“Building A Consumer Based AR Company”
In The VR Voice Hot Seat w/ Keith Boesky, Board Member of Ousterhout Group
Charlie Fink: Hey everybody.
Bob Fine: Well good morning everyone. It’s Monday morning 10:00 a.m. East Coast time in Washington D.C. Monday July 24th. I want to thank everyone for joining us. We’ve got a growing crowd at the moment and we’ve got four very full packed days with a lot of great people, leaders of the industry. And I just want to thank you for joining us. Make sure to share it out. The Twitter hashtag is #VRVoice. I will put that in the chat box. Hey Sy, thanks very much Sy. The founder of Crowdcast texted in and is watching us at the moment over in San Fran and keep in mind try to put questions in the Q&A area on the bottom of the screen and you can up vote. And before I hand it over, Keith I want to thank you very much for agreeing to be our first speaker. I guess now about four or five weeks ago and this thing just snowballed in the last two weeks and now we are turning people away, which is great, but we’ll be doing this again I’m sure. So with that Charlie I’m going to hand it over to you. And have a good show.
Charlie Fink: Great. Well hi everybody. I’m Charlie Fink. I am the contributing editor to VR Voice and a contributor to Forbes, Huffington Post and numerous Medium publications including Virtual Reality Pop, Haptical and Cinematic VR.
In my travels I get to meet everybody and try everything and certainly something that I have been fascinated by and about is the Osterhout Design Group ODG line of smart glasses that are you know the R8 is a thousand dollars and it’s going on sale in China this fall, so they are the first to market with a consumer level, a true AR device. It’s a self-contained Android computer that runs the Snapdragon chip. It has an air mouse so that you can use your hand in navigation as people do with the HoloLens and we’re excited to have Keith Boesky who’s an advisory board member of ODG who has been with them as they have raised 50 million dollars in new capital to make the R8 something that can succeed in China and then move over here to the states with a cellular partner. So, exciting times for ODG.
Keith Boesky: It is. We’re really excited to get it out. Thank you for having me. Thank you for giving me a reason to get out of bed at 7 o’clock in the morning here in California. And to put some clothes on too.
Charlie Fink: Yes, well we appreciate that last part especially. But before we get into ODG, which is you know we could talk about that all day. We have actually together at a conference in New York. But tell me, because you have a great story. You have been in digital media really since you got into your first law firm.
Keith Boesky: That is the nicest way that anybody has called me old.
Charlie Fink: Because of our respective beard colors you may get away as the younger guy.
Keith Boesky: Yeah, I started with, actually you and I guess around the same time with this digital media stuff. Over 20, about 25 years ago, I started with games.
Charlie Fink: It’s exactly 25 years ago. I started virtual world with Jordan Weisman in 1992.
Keith Boesky: Yeah, about the same time I was starting when games were called new media and they were distributed on CD-ROM. So my first client was a company called pressor studios. Michelle Kripalani and seven other guys that are now doing VFX and a bunch of other exciting things and moved on. Merging games with comic books. I was helping the comic book guys on the other side. Then I had this idea that we could platform intellectual property in games, and it’s been done for a long time, but nobody was really taking game IP and moving it out of IP. I was an attorney at the time and that led to representation of Eidos which led to me coming into work at Eidos and doing it with property called Tomb Raider.
And after a couple of years at Eidos, I left, came down to L.A., started working with a bunch of Hollywood folks and ended up spending time inside an agency, International Creative Management, for a couple of years where I ran games. Since about 2004, i’ve been on my own and have been working with game developers, and game companies, and intellectual property, and just trying to be a bridge between technology and entertainment intellectual property. And because that’s the stuff that really drives the platform. And that intellectual property is anything from games to movie IP. I’ve known Ralph Osterhout for about 20 years. And we used to have offices down the street from each other when I was in San Francisco at Eidos.
And about three years ago, I started get involved really intensely with them. He asked me to join the board and I’ve been working him ever since. It’s a great company. Really exciting.
Charlie Fink: Now Ralph is an interesting character himself that’s probably worth talking about.
Keith Boesky: Ralph is beyond interesting. So, Ralph a long time ago was doing scuba. He invented the thing called the shark dart, which you saw in Jaws where they injected the long stick in the shark and with the CO2 cartridge, blew the shark up. And he did the tanks that the Navy SEALs used for rebreathers. And he also did the suits that they wore to swim under the polar ice caps as well as the yak back player high intensity water pistols. And you can’t forget the weapons for James Bond movies.
Charlie Fink: Somebody wrote he was the real life Q.
Keith Boesky: And as it relates to AR, Ralph’s been making head worn since 1983 when he had previously had night vision goggles. So, the eight in the R8 and the nine in the R9 represent the eighth generation glasses that he’s made. So, glasses are hard. I don’t have to tell you or anybody who’s trying to do it. It’s very very hard. So by the time you get to the eighth and ninth generation, he’s figured out a lot of stuff. And not just him, but there are 100 people working at ODG who are building and engineering these things.
Charlie Fink: How big of a challenge is miniaturization?
Keith Boesky: Huge. We’ve got we got a pair of glasses that are four point three ounces and fully self-contained. So, when you look at how many other people are out there, you can you can see how hard it is do. It’s also just getting everything into the glasses and making the glasses work and make them work at the level that they’re working. There’s certified VR9s for movie viewing and it that’s the only VR device that’s certified for so much variance. It is very, very hard to do it, and it’s very very hard to do it at the level quality that ODG is introducing.
Charlie Fink: Let’s talk a little bit about ODG. ODG has a partnership with Megu and they are bringing the R8 to consumers in the fall. Can we talk about that a little bit?
Keith Boesky: As much as there is to talk about. I think you pretty much summed it up. So China Mobile is the largest mobile carrier in the world and they saw the glasses about a year ago, could be less than that, but about a year ago. And signed up for a distribution relationship. And will be selling them throughout China.
Charlie Fink: What are they calling it? They’re not calling it the R8 are they?
Keith Boesky: I don’t know, as far as I know, it is.
Charlie Fink: Because that has to be one of the unsexiest brand names ever. Of course, you know, the thing I wanted to ask you about is that in the past couple of weeks there have been a flurry of AR announcements. Mostly for very crude cellphone based devices. There’s a little company called Mira that’s a startup as well as Disney have promised low cost AR headsets that are essentially based on, they’re cellphone holders that you know have an app that creates a stereoscopic image which is projected and reflected in front of you on a plastic visor. And you know, I mean, it’s just sort of interesting because the head worn thing is as the camera becomes the main interface, the interest in head worn is going to explode, I would think.
Keith Boesky: Well, I think it’s really cool. I think all of this stuff is great. When you look at VR, there are 83 million cardboards out there, that’s more than anything else. I would put Mira into that kind of space, same thing with Disney. And I think Mira actually looks pretty cool. I like the idea.
Charlie Fink: They did a nice job of designing it and the Disney thing looks also cool.
Keith Boesky: Well, I like the idea of the space between and around your face with the Mira and I like the idea of that as a gateway drug. It’s a great way for people to understand and get a really strong impact from experiencing AR. And I think it’s really cool, and I think that we’ve got great applications that for so many years have been happening to a cellphone, which is suboptimal on so many levels that to finally put it in the right place can only get people excited about it.
Charlie Fink: Now, what do you think the killer apps are going to be for ODG’s R8? What are people really buying it to do?
Keith Boesky: Right now you realize that the R7, also a catchy name, and I know you love this. The R7 has been out now in the market for about 18 months right now. We’ve sold into 45 percent of the Fortune 500 companies and the number one application for that one is telepresence. That is to put you where you’re not. And it could be anything from a mechanic working on a machine to people talking to each other. So telepresence is probably going to be a big one for consumers as well. And we already see that in different places like in China where people love to text their locations. With the 1080p stereoscopic cameras on the glasses, it lets you capture the world the same way that your face does, so you can broadcast to other people in 3D which is really great. There’s a demo that you’ve seen where you’ve got multiple screens running on the glasses. We’ve got Citrix integration. So it’s desktop plus. Even as we’re sitting here right now, if we’re wearing glasses, then it looks like I’m wearing sunglasses and talking to you. But if i’m wearing the glasses, then you’re able to see multiple screens.
So, the first response is always great for commuting, but the next one is maybe it’s something you want to wear at home, or if you want a Bloomberg type screen layout at home. I can’t tell you how many people we’ve heard, which is obviously a problem in terms of the number of marriages we’re going to save, because there are tons of people that put these things on and say Oh wow, while my wife’s asleep or my husband’s asleep, I can put the glasses on while they’re in bed. So, just plain screen viewing is significant. There are a lot of entertainment applications, whether it’s games or something like that to be built out, and when it comes to consumer, I think the most exciting thing is what the developers are going to be building. So, We look at these applications like ARkit, which is a month old, and there are over 10000 at least demos that people build and put online. And the thing is barely even in beta.
Charlie Fink: So, one of our panels later this morning is AR developers and part of the reason these guys are, you know, already designing or redesigning their existing apps with ARKit.
Keith Boesky: And that’s the idea. When we look at the pent up demand in developers just to put things on glasses to get them in what I feel is the right place. It’s unbelievable.
Charlie Fink: People are going to use an Android app in the R8. Correct?
Keith Boesky: Yeah. I was on a morning run in Germany outside Cologne the other day a couple of weeks ago and I saw a sign that looked kind of ominous. So I pulled up my phone. So I had to stop running, take the phone out of my pocket, pull up my phone and I used google translate and it showed me I was about to run into a minefield. So, having the glasses to run things like Google Translate and things like that are outstanding.
Charlie Fink: I think translation would just be epic.
Keith Boesky: Oh yeah. If you ever been lost in Japan, you know there is no such thing as a different word for lost in Japan, but wearing the glasses, it can give you places to translate and directions. So, I was with a developer the other day who’s doing this great tabletop sports application that’s pulling things out of a game for e-sports to put the e-sport game right around table tops to be able to walk around. So there’s tons and tons of great development going on and just waiting to be broken out of phones and computers.
Charlie Fink: Yeah. One of the things about head worn computers of course that you know is so problematic is interface and what happens with your hands. And you know you’ve got your desktop up there. Can you have a virtual computer? How do you know mouse around? I guess there’s the air mouse ODG?
Keith Boesky: Yeah, we got a bunch of different input options of voice. So we’ve got different voice solutions running.
Charlie Fink: Is that Siri and Alexa, or do you have your own?
Keith Boesky: Not Siri, but Alexa and Google and there are other applications that are running that are voice recognition. You can use any bluetooth keyboard. So, if you want to use a straight monitor and you’re sitting at your desk or you’re sitting on a train or a plane or something like that, you can use any bluetooth foldable regular keyboard full size. We’ve got the air mouse that you’re talking about. Standard bluetooth mouse. There are controls on the glasses themselves. We’ve also got hard buttons like you may remember going back to a Blackberry. We’ve got a hard button keyboard which we made for the glasses and it has analog sticks on the other side of it so you can control things with analog sticks. So, there are a bunch of input options on the R9s. There’s a place to put on modules so you can add modules and we can even do something like Leap Motion if you want to do small hand gestures with that. And then there’s a fish eye camera.
Charlie Fink: For those of you listening at home Leap Motion allows you to detect your actual real hands in front of you.
Keith Boesky: It’s amazing going down the little fingers.
Charlie Fink: Yeah and of course the holy grail, just not to digress too much, but I think it’s interesting. You know the Holy Grail obviously is to use your hand to interact with digital objects that are floating out there in front of you and what will be even better if it was haptical. Right? So you know at some point you can type without a keyboard. That’s what I’m waiting for.
Keith Boesky: Yeah, I don’t know if you saw? There’s a guy that was showing at ARinAction, I wish I could remember the name of it. You might remember. I met this guy before. A really nice guy out of the UK who has these ultrasound haptics. Did you get a chance to demo that?
Charlie Fink: I did see it, yeah. Pretty interesting.
Keith Boesky: It’s ultrasound and you put your hand up and you feel controls that aren’t there. It’s amazing. Gestures are interesting. A lot of people ask about them. I think that it’s kind of like what I was talking about with consumer applications. We’ve got to find out the real reason to use them. The reason for being. So, if somebody is in the field or if somebody is on a subway or something like that, I don’t know necessarily if want to use gesture control on the glasses. So, just being able to have buttons that they can push…
Charlie Fink: You must be getting some good feeling for this just from the enterprise users.
Keith Boesky: The enterprise users all like the finger control on the mouse. The enterprise users like to be able to not have to look at that, because if you think about it, the whole point of having the glasses is to have two free hands. So, two free hands to work on machinery, or doctors working in an operating room, or something like this and voice, or a hot button, or a touch controller is so much more convenient than having to go all the way through to that gesture, or making sure that it works, or something like this. Moving your arm during a mission critical application.
Charlie Fink: Right. That makes sense. That makes a lot of sense. So, what are we thinking about two years from now? I mean, it’s going to be sort of raining AR headsets at that point. Probably from some big, big players like Apple and ODG will be coming to market? Or do you think you have a first mover advantage? How are you guys feeling about the competition? There’s been so much talk about AR glasses from major, major companies. Although, I don’t think a 200 dollar device either from Disney or from Facebook is going to be competing with the R8 any time soon.
Keith Boesky: There really isn’t any competition, and that’s not coming from an egotistical standpoint of we’re the best. That’s coming from this market is so young that everybody has to succeed. We are not going to carry an entire market. If we were the only glasses on the market, then developers aren’t going to develop because they won’t be able to amortize their development costs, and they’ll wait until we have 100 million on the market. So, we want everybody to succeed. And everybody has to. And the cool thing about that is everybody is approaching from a slightly different angle. So, all of the glasses that we see are attacking a different problem. ODG is about mobility. Mobility and ubiquitous access to your data. That’s what we want to give you. The highest quality optical experience and with ubiquitous access to your data. And in terms of other people coming into the market, yes, we are the first movers out there. I’m not aware of anybody else who has a self-contained device. A fully self-contained device. That’s completely mobile. But if the challenge is for us to be the best and there are other people out there, then that’s great. We feel really good about it. I think one of the most exciting things that happened in AR recently is ARKit because you’ve got so many people building things and talking about it and doing stuff and seeing potential. So, we love other people coming with other stuff to the market. And if Apple comes to the market with something that’s going to make a whole bunch of people want to wear glasses the same way that Snapchat did with the glasses they have, fantastic. That’s great. We’ve got a really, really cool device.
Charlie Fink: It’s interesting as that there are a couple of standalone dual use devices coming to market. You know, from Lenovo and HTC that are going to be running Google Tango, but they’re primarily I think for games and entertainment.
Keith Boesky: Everybody’s got a little bit of a different approach and the form factor of their device is different and the intended to use it different.
Charlie Fink: OK. We’ve been talking about Apple. Let’s talk about Microsoft.
Keith Boesky: Keep doing what you’re doing.
Charlie Fink: Is Microsoft going to be a player?
Keith Boesky: Of course, the HoloLens is really cool. I mean putting on a HoloLens and having that slam experiences is magical. It’s a really really cool experience.
Charlie Fink: Now, both ODG’s R8 and the HoloLens which presumably there’ll be cheaper and cheaper versions of. Although, Microsoft seems to be, just as an aside, shifting its attention back to the desktop for AR and VR. But, the HoloLens is out there. Developers are using it for enterprise. So, probably there will be less and less expensive ones. But, do we really think the HoloLens will ever be a consumer product? Microsoft is kind of discouraging that view.
Keith Boesky: They say they’ve pushed off until 2019. They announced something new is supposed to happen in 2019. I don’t know anything else other than what I read in the paper. Like I said, they’re putting a lot of work into it and it sounds like they may go consumer. I would anticipate it being smaller and changing the optics. You can see a natural migration of smaller, wider field of view, better optics.
Charlie Fink: Bloomberg announced last week, and it started a small Twitter feeding frenzy, and lots of articles about the article, that they revealed that the Facebook AR project is called Pacific and that the target price for it is 200 dollars. Now, they had no other information than that, and as I said it started an online feeding frenzy. Does the R8 have inside out tracking like the HoloLens?
Keith Boesky: It does have inside out tracking and 6DOF.
Charlie Fink: Here are some questions. This one from Brian Randall. How will writers fit into the future worlds of VR? Is there a creative chance for us in this new industry? So, this is going to your whole experience is sort of an agent for creative people. You know, a writer is asking how do they fit in? What would you suggest to somebody who’s looking to work in that.
Keith Boesky: I think it’s a hugely exciting time. This isn’t a new platform. This is a new medium. This is when we look at transitions from playwright to film, film to television. We see, and it’s an even bigger jump to see the evolution of a new medium. So, we have to figure out what the grammer is. And of course it’s going to be writers and developers and everybody figuring out what that is, but without the writers we don’t have any words. And we don’t know what people are using. We have to know what the structure is and that’s developing over time and writers play a key role in figuring that out. They’re important in games. What’s happening right now in VR is we don’t have a way for a creator to communicate with the audience. We don’t have a way for the audience to understand what the creators are trying to convey because we don’t understand how cameras move. We don’t understand shots. We don’t understand composition. We don’t even know whether we’re building off of audio cues in hotspots or natural direction. So, it’s the writers working together with the developers to figure out how to convey that story and put that story together. And the role I think is more significant than games. In most regards it’s going to be less interactive than games are, where writing is a little bit suppressed and the story develops with a concept of agency and the user. So, I think VR in large part is more directed in many applications and the writers are more important there.
Charlie Fink: Thank you again for joining us.
Keith Boesky: The R7s are available right now. The R8s will be going out to developers in the fall and our consumer launch is at the end of the year, first quarter of next year.