Rene – Hi! Welcome to season two of Meta Minutes, your bite-sized pieces of the metaverse. My name is Rene from Valorem Reply and today we're simply going to have a chat with Anthony Vitillo, known as Skarredghost. Ciao Tony!
Tony – Hello, everyone!
Rene – Awesome. Well first of all let's start with the typical introduction. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and your background as relates to the metaverse and, you know, all things AR VR.
Tony – Well, I don't want to make everyone asleep by telling my story since I was born and all the rest. So I will just keep it short by saying that I've studied computer science engineering because I've been always excited about computers and digital stuff and especially multimedia applications like gaming. I mean, most of us love gaming and audio and video management this kind of stuff so I also made my thesis about computer vision and this also you know after some years led me to partner with a previous classmate of mine to try to do something together like create a start-up about new technologies because he knew that our discussion about Mixed Realities and he too was very interested in something new. We were seeing the let's say the commercials of the Google Glass and so we're all excited about what this technology could do. We didn't know that the commercials were terrible, they are not telling the truth. The glasses aren't usable but that's another topic maybe for another day but that was enough to make us start working together and then he made me try for the first time an Oculus and that moment I really fell in love with virtual reality. I said I want to do this and from that moment in 2014 I kept my promise and I kept working on AR VR in computer vision for these eight years and what I've done in these years have been lots of things, some successful, some not like the startup I made with that guy that was about full body virtual reality mixing Kinect with headsets. You know, I know that you're a fan of both technologists as well so you will love hearing about this and I started the blog about the lmvr that is you can find the scarredghost.com. I created a fitness game before with the Kinect and and then to the quest too and since three years I work in the virtual events sector with a French company called Voom and we made like a concert for the end of 2020 in VR chatter was kind of supercool and had the between all media including 2D streaming at like 75million views so in these ideas I really try to do a lot of stuff but and I hope I did also something good and you know always trying to be the nerd guy of the group and try to be bring a bit of technical knowledge and do something all-together because I always try to do Innovative things all these years.
Rene – Awesome, and really impressive story there. And by the way I like the Oculus DK the dev kit back then was also this kind of light up moment. I mean, I've been doing VR before but you know in the University context it was like, oh you need to have a cave or you know these huge installations and all of this, you get decent quality right but then finally we got a headset you can put on and what is this, oh nice, that is a Tuscany scene here that was really good and yeah I mean the rest is history and I think like you and I, a lot of folks have a similar kind of, like you know, moment where with the dk1 and/or the DK2 when it came out well and now we're here right like just waiting equally for some of the new stuff coming out from these guys but anyhow let's dive into some of the topics today or some of the questions I thought to ask you. Well, first of all I know you're not a huge fan of the metaverse term but let's start, I mean everyone is using it right, so let's start with a simple but also complex question. What is the metaverse for you and where do you see the potential.
Tony – Well, I mean it's a simple question I hope you have three four hours to answer to it. I hope that people can hear to this podcast while sleeping so or maybe before sleeping, it can help but by the way jokes apart. I don't like the term because now it's become a buzzword so and also there is a lot of debate a lot, let's say, you know, I don't like there is a lot of talking like this can become the future of the internet etc, but it among all the people speaking about this and defining the term in the perfect way, I really more like let's do something. I'm more a practical approach so I'm, like, lately starting saying to people, I don't really care about the meaning of the word metaverse .You define it however you want but I know what I would like to happen in 15 to 20 years and what I like to happen you may call it metaverse, you call it multiverse, you call it potatoes, for me it's the same is that I want to have a full land between realities. I want that in every moment of our Lives we can have a mix of different proportions within real and virtual reality. So you can go for the streets and you can just join reality to relax or maybe you can have some glasses turn them on and seem some virtual assistant that works with you and suggest to you what places you may like of the city you're in and maybe have also virtual fan close to you that is a term that is doing this work with you and you are in this augmented reality with all of them enjoying this thing you can see also some other augmentations in the people around you. Then maybe you go back home you want to play a game like shoot again with your friends. So you shut down your glasses they become VR and so you transport yourself to Hotel in another world and you play with it. So this is what I really want that in every moment we can have this mix of realities there was not just a real reality and especially that we can break the barrier of the screen. Because now we have our real reality and we have a screen that is our portal to something magical to the digital world to meet other people now we're speaking through a screen. I think that the magic that the AR VR metaverse whatever is that we can break the screen I mean have it very close to our eyes and so have this other reality, the other part of the portal go all beyond us so that we become totally only, one thing with a virtual reality and we can enter into it and this is really what I hope that it can happen because as much as I love reality I like, I hope all of us I think that the good thing is that we can with documentations add something to it. Make it more useful, more entertaining and so why don't we exploit it. And also with virtual reality we can live impossible adventures. I mentioned the virtual events. Our virtual event in 2020 was with a singer having a concert inside Notre Dame and that is a cathedral and now it's even been burned down so it was something impossible to do in real life and but individuality was possible so that's why I'm a big fan of this technology and that's what I hope to happen in next years and the potential that I see is because mainly of this of the fact that the real reality has to follow some rules of the physics while the virtual elements are not. So we can really expand realities in different ways and some of them can be useful like we're seeing now all the companies using the art on the production processes to design faster and to do better training etc etc. But we also seen people just having fun with the quest and playing beat saber and flashing cubes like if there was no tomorrow. So this is really where I see the potential of all of this.
Rene – Yeah, it's great story and I think I also fully agree on the part like where you mentioned like we got to also make the physical reality part of that game, right? So it's not just pure virtual play but but also connecting with the real world, connecting also with certain sensor elements we have in the real world and a couple of other things or like taking stuff from the real world in your virtual environment but also the other way around like taking virtual items into your real world and this is I think really where we can see more value because otherwise I mean it's just another online game right? It's just like a massive online virtual world. Okay, yeah that's cool but like we can go further than this and so I fully subscribe to what you said there this is great and I hope like it's really moving into this direction. You're well known, like I said, on Skarredghost alias and with your blog the ghost howls you cover a lot of trends and AR VR and you always have these amazing write-ups where you summarize a lot of the things that are happening. So folks definitely if you have not subscribed to his blog definitely do this. Always amazing stuff there and so you cover all the trends in AR VR devices but also startup software what not and so my question to you is what is the hottest metaverse related start-up or initiative at the moment that no one is really talking about because everyone is talking about the big players?
Tony - Right. Well first of all thanks for the promotion you know I will give you some money later. Just kidding about that. It's a good question, because we're all following Meta, we're following Google and asking what they're doing. We know that all them including Amazon are doing something behind the curtains but what about the start-ups. Well, I think most of start-ups are not let's say following standard problems. Let's say, like, I know many of them are working about training, maintenance, the communication on teams, I mean this is all amazing themes but there are thousands of them so I want to focus and answering this question about something that is maybe a bit more special and I want to mention two companies that probably the two coolest ones about the Innovation and what they're proposing that I have tried this year and one is a Mojo Vision because it's a company that is creating a smart contact lens. So not smart classes but the contact lens you put in your eye and have augmentations. So, it's like science fiction stuff and you know the company is very serious. So it's not the company saying everywhere are we building the metaverse, next year I will release everything. You know they're very cautious like we have a road map this is the years when things will happen and we have these roadblocks so they're very serious but they're respecting the roadmap they highlighted a few years ago. So this shows that they're very serious and also they made people try their prototypes. I myself actually prototype not in the I had a stick and can put the lens of very close to the eye, but it was working. I could see like an image of Einstein in front of my eye in a contact lens and you see the thing and it's like a radio contact lens with a green dot in the middle. I said what is the green dot and the guy told me it's a screen. I was like no way it's a screen. It's not and then it put this very close to my eye and again that became the image of Einstein made with green pixels so this is really mind-blowing and the news of like two months ago is that the CEO has tried the lens inside the eye for real. There are videos of him telling it even if just for one hour or such it worked. He still has both eyes and does not become a pirate or something like that. So this is a great news and this company thinks that in like five years or something like that can release the first version dedicated to people with disabilities etc but this means that in five years we'll have something that I believed could come in like 2050. It's like smart contact like Sciences you know, it's something like Minority Report movie. And the second company is a start-up I also talked about on my blog. It's called FP1 clearly inspired by Ready Player one that is a company that is creating a networking architecture to allow for thousands of people in the same room in VR. So for people that are not technical enough and listening to me, I would like just to know now, if you want to join a virtual event like a concert you can go and a chat on Roblox, on Fortnite. However, there is a concert and join it and there will be thousands of people that are seeing the same concert, but you don't see all the thousand people around you. You just see 40 people, 60 people, 100 because of limitations with networking protocols. Well there are two companies that are working to break these limits and surprisingly they are two startups. So I don't know if the big players are working in the shadows about it or they still are not improving this fast so one is improbable, so the company developing special OS the it has just made the test with the 4 500 people in the same instance known in VR while there is another one called RP1. They came out of nowhere and made me try a web VR application where I was there with 4000 bots because they couldn't hire 4000 people just to make a test for me in VR in browsers and WebVR and I could see them moving like Bots and speaking just saying random sentences on YouTube all around me and this is impressive because they told me that they want to shop before the end of this year a demo with like 100 000 bots and in the same room. So this means that if they really manage to do something like that you could have like a stadium in VR full of people where you can listen to the people and imagine they discover something very cool I mean something a vision of nothing going to happen tomorrow but like you are in a stadium virtually with all these virtual people someone scores a goal and you hear the sound is coming from real composing from the audio of all the people that are really there like in a real Stadium, not just a preset audio. So all these audio merge together to get the final audio that you see, that you hear. So this is kind of mind-blowing and they already have a working prototype for the 4 000 people and it's already a lot considering that meta allows for like 24 people in the same almost it's like that. So these are the two companies that impress me and are solving real problems because one of the big problems of the metaverse is networking.
Rene - And it's really impressive especially if they manage to get a debt scalable I mean in and even with webvr like you said. Yeah really looking forward to this and of course like also the you know the smart contact lens like you said, I mean, I haven't tried it but I saw a bunch of your posts and so wow that's really impressive. Like you said who would have thought that we were getting that close that soon. Well actually I want to talk a little bit more about hardware. First of all do you think that head-mounted devices or the future and that everyone is going to wear small glasses I mean you already hinted it a little bit with the contact lenses but when the second sub question, if you will, in your opinion which device on the market have the most potential to make this a reality right, to reach the consumer kind of masses if you will and is there another device you're eagerly awaiting or anticipating that is coming out this or next year?
Tony – Well, these are all good questions and well, I think that my vision is that in the future it will happen sooner or later. People will wear glasses or lenses or whatever on their head every day because the advantages will be so many that they will do that. I don't think it's going to happen tomorrow. It will take time also to break the social wall you know that the fear of people are wearing these glasses on the face we will we all know what happened to people that try to wear Google Glass in the street in the past. So it's better to be prepared that it will be thousand that we need that we hope that is going to happen. Of course, we need glasses that are smaller that are more stylish and I think that for instance since you talk about examples I talked about Ray-Ban Stories. It's a great example of glasses that have been made with the user, consumers in mind. I see people wearing in the street. No one knows there are smart classes and they are super stylish, they're cool. I will buy them myself too if I was interested in this kind of article and I think that's the follow-up. Remember also the North Focus, the bossy glasses I mean, I like all these glasses that put style into their design because they have the potential to be worn in the street and be worn all day. Things like the HoloLens, I mean HoloLens is a good device. I'm not saying so but it's clearly a thing you wear in the industry or wear in the office but it has doesn’t have the potential to become the glass you wear all the day. So this is exactly what I see the potential I'm waiting for the second version of the Ray-ban stories. They're going to release in the next month the rumours say. So, let's see.
Rene - And it's even Italian company, right Ray-Ban?
Tony – Yeah, the offices are in Milan and so. Unluckily they haven't made me sneak into them but if they are listening to this podcast please let me in. I would like to visit the company and if you talk about what I'm anticipating etc for next year well I'm very obvious and curious about Apple. What is cooking because from what is public and some almost have also heard seems they have in the hand some interesting prototypes at least. So let's see if they deliver because until they deliver they can even cancel the project last minute. They can still delay it but the rumors say maybe in January they will launch and I think that with the power of Apple marketing and also with the features that are going to deliver something is going to happen but to be very clear I'm not quite sure that this is not going to make the mainstream in one night but it will be a good step forward. Okay, new hype in the ecosystem to have something new from which other companies can take inspiration etc. So I'm waiting for it because I think it's something that I'm very curious about and then if I can talk about other curiosity, I'm very curious about what Google is doing because after it has burned itself with the Google Glass, basically Google is working behind the curtains no one knows what they're doing. We know that they're doing something but we don't know anything. Everyone is ignoring Google but and lately Google is not done so well, let's say, with the hardware and the latest stuff but we know that is anyway a big company with a strong AI capabilities. They can do hardware and maybe they will surprise us and you can really create something and disrupt the market. So these are Google and Apple I'm very curious about what they're doing.
Rene - And they have also a very good software stack right like within our core and then you know the rode on newish ARcore geospatial API where they take all the Google street view images and basically generate a point Cloud reference map for localization. They have a lot of the building blocks right. You're right, I guess there will be something that is coming out but I mean there's a lot of hardware stuff coming for sure. We just have to say like what is going to crack into the consumer market like and it has to provide value right like it's not just the hardware, it's also the killer app is needed right like what is the killer app for consumers in that space. I don't know, I mean Pokemon Go surely is successful but is this going to thrive revenue and value I don't know.
Tony - But if I can give you my feedback on that. I'm not a believer in the killer app and Pokemon Go is a clear example or like beat Saber, Pokemon go is super popular but I wouldn't say that it has kick-started the mobile AI ecosystem. It was just an exception; all the other mobile AR games have been totally a failure. I mean Niantic has closed a lot of them I believe, more, let's say in killer ecosystems so ecosystems that are rich, the different kinds of application that can be interested for students, some adults, for women, some other for men some other for elderly, some other for kids and so in the end the whole ecosystem is useful and so people enter into it because there is something they need. I think that if I had to choose something, I will say that probably I mean for mobile people were the killer app because mobile likes to connect with other people. So from VR and AR maybe can be people or maybe can be AR. I have this convention either is better because it lets you connect with people easily, like we you can be in the same space in AR you can visit my home or maybe it's AI because can suggest to me what to tell you. For instance, in this moment the glasses can say because they are is listening to me and in AR is advising me what to do I think, that one of these two or both together can be the killer technology.
Rene – Exactly. You're fully right like people are the killer app in the end and you know we're social animals anyway right? So we've got to exactly like you know a simple use case but still pretty amazing. I saw it in a demo video before but basically, you put on the glasses and you have real-time translation right so I could talk with German, you could talk in Italian and we could you know have a conversation and the listeners would see it real-time in English or I would see it like in a real-time translated maybe just with some earpiece whatever it is but this is almost there like pretty close and so really exciting stuff man. Well, we're already at the end of the show. We could talk for many more hours. It's so insightful to chat with you and thank you so much Tony for joining us today and sharing your insights. It was very much appreciated.
Tony - It's been a great pleasure for me to be with you and with all the listeners to speak about this amazing stuff. Thanks, everyone!
Rene - Well and thanks everyone for joining us for Meta Minutes your bite-sized pieces of the metaverse. Watch our blog, follow our social media channels, and subscribe to our YouTube to hear all about the next episode of course on our website you can watch all the previous episodes. Well, take care and see you soon, in the metaverse!