Rene - Hi, welcome back to season two of Meta Minutes, your bite-sized pieces of the metaverse. My name is Rene from Valorem Reply and today we're going to talk about reflecting the real world into the mirror world and I'm honored to have a special expert guest today, Matt Miesnieks. Matt welcome to the show, how are you today?
Matt - Thank you for having me!
Rene - All right Matt, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background as it relates to the metaverse and anything 3D.
Matt – Yeah, my background. Long career in sort of Internet infrastructure but the last few years, I apart from my new company living cities, was working in augmented reality for over a decade and I started a company called 6d.ai before this that Niantic acquired, who make PokemonGo and thinking around 6D that was a computer vision company but it was really based on this Insight that devices needed to understand the world in 3D for content to be able to be, you know, experienced in the world and so that that necessity of a 3D understanding of the world sort of led us to the belief that a 3D map of the world was going to be needed for all this content and we turned out to be reasonably correct in that and now pretty much every major AR platform is sort of heading towards building these 3D maps of the world.
Rene – Totally, yeah very impressive, what you already have built in the past and we will dive a little bit deeper on what you're doing at the moment, but you know let me start with a very simple but also complex question. What is the metaverse for you and where do you see the potential?
Matt - I mean, the honest answer is it's a useful marketing term to position your company. I think the, you know, more practical definition is, it's kind of a mixture of a 3D space that we you know inhabit and interact with, with a range of different devices, you know, whether it's VR/AR, phones, computers, whatever we're the big sprinkling of kind of crypto and web 3 and this whole open architecture for ownership and commerce and transactions. So, it's a bit of melting pot of a whole bunch of stuff that have been thrown in and a lot of people just… it means kind of whatever you want it to mean but you know we're interested in kind of a very specific niche of that and yeah that's so for us, it's just useful to say we're a metaverse company, we're like all these other companies that are doing this hot new thing and we try to define what we're doing based on our own terms and based on what the benefit to the users are.
Rene - Nice and so you have been working on the AR clouds, the mirror world, the real world metaverse, whatever you want to call it for a very long time and definitely one of the pioneers here, for example, like you said you found it 6D AI, which was then acquired by Niantic and is now integrated into the lightship platform for the visual positioning system, the VPS. It's a very key component and like you were saying a lot of big tech players and all a lot of startups are working on the same stuff and trying to crack this very precise positioning and so on. By the way, we have actually been talking with Tori Smith from Niantic in season one episode nine. If anyone wants to recap this, we talked actually about the Lightship SDK. Anyhow, let's talk about your new company which is called Living Cities and you can find it at livingcities.xyz and I guess the URL ending on XYZ is already giving us a little hint what this is going all about but tell us a little bit about it and also maybe can folks already get involved somehow?
Matt – Yeah, it's so living cities is really, for me, it's a continuation of exploring the ideas that we explored at 6D. We really thought we saw, like all these big companies are building these new platforms to support, you know, AR mostly and no one really knows what to do with them and it's also really difficult to create content for the real world and we thought, look what happens when these maps exist, you know, what do you use them for? And one of the real insights that one of my co-founders brought up, John Gaeta, John's a really sort of famous visual effects expert and worked a lot on AR and VR products for a long time but he pointed out that world-building, this idea of how do you make a believable world that people want to inhabit- whether that's in a film or a novel, a video game, like just the idea of world building is really hard and most creative endeavors kind of fail at that, It's kind of once a decade, you know, something new will come up and but he said look if you can do if you can capture the real world in its, you know, not just the way it looks but the way it feels, the way it behaves, you know, all the different senses as much as you can get in you kind of get the world building for free and so what we were really excited by is the potential when you look at a lot of pretty much all metaverse products that are out there today from whichever company, they, they don't do a good job of world building if any job at all and so you get these places that virtual places that feel kind of sterile. They kind of empty you wouldn't want to hang out there, you know, for much reason where we think if we can capture the real world and bring that online as a, you know, a mirror of that or a reflection of the real world, our thesis is that you'll end up with a virtual space that is going to be fun and interesting to inhabit because these places are just fun and interesting places in the real world and so that's kind of the core, I think, insight that this new companies based on. In terms of getting involved, you know, we're still pre-products. We still haven't really announced anything about our product at all although that'll be starting in coming months. Best place to kind of drop in and get ready is on our Discord server. We're starting to ramp up some activity on that again in the coming weeks but that's where we'll start to share screenshots, previews of what we're doing in advance of an announcement and we're also planning a sort of launch package, a launch bundle of access and features and a whole bunch of stuff that we're going to throw in for the first sort of people that want to want to, I guess get citizenship in our new online space.
Rene - So in an essence, it's basically the digital twin of the physical world that you'll want to bring into the metaverse.
Matt – Yeah, we try not to use the term digital twin for two reasons. The first is that that term is kind of well accepted you're mostly in like enterprise, you know, architecture engineering type use cases and it usually just means refers to a static model of something you know maybe it's got some little data points in there but here's my factory floor or here's what this building is going to look like when we build it. We are going like way beyond that. We're actually trying to bring these virtual spaces, like I said to feel alive, so that means a lot of real-time data feeds between you know the real place and the virtual copy but they're persistent. You'll be able to…. there'll be people there who visit virtually, there'll be people who are physically present in the real place and their Avatar will show up and be present in the virtual place. We'll get everything, like the weather, the lighting, the time of day, you know as much ambient data as we can pull in about that place to sort of bring it to life so even in our kind of early prototypes now it's definitely a different theme to what people call a digital twin.
Rene – Wow, well really excited, looking forward to learn a little bit more, so got to join the Discord there. I just attended a meeting of the media World standards Forum which I think living cities is also a member of. At least I saw the logo on the on the members list and I have to say I really appreciate this initiative which is trying to establish standards for various aspects of the metaverse including like the real and the virtual world interoperability and I think especially the aspect of interoperability, it could be assets, could be a lot of other things, is an essential piece right? I think the true interrupt between the various metaverse or Multiverse platforms which we are having at the moment or which we will actually see in the next few years I think, it's essential to have this interop between right and so what is your opinion on that and how would you imagine an interop layer especially for the real world metaverse, the AR Cloud, you know what I mean, right?
Matt – Yeah, it's, I mean with the whole philosophy around open platforms versus closed platforms, there's a tension there and particularly in like we are now in an emerging market where no one really knows what's going to work, no definitely not one the market by any means and so the benefit of being closed is that you can control everything, you've got no dependencies on anyone else and you can generally learn the fastest, you can iterate the fastest and in theory, you know, you can figure out the solution to a customer's needs faster than you can trying to like herd the cats in an open, you know, open environment but obviously an open environment you know gives you an amazing ability to tap into lots of creativity from all different sorts of sources. You sort of get a sense that things that are too big for one company to kind of do it all at once can benefit from you know a Consortium or even an informal like group who are trying to make everything and somehow plug it all together. So I feel like with you know the metaverse it feels like one of those things that's too big for one company to work on and so we are definitely wanting to sort of be exposed to the serendipitous creativity that can come from like letting other people interact and mix up what you're doing. How it works specifically for our product and our platform we still are figuring out like it's simple things like avatars if you want to bring an avatar into a you know a replica a reflection of the real place, should that avatar look vaguely like a human or should you allow a 30-foot tall robot to come in? Does that make things better or make things worse and that sort of those sort of questions are the sorts of things where you know we're exploring. We're certainly going to need you know open access to mapping platforms at some point, like we're starting with one particular location but if you want to go this whole world we're not going to replicate Google Maps or open street maps or anything like that. So there's certainly going to need to be some openness between the interaction layers and the application layers and the core geo-mapping underneath and then you get into the whole economic openness of it and particularly where you've got the real-world and there's you know there's a real world economy people are buying coffee and doing whatever they do you know giving money to a busker and when you start overlaying virtual activities on top of that and you want to use like a virtual currency then you start to get into well how does that work, how do you go back and forth between euro or US Dollars and some sort of you know virtual dollars and they're areas where you know you want to be open to some extent. So that's just a kind of few like touchpoints that where kind of exploring. We definitely don't know what the answers are. I think anyone who does claim to know what the answers are, they're probably either trying to sell you a scam or they just some like religious zealot about their beliefs and we've found that the more we dig into these problems the more subtleties there are to them and how do you get it right is going to take a fair bit of experimentation.
Rene - Yeah and I like what you said like be careful a lot of people are trying to sell a lot of things at the moment. This is definitely the case so and yeah well I'm not going to put names but definitely be careful especially when you're looking into things that are related to crypto and stuff like this, I mean, there's good substantial great stuff right, not that don't get me wrong but there's also way much over-speculative things ongoing and it will burst at some point, so be a little bit careful and invest into the good stuff and look into the good stuff and I'm, you know, Matt the stuff you're has all been doing, great track record so look into this folks.
Matt – Yeah, my favorite quote on all that is like 98 percent of the crypto stuff is either a worthless or a scam and two percent is going to change the world but no one knows which two percent that is at the moment. So we're, you know, we're being reasonably conservative and how we're approaching it.
Rene – Yeah, that's perfectly put. Okay, let's go a little bit different question. I know you're an avid cyclist. I'm too just like myself a little bit and since AR became mainstream, I know you have been working in AR since many years I've also been studying actually with the AR toolkit, I don't know, like when was it, like 15 years or whatever it is something like that but you know since it became mainstream, let's say the last five years or so five to ten years, you know, I've been thinking a lot about AR enabled heads up displays for cycling and why you would have like navigation for example or think about it like if you're on one of these platforms like Strava right, you have a your own record or the Strava King of the mountain or whatever the person holds the record, you could race against them, you see them as an air ghost in front of you, you could do some really cool stuff I think. And I know there have been some efforts but most are really not suitable for the fast movement you have because you need to localize precisely right, you need to process a lot of a lot of data, a lot of computer vision stuff. First of all would you like something like that actually for bike rides or not at all and second what do you think, how long it will take actually until we'll have like fast enough computer vision processing that can run these VPS like visual positionings quickly enough and the right AR form factor I guess is really delimiting, right?
Matt – Yeah, it's a really good question and yeah you're right I've been cycling a long time. So I, you know, I've definitely thought of this idea and wondered you know what would it take for me to, why would I want it you know and I think everyone's going to be a little bit different. Like for me personally, I like, I wish I had the ability in a you know pair of glasses that actually were Sports type glasses not this type of thing, that's a bit more wrap around, it gives you a bit better protection. I'd love to have a camera that I could just take shots the number of times I've been on a ride and would have loved to take a photo of something that just zips past and I'm like oh you can't reach back for your phone or stopping all that stuff in terms of having a display that you know puts content in front of my view. I'm a little bit dubious of that. I don't want to be distracted like I'd hate to be bombing down some descent and you know the little ghost is sort of positioned on top of a pothole that I you know just happened to be lined up and I hit the putter without really seeing it like that sort of thing. I'm sort of really in favor of very minimal displays and then I kind of weighed up with like gee I just like the fact that I'm out of touch you know when I'm on my bike. Like I never wear headphones, I generally have my phone sort of hard to get out and you're just riding along and no one can contact me or I can't contact anyone. So there's a really, you know, it's sort of that's good, I don't know, like a like an illustration, I think of a lot of the design challenges with you know headsets in day-to-day use and that where we're probably going to want a lot less content in our display than we imagined and I have no idea like that's UX designers who are far smarter than me hopefully can figure that stuff out but I would definitely love to have glasses that have the potential to show some of that stuff.
Rene - And even if it's like just little overlays or something, like this it could be useful potentially but I'm actually at the same like you know initially I thought about it oh that would be so cool but then you think about uh well not really actually and then also did the second point you made is really I'm the same right like especially when I do mountain biking or so you're so focused like when you're going like a tricky trail or whatever, it's like you and then you come back from it and then you get all these ideas right and this is how it works and you gotta disconnect yourself sometimes and cycling is just perfect. So folks, go cycling.
Matt - Yeah definitely and the glasses it's just such a fascinating problem that I think we're going to sort of still have a lot to figure out how we want to use them.
Rene - I think so. Well, that was fantastic Matt. Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your insights. Very much appreciated.
Matt - Well thank you! It's a fun chat.
Rene - All right! And thank you, everyone, for joining us for yet another episode of Meta Minutes, your bite-sized pieces of the metaverse. Watch our blog, follow our social media channels, and subscribe to our YouTube channel to hear all about the next episodes and of course, you can watch all the previous episodes there as well. Take care and see you soon in the metaverse. Bye bye!