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PODCAST – Tom Emrich, VP of Product 8th Wall/Niantic

MVP Interactive CEO James Giglio hosted VP of Product, Tom Emrich on this week’s MVP Podcast. Tom is recognized as one of the world’s leading thought leaders in augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) & wearable technology. A pioneer in this space, Tom has over a decade-long track record of running tech teams and providing strategic direction in emerging technologies for powerhouse brands and organizations. As VP of Product at 8th Wall, Tom is leading the strategy and development of powerful tools used by developers to create reality content including augmented reality for the browser. Previous to 8th Wall, Tom was a founding partner at Super Ventures, the first VC fund dedicated to augmented reality. He also played a critical role in building the AR/VR ecosystem as founder of We Are Wearables and co-producer of AWE, the world’s #1 AR+VR event series.

Podcast Transcript

James Giglio (00:00):

Hi everyone. This is James Giglio, CEO of MVP Interactive, and welcome to the MVP Podcast. Our podcast will bring insight to a range of topics involving technology, consumer engagement, experiential marketing, and general business related subjects. This show will host not only our great roster of clients from the professional sports world, along with Fortune 500 brands and agencies, but other entrepreneurs and startups. We hope our podcast brings value. And thank you for listening. For general inquiries or topic requests, please email mvppodcast@mvp-interactive.com, and please subscribe to our YouTube page and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and SoundCloud with account name MVP Interactive.

James Giglio (00:52):

Hello everyone. Welcome back to the MVP Podcast. Today we have a very special guest, a partner of ours, the one and only Tom Emrich. A little bit of background of Tom Emrich, he’s not only the Vice president of Product for 8th Wall, one of the leading platforms for web-based augmented reality experience. Tom is sometimes called the “Man of the Future.” He’s recognized as one of the world’s leading thought leaders in augmented reality, virtual reality, and wearable technology. He was recently listed as one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Technology in 2020. With over a decade of experience, Tom is leading the strategy development of powerful developer tools to create augmented reality for the web, or what is best known as WebAR. 8th Wall’s platform allows creators to develop platform augmented reality experience with no app required. Tom, we are so thrilled to have you on our show today. Thank you for joining us.

Tom Emrich (01:53):

Thank you. No, thank you. Thanks for having me.

James Giglio (01:55):

Yeah, absolutely. So, a little bit of background in terms of how we met. We obviously have launched a pretty, extremely successful campaign with the Tennessee Titans in that we created the NFL’s first augmented reality interactive mural. Not only was it the first interactive mural, it was the very first web-based interactive mural. So we were really excited to be working with your platform as creators. We can talk about how we ended up actually, conceptualizing some of these AR experiences. But first, we would really be interested in learning about, your journey in and out of technology and essentially, what led you to 8th Wall.

Tom Emrich (02:41):

Sure. Well, again, thanks for having me. I mean, my journey is, has a variety of different milestones and steps that led me to where I am at 8th Wall. I started my technology career back in 2005 in Toronto, which is where I’m from, and that startup where I was working as a project manager, was very much dedicated to leveraging a new type of technology, which was mobile, a new platform. To enable marketing and advertising, especially in the use of SMS and through SMS campaigns, like texting a short code to get a coupon, for example, as well as in the use of ring tones and wallpapers or mobile media, as well as video. Which was especially lucrative in the entertainment space. You may recall while back, every single, single that was released by an artist typically had a ring tone.

Tom Emrich (03:42):

So obviously this was in 2005, was the emerging tech of its time. It’s actually fascinating to think about how far we’ve come and such a short amount of time. And I remember when I was working at that startup thinking, that we were just on the start of something extremely powerful, but yet I felt slightly late to the game. That’s kind of like what my feeling was. And I made a promise to myself then that, if there was the opportunity to eye the next wave of computing after mobile, within my lifetime, that I would want to make sure that I didn’t feel late to the party, but in fact was early to that game. And so, I really kept an eye on what was happening in the technology space, and that’s really what brought me to wearable technology and augmented reality and virtual reality included.

Tom Emrich (04:34):

I actually started to put a focus on augmented reality as a product manager working in publishing and media. This was the time when the iPad was new and e-readers were at their height, and I was charged with trying to find a way to bridge that gap between print material and this new digital opportunity. And augmented reality was one of those strategies that I was trying to employ. This was back in 2009, and, while the technology was promising, it just was not ready. And that’s really what’s changed. Today, the technology is ready. That includes the hardware, that includes the software, but also, the consumer is much more ready to do new things with their smartphone than they were back in 2009 when the smartphone was still relatively new.

James Giglio (05:26):

So sorry, but I, I just wanted to go back to a comment that you made when, we’re gonna go back to 2005, and you said you felt that you were late to the game on the SMS and multimedia. You know, interesting enough, in 2009 when the technology and the iPhone was really, had come on the scene and apps were the rage, and here we come in with the QR reader and the QR code, even though that technology began back in 1994, right? And so, it’s interesting to hear you say that you felt you were late to the game, where I feel like most technologists feel like we’re early to the game where the overall adoption from the general public needs to catch up. And, so that’s, that’s interesting. Do you feel now in that element that we’re kind of, have you ever felt that throughout your career and now this is why it’s so exciting in this moment in time?

Tom Emrich (06:22):

Right. Yeah. I mean, to clarify, it felt late on the mobile media SMS side of things. And I should also just clarify that I was, it wasn’t necessarily that I was late. I just had, been working with some amazing folks that had been working in mobile media even before I got onto the opportunity at that startup. And so, I felt like I really wanted to emulate those folks and with that next wave be that early pioneer. In 2009, for sure, it felt like I was very early. And in fact, my journey after being a product manager where I focused on becoming a tech journalist and trying to raise up stories around the value of wearable technology and augmented reality and virtual reality, and then that kind of spun into community building through events and meetups and conferences.

Tom Emrich (07:16):

Even then, although I could see the potential, there was still just many prototypes. Like technology pieces on a table, not full products. And, the dust hadn’t settled on a lot of software platforms. And there was still a lot of questions around like what the technology was, which kind of impeded conversations around the value of how that technology can be brought about. And this was 2009 in the wearable technology space, even 2012, 2013. So that definitely felt early. The time now, which is, fast forward to 2021, definitely does not feel like the same way that I felt in 2009. In fact, I would say that it feels like we’re ready is kind of like what I would indicate. And it’s not even a feeling where we’re seeing firsthand working with partners like yourself that all of the pieces for augmented reality to become a meaningful experience for both the end user and to allow for this new medium to satisfy real business goals is actually happening today. And that’s really the exciting, the exciting opportunity, and that’s really where we’re at, especially with smartphone augmented reality.

James Giglio (08:29):

Yeah, for sure. And it’s something that we talk about here internally at MVP. How, one of the things that we’ve experienced in terms of how we brought experiential technology to brands and sports stadiums and marketers is that, hey, you know, the adoptions, this is wild stuff. I remember having conversations in 2013 with, some of the sports leagues and just see the blankness over their faces when we were talking about facial detection and facial recognition, which in turn, if you say that now, everyone absolutely knows what you’re talking about. And for photo engagements, everyone knows everything about Snapchat and virtual, and people are really talking the talk. And I think generationally, the new wave of consumers, whether we talk about millennials or even Gen Z, they’re fortunate enough that they grew up with technology, right?

James Giglio (09:21):

And there was this idea of the pointer generation where I have an 11 year old daughter, and it’s almost like they’re born with this innate ability to know what to do with an iPad or with technology. And so, I think you’re exactly right in terms of where the future is now, and it’s no longer having these Minority Report movie conversations like, what are you even talking about? It’s here and it’s pervasive in our daily lives. And so we agree, it’s super exciting. And then to add to that, when it comes to the 8th Wall platform and what you guys are doing, and pioneering even further extends that because traditionally with mobile augmented reality experience is the need for that third party native app download was a real barrier to entry for a user, especially when it’s around consumer facing engagements or just general hardware issues in terms of what a range of devices can handle on an app download. And so, super exciting. So why don’t you talk to us a little bit about, the real growth and the transition of the product of what 8th Wall is offering and what you’re doing as a product designer and developer.

Tom Emrich (10:41):

So yeah, I think you really hit the nail in the head with like where both the technology has matured as well as the consumer appetite and education. I think those are two major ingredients that are necessary for adoption of this new technology. When I started to see end users, like customers put their phone into a piece of cardboard and put it on their face, I was like, “Oh, okay, this is much different than 2007 and 2009.” I mean, back in 2009, folks were just learning pinch and zoom and the smartphone was relatively new, and now we’ve reached a point where it’s become like an extension of us so much so that it feels like a natural part of everyday life, and we’re looking for new ways to utilize it.

Tom Emrich (11:28):

The cardboard is a good example of that. On the technology side, the smartphone has become a very powerful, augmented reality device. We have way better cameras. We have chips that are designed for gaming and augmented reality. We have screens that have high resolution and that have a larger field of view because it’s a larger screen. The screen real estate has really been maximized, and then you have networks, 4G, but also 5G networks that are really designed to allow for, richer media to exist for users to experience and interact with. So you combine this with a company like 8th Wall that has birthed in 2018, web-based augmented reality with the introduction of world tracking or the ability for the mobile device to use its camera to understand the surface and in front of it, to then place interactive or 3D content, into that space for users to interact with in the web without an app to download.

Tom Emrich (12:43):

It really highlights the fact that it’s game time for augmented reality. Yeah. And so 2019 was the first full year for 8th Wall, with our WebAR platform. We began with world effects, which I mentioned, which allows for you to hit a link or scan a QR code, get brought to a webpage which essentially triggers the augmented reality experience. And you can place things like portals that you can walk into or full on games, cars, products into the space in front of you in order for you to be able to interact with it and gain value from it. All with no app required, as you mentioned. And so we started with world effects and quickly we expanded our augmented reality capabilities to image target augmented reality, again, with no app required.

Tom Emrich (13:41):

So everything that I’ll be talking about in regards to 8th Wall, I think it’s important to understand that there’s no app that needs to be downloaded from the app store. You just hit a webpage to be able to do so. And so with Image Target Augmented Reality, what’s really great about this, and James, you are talking about this with the mural right from the start, it’s like, there’s, there’s something very magical about bringing physical images, or I should say real life images that exist in the real world to life with a digital overlay. And that’s what Image Target Augmented Reality enables. So you can bring a mural to life where that mural, it exists in real reality. Like, you don’t need to actually appreciate the artistry that went into the Tennessee Titans mural, for example.

Tom Emrich (14:24):

You can do that without a smartphone, but when you view the mural through a smartphone using 8th Wall Image Target Augmented Reality technology, then that mural, literally the word has to be magically comes to life. That’s what it feels like. And so, we launched Image Target Augmented Reality capabilities for flat image targets. So that’s book covers, magazine pages, murals, posters, and then just last year, were the only web-based augmented reality development platform to offer curved image targets. So think about labels that are wrapped around wine bottles or cups or other conical and cylindrical shapes. And so this kind of really shows how, 8th Wall has continued to invest in bringing augmented reality capabilities into the browser. And we close the loop with the third major type of augmented reality, which is face effects, which many of the listeners may be familiar with face effects in social augmented reality applications such as Snapchat and, and Instagram.

Tom Emrich (15:27):

They’re often called filters or lenses. And we also now offer WebAR enabled face effects that work on not just mobile devices across iOS and Android, but also desktop. And these are really great for, virtual try-on of sunglasses and hats and jewelry, as well as, first from a sports perspective, creating face paints or fan paints, and really allowing for the developer, in our case to be able to edit the face and apply video and textures and other designs to suit the augmented reality experience. And it’s a lot of growth there. A lot of growth since 2018.

James Giglio (16:09):

Sure. Yeah, absolutely. And I do want to make the distinction in why your platform is so special. And you had referenced developers, right? The great thing about 8th Wall is the fact that they have built the engine, so to speak. So any creators or developers listening to this podcast, you’ve come across in the past, say hypothetically, opportunities to work with another technology company. And there’s this real sort of ego or sort of conflict in terms of how you bring a product to market. Make no mistake that a shy of calling 8th wall and open source technology, you really work and integrate closely with developers and creators to give them the tools and the capabilities of what the engine allows for. So there’s no conflict in terms of any tech conflict or ego in terms of how are we going to create this amazing experience.

James Giglio (17:08):

And that was something that was a great rewarding process for us. And I have to tell this short little story, and why it was such a magical sort of discovery working with 8th Wall, I would say early 2018, maybe even earlier, 2017, I live in downtown Philadelphia. Our office is, within walking distance of my house. And so I tried, I don’t even own a car, right? I just walk everywhere. And I always joke, it’s either my transportation motors are my feet or an airplane. And so it’s been all my feet this past year in 2020 and 21 so far. But, I do all my thinking, my creative thinking between to and from the office. And I usually hit this milestone at the convention center here in town, and it’s like, I need to come up with one good idea a day, and that’s my sort of deadline for myself.

James Giglio (18:03):

And so, I got to that point and I said, How cool would it be if someone were to receive a text message? They launch this link from said, we work obviously with a lot of professional sports teams, but you launch this link and then a holograph of a person appears broadcasting some message solicitation or thanking you to be as season ticket member or something along those lines, whatever it is. So I got to the office all excited, and I was like, All right, guys, we’ve got our new product, right? And so I had our tech team kind of like, “All right, here’s what I’m gonna do. Let’s stage, this experience because, we have production capabilities here.” And so we, we cut a little demo reel of this idea, right? And so we said, “Let’s build this, but we can’t, there cannot be an app.”

James Giglio (18:53):

I was hell bent on there not being an application because it doesn’t make sense if there’s an app. There’s no wonder or wow, if you have to download an app and, and it’s less scalable. And we spent, I don’t know, three months trying to figure this out, in trying to, how to bring that to life without any third party or native app. And so when we finally, and I can’t recall the moment, and it had to be when you guys came out of stealth, and I think I met, your colleague Kevin at Digital LA Conference a couple years ago where you guys were now coming out of stealth and evangelizing your product. And I said, “This is it. This is how we can make that idea come to life.” And it’s been an awesome sort of, growth to align with you guys in terms of being able to, as on our side of the table, creative technologists, to really pull the certain ingredients needed to kind of make our visions come to life. And so, I wanted to tell that story because if, again, if there’s other creators or developers out there, there is no competition in terms of what 8th Wall is providing the marketplace or competing against. And so, I’m sorry for that tirade. <laugh>

Tom Emrich (20:14):

Listen, I love talking to folks that are so passionate about augmented reality, but especially about making the web a powerful place for augmented reality. I mean, 8th Wall is on a mission to make augmented reality for everyone, and we’re doing that by harnessing the power and freedom of the web because it allows for augmented reality to be accessible. And so when I really, I myself very much resonate with that mission, which is why I’m very excited to be part of the 8th Wall team. And as you mentioned, we’re here to empower our developers and agencies and brands with tools. And so, we’ve created a powerful suite of tools that then you get to pick up and believe me, every day I wake up and I’m so excited to check Twitter or to check our Slack channel, our Dev Slack channel to see what you’ve created.

Tom Emrich (21:06):

It’s amazing to be part of a company that’s creating a developer platform that’s being utilized by some very talented and amazing partners and developers in our ecosystem that are really pushing the limits on, you know, not just what’s possible with augmented reality, but what’s possible with augmented reality in a browser with no app required. And I also appreciate your appreciation for how hard it is to make that computer vision happen. I mean, 8th Ball does have our own proprietary, slam system, which is, what allows for our world effects to happen and our entire AR engine capabilities is made possible because of our amazing teams. So, we’re really happy to see how our tool set has unlocked web-based augmented reality as a major place for this type of content to exist today.

James Giglio (22:02):

Yeah, and it’s funny that you mentioned Twitter and your Slack channel, because you guys are great to open up assets and sort of new features to individuals on that Slack channel. But, it seems like each day, there’s a new partner or a new concept that is being promoted online with great brands now leveraging this, which is really fascinating. But most notably I have to congratulate you guys, a little bit of newsworthy, media here. It’s as of, I guess last week, 8th Wall was selected by Fast Company as one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies in 2021. Congratulations there. Talk to us a little bit about that.

Tom Emrich (22:46):

Thank you. No, that’s great. It’s always nice to be recognized and we share that recognition with our developer ecosystem and our partners, like yourself. And so thank you for helping for the WebAR ecosystem to be put on Fast Companies’ radar. The honor is, it’s always nice to be recognized. It’s also nice to be recognized amongst some major players in the augmented reality and virtual reality space, including Snap and Qualcomm and Unreal, and Spacial from New York, which are all doing in their own right, what they need to do in order to make this space successful. It was great to see that honor and recognition and thanks for bringing it up on Podcast.

James Giglio (23:33):

Of course, of course, of course. And so let’s talk a little bit about the future. You had referenced a couple of other companies. Snap notably is really doing a good job of pressing the limits of evolving in terms of what they’re known for and where they want to go as far as 8th Wall’s capabilities, you had touched on this a little bit and sort of the curve tracking and shadow tracking. I think I’m butchering the phrase here, but I think being able to show real time shadowing with 3D objects was an update that just came out, which is really compelling for the authenticity and the realism of these objects and what have you. But maybe speak to a little bit of that and what features that you guys are on the roadmap, what you’re allowed to. I obviously understand that you can’t, completely open up your playbook here, but…

Tom Emrich (24:28):

Yeah, I can definitely speak to it. So, you are right, our latest release, on Unlocked the ability to add real time reflections to projects, created by 8th Wall, and those could be face effects, image target, augmented reality, or world effect projects. We really wanted to, as part of the product marketing around that new feature, raise up how powerful and realistic and high quality web based augmented reality can be. And so I encourage anybody who didn’t see some of the demos that we made as part of that release to head on over to 8thwall.com to take a look at it. It’s definitely something you have to see in action. When it comes to augmented reality, it is an experience and, there’s a lot of feeling that is evoked with an experience.

Tom Emrich (25:17):

And so adding things like shadows and lighting estimation and reflections really add to the overall realism and feel of the experience. And to the extent that we can make that easy and efficient and available to our developers, we wanted to continue to do so. And, that’s exactly what we did with the real-time reflections, AR engine release. We think about a couple of things on the product side and one of them is to continue to help our developers be supercharged in their development. That actually speaks to especially our cloud-based coding environment that we have that I haven’t talked about. In addition to our AR engine, we also have our cloud editor, which is a web-based coding environment where developers can log in and collaborate together utilizing source control, and also with one click, publish their WebAR experiences to included hosting with over 200 points of presence around the globe.

Tom Emrich (26:21):

So thinking not just about like new AR features, like realtime reflections or, curved image targets, but also wanting to offer up a set of, coding tools that allows for the developer to be as efficient as possible, to have the resources to feel supported in the creation of their projects. And to ensure that the quality and the stability of their projects is something that we can help out with. And that’s really where the cloud editor comes into play. We continually add to our sample project library and our templates, which, have been utilized by our developers to get up and running as quickly as possible. And also to start to elevate their experience and their skills within this new and emerging area. I mean, in the WebAR as I mentioned, really began in 2018, and so it’s still a relatively new type of experience create that requires a lot of different skills to be brought to the table. Web development, working within 3D renders, working with 3D assets. I mean, firsthand with your team, the talent that’s required to put this together. And so, beyond, again, the new augmented reality capabilities, we think a lot about how to make all of that as efficient and and effective as possible.

James Giglio (27:49):

Yeah. So the last, Sorry, go ahead.

Tom Emrich (27:52):

The last thing is like, we do also think a lot about the success of these campaigns as well and these experiences and we spend a lot of time on the product side thinking about how we can contribute to the success of that. Meaning, how can we help with distribution, optimizing a metadata, how can we help with discovery? We launched our in-app on device media recorder last year as a result of that goal, with the full intent to enable developers and partners like yourself with now, the ability for you to include video and photo capture in an augmented reality experience, which in turn should help with your end users capturing and sharing this media on social media, which hopefully will encourage continued use and visibility of the AR experience overall. So those are also some things that we’re really passionate about providing to you.

James Giglio (28:53):

Yeah. And that’s great. What I was going to say earlier, and this is really an extension of like the feature sets that you guys are continuing to roll out. You had mentioned efficiency, right? And that is something that is paramount to how, eventual and how scalable this type of platform, is going to be. And it’s trending that way, right? Where we kind of go back to these third party app developments and the price and the actual development work that it took to create these experiences were exorbitant. And it was really a non-starter for either developers or brands that we’re looking to kind of create these things. And so being able to really hook into these features has really helped us because as you can imagine, I mean, budgets were, the world as we knew it over the past year was really halted.

James Giglio (29:47):

Companies were really downsizing and being very cautious with their spend. And budgets were certainly affected by that. And so, as other symbiotic businesses that rely on those type of brands and businesses to kind of create our work, we had to get smart as well. And so, that’s really important to know for other people that have worked with you or are looking to work with you, is that the feature sets that come out really help drive down the cost of development based on the efficiencies and what you’re able to do. One quick example is, you’ve mentioned the reflection and we’re doing a lot of holographic or individual type of work where a popular capture is volumetric filming, right? Where you’re taking a real life individual filming them in a 360 environment volumetrically that creates that real lifelike scenario or holograph that you can experience in AR that comes at a cost, right?

James Giglio (30:50):

And so when you talk about features in your editor that you can better manipulate, say, a 2D file or image to kind of create that realism, you save a host of money on the production that you would need to spend or invest into a volumetric studio that you can kind of recreate a really good version using a 2D asset. So thank you for that. And so I think that that’s a great, just a great feature that you can get smart with the efficiencies and how you develop work.

Tom Emrich (31:27):

No, that means a lot for you to say that because we put a lot of attention and thought into that. So I’m glad to hear that from a partner like you.

James Giglio (31:34):

Well, no problem. Keep ’em coming because there’s no shortage of ideas or concepts or challenges that we’re gonna, kind of solve together. So on that note, and shameless plug here, outside of the Tennessee Tough Titans mural, the interactive mural that you can experience downtown Nashville on Sixth Street across from the convention center, just by scanning a QR code that is planted onto the sidewalk there or lawn sign, check it out. What were some of the other cool, pieces of content or development that you have seen using your platform from, say, other partners or maybe things that you’ve done in-house?

Tom Emrich (32:15):

Yeah, I mean, there’s like, there’s so many, as you mentioned. We’re so fortunate to see so many developers and agencies take use of our tools. I’ll tell you just a couple of, I guess the most recent since they’re top of mind. We’re in the midst of March Madness, and so the NCAA tournament is coming up. USA Today, just this week launched Couch-Ket Ball, which is a couch based, web-based augmented reality game that allows for you to shoot hoops in your home utilizing AR and this was definitely in support of their brackets competition that they launch every year for the NCAA. And so I really like this idea of being able to bring a game into someone’s house and engage them, and also inspire some friendly competition.

Tom Emrich (33:07):

Not only are you able to shoot hoops in AR from various difficulty in terms of levels, but you’re able to also share the score out to your friends and kind of like, get them to come up, come back in and see if they can beat your score. So I really do appreciate that. We’ve had a number of really amazing volumetric video experiences as well. So, oftentimes these are referred to as hologram experiences. This is actors or spokespeople that have been brought to a volumetric capture studio, which has like a whack-ton of cameras from all angles and a green screen to be able to capture that actor from all angles. And we’re unique in that our web based augmented reality platform can stream on volumetric video to really allow for this new content to be distributed in an effective way.

Tom Emrich (34:01):

And just recently there was a great experience for H&M with a new collaboration with a fashion designer where they wanted to bring their lookbook that gets delivered to life in an almost like an AR pop-up storybook style. It’s extremely stunning. It leverages a marker based augmented reality as well as volumetric video actors, including Helena Bonham Carter and others. And just like with the Tennessee Titans mural, there is something to be said about like how magic it is to get a physical catalog that you’re used to seeing on a regular basis, and then use your smartphone to watch it come to life so that you can experience it from a whole new angle.

Tom Emrich (34:53):

That’s really what that is all about. And I think that the last one has to be what we saw from the Super Bowl, with virtual rights management who created a portal. Portals have become quite popular. So these portals are doorways, virtual doorways that you place within your space, and then you’re either kind of dragged into it in the case of the Pepsi Super Bowl halftime commercial experience, or you can walk into it because you do have that agency holding the phone. And what virtual rights management created for Pepsi Super Bowl was really this very almost like psychedelic portal that you got sucked into. And immediately you hear The Weekend sing his infamous song that he’s sang live at the halftime special. It was like a way for you to not only just experience video content differently, but also feel like you’re there, like you’re there at the event in some way. And that’s, you know, really important, especially in today’s times when, you know, we’re here at home and shelter in place and we’ve been doing so for a while. So, those are just three, I mean, there’s so many more that we could probably talk about.

James Giglio (36:03):

Absolutely. No, well, thank you for that. And it’s funny that you mentioned the portal because this is another great example of the benefit of these new feature sets and being a part of the Slack channel. And as soon as that feature came out, as content creators, we have a host of 360 video footage that we were able to capture in previous projects. And so, as we expand our education and capabilities on the platform, we were kind of baking things up in the lab. And so right before the Super Bowl, coincidence, there’s always some, it’s funny how creative overlap happens, right? There’s this theory and comedy that, you know, joke stealing, but there’s like that parallel thought that happens.

James Giglio (36:47):

Like two people independently can come up with the same joke that happens a lot in tech. And so we took footage from, we filmed amateur Night a few years ago at the Apollo Theater. We had a collaboration with the Apollo Theater in Coca-Cola where we brought our, we filmed in 360 amateur night. We were on stage and we filmed like the, you can imagine what an amateur night is like, you have so much great talent, but the MC was super interactive and he essentially were just, it was plucking people out of the seat to come on stage knowing that we were there filming. And so we thought, what a great way would this portal concept, so we created this little doorway and we were able to kind of retro fit that 360 footage into the platform to create this little peak into Apollo.

James Giglio (37:42):

And so yeah, you’re exactly right. And so kind of giving access to an anterior bowl, if that’s a word, facility is really important now, more so than ever. And it’s something that usually, we always said when clients came to us, when they were deciding, this is always an education, right? When they were deciding whether they should use VR or AR, traditionally we said, Well, if you’re looking to give users access to some place, virtual reality is a great tool for that. However, if you’re looking to really educate or inform an individual on something or create some type of interactive development, AR is probably better. But now we’re in a scenario where we can really recreate both with a portal type of experience, right?

James Giglio (38:36):

And so giving that 360 access to someone through AR is really phenomenal. And again, the big thing is that we really haven’t touched on this, and we have two, no less than two things baking right now for us and new concepts on the platform that we’re super excited about. All of the demos that we’re talking about here with Tom, we can certainly show, we have collateral that we can kind of show these examples. So if you’re looking to see this in real life, definitely go to the 8th Wall website or contact MVP Interactive directly, and we’re happy to kind of show some of the things that we’ve built on the platform as well as some of the existing content. But, so we’re working on two new concepts that we’re really excited about in branching outside of professional sports and how retail can really benefit and the consumer can benefit from augmented reality.

James Giglio (39:34):

But notably, because these are web-based platforms, there’s a level of analytics and data that brands can really leverage and understand what the consumer journey has been. Because with technology, everyone can get lost in the site of like how cool something was. And yeah, that was awesome. But we, something that we focus on and your platform allows is to really provide that backend data to a brand, to a company, to a marketer to say, “Okay, this is just not like an experiential piece of tech that we’re gonna throw money at and just kind of get our name on it for press.” No, there’s real ROI opportunities in being able to track conversion and the engagement and really see that consumer journey. So we’re really excited about the platforms that we’re building right now. Hopefully, I think within the next two weeks we’ll be able to kind of showcase both of those and sort of where that start to finish is. But I do wanna, make mention of that, that that’s something valuable to us internally at MVP is, being able to really extend the experience beyond like the cool part because it is foundationally on the web, right? Yeah. And so there’s a lot of possibility there,

Tom Emrich (40:52):

Right? Yeah, I love that. And I think that like, that’s a very important point to drive home and also really indicates the growing level of maturity within mobile AR. It’s like no longer, can it, like what is it and can it happen? But it’s more like, yes, it can, I understand what it is and like what value is it generating and that that is a good place to be, a healthy place to be. And we’re seeing like firsthand how experiences are driving upwards of five minutes of dwell time or reaching millions of users or being attributed to a lift in sales. And so, this type of storytelling and really emphasizing that real business goals can be satisfied by this technology, by augmented reality is very important.

Tom Emrich (41:47):

And so I love the fact that you’re, you’re focusing in on the value that it drives and so much so that one of the things that I’ve been really excited to have heard from our clients and from just like brands and organizations that I’m able to talk to is this shift from augmented reality as being like an innovation to being essential to their business. And I think the pandemic has played a big role in this in just accelerating that, the ability to get to that point. But I’m really happy to start to hear organizations use this word, essential when it comes to augmented reality as a tool to engage end users wherever they are and to be able to deliver on real ROI for their business.

James Giglio (42:37):

Absolutely. And that’s a key word, and it’s interesting that we’re at our time, but it is a tool. This is not something that is just a widget or something fun. It is definitely going to be woven into our everyday lives in the future, and this is just the start. So it is a very exciting time for augmented reality and mixed reality. So Tom, thank you so much. This, I, I could spend three more hours talking to you and <laugh>, you know, we won’t do that to our listeners. But on a final note, tell us where we can find you personally, professionally, anything that you’re willing to share, before we sign off here.

Tom Emrich (43:13):

Sure. Well, you can find me on Twitter at Tom Emrich or on LinkedIn. I have a LinkedIn newsletter that goes out monthly that recaps what’s happening in the augmented reality space. And if you’re interested in joining us on the web and WebAR, please head on over to 8thwall.com.

James Giglio (43:29):

Wonderful. And everyone knows where to find us. I’m James Giglio with MVP Interactive, and thank you for listening, and we will talk to you soon.

Tom Emrich, VP of Product 8thWall


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