Commercial VR use-cases
Joanna Popper and Cecile Tezenas Du Montcel

Season 1 / Episode 6

Welcome to the LikeXR podcast season one about the extended reality market from people who really understand the industry. This week we are joined by Joanna Popper and Cecile Tezenas Du Montcel from HP.

Joanna Popper is an award-winning Hollywood and Silicon Valley media executive with a track record of launching cutting-edge content and technology to drive revenue, audience engagement, and brand love. She currently leads HP’s Virtual Reality initiatives for Go-To-Market and Location Based Entertainment. Prior she was EVP of Media & Marketing at Singularity University and VP of Marketing at NBCUniversal. Joanna was selected as “50 Women Can Change the World in Media and Entertainment,” “Top 50 Original Thinkers in VR,” “Top Women in Media: Game Changers,” “Top Women in Media: Industry Leaders,” “Digital It List,” “101 Women Leading the VR Industry” and is on the Coalition for the Women in XR Fund.

Joanna Popper
Global Head of Virtual Reality for Location Based Entertainment at HP Inc.

Cecile Tezenas Du Montcel is a Virtual Reality Lead for EMEA HP Inc. - PhD In Material Science, joined HP 21 years ago in Concept R&D labs developing "concept PCs" and future technology, spend 8 years as product marketing manager on several portfolio. Passionate for innovation and technology.

Cecile Tezenas Du Montcel
Virtual Reality Lead for EMEA HP Inc.
If we’re talking about your business then what areas you're focusing on right now? On business hands, on consumer or do you have a balance between them?
Joanna Popper:
Let’s take a step back and talk a little bit about HP. Most people are very familiar with HP. But we were in our 80s… We were founded in 1939. It is that original founder story of two founders in a garage creating technology for Walt Disney for the movie Fantasia. HP is credited with founding of Silicon Valley as we know it today. So since then, there's been lots of different waves of computing and HP has always been at the forefront and focusing on inventing and reinventing technology and the future. So in the larger conversation of the future of computing, in Metaverse, and where all this is going HP has seen VR, AR, AI, age of computers.
All this is a really important part of building a future. So HP has suited up an incubator group that we are part of you over the last four-five years now focusing on building out the future of computing with VR at you as one of the key pinnacles of that. And so within that HP has a long & strong history. Of course, I'm both on the commercial side as well as on the consumer side. We have products that meet both of those needs. So we have the HP Reverb G2 - the stuff in collaboration with Valve in Microsoft. That product has been very much fit for both Gamers as well as for consumers and businesses. Then we have the HP Reverb G2 OMNICEPT which is really focused on the business side. That's targeted towards developers and enterprise. I know more about those products in detail.

Cecile Tezenas Du Montcel:
I think that virtual reality started in gaming and receive progressively a transition to the business. It is growing year after year. Now we are addressing both markets. So we still addressing gamers and just enjoy immersive experience with VR set for traditional business customer or deploying VR for training, collaboration, creation and even selling & marketing activities. The business part of VR is growing and expecting to become as big as a gaming part pretty soon.
We are talking about the future. Except gaming in which areas, industry VR technologies are used more successfully these days and have more potential income in the future?
Joanna Popper:
Training applications is the first usage of VR. And it's coming from a simple reason back to the way our brains learning. When you are doing something, you are learning much better than when you are reading. When you are in VR it is almost like doing something and any sender will attract much of your attention, right? Just after one year you will remember 75% of non-VR vs 5% on either nature. So that that's why training is the largest application of year.

If we try to prolong the topic of future potential, what should be the most biggest challenge, the biggest obstacle that do not allow this industry to grow rapidly and faster? Is it about hardware or software or affordable devices?
Cecile Tezenas Du Montcel:
I think it’s mainly software. VR is a better technology today. So it's not as much as a traditional PC. If you want to do training in VR, there is no standards as software applications for a company to create their own training. So, today the VR system is build on small companies that are creating immersive solutions. I think for a customer that the main challenge is to find the right software. VR is a solution. It’s about VR set plus software.

Joanna Popper:
The software is still pretty early in all of it. In terms of for each generation we now released four different VR headsets. Each one builds on the one before from the one prior, and the technology continues to move forward as well. We're really proud of what we have in the market today and what we're continuing to work on. Simultaneously as the steel set we're working with a lot of different content creator partners to continue to make the content more accessible as well as easier to use it and it can continue to be compelling.

Cecile Tezenas Du Montcel:
I think that an example of the first training solution in VR that we know was four years ago. It was just a building solution to showcase but not easy to duplicate. And we see more and more some of our software partners that are developing turnkey solutions themselves. It is turning from service business to more software business. A lot of evolution we overcome in VR and it is on an early stage.
Let’s talk on commercial use. We now that money drives this world. If your product doesn’t generate enough revenue streams then it fails. Tell us about the commercial use potential for Hewlett-Packard, LG or other current VR technologies. What are these commercial ways?

Joanna Popper:
Now we can talk about what our products are. So we have the HP Reverb G2 that started shipping about a year ago. We continue to improve it and are proud of it. As I mentioned earlier it's collaboration between Valve and Microsoft. It takes the best of what each of these three companies bring to bear. It has incredibly high resolution - 2160 x 2160 per eye. This set is called the King of clarity because of that. The audio is really fantastic. It uses both lenses as well. It is what we done in cooperation with Valve. The audio is pretty similar to what we got with the Valve Index. And then it also is being built in the way to make it very comfortable with the way it sits on your head. In terms of compatibility you can act through a bridge to Windows-mixed reality. You can access everything on Steam. It is really easy using that way. It continues to get awards and prizes (CS, IF award).
We have some comments & feedback from gamers that play Half-Life: Alyx in another headset and then they play it on this headset and because of the resolution and what emerging that brings. It's like a whole new experience of seeing things for the first time they never saw before. Like a blade of grass or something else… That is really fun and exciting to see. If we continue to make tweaks and improvements on the gasket or on the cable to make it more compatible with AMD systems so we can we continue to invest in that product. That’s about the gaming side just as well as the PC will be and the flight simulation. So the headset will be optimized for those use cases as well as games like Half-Life: Alyx and another.
We are working on a lot of location-based entertainment venues. Some are really big like Zero Latency, Dreams. We're working with quite a few in Europe as well on the headset side. by side. And then there's a lot as Cecille mentioned training, architecture, engineering and construction, healthcare training or other health-care uses. They're all using this headset, too. So it's nice to see this sort of robust acceptance & interest in this headset and then I'll can talk about the HP Reverb G2 Omnicept edition, which is amazing. It is an even more award-winning headset that was released in the past few months.

Cecile Tezenas Du Montcel:
So I think it is as you said a mainstream “King of courage & resolution”. So they were looking for the extreme immersive experience that we have created in HP on these approaches. It is the perfect vision of the future - it's a virtual reality, artificial Intelligence Center. It’s really crazy to see. HP Omnicept is a high-res VR headset to which we included eye-tracking sensors censors so when you're bringing the phone and camera is measuring your mouth or your face expression. And our partners can create user-centered experience.
I’ll give you an example. If you are doing a pilot training in virtual reality, you can have a very precise rendering of the pilot of the cockpit and you can produce simulation of the particular flight. And in VR you can measure the level of stress of the pilot? Where does it look so easy looking at the right part? So that training making VR entering a new world when you can get inside and you can also add that experience issue on the pilot to be more stressed. You can change; you should feel that he is not stressing us. We also have very impressive partners in that scale.
They are using all the sensors to measure mental else, but that's for you something amazing because they using with the eye-tracking and they used to say that the eyes are the windows of the brain. And when you get in VR you are a practitioner that exercises on what was developed by a neurologist and with the information on the eye-tracking. And we could get information on doing diagnosis on a mental diseases, so that's pretty. We’re really enjoying the future. But, obviously, this is one is not for gaming but for a more professional usage in Care Research.

Joanna Popper:
When I asked people that were using NEOs or some other different social VR, they said that love to see what developers are doing with it. So, that's one of the most exciting joys about getting to see how developers take this great technology and then build on it. On the other side, there are a lot of words, also a CS Innovation… Then we just got the last week or two the “VR Headset of the Year” award at the VR Awards on just two weeks ago for the Reverb G2 Omnicept edition. So we were thrilled about that. I'm thrilled to have more and more developers and enterprises get their hands on it and see why that one is really exciting.
I suggest putting on hold our business discussion. Let’s talk about one of my favorite questions I always ask on a podcast. Tell us a story how you fell in love with XR?

Joanna Popper:
I’ll tell you my story. I first tried this technology in 2014, and I was working in NBC Universal & Television and our agency invited us to a conference and then they were showing off new tag - the early Oculus prototypes and some other. And there I had an experience like many people; it was like a roller coaster. And then over, I ended up moving from NBC Universal to a tech startup in San Francisco. And while I was there, I worked with a lot of different content creators and build content. And I realized that that was what I want to do. I then got really excited about it.
So I called all these different people who worked in the field and told that I'm going to see as much content as I possibly could and then after 30 coffees I got cleared that this is what I want to do next. It builds on my passion for storytelling and creativity on the media side, plus the interest in the innovation on the text side. And then not that long later they call and here I am. That's my version. If you started with this roller coaster, then it was that intersection between the business, storytelling, and creativity built on the new innovation that got me super excited.
And then during those coffees I understood that that was really the community and the people that work in this industry not just what's being created. But the focus, the people working in this industry is idealists, dreamers about where is the world going or how do we want to create that world and where are we taking this Metaverse. Let's do that. Let's be inclusive about it. And all of those conversations got me super excited about it. That was 5-6 years ago. And then as I was having those conversations and then joined HP about four years ago.

Cecile Tezenas Du Montcel:
I would look maybe 20 years ago when I was doing my Ph.D. in physics, which is nothing, right to what I'm doing now. That year I was using a stereoscope when you are taking different pictures and that's basically the mechanism behind VR. That is why our brain sees 360 and you have a difference, you see different images. That were just basic images and it was like a magic to have two different pictures and make your brain believes that it's 360. That was kind of a crazy thing at that time. It was a long time ago.
I saw huge and bulky headset and it was crazy and then at HP when I came to this business because of the love of this technology. And then I've met so fabulous people developing immersive experience that I would say the best and the most beautiful experiences I've seen is one we've done in London with Marshmallow laser face, it was so beautiful. I still remember that it was so immersive, so beautiful and that what this technology can bring. So that really makes me super happy to be in it, and it's a technology that makes interesting connections together and it's a technology makes people connecting together.

Joanna Popper:
It’s a superhuman opportunity to connect humans and drive you. It brings some of the best elements and accentuates them.
You also mentioned a very interesting topic - location-based entertainment. Could you tell us more? What is it?

Joanna Popper:
The term location-based entertainment just means anywhere that you go outside your home to be entertained. It's a term not just for virtual reality, but the Theme Park Cinema, Maldivian arcades... You're all different form of different forms of location-based entertainment, and prior to the pandemic there was a huge push from these locations to bring virtual reality into other location for a couple of reasons. With the idea that it would increase the revenue per square foot it would potentially drive costs down, and then that Innovation to bring a new or different audiences in traffic. And so, we've been working for years now with players, cruise lines, across malls, across arcades, across Theme Parks, Cinemas as well as all of the companies that have been created specifically to build location-based entertainment experiences I mentioned - there are so many that we've been working with.
Some of them have turned into something else during this time back in March of 2020. So, leading in the past few years we've had three different HD backpacks supposed to be very popular. Backpacks for sensors of computer on your back and plug in your headset into it and get him to have really high graphics, agility, high-resolution and very immersive experiences. And so we've been working with companies over the years. We watch them grow really fast and scale out there at their new businesses and when March 2020 came in and the world shutdown overall we observed that these companies stopped to compete and were running and scaling. They all stopped and thought about you. What's our strategy, how are we going to build long-term, some of them pivoted out of the business.
They changed some of their operational plans that were supposed to be COVID-compliant and then many of them have just really continued to grow like Zero Latency, Sandbox. Some of them are posting higher numbers than they would like. VR studios posting higher numbers then they never did even pre-pandemic. We're really proud to see how smart they were in that category. It didn't continue to scale out and see you to hone their strategy. Continue to refine their business model, produce amazing content. Then I actually just went to Dreamscapes “Men in Black” this weekend and that's what VR brings innovation into location-based entertainment and brings people experiences that they can enjoy with your family and friends. For many people it was their first excellent VR experience and where we sit now in December 2021 that's continuing to scale and more and more people are able to try VR this way.
There are some really interesting things done at the Film Festivals or where VR merges with immersive theater. Cecille mentioned before a VR experience which was gorgeous than a lot of different projects over the years as well as during COVID like what did a Shakespeare company until we also received some really interesting ways that content creators are taking location-based no taming experiences and then extending them. In some cases it is like “Into the home”. Then we also worked with finding pandora acts during the lockdown or pandemic which premiered at the Venice, but all of the actors were in their HP Reverb headsets and had their HP workstations & VR backpacks acting inside VR chat. And if you don't buy double ice studios in turbans egg and a Greek mythology, play the branching narrative, and so audiences could be anywhere around the world as long as they have a headset. This is just great description of all the world's a stage where the actors on stage from wherever they were around the world and their headset and their audiences. I think there's a lot of interesting and to me it is an interesting extension on location based entertainment where that location is anywhere that the headset is.

Cecile Tezenas Du Montcel:
I think that one large that is kind of close to this location is the Museum and the National Heritage that they start willing to create immersive experience for customer to visiting the museum but is adding additional experience to just visiting the museum. For example, a National Science Museum in London where you can leave and view a dinosaur skeleton and then you can see and hear what it was before. In Paris we are working in a very crate for a project for Notre Dame set on fire two years ago. There was a large project with UBISOFT, a game company, when we made before the fire a full 3D scan of Notre Dame to create an experience of what it was like. It is a new experience that people can do until it's revealed. That's showing that when creating this immersive experience you have limitless opportunities.

Let’s discuss such a hot topic as Metaverse. I'm sure you heard that Facebook (Meta) announced that they are entering a new era of the company's development and the Metaverse will play a crucial role. What were your first thoughts when you heard about this?

Joanna Popper:
I’ve been working in this industry about the Metaverse concept years & years before that name changed, so for the industry it's exciting that there's so much focus on the Metaverse and reinvigorating deep interest in that intersection of all things, digital platforms, digital identities. And HP certainly has been very focused on this for a long time and I think for the overall industry it is good to see so much interest come out of a company's name change, but I think it is super positive for the overall industry.
Speaking overall, it is great for the industry. The technology has been around for four decades as an industry were still in. The first decade of being a real industry & all the investment that's going into it, all the people entering the industry, all of the content that has been created and continues to be funded & created… All of these are an important part of moving this technology forward as you continue to spread the adoption. We're still really early in the adoption of the stack as many people. We as a Company or every individual believe deeply in this. We see all of the investment that's coming in and the people with great skills come into the industry and all this is very positive.
How the Metaverse will spread out? I mean, would it be only when such huge companies like Microsoft, Facebook, and Google will be within one place in the Metaverse, or would it be just Facebook’s, Microsoft’s, or any other company’s standalone Metaverse?

Joanna Popper:
I would look at it as one Metaverse with different experiences that you have within that Metaverse. I’ll be crazy to tell about 7 rules of the Metaverse. First one is real telling that there's only one Metaverse. I think that there are lots of different people now finding how it will work in the future.

Cecile Tezenas Du Montcel:
I think that's the beauty of this new technology. So many players involved and we don't know what would be the final state. I think that Metaverse is just a word to explain the virtual world and you have different ways to access it. So we have lots of opportunities right now.
Do you believe that this Metaverse as a concept may be in some fashion as a competition because Metaverse itself is about technology & data, and I think that Facebook would like to play own rules on Google field or others. What would be with the rules? Would they be individual? Like that's my Metaverse and that's my devices. That’s my standards…

Joanna Popper:
I think as a Company we believe in things like Open XR, and interoperability and that is the direction we’d like to go.
Many people imagine that Metaverse is a digital and improved copy of the real world and it's mainly thanks to the movies and books. Will their expectations meet each other?

Joanna Popper:
In most of those movies & books is actually a dystopia where people go to escape the damage done to this beautiful Earth that we all have inherited. So, I hope those expectations will not be back. I hope that we are accessing the Metaverse and are engaged with the Metaverse in better way to augment and improve upon already great environment and life.

Joanna, what is the first thing you would like to do when you first enter a Metaverse?

Joanna Popper:
I would say that simultaneously we’re still building a lot of things like Roblox, VR chat, and those are certainly already considered as a part of the Metaverse. I've had amazing experiences with social VR already. I’ve just mentioned a beautiful experience in social VR, but during pandemic when you can’t go to Broadway, Venice we still get some interaction with live actors, win awards while wearing pajamas in our team. When the pandemic first started we immediately moved to social VR, to do this VR hang outs. We even had a retirement party for somebody from our team and also in VR chat, but we've been across every space. This is one of those technologies where they often say about like the future is here. It's just not evenly distributed. Of course, all of the future is not here but we can certainly see glimpses of the future and people like us who are lucky to be in this field and have access to all of the great, best technology right now, to get it living our lives in that future in many ways already.
Cecille, that’s a great reply to follow. The same question you… What is the first thing to do in Metaverse?

Cecile Tezenas Du Montcel:
We’ve been in Metaverse for many years. As Johanna said there is nothing new. So I don't consider what would be the first thing I'll do in Metaverse because I feel that I've been in Metaverse already so many times. The good thing of Facebook changing name is that it makes these worlds popular and known. People start thinking what would be the first thing I will do with it. To me it’s about the first experience I will perceive. I really appreciate that with this emotional connection, with this story being telling about immersive content I do what I've never done before. The first thing I would do is this immersion to feel the experience that the artist wanted to create. I think it's the most impressive.

Joanna Popper:
There's a project that I had worked on a personal basis called Brianna's Garden which is created by Lady Phoenix and Sue to in collaboration with Breonna Taylor's family, Janiyah Palmer. It’s about someone killed within a mistake and raid where the police went to the wrong house and so we created that experience of a movement in USA last summer around that matter & injustice. So, working with that team in Microsoft, Unity and other groups there was an experience which honors her life. And part of it is a volumetric capture of Janiyah Palmer who's her sister, and then there's a union representation of Brianna and people are able to leave messages for the family, messages were for Brianna or anyone who is lost in their life. And so I just went to Art Basel to create interactive film that got number of social impact awards.
That project is important because of the impact and healing for the family and others. But it's also an interesting conversation around Metaverse where you have a representation of somebody who's no longer with us. We are together with her sister and we know that somebody like Prince, you know has said in the past that he never wanted to be represented in a holographic state, but in this case this family that you do another panels with them and they said that they feel like they get to be with their sister again or be with her daughter or partner again. To me this is a really interesting conversation around the Metaverse and what it can provide around connection and healing for people.
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