics. I'm happy that there's going to likely be some third party strap developers to help close that gap. But in terms of my use, I'm going to have to either find some DIY solutions to make it a little bit more comfortable. It just seems like frustrating that everything else is so high quality that the strap just seems like a total mess.
[01:07:22.596] Bert Nepveu: Yeah, I'll try to answer without getting me into trouble. I mean, you need to understand the culture at Apple. So I joke that there's three gods at Apple. There's HI, human interface, so how the product feel, frictionless, intuitive, all that. Second god is ID, industrial design, you know. where like, even though you tell them, well, it's an engineering nightmare to put cameras there or do this or that, they're like, I don't care. We want the product to look good. First and foremost, you need to, it's like almost a fashion accessory. And then the third God is legal. So that's why I'm trying not to get into trouble. So Apple, they want all their products to have a look and feel that's similar. So, you know, even though you're like, well, we need to make this lightest as possible. They're like, no, we like aluminum. We like glass, you know, so we like nice looking fabrics. So a lot of time they would push you They make certain choices and, you know, they want it to be, you know, I think ski goggles, people are used to them. So they want to look that is socially acceptable. So they wanted a kind of a ski goggle look. And at first the battery was like the quest behind, you know, but I guess with time they found out that maybe it was too heavy as a whole. So they decided to do the battery pack, external battery pack and everything. I'm sure you've seen the iFixit things. This is the most complex consumer electronic product ever shipped. It's madness. Apple is the only company that could have done that. Even if it was frustrating working there at some times, I would still sell it to Apple because there's no way any other company can come close to what they did. So sure, it's heavier than everyone wanted, could be more comfortable. But I'm sure you've seen T-Pain yesterday. You don't look like a glasshole with a Vision Pro. Sure, it looks a bit weird, but yesterday, just for fun, at my conference, I wore the headset and did the first five minutes with the headset on. And I looked at the picture of me, and I just looked like when I go skiing. So it's not like, oh my God, what's that jerk or whatever. It's more like, okay it's like you're a humanoid hybrid kind of next gen human and you know i sure maybe i'm not the typical uh person but i didn't feel like it was too heavy you know the totem was much less comfortable. So maybe my bar is different than most people. Like my wife told me that I could be more comfortable. So I think she's more of a, a more typical user, but me, like I've watched like first avatar is what, three hours and like, no problem. I didn't feel like, oh shit, my nose hurt or whatever. Maybe I haven't gained yet much on it. So maybe if you do a lot of movement, you might be less comfortable. But when you watch a movie, you don't move too much. You're just comfortable in your couch. But I think we'll get better next generation. So I think I feel... It's good enough. Like the first iPhone didn't have an app store. The first iPad didn't have a FaceTime camera. Like people don't remember that like the first gen is never perfect, but they learn from it, improve it. Like I didn't get into the Apple ecosystem until the iPhone 3. I was more like at HTC phone before, like the sidekick and things like that. And then. the first touchscreen to the Sony Ericsson P800. But then I tried the iPhone 3 and I was like, oh, wow, like, this is impressive. Because I was always, there's no way I'm paying like 30% more, this is, like my sister was a big fan of, I was like, it's just a cult, like, I like to act my own things. But then once you go into the ecosystem and you see how frictionless it is and how intuitive. And I remember when the Samsung Gear VR came out, I bought an Android for the first time. And I really tried for a year and a half. And I was like, oh, no. People say the same thing. It's not the same thing. And then I came back to the iPhone.
[01:12:49.988] Kent Bye: Yeah. And the very first day that I got it on Saturday, I wore it for basically like 12 hours and I was wearing with the dual band strap and it had put so much pressure on my face that after the first few days I had gotten just like sort of rash marks on my face. I've taken a few days off. I'm going to go back and try to find some more DIY solutions and pace myself a little bit better as I move forward. But. Yeah, it feels like my theory was it seems like Apple's preferencing the aesthetics of what it looks like from the outside from what it feels like from the inside. And this is something that has actually happened in the architectural visualization area where a lot of architectural awards are awarded to what the renders look like versus what the internal experience of the building might feel like from the inside. So I feel like I hope over time that that battle between what it looks like from the outside versus what it feels like from the inside can come to some sort of middle ground where it's preferencing maybe what it feels like from the inside from what it looks like from the outside. Yeah, that was at least my take at least at first.
[01:13:47.253] Bert Nepveu: Yeah, and also I think that people underestimate like the look and pinch interface. I think it's brilliant. Like people are used to using a mouse, you know, it's like, it can also be like a touchscreen. So you're backward compatible with all the iPad apps. There's nothing more natural than your hands. So as a gamer, I would love to have controllers. And I saw yesterday, There's someone working on a SteamVR driver and making the PS3 controller works. So I'm looking forward to play Half-Life Alyx in the Vision Pro. But, yeah, I mean, it's ground zero and, like, there's everything to be built, but I think it sets the bar for the competitors. And I'm sure, like, the Samsung-Google collaboration, now they're... They must be in panic mode and kind of like, oh shit, like we need something that can compete. But like Apple is the only company that does their own hardware, their own OS, like they do everything. So the collaboration is perfect as like Google, sure they have Android and Samsung. They do great hardware, but it's not going to be easy. It's different cultures, different countries. It's going to be interesting what they come up with.
[01:15:11.422] Kent Bye: Hmm. Yeah. And I guess as we, we start to wrap up, I'm curious what you think the ultimate potential of spatial computing might be and what it might be able to enable.
[01:15:22.886] Bert Nepveu: But as I said, I think like most of the problems in the world can be solved through education, like access to good education, I think is really important. And right now education is broken. Like, Canada is not too bad, you won't get into too much debt, but in the States, it's crazy. And with Gen AI, you might not find a job. So people are like, should I invest a small fortune into something that I might never use. And that's why I see the potential of spatial computing where like very early, you'll be able to understand your skill sets, what you're good at, what could be a great job, test games or simulations. So sure, job simulator is pretty stupid, but I mean, you can extrapolate that you could do really good job simulation things where you say, oh, I love this, I like that. If you look at people who made a dent in the universe, to quote Steve Jobs, they had tutors, they had great education, they're continuous learners. So I think that if you have a AI tutor in VR, spatial computing, whatever you call it, where you learn at your pace, you find what you're good at, what you like. I think that's the real revolution. Sure, entertainment will always be there. It's great. But if you really want to transform society, I think it's through education. And what I like about spatial computing, it's the ultimate creative tools. You have a crazy idea. And now with Gen AI, it's going to be text to whatever. It's going to get pretty crazy. But the barrier right now is content creation. It's not that easy. And like to make kind of a segue to my new job is like, you know, when I left Apple, I was like, so what's next for me? And for me is like making sure that now that we have the hardware to do things amazing is, How can it be an enabler to create great content? So Triptych Capital is that. We're a C-stage fund, 40 million. We lead rounds. We're not spread and pray. We only do five deals per year. We get dirty with the entrepreneurs, you know. I'm a doer, so if I get involved, you know, I'm gonna put some sweat and tears into the venture too. And that's why, for example, we invested in ShapesXR because ShapesXR is the figma of spatial computing. So if you have an idea, you want to wrap it, prototype it, UX, UI, you know, you jump into Shapes and you just show your idea. And once you say, yeah, that's pretty amazing. You can import it in unity and finish it off with other people. But that's kind of where I'm at right now is like, if you're ambitious, you believe in this space and you make tools that will make content creation more frictionless, then we might be the right partners for you.
[01:19:01.632] Kent Bye: Hmm. Beautiful. Yeah. I have an interview on the launch day, uh, unpublished interview with Inga that I did actually at Augmented World Expo a couple of years ago when they had first launched that I needed to get out and publish because yeah, ShapesXR is really at the leading front of content creation. I actually remember seeing you at Augmented World Expo just a few days before the Apple Vision Pro was announced. Cause I know that. Yeah. AWE and someone said, Hey, that's the guy who like created the, for Vervana who created the Apple vision pro and, or actually they didn't know what it was called at the time. Did you know at that time in AWE that it was coming or it was just like,
[01:19:40.590] Bert Nepveu: Let's just say that I was 99% sure because people said, watch WWDC, watch WWDC. So I was like, okay, it's coming. But yeah, I didn't know it would be called the Vision Pro or anything, but I think it's a great name. And, uh, and I don't know. So, but there's rumors they would do a cheaper version. So we'll see.
[01:20:09.267] Kent Bye: Awesome. Great. Is there anything else that's left that said that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?
[01:20:15.072] Bert Nepveu: Well, you know, there was a lot of skeptics and I get it, you know, um, new paradigm shifts sometimes can be, uh, scary. Like I see a lot of people, Oh, it's going to be a dystopian future. Like right now people don't talk to each other. Just look at their phone now. And I, I think that, It's all about the content, you know, and I'm sure there's always like dopamine providing content, but that's true for any medium. I don't think it's related to like, it won't be scarier in one or the other. It's more for me, the brain evolve in a 3D space. It's kind of natural that. I like to quote, like, I brush from that, you know, it's the final platform, you know, it's like, with spatial computing, sky's the limit. There's no, it's ultimate creative tools. So you have something. In your mind, you can create it. You're not bound to a 2D screen or anything. But sure, it's going to be like the cinema, you know, a new language to... Now we know how to make great movies, series, whatever, and we'll need to learn how to do great content and spatial computing. It's going to take some time. But Guerrilla Tag is a great example. They're like, oh, we're stuck with locomotion, blah, blah, blah. How can we? And they innovated with the cool new way to move around. And so I'm not worried about, like, people said that AR VR was dead so many times. And now I'm convinced it's here to stay. And, you know, there's great opportunity. Like, if you go on the App Store right now, there's not that many apps. But imagine you do a great experience and you sell it five bucks, make a million like that. Right now, good luck doing the same thing on the App Store because there's so many apps. But I remember when the App Store launched, people were selling basic things for 99 cents. I think if I remember correctly, there was not a calculator. on the first versions of iOS and someone just did a 99 cents calculator and I'm sure he became a millionaire with that. So I think there's the same opportunity right now. It's like if you get early on the Vision Pro, there's less competition and you can come up with something really useful at 5, 10 bucks and make a killing. So that's my conclusion. It's like get on a bandwagon.
[01:23:00.817] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think the first one like that is probably the Juno app, which is giving you some native functionality to YouTube, which is not launched. So yeah, stuff like that. So, but yeah, thanks so much for taking the time to really talk about your own journey into this space and to recap from Vervana into like the acquisition and your time there at Apple and. now everything that you're doing with working with a handful of entrepreneurs each year, I really get a sense of coming from an entrepreneurial family and your whole entrepreneurial journey to against all odds, a lot of times to continue to find a way to make it happen and to end up with an exit with Apple. And then now we have the Apple Vision Pro, which feels like this inflection point with the overall industry. And like you said, I feel like it's here to stay and this new Macintosh moment that everybody's really trying to figure out what's even possible with this new special computer. So thanks again for taking the time to share a little bit more of your story and where you've been and where you see it might be going here in the future. So thank you so much.
[01:23:58.063] Bert Nepveu: Thanks Kent, and it's been a crazy week for me, so I still need to get my bearings right, because it's bigger than I ever, ever dreamed.
[01:24:12.773] Kent Bye: Awesome. Thanks. So that was Bert Niver. He is the founder of Nirvana, which was a mixed reality headset that was acquired by Apple in 2017 and was a lot of the technological foundations that ended up leading to the Apple Vision Pro. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, Well, I was actually quite surprised to hear a lot of additional context of not only the evolution of Nirvana and how that led into what ultimately became the Apple Vision Pro once Apple acquired them in 2017, but also a lot of the stuff that Bert was working on within the context of Apple. You know, this culture clash between what he was used to in a startup context and then deciding to go and work within something that was a lot more rigid and structured and secretive in the way that it was being produced. certainly Apple's been able to come up with some amazing results. And it was very interesting to hear Bert talk about what he called the three gods that are really driving Apple and their design philosophy. The human interaction, the HI, so all the ways that it looks and feels to the human, And then there's the industrial design, so the way that it looks like from the outside as you're looking at it as a piece of art. And then legal, which is all the secrecy and ways that Apple operates in terms of creating this mystique and mystery around all the stuff that they're doing. So it really feels like this battle between the two dimensions of the human interaction for what it felt like in and the industrial design because they had a lot of standards for the look and feel but was adding additional weight and there's a lot of things in terms of the comfort of the thing where they wanted to make it look like ski goggles but yet it doesn't have very good weight distribution so i feel like there's a lot of stuff that apple hopefully is going to be taking a lot of this feedback and designing something that is actually a lot more comfortable especially for long-term use and just more widely accessible for different people because Something like this might be totally usable and fine for some people, but for other people, they're having a lot of ergonomics and comfort issues. So like I said, I'm looking forward to seeing a lot more third-party straps to provide a stopgap for this, but hopefully Apple's listening and being able to take some of this feedback and integrating into their future versions of whatever they create. So yeah, the point of view correction is something that he was talking a lot about in terms of the challenge of, you know, the cameras are actually pretty low in the Apple Vision Pro relative to where your eyes actually are. And so to try to like actually compensate for that and to translate it so that you're actually seeing something that is a lot more in line with what your eyes would actually be seeing. You'd be seeing again, like a lot of the battles within Apple around some of these different stakeholders when it comes to both the look and feel and something like the eyesight feature wouldn't be possible unless the cameras were low enough. But again, there's a lot of challenges that Apple had to overcome over time. Also quite fascinating to hear that Burt didn't actually know whether or not this would ever ship. Selling to Apple, being under this non-disclosure secrecy, and then once it was finally out then he was able to now talk a little bit more about his old journey with Nirvana and also his time here at Apple. really grateful to hear a lot more about that story in that context. And yeah, it does feel like this Macintosh moment, people have talked about this iPhone moment, you know, phones at the time already had like billions of users. And there's not billions of VR users right now. So I don't expect the Apple Vision Pro to be along the same growth trajectory as something like the iPhone. But I do expect it to be more along the lines of something like the Macintosh this personal computer that started in education and Really was completely transformed in so many different ways. So I expect the same type of change and growth was something like the Apple Vision Pro So the look and pinch I think is a complete paradigm shift in terms of how we interact with computing. It's quite magical and yeah, just overall a complete revelation for what's possible with spatial computing and So super excited to see where this continues to go and very grateful to be able to get a little bit more of the inside look of the evolution of the Apple Vision Pro. I don't actually know if I'll ever get anyone on the record that is willing or able to speak in so much detail about the whole journey and some of the specifics and details. Apple is extremely secretive and doesn't typically like to talk too much about the technical evolution of some of their products. So This is a very unique and rare opportunity to get a little bit more insight into the whole process. So we'll see. I'd love to chat with some folks within Apple, but I'm not giving up any hopes that that might be happening anytime soon. So anyway, that's all I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast, and if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listen-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.