Meet the Speakers
An interview with Anett Gläsel-Maslov
Andy Gstoll, CMO of Wikitude, is passionate about building early stage companies, new media, marketing, and innovation, particularly in the field of mobile software technology. Wikitude is one of the most successful software providers for augmented reality with its headquarter in Salzburg.
At DIGILITY, Andy will give you an overview of the three main categories of the AR technologies, what they are capable of and how they will empower your business.
In our interview he told us about his work at Wikitude, technologies that will change our lives forever and his love letter to Pokémon Go. Enjoy reading!
What is Wikitude’s philosophy regarding its AR software and key vision for the future?
Well, Wikitude has been around for quite some time. Basically since 2008 our philosophy has been to enable developers around the world to build great augmented reality experiences. We’re doing so by providing tools and technology that caters to the needs of developers coming from all kinds of different industries. Our philosophy is to take a very broad approach when it comes to our technology proposition not focusing on specific industries rather than to listen to the demand that is out there and take it into consideration to develop our roadmap. For the moment, we focus 100% on building great computer vision algorithms and providing a technology and tools that enable developers and agencies around the world to develop AR experiences at its best.
You are saying you are one of the biggest independent software providers, but what is your key vision for the future?
What is the reason we get up in the morning? (laughs) Well, it is to ultimately augment everything and everyone around us. As you know very well, at the moment the possibilities are still somewhat limited. We can already augment a lot of things, surfaces, objects and spaces. But we are by far not at a stage where we can literally augment everything and everyone. We are not there yet, but that’s the vision and that’s what we are working on every day. We still need better hardware, better software and we need more linked content and information about everything to be able to build a digital layer on the real world.
From a business perspective, which trends in augmented and virtual reality are the most promising to you?
This question ties to my topic that I’m going to talk about at DIGILITY actually. Because the biggest opportunity around is everything “3D”. I mean historically as you know, Anett, we started with geo augmented reality. That was 2008 when the first devices came out that enabled us to experience Augmented Reality and we started with a very simple approach to AR. That was the beginning and then around 2011, we started moving into actual computer vision, AR enabled through the camera feed, and analysing what’s coming in and looking for feature points on plain surfaces and everything in “2D”. We have been enabling the print industry especially, and basically any other use cases where it’s about flat surfaces to be augmented. But now the biggest opportunity and the biggest business growth that we foresee will be in “3D”. And I touched on that before, we are literally now on the verge of launching all kinds of different 3D tracking products, which will allow you to recognize and track objects. So this will be a tremendous opportunity in industry. In the enterprise environment we will launch other products that will be able to track and augment spaces and rooms again. This is huge for indoor navigation purposes, indoor gaming and product visualization use cases.
What are your customers asking for? Where do you see the trends? Is it all about virtual shopping and indoor navigation?
Not really actually. And this is the difference to some of the AR solutions providers out there. We don’t cater to any one specific vertical. We take a broader approach and therefore get the whole bandwidth of customers and developers asking us different things, including of course automotive industries and virtual shopping. That’s the reason why we get inquiries from everywhere geographically, and multiple industries as well.
Our life is all mobile. The big players like Microsoft, Google and Apple are working on augmented and virtual reality development. How do you think will these technologies or mixed realities will change our future lives?
It will change everything. No, I really mean that. I’m very excited about how it’s going to change our lives, but of course, I also have a couple of second thoughts on some of the use cases. But I think, one of the biggest changes that we will see will be around communication. The tools that we are utilizing today, think Skype, Facetime etc. are great for personal communication but they are lacking immersion. With VR, we are already seeing applications allowing you to meet others in virtual spaces. Imagine not having to exit the real world to to this, this is not very far away at all. Imagine the ability to sit next to your friend on your sofa having a conversation by augmenting him or her digitally into your living room. That will change everything in terms of transportation, communication, and ways of how we treat spaces in general. We don’t know how exactly it’s going to turn out, but the fact of the matter is, if you can do a holoportation with your digital self through augmented reality, its going to have a big impact on our social life, on how we do business and how we travel.
Maybe we travel virtually. But it would be a pity.
That’s what I am saying, not everything about it is necessarily good. So that’s why I also believe that we have to be cautious and touch on some of the issues that are somehow questionable and be responsible about them.
You are now focusing on AR software technology, while other companies are focusing on VR. It’s quite obvious: mixed reality will be the future. Do you think your business model will change?
We already see a strong overlap happening between VR and AR. From 2008 up until only last year it was 100 percent AR. But now, especially when it comes to our 3D tracking technology, it is very obvious that it can be utilized for VR use cases as well. There’s a clear overlap.
The problem now with any VR headset is that you are enclosed in a virtual world without taking into consideration what’s around you in a physical sense. Where are the walls around you? Where is the stairway up to the first floor? Or where is a physical obstacle, perhaps a table? That is why you have systems like HTC Vive that are constrained to 3 x 3 meter - space in which you can move around. It doesn’t allow you to freely move upstairs in your house or to leave that space, and that’s what we all ultimately want, right? But you need a technology that captures the physical world around you, which understands what’s happening around you. That’s where the 3D tracking that we have comes into play as well.
Obviously, we are both fans of AR. Are there use cases of VR that you really like and that really make sense? Not only entertainment, but for business.
VR is awesome. I’m not an opponent to VR, there’s great use cases in VR that make sense. We touched on automotive a couple of times and I’m sure you know there are companies out there that enable product tours through virtual reality. You sit on a chair and think you’re sitting in an Audi A8, you can look at the steering wheel, you can look back at the space within the vehicle, and it’s a great experience to get an idea of what the product feels like, without visiting the Audi showroom. You can do this in your house. That’s a fantastic use case. Even for the Audi dealerships, because they may not have every car configuration in stock at their location. VR enables them to present virtually every configuration of the car possible. Again, that’s a fantastic VR use case.
This is ok now. But AR will be the future, right?
Exactly, it’s a matter of technology. VR in 2016 has come a long way. Earlier this year we saw the first VR device ready for the mass market, and now it’s in the hand of consumers. Christmas will be huge for VR, because it will penetrate a lot of households going forward. So the technology is at a much more mature state when it comes to sellable hardware and consumer adoption, I’m talking about AR wearables for this comparison only, I’m not talking about AR for smart phones and tablets which has been ready for prime time for a few years now, just look at the recent success of Pokemon Go. AR wearables however are not anywhere near the VR wearables are today. That’s the reason why most of the success for AR is still predicted for the future. As Digi Capital said it earlier this year, in 2020 we will see $90 billion of revenue being generated by AR while VR will comprise of “only” 30 billion.
AR and VR are already thriving in many businesses. How do they influence the working processes of companies? Maybe you can tell me some use cases?
For industry and businesses when it comes to wearable it is all about maintenance, remote assistance and training. Those are the three areas where augmented reality on wearables provide the most value at the moment. There is a lot of demand in these areas.
And how about the marketing sales perspective?
For us, that is a very important vertical. The ability to augment magazines, books, posters, billboards etc. is a huge business, even today in 2016. AR has two great advantages: one is that it still creates a wow-effect for most people. The other reason is that AR builds a bridge between the physical world and the internet. An augmentation on top of a print magazine can connect additional digital content and track consumer behavior, this is very important to marketers who are thinking carefully about every marketing Euro that they spend.
Why was there never a real breakthrough in advertising and marketing? Before Pokémon Go was released, it was hard to explain what augmented reality really is.
I totally agree, that’s why I’m very thankful that Pokémón Go happened and I published my thoughts on this in “My love letter to Pokémon Go” some weeks ago. This was a blessing, because for the first time now, if you do a presentation or go to a meeting, you just don’t have to explain the basics anymore, because people know what augmented reality is. It’s a huge advancement. Some companies are still careful, because they don’t quite know what they are getting themselves into, the technology is still new to many. Because of this they often don’t fully commit to AR and don’t integrate it fully into their marketing mix. They therefore don’t communicate it very well, which often stops campaigns from really taking off. There are great AR success stories though. The return of investment can be tracked and demonstrated and that's why we see many customers coming back for more. So there are both sides of the story.
With whom of our DIGILITY speakers would you like to have a cup of coffee or mojito?
There are actually a lot of people with whom I have had - not a mojito - but a cup of coffee. The line up of speakers and participants is great, so I am really looking forward to more coffees and perhaps even a mojito. I have had great conversations with Robert Scoble before, he has been shaping a lot of the opinions in both VR and AR, I'd love to have a mojito with him this time.
In two sentences: Why DIGILITY?
There is a lack of AR events in Europe. And now in 2016, that’s changing. DIGILITY in Cologne will bring the industry together in this part of the world. I think Germany alone is a huge market. So that’s the reason why we are participating.
Andy, thank you for giving us insights into your work! Really looking forward to hear your keynote this week.