The Metaverse: Bridging The Real And The Virtual Ft. Peggy Johnson CEO Of Magic Leap
The Metaverse has evolved from a virtual gaming space to something that now encompasses a much broader range of applications, including commerce, education, socializing, and entertainment. Peggy Johnson, CEO of Augmented Reality Company, Magic Leap, provides insights on how mixed reality and artificial intelligence will shape the metaverse and the challenges and opportunities that arise from this technology.
Oscar: Welcome to The Bid where we break down what’s happening in the markets and explore the forces changing the economy and finance. I’m your host, Oscar Pulido.
The future of technology is changing rapidly and so is our engagement with it. The concept of the Metaverse has evolved from a virtual gaming space to something that now encompasses a much broader range of applications, including commerce, education, socializing, and entertainment.
It’s been described as the next step in the evolution of the internet, a major driver of the future economy, and is likely to change not only the way we interact with technology, but with each other as well. Here to help us prepare for this technology-focused future, I’m pleased to welcome Peggy Johnson, the CEO of Augmented Reality Company, Magic Leap that is working to create a more immersive digital world.
Peggy will discuss insights on how mixed reality and artificial intelligence will shape the metaverse and the challenges and opportunities that arise from this technology. Peggy, welcome. Peggy, thank you so much for joining us on The Bid.
Peggy: Thanks for having me, Oscar. I’m looking forward to this!
Oscar: So, Peggy, perhaps we can start by just defining what is the metaverse, what is this emerging technology? And also, maybe talk a little bit about the difference between augmented reality technology and virtual reality technology, which often intersects with the metaverse.
Peggy: Yeah, and I think the terms do get interchanged and they’re actually very different technologies. I would say in its absolute simplest form. We like to define the metaverse as the merging of your digital and your physical worlds. And both AR and VR can do that. But VR or virtual reality is when you have a device on your eyes and you’re fully occluded.
You can’t see your physical world around you, but there’s digital content that’s placed in front of your eyes and it’s a great tool for entertainment, for gaming, there’s typically avatars involved, but augmented reality is when you put the device on and your eyes still see your physical world, so you are not going to trip over the coffee table!
You, see what’s in front of you and then digital content is placed very precisely and accurately in that, physical world. And really, for me, I think the potential for augmented reality is going to be far greater than virtual.
reality, which is largely an immobile experience because you don’t see what’s in front of you, so you typically have to not be moving around too much, so you don’t trip and fall.
Oscar: That’s super clear as you painted that, picture. So, then what are some of the business opportunities with technologies like augmented reality which you said you see greater potential for, and then, have you seen any barriers that need to be overcome or just adoption not being as fast as you thought it would be?
Peggy: Yeah. I would say first and foremost, augmented reality is much harder to build because you have to get the optics just right. you have to scan your physical world so that you put that digital content at the right spot in your physical world. But the types of applications that you can do with augmented reality are much broader.
So, you could imagine both technologies are good for training, but with augmented reality, you can take a new factory worker and actually put them out on the factory floor much faster than say, having them sit and watch something through virtual reality. You can have them walk up to a machine and have a digital twin of that machine overlaid on top of it. So, their eyes see the physical machine, but they also see helpful content.
You know, turn this gauge if the pressure’s gone too high, unplug this as the very first thing you do. And there’s all sorts of digital pointers that can be in their field of view on top of that physical machine, which really from a training perspective.
Makes it a lot easier to understand versus say more traditional training, which is go sit in a classroom for three weeks and read these manuals and, let’s walk through it. You’re in front of the machine, you’re on the factory floor. You’re productive much earlier with this type of technology.
Oscar: Yeah, II was just thinking you’re describing like a digital user manual for that factory worker.
Peggy: Exactly, and you had asked about some of the obstacles. The issue has been these devices have tended to be fairly heavy on your head. They can be hot; they’re processing a lot more than your mobile phone. And so, you can imagine an electronic device on your head for a long period of time could be uncomfortable.
So, we had to work hard to get the weight out to bring the size down to make it comfortable for workers to use all day long to make the optics as clear as possible, the color uniformity, the text legibility, all of these were really blockers to using this type of technology earlier than now what we’re seeing come to market.
Oscar: So, is that factory worker when they put on that AR augmented reality technology are they now in the metaverse? Or maybe just to go back to, what the metaverse is -for people who don’t think they’ve interacted with it, where would they have come across it?
Peggy: Well, that’s a great question because people are already interacting with what we define as the metaverse, which is this merging of your digital and physical world. So, for instance, you’re in a new city, you’re looking for a building you can pull up Google Maps and see a picture of the building, that’s just a digital image, but it’s helpful in getting you to your end point.
That is a simple example of the metaverse. I think, even the fact that we can now access, say, corporate data from anywhere. You used to have to be sitting in front of your PC or it was a mainframe where you had a terminal and that was it. You couldn’t access your corporate data. Now with mobile device management on your phones, you can access it anywhere.
That’s another version of that. But the type of metaverse that we’re entering, with augmented reality, is this type where you have a heads-up view of your world. You’re not looking down at your phone and pulling that digital content information out. You are looking at your physical world and that content is placed very intelligently in there.
So that same Google Maps experience can now be much better. It’ll just be walking you right to the building, with big digital arrows in your field of view and a picture of the building before you get there. So, it’ll be a tool that’ll enhance the traditional digital experiences we have now.
Oscar: It sounds like it would be really hard to be bad at directions, if you have that technology with you, at least, in the future or, as you interact with that technology.
Peggy: There should be no excuse anymore, right?
Oscar: You mentioned that, like one of the challenges with the technology has been the weight the feel of it on, on, on your body. So that’s perhaps one of the problems. Are there other problems with the technology that you’re seeing that needs to be solved. And then perhaps on the flip side, what are some of the additional benefits that augmented reality technology affords.
Peggy: So I would say some of the problems that more virtual reality struggles with is unfortunately, a feeling of nausea a certain percentage of the population puts on a virtual reality device and because you lose your frame of reference, you’re now looking at an image of something in front of your eyes, it can be jarring and it can give you that seasick feeling or air sick feeling.
So that’s a pretty tough challenge to overcome. I know folks are working on it, but we’re augmented reality we don’t have that same challenge because you do see your horizon, you do see your frame of reference, and that’s not a problem in augmented reality.
I would say some of the areas where it’s been beneficial is for instance, we’ve got several use cases now with surgeons that are using it within surgery.
They have, the ability to look at the patient in front of them. They see everything in the surgical suite, but on the patient you can put a digital incision line. You can have their vitals wherever it’s comfortable for the surgeon to see them rather. Perhaps fixed on a wall across the surgical theater.
So it’s going to change the way that, surgery is delivered because it’s a tool to make the outcomes safer, more accurate, better for the patient with that sort of information just integrated into the field of view.
Oscar: When you talk about these futuristic technologies, you sort of to ask the question, what’s the impact on society? What do you see that impact being? Does it change the way we interact each other immediately, or does that shift happen more gradually over time?
Early days, there’s use cases in the enterprise space for sure. Eventually, we’ll circle back to consumer, but the product has to get smaller and lighter yet again. So early days, the value is in training and any sort of 3D visualization. Any sort of remote assistance, let’s say you’re not the expert on something, and that could be in any field, you could call in an expert who can actually see what you are seeing with your eyes because it’s all digitized and from any device, they can see what you’re seeing.
Peggy: I think the opportunity over time is back to that heads-up view that we’ll have of our world again. You look at any conference, any meeting room, everybody’s looking down at their phones. We can actually have a heads-up view of our world. We could be hopefully more social with this type of technology going forward than looking down at our phones and typing It’ll really change that interaction.
Oscar: You’ve talked about the factory worker, the surgeon, what are some other examples that you can think of right now where enterprises are using this technology at scale?
Peggy: Yeah, so we have quite a bit of activity in the public sector, in particular in defense training of soldiers, for instance. Right now, training scenarios can be pretty expensive. And if you want to change the scenario, you’ve got physical assets that you’ve got to move around, if you want to make a blind corner or something. You’ve got to stop the training, move the physical assets around, then put the soldiers back into the training theater and everything could be digital.
And you can change the scenarios very, very quickly. So it reduces the time it takes to train the soldiers. And you can actually be more flexible as far as different scenarios they can be quite advanced versus maybe just the physical assets you have in a single room. So it opens up training really of any type but we’ve seen quite a bit of, uptake in the defense, the public sector, any sort of first responder training.
Oscar: And are there any, as you think about the application of these technologies, do you find any ethical or privacy issues that users of the technology are encountering? and just curious, what is Magic Leap’s view on these issues as they arise?
Peggy: Yeah, it’s a great question because, this is still an emerging technology and we have the opportunity to get it right this time. Versus the internet, when we had to go back and refactor parts of it in order to keep our data private and secure.
This technology, at least as far as Magic Leap is concerned, was built from the ground up to keep the data that it’s gathering and that it’s analyzing private on board, so we don’t send anything off board unless the corporation that you know has purchased the device, is bringing that data into their IT infrastructure. Obviously that’s something that we enable.
But you really have to think of these devices as quite a bit different from a mobile phone. They’re literally brimming with sensors. Five cameras looking out at the world, there’s four cameras looking back at your eye. We have a whole variety of audio inputs. There’s a laser pointer that can help you select things in a list. Your hands are actually an input as well. There’s hand gestures that you can do to pick things.
And so between, all of the cameras, the projectors that are imaging your world, these are mobile phones on steroids, so the data’s very personal. If you have four cameras looking at your eye, you can think of, there’s quite a bit of biometric data there that the individual is going to want to keep private and secure.
So we built the device from the very start to keep that data on board and only to allow it off if you have the permission of the user or the corporation and we want to be part of the protocols going forward working with government and other companies to ensure that it stays that way.
Oscar: And maybe if switch the lens, from businesses and as a technology, let’s think about the investor. What you’re discussing sounds like a, an investment opportunity, not only directly, but their secondary impact on sectors and industries. But thinking about technology, it’s been a challenging period for technology investing over past year, we had rising interest rates and supply chain issues. And as a CEO in the tech space, how do you think about the investment environment going forward?
Peggy: Certainly we’re entering a challenging environment, but if you can bring a technology forward that can save money, can save time, shorten the time of resolution for instance of a machine that’s gone offline in your factory that’s all cost savings.
And we’re seeing that with companies. We’ve been working with several manufacturing companies who are training with our device and they’re able to cut their training costs by about 80% because they’re getting these new factory workers out on the floor as quickly as they can versus that in classroom sort of training. And that’s been a real benefit.
But I guess a something that was surprising to them, at this company, PBC Linear we’ve been working with in the Midwest, is the amount of scrap they’ve been able to reduce, which is clearly a big cost to the business. And they’ve been able to take that down by about 20% because the new workers are just better trained from the get-go.
And so there’s some intangibles around there too. Workers can see a factory job as a modern job. Again, when you’re wearing literally a computer on your eyes. And it’s helping in recruiting and retaining, which has been a real problem in the manufacturing sector.
Oscar: And that’s interesting it sounds like I was going to ask you about the return on investment that companies are seeing from the technology. And it sounds like you, you gave both a quantitative and a qualitative example- you said, scrap is being reduced by 20%, but you also talked about the factory worker potentially deriving more enjoyment from the job just based on that experience. What other examples do you have of that return on investment that companies are seeing as early adopters?
Peggy: Well, one of the companies we’re working within the healthcare space, they’ve been part, they’re a med tech company that does heart catheterization. And how it’s done now is there’s an image of the live heart that they display on a PC or a 2D screen in front of the surgeon.
Now the surgeon starts to insert the catheter in the heart and they take their eyes away from the patient because they’re looking over at the screen. they’re watching the little camera on the catheter as it’s going through the vessels of the heart. And with this device they’ve taken their app and rebuilt it onto the Magic Leap device.
Now, the surgeon has in front of our eyes the live image of the heart, real time, and it’s just a more natural way to watch that camera go through the heart because it literally appears as if the heart is in front of your eyes and the outcomes are more accurate. They’re safer, it’s actually faster beginning to end than, making your mind do the translation from a 2D picture of a 3D heart to just having that 3D heart in front of your eyes.
So these are the sorts of metrics that are starting to accumulate. And we’re just trying to say focused on a handful of areas, the ones you’ve mentioned manufacturing, public sector, healthcare, because they’re ones that are already comfortable wearing things on their eyes. They’ve got use cases that fit with the state of the technology right now and so we’ve stayed focused in those areas, but clearly over time, any sort of training in any industry is going to be better off. the ability to view things in 3D in front of your eyes.
Oscar: So it sounds like a key takeaway away is that the end consumer may be experiencing much of yet in their day-to-day, but there’s definitely applications in the business world with enterprises, you mentioned the public sector, as being one -manufacturing, but that there is a future in the not too distant future where the end consumer will see this as part of their day-to-day.
Peggy: Absolutely, and we believe that future, the format needs to be glasses and not what, right now looks a little bit like goggles on your eyes. Glasses are something that many are used to wearing already, but glasses mean lightweight, long-lasting battery.
There’s a fashion sense as well, you don’t want to look too much like a robot wearing these things. And it’s why you don’t see a lot of augmented reality headsets yet for the consumer. Because we’re not there yet with the technology. Very similar to the mobile phone when it first came out, it was big, it was heavy, it was expensive, but it served a purpose for enterprise. That was the entry point for mobile phones. So we had traveling sales people buying them because they didn’t have to stop and find a parking spot and a phone booth and call their office they could just call from their car- there was an ROI there.
And so we’re starting there. With Enterprise, eventually, we will circle back and the industry will circle back to consumer AR but it’ll be a while before the silicon is integrated enough and the components are reduced enough to get a glasses format on the consumer’s head.
Oscar: I think that mobile phone analogy is a great one. And I’m realizing you, and I have been talking. I keep looking down at my notes, to think about the next question and, maybe in the future, I would’ve just been able to look straight ahead and see my notes in front of me. That’s where we’re going!
Peggy, thank you so much for all these insights and thank you for joining us on The Bid.
Peggy: Thanks for having me, Oscar.
Oscar: Thanks for listening to this episode of The Bid. Subscribe to the bid wherever you get your podcasts.
This post originally appeared on the iShares Market Insights.
Editor’s Note: The summary bullets for this article were chosen by Seeking Alpha editors.