#763: Analyzing Microsoft’s Enterprise AR Strategy with XR Journalist Julien Bergounhoux


French journalist Julien Bergounhoux has been covering the business applications for spatial computing for L’Usine Digitale over the past 6-7 years, and I had a chance to catch up with him following the Microsoft Build opening keynote. We talked about the future of computing, why he thinks remote collaboration is the next big sector that XR can help disrupt, and how he’s optimistic that the HoloLens 2 is going to help facilitate more large-scale and production-ready augmented reality applications into the enterprise sector. We also talk about some of the other major players, what’s happening with VR at Microsoft, and some of the stories and trends that he’s been tracking by focusing on the enterprise applications of spatial computing.


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Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.412] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR podcast. So just moments after the opening keynote at Microsoft Build, I had a chance to unpack it a little bit with Julien Bourgogneau. He's a VR, AR, and AI journalist from France, covering a lot of the business applications of these immersive technologies, looking at the future of work and how spatial computing is representing this next wave of computing. So Julien's been covering this space for the last six or seven years or so. And so he had a chance to actually go to the Microsoft announcements that were happening in Barcelona for the HoloLens 2. He had a chance to try out all those demos. And so I was just trying to get a sense of what things he's looking at, what he's covering, and to just get a little bit of an overall sense of what's happening in the enterprise space for these immersive technologies. Talking about all the different major players and how he's really looking for what are the different applications that are going to be production ready. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Julian happened on Monday, May 6th, 2019 at the Microsoft Build Conference in Seattle, Washington. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:01:21.488] Julien Bergounhoux: My name is Julien Bergonou, I'm a reporter from France covering AR and VR. I've been doing that for about 6 or 7 years. More specifically, I look at the business cases and business applications, how we can transform the way enterprises do business, whether it's startups or large companies. in a variety of sectors, industrial, first-line workers, everything. And I do cover the consumer market as well, but I look specifically at business applications.

[00:01:52.637] Kent Bye: So coming up here on May 19th is going to be my five-year anniversary of covering VR. And so you've been doing it for six or seven years. And so maybe you could talk a bit about how you got started into covering this space of immersive media.

[00:02:05.580] Julien Bergounhoux: Well, you know, so we've got this conference in France called Aval Virtual that's been going on for 20 years and I first started going there and I guess I'm interested in the future of computing in general. So I've been looking at that field for a long time and immersive tech, you know, spatial computing, It's a trend that I felt was coming up, so I started going there. At the time, tech was kind of stagnant, and of course, I guess when the Oculus Kickstarter came and that kind of stuff, you could see it growing, but I feel like even before that, you could feel the market was a bit, the tech was going to be disrupted.

[00:02:42.460] Kent Bye: Yeah, I had a chance to go to Laval Virtual for the first time this year. And this was their 21st consecutive year of holding a expo for virtual reality, which is, to me, pretty amazing that they've been consistently meeting year after year and showing all the different use cases for business. It's quite a strong community there in Europe and lots of different aerospace and automotive applications. But for you, what are you specifically focusing on in the industry? Like, what type of stories are you writing about?

[00:03:09.767] Julien Bergounhoux: Well, I mean basically anything I can get my hands on, but I don't see that covered a lot in US media. You've got a few specialized outlets, but they mostly focus on consumer stuff, gaming stuff. When you look at what big companies are doing, like for example, oil and gas, or even, you know, like for factories, you know, designing factory floors, that kind of stuff, it's huge. There's a lot of stuff, trainings, there's a lot, a lot of things being done. And one of the fields I'm looking forward to that's not been really disrupted yet is remote collaboration, you know, remote working, you know, and I guess the future of work in general. So that goes from engineering, you know, design, all that kind of stuff. I think there's a lot of potential there. But yeah, I mean, for industry applications, whereas it's, you know, augmented reality, you know, like what Microsoft is doing, basically, with HoloLens, very powerful, lots of clients augmenting what worker does, you know, what he can see, you know, that kind of stuff. Or, you know, yeah, training. Spatial, you know, set up, seeing what fits where. I mean, you got companies like Thales, it's a big defense contractor in France. They basically go and they sell equipment to warships, basically. And, you know, they sell these, they bring a whole lens, they show it to the guys and say, you see, you got this here, you switch it for another equipment, it's done. It can, like, their sales, I guess, process goes from three months to three days with whole lens. Just because they can show the guy, you know, on site, what it's gonna look like, when it's gonna do, how it fits, how you can plug it in. So there's a lot of these cases, you know, that are very powerful.

[00:04:55.803] Kent Bye: Well, in going to the IEEE VR academic conferences, I had a chance to talk to a lot of different academics who have been collaborating with all sorts of different industry partners since the early 90s. And the thing that they told me was that you don't hear a lot about what was happening in VR and enterprise just because each company that was doing that would keep it pretty close and they wouldn't talk about it very much to people on the outside. So it's a little bit of like this competitive advantage that a lot of these companies have had over many different years. It seems like that may be shifting a little bit right now in terms of just how VR is being adopted in enterprise. And there's a lot more initiatives from both Oculus as well as here at Microsoft Build talking about a lot of different enterprise applications. HTC, obviously, is doing lots of different collaborations with different companies. So you get a little bit more of having these major companies like Microsoft, HTC, and Oculus talk about what's happening in the enterprise. But still, I find that it's a little difficult to have people to be fully open about what is happening and what's going on. So as a journalist, how do you get past that?

[00:05:56.918] Julien Bergounhoux: Yeah, so the outlet I work for, which is called Lucid Digital, we specialize in industry, you know, I mean, originally, it's open now to many other things, retail and stuff. But yeah, it's got to come from the company themselves. Usually the technology providers usually are not allowed to speak about it. And What you say is right. 20 years ago, you already had companies using AR or VR, but it was mostly car manufacturers or aeronautics companies. And obviously, they would not talk about it to anyone. They did that among themselves. They kept it because it was a competitive advantage. And I feel like as a tech has gotten more prevalent and, you know, got into the consumer space, now it's getting, you know, like there's a marketing advantage to showing that you do innovative stuff. So they're going to open up a little bit more. And of course, because more companies start using these devices, you know, they talk about it a lot more. But yeah, for a long time, they just, you know, did not talk about it. But yeah, it's been going on for a long time. So yeah, I guess, I don't know, there's no real secret. For example, L'Oréal, I don't know if you know these companies, they are a big cosmetics company, one of the biggest in the world. They use that for their factory spaces, for example. They do a lot of work designing their factories in VR nowadays. Yeah, that's not something they talk about a lot, but I don't know, I just went to one guy there and he told me about it. And that's it, that's how you do it. You just gotta get to know these companies. Like you said, they're not necessarily going to speak about it freely. But if you go to, for example, Nvidia conferences, that kind of stuff, you get car manufacturers, they show a lot of stuff there actually. If you pay attention, you go to the sessions, you can get a lot of knowledge.

[00:07:34.394] Kent Bye: Yeah, I know that there's been a lot more companies speaking at conferences and, like you said, the NVIDIA conference, and we're here at Microsoft Build. I always like to come here to be able to talk to the different demos and see the demos, see what's happening in terms of the enterprise space. Laval Virtual is also a great place to see what's happening. There's a lot of expo floor exhibition halls for people selling specific offerings. So you get also people that are showing stuff, but also people in the audience there that are from different companies. I have the advantage of doing the Voices of VR podcast, so people tend to come up to me. And I may or may not be able to talk to them, depending on what they're doing in their company. But what are you looking forward to in terms of either here at Microsoft Build? We just saw the end of the opening keynote just happen a few moments ago. And just curious to hear your thoughts on some of the stuff that was announced relative to the HoloLens and augmented reality so far.

[00:08:23.908] Julien Bergounhoux: Well, yeah, they showed Spatial, the Spatial app, and how it's integrated to Teams. And, you know, these are the kind of use cases I find fascinating. It's just, you get people working collaboratively, some with a HoloLens 2, some with a phone, someone, you know, tapping in from just a laptop, and they can work, use 3D models, exchange them with each other. It's very seamless. Obviously, it's a demo, so, you know, it's always going to be seamless, and everything's great. Yeah, I find this very powerful, and you gotta give credit to Microsoft. They've been pushing it a lot forward with HoloLens. I feel like, again, it's not something that's been talked about much, but even with HoloLens, we haven't seen a lot of deployments at scale, but there's been a lot of proof of concepts, and some small-sized deployments, maybe 100 headsets, and I feel like with HoloLens, too, it's gonna get much bigger. And these kinds of use cases where you get remote workers collaborating together, you gain, you know, speed because decisions are taken more quickly, you save, you know, travel costs. I think it's gonna change, you know, it won't be right away, but slowly it's gonna change the way people work, big companies work, and it's something, I mean, Facebook, I believe, talked about it at Oculus Connect last year as well, you know, this aspect of remote working that's closer and closer to actually being there, and that allows you to take decisions much more quickly. No more, you know, I mean, Again, something I've spoken to with, I believe it was PDC, it's designing for a motorcycle company. I don't think I can say which one, but basically they used to ship clay models between continents to take decisions. So, like, you had to turn over three months between design decisions. Now they do it, it takes two hours. That's the kind of thing, you know, this can change for, like, manufacturers, you know, industrial companies, so it's really huge.

[00:10:16.107] Kent Bye: Well, one of the things that I noticed in the announcement from Unity, they had an announcement about the program that you can apply and get access to the development kits to develop for the HoloLens 2.0. They said that there's going to be more information about release coming soon. There was no release date that was announced here so far at the Microsoft Build. But they said the price is going to be around $3,500 if you buy it flat out. But they said it was about $99 per month, which I've heard that they're going to potentially be doing some sort of leasing option. I don't know if it's like an indefinite like you pay $99 forever type of option, but that's an interesting change that I hadn't seen very many other companies approach where instead of buying something outright, you would maybe pay a monthly fee, kind of like a subscription model, but for hardware. I'm not sure if you have a little bit more information or details about how that's structured.

[00:11:04.170] Julien Bergounhoux: Well, I know, you know, like for the first version of HoloLens, you had to buy it from Microsoft directly. One of the things they're doing, aside from this, you know, kind of leasing option or whatever, is nowadays they're using providers, like people, IT companies who, like, provide hardware to, you know, large enterprises, that kind of stuff. So when a large enterprise is buying computers that don't go to Dell or Lenovo or HP, they buy it from, you know, third parties that specialize in that. And it's going to be the same for HoloLens too. And that's one of the ways, basically, Microsoft is, they're ahead of the rest of the actors in the XR space, as far as deployment goes. I mean, Oculus, they have announced, like you mentioned, an enterprise, you know, offering, but it's still gonna, you're gonna go through them, that kind of stuff. Microsoft, they're ahead of the game, you know, they got these partner customers, very big, so that's one of the things. And of course, Build is a developer conference, and while you're speaking to people using HoloLens for a few years, Yeah, getting the headset, it's very complicated. It used to cost like $3,500 for a dev and $5,000 for production units. Being able to get it for like $100 a month, it's going to be a game changer. I know a lot of small devs that used to have to beg to get a headset from Microsoft, especially in smaller companies that not necessarily have a lot of hype going on. Nowadays, you can just, yeah, $100, you get the tools, you get Unity, There's a CAD plugin that works for CAD and BIM. So for architecture and just design, that kind of stuff, that's huge. That goes with the offering. And yeah, it allows to get started, take the device, get it in your hand, and get going. So yeah.

[00:12:49.703] Kent Bye: Yeah, I didn't have a chance to go to the Mobile World Congress of 2019 in Barcelona, which seemed to be where a lot of the big announcements were happening for HoloLens. Did you happen to be able to go there and attend that press conference?

[00:13:00.405] Julien Bergounhoux: Yeah, so actually I was at a press conference, I managed to do all of the demos, which was not easy, but I did all of them. I mean, it's an impressive device. Everybody was expecting what the response would be to MagicLip, the MagicLip 1, which is a good device in its own rights, but with some compromises, and HoloLens 2 delivered. It's not consumer-ready, definitely not, but like I said at the time, I think it's starting to be production-ready. Like I said, HoloLens 1 was more of a prototyping device. You could do stuff, you could see what was coming, but not really good for deployment. With HoloLens 2, If I'm a big company now, I can start saying, hey, maybe I might actually be able to deploy this the way companies will these days deploy cheaper, less powerful headsets, like stuff to do remote supervision, remote aid for workers. Well, now you can start thinking you might be able to do that balance too. And one of the biggest aspects I put forward was the hand interaction. Hand tracking is pretty good. It's pretty good. They've done some pretty good stuff with that, very natural. I mean, again, it's not consumer-ready, but yeah, it's getting there. I feel like it's going to be a big device. I won't say a turning point, but it's a big step. And I expect in the next few years we're going to see a lot of deployment in production of HoloLens 2 stuff. And again, you look at the AR ecosystem, there's a lot of noise that was made by ODG, all these players. To be honest, when you talk to actual customers, they're like, these guys, they're just not on the level of what Microsoft is doing currently.

[00:14:40.822] Kent Bye: They like folded, didn't they? Both Meta and ODG both are no longer doing stuff, right?

[00:14:45.655] Julien Bergounhoux: Yeah, it's not surprising. I mean, I shouldn't be badmouthing companies, but when you try these devices, I'm often surprised to see people like, you know, this guy, they just list the specs, so they do this, then they compare it to something like HoloLens or Magic Leap 1, and it's just, I mean, it's not comparable. Today, you're a company, you want to do AR in a way that's... impressive, they can do stuff, you got two options basically, scroll lens 2, MagicLip 1, that's about it, or you use smartphone and tablets. One thing that's important to remind people of is that today a lot of companies will still be using tablets. That's the main AR device in enterprise because it's durable, It's got enough autonomy, it's easy to use for people, it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. A lot of enterprises are still using tablets and that's who Microsoft is fighting against with HoloLens 2. It's just switching from tablets to the headset. Of course the big advantage for that is being hands-free, that's a huge thing.

[00:15:44.545] Kent Bye: Well, one of the things that I find really fascinating to look at Microsoft is just to see their evolution as a company over the number of years, going back from having Microsoft Windows and then Linux coming in as a competitor. And I feel like that after Bill Gates left and Steve Ballmer came in, there's a little bit of a complete missing of the mobile revolution that happened. where they didn't really make any big movement and innovation when it comes to the Windows platform on mobile. And so you have Microsoft who's kind of sitting back and watching both the Apple iOS and Google Android pretty much dominate the entire mobile space. And so they've had, to some extent, have to take this cross-platform, open-source approach where they're just now just trying to support all the different frameworks. And it seems like that there's this kind of shift from the centralized systems into the decentralized systems. edge compute, and in some ways they may actually be set up towards this where everything is going, which is a little bit more open, agnostic, and not walking you into a specific platform, and having support for many different anchor points for doing things with anchors both on the HoloLens as well as ARKit and ARCore. They seem to be taking a very open strategy that I think is able to, in some ways, cultivate this really rich, deep ecosystem that I feel like is going to be harder for those other companies that are only focused on their own world gardens, whether it's Magic Leap or Oculus with virtual reality. I see that what they're doing is super impressive in terms of what it's going to take to be able to really cultivate that developer ecosystem.

[00:17:12.774] Julien Bergounhoux: Yeah, so, I mean, Microsoft, they've really, like, they've undergone a transformation that's really impressive, actually. You look at what they were 10 years ago and what, you know, they are today. It's almost a completely different company, so that's very impressive. To be fair to Steve Ballmer, Poland's development started under his reign, but yeah, he had to I mean, he did completely miss the mobile revolution. Actually, it's interesting because you look at the two, I guess, biggest players in the XR field, which would be Facebook and Microsoft. What they have in common is that they are both absent from mobiles. They both failed to get in on that, and they absolutely do not want to miss the next platform. And that's why, you know, it's a classic case. You miss on a platform war, you lose, and then you really want to do everything in your power to win the next one because you know otherwise you're dependent on Apple and Google in this case. So yeah, that's why these two players are investing so much. So what's interesting about being open is it's often, it's kind of, sometimes it's a marketing thing, where they know they'll attract more developers that way, but Yeah, it also allows the ecosystem to grow and grow and grow. And I feel that's why Microsoft is doing it, is they know and they've known for a few years that if they stay close, they would lose more and more devs. And by opening and opening and keep being open, they know they're bringing in more people. And I mean, it shows at this conference, the Developer Conference Build, they're getting more people each year. And five years ago, they gave everyone a PC. You came to build, you got a laptop for free. Now they stopped doing that, but more people are coming anyway. People come because they're interested. You don't have to get a handout to come. I mean, I don't know what it costs, but it's like maybe a thousand dollars or more. People come anyway because there's a lot of value there. Microsoft has this advantage, they're very big, they've got the cloud platform Azure. They have an enormous reach. It's something they're not specialized. It's true if you look at Facebook, they're on social networking, but Oculus for them is a way to branch out. But they're still at the beginning of that. Microsoft, they're in IoT, they're in cloud, they're in gaming with Xbox. They've got so much stuff going on, and their XR strategy plugs in right in. So, for example, at Mobile World Congress, what they announced was a new app for Dynamics 365. And yeah, that's the thing is, when you get HoloLens for a company, you already got the 365 software to do your sales and whatever, and you can, you know, like, the use case for AR plugs right into that. You don't have something else to install, so it's just convenience. And if there's anything, you know, big enterprises like is, you know, convenience, They've got their providers, they've got their processes, their workflows. If you can plug in right into that, that's a huge advantage if you're a technology provider. So I feel like Microsoft, again, they're a bit ahead of the rest of the pack in this regard.

[00:20:06.785] Kent Bye: Yeah, I was really noticing the ways in which the different services that Microsoft was talking about, whether it's Azure or Microsoft Cognitive Services, or being able to do these team collaboration and pulling in information from these different services that they have from all the different parts of the company. Do you feel like that that's giving them a distinct competitive advantage of these other companies to have so many different offerings and services for the enterprise that, for me, when I look at the other augmented reality at least, they're far ahead. Now, when I look at the Oculus Quest, for example, I feel like that as a piece of hardware is way more impressive than any self-contained VR headset that I've seen. I feel like the Windows Mixed Reality VR headsets are a little behind, they're not as polished, they're kind of a bad experience, and so if it were up to me to decide whether or not to use VR every day, whether or not I wanted Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Windows Mixed Reality, I would certainly not go with the Windows Mixed Reality, at least to the extent they're at today. with HP Reverb has a very high resolution. I had a chance to try that out at the Love All Virtual. And if I was sitting at a desk, I'd probably pick a Oculus Quest. If I was standing up with a room scale, I might pick a Vive. But being able to just have a headset to be able to put on anywhere, I feel like the Oculus Quest is going to have so many new options that are out there.

[00:21:22.633] Julien Bergounhoux: Yeah, I mean Quest is an incredible device, no argument from me here, it's amazing. I think especially for the consumer space, to me it's a real start of the consumer VR market. And for enterprise, yeah, it's got a lot of potential as well. Now it's gonna be a bit harder, I think, for Oculus to get in on that field because they've They've mostly laid off the enterprise market for a long time, which allowed HTC to gain in on that. So they're going to have a lot of work to do there. But I know, I've spoken to devs who focus on business cases, and they're very excited about it. I mean, I've met, I would say, several of them who were already working on Quest before the announcements. And yeah, they were all super excited. So I think it's going to catch up. The thing with, you know, the VR headsets from Microsoft is, I mean, even a big company, it's kind of the same thing with the Rift S, you know, it's what I believe Nate Mitchell said at the time is, you know, even a huge company, they've got constraints, you know, they don't have infinite design teams, they don't have infinite, so, you know, they're gonna make choices, you know, Oculus, they prioritize the Quest over the Rift S, and for Microsoft, they prioritize HoloLens over the VR headsets. And so, yeah, it shows, I mean, I felt like when they launched the ecosystem, it was clever. They used their PC partners, they used the chip to make it less resource-heavy on the CPU side. They had the insider tracking, which was, you know, they were first on market with that, so that was pretty good. But yeah, I mean, no software ecosystem, we see a huge component, so that's already a bad thing. And yeah, the tracking, I mean, It was a good first-gen as far as tracking goes, but yeah, I mean, it doesn't compare to Quest or to Rift S or to... I mean, personally, I believe insider tracking is going to go a long ways towards adoption, because whether it's on consumer or enterprise space, people, sensors, they'll set them up if they really need to, but there's a lot of use cases where it's mobile. You know, you bring a laptop and a wired headset, or you bring just the headset, that's a huge thing. That's, you know, that's the future. But yeah, Microsoft needs to do more in that space. I don't know if they're doing it. I don't know. I think for now they're focused on HoloLens 2 and can't do everything at once. You know, it's not possible.

[00:23:38.759] Kent Bye: So the expo floor, I think, is either open or is going to be open. It's a lot larger than it was in the years past in terms of just it's really super spread out. I'm excited to explore and see what other HoloLens 2 demos are out there, what mixed reality and VR demos they have. Usually they have something of everything. It'll be my first opportunity to try out the HoloLens 2.0 since I didn't go to Barcelona to that press conference. But for you, what are some of the stories or things that you're going to be looking at and tracking down here at Microsoft Build 2019?

[00:24:08.183] Julien Bergounhoux: Well, I mean, I do look at what they do in AI as well as, you know, XR. AI is, I mean, it's an important component for XR and, you know, in general for the offering. So there's a lot of use cases for that, you know, for data manipulation, analysis, for security stuff that they announced for the elections. There's a lot of cases there. So I'm looking forward to that. And otherwise, it's mostly use cases, you know. One thing I've been saying for, you know, quite a number of years is I don't care for proof of concepts, you know. You got a pack, yeah, good for you, but I don't care for that. I care for stuff that's production-ready, that's going to be deployed, because that's where the real value is. There's a ton of startups or agencies, studios, whatever a company is doing, they got this thing, shiny use case, but it can't be deployed, it's not going to be deployed, they've got no clients. I'm always saying, come back to me when you get an actual use case that's going to be deployed. So these are the things I look for.

[00:25:02.483] Kent Bye: And we had a little Twitter exchange about non-disclosure agreements. I was against NDAs. And coming as a journalist, what I've noticed is when I'm covering the field, whenever developers are under NDAs, they can no longer talk to me pretty much at all. And for me, as a journalist, it helps me to talk to developers, to get as much information as I can. I feel like there's this trade-off between an NDA that's protecting the interests of a company versus the community benefits to be able to openly share information and talk about as much as you want. If I was able to talk to any developer any time about anything, it would perhaps be able to grow the overall ecosystem. But I understand there's trade-offs between having early access to information and keeping things closer to us. I guess the problem I have is when the NDAs are misused, and to be able to silence developers and to do things that I see as somewhat abusive, whether it's announce things at a conference that they haven't told the developers at all about, and then they can't talk about it at all, or just ways of keeping the developers silenced of being able to speak out and to speak their mind about different things. And so I feel like there's a trade-off where there's good and bad, but for me as a journalist, I just find over and over again how difficult it is to get the information that I want when there's a lot of NDAs in place.

[00:26:18.425] Julien Bergounhoux: Obviously, when you're a journalist, you want all the info. Your job is trying to get an info you are not supposed to get. If you write stuff and nobody's ever pissed at it, you're not a journalist, you're just communicating, you're a PR guy. Your job is to find information and relate it, whether people are happy about it or not. But yeah, I mean, I guess maybe I'm jaded. I'm just used to NDAs, you know, so I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised it's being used. I mean, for Quest, you know, it would be insane if developers went out under NDA before the launch. Now, one thing that's clear is, you know, people have got a choice to sign in or not. They sign it, I guess the trade-off is good. If they got a bad experience, I think it doesn't work in favor of the big guys, the guy who gets them to sign the NDA, because, you know, Companies who abuse their developers, who are not fair, and who do stuff that is, you know, to their detriment, eventually they will lose these guys, you know. We've seen this for the larger gaming market, you know. I mean, among the console makers, some in previous generations were not very fair to indie devs, and they lost these guys. Then they had to regain them. It's the same for enterprise devs, you know. I mean, Developers are looked after and, you know, a lot of companies are trying to get more devs. If Microsoft, for example, just an example, if they are not taking good care of their developers, they're going to lose them to Google or Amazon or whatever, you know, on the cloud side. And it's the same for VR. So, you know, if Facebook abuses the developers, they're going to lose them. The first opportunity these guys will get to go elsewhere, they will. Same for Valve, same for whatever company you want. If they do not behave properly with devs, they will lose them. I mean, again, I can't, you know, necessarily comment on your specific situation. I find, yeah, I mean, there's also, you know, people who won't speak to me about some stuff because they can't, you know, I mean, I understand it, but I feel like if there's abuse going on, it's going to come back and bite, you know, whoever's doing it in the ass. You know, whether it's, you know, today, tomorrow, two years from now, people don't forget. And that's how you get, you know, sometimes you get big companies who are in a position of power, Three years later, a disruptor comes and the whole ecosystem moves over to the other guy. I mean, there's a reason. Sometimes it doesn't happen. Sometimes a guy comes, tries to disrupt, the ecosystem stays with, you know, who they were before. It's because of how they are treated. So, you know, it's a simple thing. I guess I'm, you know, just a kind of wait and see guy, you know, I'll see what happens.

[00:28:46.235] Kent Bye: I feel like there's a pendulum that swings back and forth between closed and open in that a lot of the companies right now are really going towards the trying to own the platform and you know Microsoft I think is probably taking the most open approach and Facebook and other players are taking a lot more closed approach where they're trying to own every part of the platform ecosystem and so Yeah, I just see that right now, because it's such a small market, there's another economic influence where a lot of developers don't feel like they could speak on the record to criticizing any of these big companies just because they don't want to be ostracized and not have access to this hardware and stuff. And so I end up hearing a lot of things that either people can't speak about because of NDAs or because they just don't want to go on the record about different stuff. For me, it's frustrating just because I can't necessarily report on it all that much because I do a podcast on record, but there seems to be like a feedback loop cycle of information that doesn't always get fed back up to the food chain because people are too afraid to speak about what's actually happening.

[00:29:43.692] Julien Bergounhoux: Yeah, I mean, something people sometimes fail to realize is that it's still a very small market, it's a very small ecosystem, you know, and... I mean, again, I feel like over time things will change, obviously. For, you know, the open versus closed aspect, I feel like when Apple gets into the game, when they launch their products, there's gonna be a big litmus test, I guess. They have a lot of weight behind them. They've got a brand power that's enormous, the biggest, you know, of all these players. So I think they'll easily be able to attract, you know, a very large ecosystem. And that's going to be the test, you know, I mean, can Microsoft as a strategy stand up to that? And, you know, something people don't often realize is Microsoft is often very early to a market, but they always mess up and, you know, let others, you know, So, I mean, the tablet, tablet PCs, you know, no one remembers that because it was an awful experience. And then the iPad came and, you know, it's a revolution. So, yeah, I mean, right now Microsoft is leading, but will they lead in five years? Who knows? I mean, nothing's guaranteed. Facebook's are investing enormous money into VR. I think they're doing a great job and actually I'm honestly more excited about what's yet to come, what's in the Facebook Reality Labs because that's where the good stuff is. I definitely do not have any insight there. I've asked them if I could come and they don't even reply to me. Yeah, that's the good stuff. So I feel like good things are yet to come, but will they still lead? Who knows? For example, Google, right now they're kind of in a funk. They're not really announcing anything. Their XR strategy seems to be stagnant, but I'm sure they're working on stuff. Amazon, they've not announced anything yet. No doubt they're working on something. And we saw with Alexa that they just They came, they took over the market, that's it. So still early, a lot of stuff can still happen. We should hedge our bets. Everything can still happen.

[00:31:40.493] Kent Bye: Great. And finally, what do you think the ultimate potential of immersive technologies are and what they might be able to enable?

[00:31:49.096] Julien Bergounhoux: That's a tough one. I mean, like I said earlier, to me it's the future of computing. New user experience, new user interface. I think whether it's in the consumer space, enterprise space, it's going to change everything. I feel like remote working is going to become really really big and that's going to be helped largely by AR and VR and I feel like that's a major societal change. I also think smartphones are going to migrate towards the eye for AR and that's also going to be a pretty huge change in the way we function as a society. It's enormous. I mean, it's too big to talk about, honestly. But I think it's going to be like, you know, you've always got a lot of hyped-up technology, you know, blockchain, IoT, you know, cloud, whatever, big data, you know. I feel like, to me, immersive computing is the biggest of them all.

[00:32:45.387] Kent Bye: Okay, great. Well, thank you so much.

[00:32:47.149] Julien Bergounhoux: No problem. Have a good one. Thank you for interviewing me. It's a rare occurrence for me. I'm usually the one doing the interviews, so, yeah.

[00:32:56.573] Kent Bye: So that was Julien Bergogneux. He's a tech reporter for l'Unse Digitale covering VR, AR, and artificial intelligence. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, Well, it was really interesting just to hear Julien's take, talk about how each of these big major players within the VR ecosystem have to make specific choices as to what they're going to focus on. For Microsoft, they're clearly focusing on the head-mounted display, HoloLens, and all these different connected devices, Edge Compute, specifically for enterprise applications. And so the Windows Mixed Reality VR headsets are not as good as what you see from the HTC Vive or from Oculus Rift. Although I do think there are going to be very specific use cases where it's totally fine to use any one of the different applications. And I think there's different trade-offs that you have to make. I think with the external sensors with the HTC Vive, you have like sub-millimeter accuracy. And so if you're doing work where you really need to like do very precise movements and to track that into virtual reality, then something like the Vive is going to have like some of the most solid tracking. But you also need a dedicated VR room that you may have to book. It's a little bit more difficult to work at your desk at some of this. And so I see something like the Rift S is going to be maybe fitting into that. Maybe it's possible to do some good enough design work within your desk. And then the Quest is going to be very much focusing on probably more so of the training and maybe some of the design stuff with the Gravity Sketch. It's not going to be as a powerful piece of equipment to do some of the more robust experiences that you might expect. Maybe it'll start to do some sort of like connecting up to PC and start to be able to use the Quest as a just purely display device when maybe some of the more advanced computing stuff is happening on the computer and that's being sent over the wire. maybe we'll start to see more of those different applications over the next couple of years. But for the Windows Mixed Reality, I feel like the controllers and everything is just not up to the specifications that you would want. Although I think they're getting better over time and a lot of these different companies are coming out with the second iterations. HP with the Reverb, super high resolution. I know I've been talking to different people within the content creation realm and having that high resolution actually gives a lot more possibilities for 360 video experiences, but it's also just easier to read the text. So I feel like it's a little bit of a mixed bag. There's some clear leaders within the virtual reality space, but in terms of augmented reality, I tend to agree with Julian just in the sense that Microsoft seems to be doing a lot of the ecosystem development and making those early moves in order to make an inroads to this specific market. And that a lot of the other companies are way behind in terms of the breadth and depth of the ecosystems that they've been able to start to cultivate. hearing some of the briefings that they had about mixed reality. Also just talking about how there's a lot more of the system integrators like IBM and potentially eventually some companies like Accenture and these other big consultants. Imagine they're going to start to have a lot more offerings and start to take some of these experiences and start to try to be a liaison to a lot of these different enterprise clients. And so looking to see what some of these big system integrator type of companies like IBM or Accenture are starting to do, I think is also a good indicator to see what's happening within the larger immersive ecosystem. But I do agree with Julian just in the sense that the HoloLens 1 was much more of a prototyping device, a lot of just getting a sense of what is a proof of concept. And for him personally, he's much more interested in looking at what's going to be ready to be production ready and what's ready to be actually be deployed. Actually, there were a number of different applications that were already being deployed out into the field, whether it's in construction or sales and marketing, but it's small scale. And what Julian was saying is that he hasn't seen a lot of like really large scale deployments with some of these technologies out into the field. And I think that with the HoloLens 2, we're probably going to see a lot more of these production ready types of applications. At the Mobile World Congress announcement that happened in Barcelona, there was a lot of different ecosystem partners that were announced. And so I think that once the HoloLens 2 launches at some point, I don't know if it's going to be later this year, there wasn't any specific date that was launched. This time when I talked to Julien before, I had a chance to walk the floor and look at some of the different HoloLens 2 demos myself. His comment was that he didn't think it was like consumer ready. And, you know, Microsoft is aware that this is not ready for primetime just yet. There's a lot of things that they're still working on and I tend to agree with that assessment. And, you know, I don't know if we're expecting something, you know, later this year or maybe even to next year. It sounds like I'm just talking to Justin McCulloch that a lot of the focus that Microsoft is doing right now is just trying to get these headsets into the hands of developers to start to explore some of the new affordances of the. hand tracking as well as the eye tracking and just seeing what the developers are able to do once they get the technology into their hands and start to explore all the new things that are possible. And finally, the last thing that I'm taking away from this interview is Julien was just really interested about how he saw this as like the future computing platforms that are out there. And because he lives in France, he's able to go to the Laval Virtual and Laval, which has been meeting every year for the last 21 years. It's an amazing community that has been really focusing on the different pragmatic enterprise applications within virtual and augmented reality for over two decades now. And so he just went to there and saw that this was a big, huge trend. This is way before the Oculus Rift was even launched. And so he's specifically looking at the enterprise applications and not as much focusing on the consumer side or the gaming side. And so there's not a lot of other journalists that I found that are out there that are specifically covering that beat. And just the fact that he's been doing for the last five or six years, I really trust a lot of his perspective and what he's looking at and the different trends that he's seeing. One of the things he's specifically looking forward to is the future of work and how there's going to be remote collaboration. People will be able to work on these different spatial designs together. I think that's one of the killer use cases for both augmented reality and virtual reality. And whether or not it's going to be VR, AR, I think there's going to be different advantages to each and both. And I had a chance to talk to the CEO of Spatial to kind of dive into their specific tool that is really designed around collaboration. and that you know maybe a trend that we're going to see is people being wherever they're at and be able to work from home or work remotely and to be able to collaborate with each other using these immersive and spatial computing technologies whether it's AR or VR and to not have people fly in order to have these face-to-face meetings and so what type of things can you do with groups and being able to review spatial designs. There's some things that just have such a high cognitive load that it's difficult for you to imagine what things are going to be like and then when you're able to actually see it with the spatial computing devices then it just makes decision so much easier if you're able to like actually see what that's going to look like. If you look at something like San Francisco, where there's just so many issues with all the different tech companies that have driven up the prices to be so high, it's not a great experience to be in San Francisco and to be a worker trying to buy a house and to have a comfortable, safe, secure life when the whole housing market there is just a bit of a disaster. So I'm starting to see people that are deciding to move away and to go to other cities. A lot of people coming up to Portland. other emerging cities, Austin, I'm sure there'll be a lot more of people that are getting away from these big urban environments, maybe going to other urban environments. But maybe one of the trends that we'll see over the next decade or so as more of these immersive technologies come on to line is that less and less people will need to be into these huge cities, and they'll be able to be at home and be anywhere in the world and be able to do remote collaboration and to feel like there have just as much of a presence and to be able to interact with these really intelligent smart people that you wouldn't normally necessarily have a chance to be able to interact with directly if you're not in one of these big major epicenters. So with these spatial computing technologies, there's something about it that's able to democratize access to space and to make the geographic location of where you're at less important. And the spatial computing could just give you access to have these embodied interactions with other people that is a lot more effective than just having voice or 2D screens, but to really have like interactive collaborations with multiple people, all focused on specific objects within a virtual space. I'm seeing that there's a huge number of opportunities there and it's going to start to I think changed a lot of ways in which companies are starting to work. And if you look at like High Fidelity, for example, they've recently done a pivot away from trying to create a consumer social VR and refocusing on doing these types of remote meetings. And I have a couple of other interviews, both with the CEO of Spatial, as well as with the chief marketing officer from Doghead Sims. Both are working on different enterprise collaboration platforms. So we'll be able to dive into that more here in some future episodes. So that's all that 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 listener-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon donations from my community in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.

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