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Featured image: The Metaverse at Work

The Metaverse at Work

Leslie Shannon, Head of Trend and Innovation Scouting

"We're at a position where it's so early that anyone who gets involved in the spatial computing/ the metaverse area has the opportunity to shape the way it develops. It's a super exciting time."

In this enlightening episode, we're joined by Leslie Shannon, a Silicon Valley-based “novophiliac” and Head of Trend and Innovation Scouting at Nokia. Drawing from her extensive knowledge and passion, Leslie unpacks the potential and future of spatial computing - often better known as the metaverse.

Moreover, we discuss the revolutionary capabilities of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality and how these technologies are reshaping various industries. Thereby, Leslie addresses the challenges accompanying these advancements, particularly the importance of user privacy and security in an increasingly interconnected digital landscape.

Embark on this exploration of interconnected realities. This episode is a must-listen for anyone curious about where technology is leading us next!

Below you will find the full transcript for the episode.

Debunking myths about the metaverse

Chris: Hi, and welcome back to Innovation Rockstars. My name is Chris Mühlroth, and in this episode, I'm excited to welcome Leslie Shannon. About Leslie: She is head of Trend and Innovation Scouting. And what I learned is that you are a Silicon Valley-based Novophiliac. That should be someone who's in love with the new. Pretty interesting. So what I learned is you basically spend your time looking at emerging tech and how this is going to change our lives, maybe even looking for the next Nokia moment. Let's see. And also, we have to talk about this. I found this on your socials. I found that you are doing your daily fitness work in virtual reality. Is that true? And if so, how? But anyway, thanks a lot for joining us. It's a pleasure having you on the show.

Leslie: Thank you so much, Chris. Lovely to be here.

Chris: All right. So we start straight away, as always, with a short 60 seconds intro sprint. That's all about you, your career, your current role. So for the next minute/ 60 seconds, the stage is all yours. Let's go.

Leslie: So, Leslie Shannon, I actually started my career working in mobile phone billing technology, so database work. But I joined Nokia in 2000 in Australia, actually, and I was a developer manager in the very early days in the WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) days. So bringing applications to the market in WAP. And those were great times because we would just sit around and go, what should we build? Okay, let's go build it. It was wonderful. But in the last eight years, I have been based in Silicon Valley, as you mentioned, and here my role is looking for innovations from outside the world of telecommunications because, of course, at Nokia, we sold the mobile phone business more than 10 years ago. And we’re business-to-business providing network connectivity. So we provide the equipment and the software for phone companies to build their networks. So I'm looking at new technologies to help our phone company customers build the right networks to support what's coming. So I'm looking at the things that are going to be very popular five to 10 years from now, including augmented reality, virtual reality, AI of all kinds, especially including generative AI and drones, robotics, you name it, all of these things. And I look at them all together, which is a very exciting thing to be doing.

Chris: I believe that and there is a lot of buzz around these topics right now. So I'm really looking forward to diving into that and also discussing some real-world use cases. But before we do that, I do have three sentence starters for you, Leslie. And I would like to ask you to complete those sentences. So I start the sentence and you complete it. Number one goes like this: “One thing that excites me about the future of technology is…”

Leslie: The democratization of computing through generative AI, natural language processing, giving the power to do deep queries into databases by anyone, not just data scientists. This is really transformational on the level of the next internet.

Chris: Yeah. So the aspect is about democratization. That's pretty interesting. OK, I'll take a note, a mental note. Okay, sentence number two: “A challenging aspect of innovation scouting that most people do not realize is…

Leslie: The need to always question your own assumptions. If you see something and then you make a prediction about it to not get so married to that prediction that you are unable to see that it's not coming true to always be bringing in new information and reevaluating what you have been concluding based on new information and having the humility to let go incorrect assumptions that you've made.

Chris: All right, because if it's about the future, the probability is actually pretty high that one might be wrong.

Leslie: Absolutely. And so you have to be ready to be wrong.

Chris: Yes, ready to be wrong. That's nice. Could also be, you know, the name of a new band or something.

Leslie: I like it.

Chris: Yeah, let's do that. All right, finally, Leslie: If you could change one thing about the tech industry, what would that be?

Leslie: I would just make it more inclusive of not just diversity in terms of ethnicity but also age and gender. One thing that I find in Silicon Valley, which is a real problem, is the fact that I am female, I am older and I don't have an engineering degree. And those three things make me essentially invisible here. So I'm very lucky that I work for a company, Nokia, which is a European company that sees my worth because I have to say that most Silicon Valley companies do not, or would not. Yeah, it's a very “young male in a hoodie with an engineering degree” focus here. And I think they're cutting themselves off from lots of voices.

Chris: They do, totally agree. OK, let’s talk about the metaverse. And there are a lot of ideas, buzz discussions around these topics right now. And I think a lot of the perception in the public mind is driven, for example, by some early versions of Mark Zuckerberg's Meta. The idea of the metaverse; the highly disturbing images with body halves, bright colors, graphics that look like a next version of Second Life, which I used to try out decades ago, I think. So let's talk about that. And also, industrial metaverse, enterprise metaverse, enterprise use cases for VR, XR. And let's dive into that. Let's start with the metaverse and the metaverse at work. What is it? Is it just a hype? Is there something real about it? What do you see?

"In virtual reality, we're seeing all kinds of training scenarios. Any kind of training that is dirty, difficult, dangerous, or expensive is far better done in virtual reality than in the physical world."

Leslie: Well, first of all, we need to define what we mean when we're talking about the word “metaverse”. And in fact, before the company Meta changed its name to Meta in 2021, the term that was used in the industry is “spatial computing”. And I think that's actually the more accurate thing because it's about the fusion of the digital and the physical. And that includes virtual reality, which is a fully digital experience, but also, extremely importantly, augmented reality, which is more of that digital physical combination. And then Meta came in and they started talking about the metaverse and changing their name and muddying the waters. People are like, well, is the metaverse just from the company Meta? And you know, no, not so much. And I think it's quite telling that Apple, in their Vision Pro launch, did not use the word metaverse once. They went back to the term spatial computing. And so we're really seeing that a lot in the industry. But speaking, you asked about the industrial side of things. And so, just to give some examples of the concrete nature of this is - and there's a strong reason why the industrial metaverse is there first. And it's because you need some kind of a viewer, something to look through to actually do that combining of the digital and the physical. And you can do that through PCs a lot. But if we're talking about something where you really are increasing productivity, you're really talking about a headset where you can have digital inclusions into what you're seeing while leaving both hands free to do work. And on the consumer side, we do not have glasses with that form factor where you're going to wear something out and you're going to, you know, we're still the physics for that. We're still looking at like 2027 and beyond for that. But in the industrial metaverse, where it's totally acceptable to put something kind of heavy and clunky with short battery life on your head now in order to do a task where you have both hands free and you're getting assistance for that task. That is just fine right now. And that is why the industrial metaverse is flourishing first. It's because of the evolution steps of the hardware. And so, in virtual reality, we're seeing all kinds of training scenarios. Any kind of training that is dirty, difficult, dangerous, or expensive is far better done in virtual reality than in the physical world. And so that's really taken off. And there's much more, but that's kind of the key use case. On the augmented reality side, the ability to get some kind of assistance or guidance through some visual overlay onto what you're seeing while you have both hands free. That's the magic power that augmented reality gives you. And so we have many different flavors of that. We have experts being able to see what you see and then maybe use their computer to draw a circle in your visual field to highlight a particular part. Yeah, that's the part we're talking about. Or being able to see an overlay of how the wiring diagram is that you're trying to build to make sure that you get it right the first time or just as simple as being able to pull up pages from an instruction manual in your visual field as you're doing a task. All of these are out there in industry today and are being widely used. And in fact, Nokia and EY, did a survey of companies around the industrial metaverse that came out in June. It's called the “Metaverse at Work”. If you're interested in this field, I highly recommend that you google it because this is a really good study. And so what we did was we looked at four different industries. Automotive, manufacturing, logistics, and utilities. And we asked companies in these fields, are you planning to implement some kind of augmented reality or virtual reality thing? And with some variation, the answer was somewhere between 40% and 50% of the companies we talked to. And then we said, OK, well, have you already done anything at all? And there it was about 10% of the companies we talked to had already built something. And then we asked, what business benefits have you found as a result of it? And the results were just completely mind-blowing. Productivity gains, sustainability gains, faster time to market. And the most notable was that companies that already implemented something in the VR or the AR space, regardless of the use case, regardless of the actual implementation, the business gains they had realized were in every case greater than the business gains they expected before they launched the product.

Chris: So they were surprised by the business gains they actually experienced.

Leslie: Right. They were surprised that they were more effective than they expected. I have been in the field of new technology for 25 years. I have never seen this before. Because usually there's a lot of hype about a new technology. And then you try it and you're like, well, OK, yeah, I can see, mostly. But the actual experience is quite often a disappointment. In VR and AR, experiences in the industrial metaverse, the business benefits they are delivering exceed expectations every time. This stuff is magic.

“In VR and AR, experiences in the industrial metaverse, the business benefits they are delivering exceed expectations every time. This stuff is magic.”

Chris: Okay, that is, of course, an impressive study, and also the outcomes of the study done with EY. We'll make sure to link this in the show notes of this episode for everybody who’s interested in the study. Did you also look into potential future applications in the metaverse? How would it evolve in the next five to 10 years? Was it also part of the study, or is this something that's more part of your personal work and research?

Leslie: Yeah, that's more my personal work and research. Because where the metaverse, the spatial Internet, is right now, it's the equivalent of the Internet in 1993. We have this idea that there's something there, and there are companies who are working on it. But if you ask us what it can do for us, it's all grounded in what we know now. And so in 1993, if you ask somebody what you can do with the Internet, you might say, well, you can look up movie times and send mails to people and go into chat rooms. And all of that's true, but that totally misses the really transformational nature of the Internet, which really particularly came about with the mobile Internet and with a confluence of technology. So the mobile Internet plus location plus payments. And now you have Uber. And so these are the kinds of things that are like the real disruptive stuff are still probably as much as a decade away. And so what we're doing right now in the metaverse is building the infrastructure. And in a way, again, Mark Zuckerberg, I love the investment he's made into the Oculus headset. It's a great headset. But by shining a light on this whole industry by changing the company name to Meta, he's shown the light a little too early. Because we are still building the infrastructure. And we have this idea that it's going to be something useful, and it's going to be something three-dimensional and something about our physical world and digital stuff. But we can't imagine exactly what that transformation is going to be.

Chris: That's interesting. But aren't we then running into a solution-seeking problem situation? Because yes, we're building infrastructure and making huge investments, billions over billions. And we have some ideas about how this could play out. And the EY study, I guess, is a good example of the potential corporate or enterprise benefits. But isn't investing super risky if you don't really know what you're going to do with this in the future?

Leslie: Well, actually, let me clarify. The benefits today are clear. And they are on the industrial side because that's where the hardware is. And the hardware companies are working hard to solve physics problems to be able to bring consumer-grade augmented reality headsets to the public. And there are some things that need to be done on the network side as well. And we're working on those kinds of things too. And so we can see in the existing industrial and enterprise metaverse, the benefits that are happening there and the measurable benefits that are there. But what happens... So let me actually be more clear. The big question mark is what happens when this functionality comes out into the everyday life of all the people on the planet through much more affordable and widely available and stylish looking and light and the platonic ideal of the AR headset. Once that comes and all of this gets unleashed into consumers, that's actually going to be a very interesting thing. When we look at the development of mobile phones, the first mobile phones were heavy and clunky, and people only really carried them to do their jobs. They were really an enterprise product. And it was over time, the phones slimmed down, gained more functionality, and slowly morphed over the course of about a decade into consumer devices. And that's really what we're expecting to see in the XR and AR headset market. And so I think it's right to say, what is this all for? But given the way that things developed in the mobile phone market, I think it's also a pretty safe bet to get in there and start shaping it because this thing is going to be huge.

Nokia x metaverse

Chris: Understand. That makes a lot of sense. And what was Nokia's role in the metaverse? Can we talk about that? So obviously, you did that study and that's very powerful, and also gets very helpful to understand, again, enterprise and industrial use cases and the benefits. What specifically is Nokia doing in this space? Obviously, you don't have to share anything that's confidential. No numbers for sure. Just interested and curious to understand that.

Leslie: Yeah. Where we are really focused on is the connectivity side of things. And it's really easy to forget or not be aware that connectivity really plays a part here. But just even today, one of the major causes of nausea in VR headsets is bad Wi-Fi. If you don't have strong enough Wi-Fi, then the rendering in your headset is going to be a little bit slow. And that's one of the things that causes nausea. And so, you know, good connectivity is an absolute, you know, “sine qua non” for good metaverse experiences already today. But looking forward, again, this challenge of, you know, the light consumer kind of augmented reality headset, the only way that happens, the only way that works is if the computing that is currently on VR and the clunky AR headsets, if that computing comes off the device and goes somewhere else. And so some of the early versions that we're seeing is that device heading onto a smartphone. Smartphones are not big enough, especially when we start talking about integrating generative AI into these things. And so it needs to go somewhere else again. And that is going to be into the network. And that means we, as, you know, telecommunications network suppliers and standards creators, we need to be able to figure out what those changes are going to be in the network. So one of Nokia's largest focuses right now with other companies is the development of the standard for - wait for it - 6G. 6G is due in about 2030, right. And today, we're looking at the things that we expect consumer augmented reality headsets to need in terms of connectivity. And we're making sure that the 6G standard actually supports those. There's going to be other things in the 6G standard as well. But Nokia and Qualcomm together are two companies that are very heavily invested and dedicated to developing a useful 6G standard to help this stuff all work in the future.

"Good connectivity is an absolute, you know, “sine qua non” for good metaverse experiences already today."

Chris: And how does that tie into Nokia's broader innovation strategy? Would Nokia, for example, consider this as a horizon three activity because it's a decade away, maybe, but actually, you know, you're investing today. How does that work?

Leslie: No. Well, the thing is, with each G - and G stands for “generation”, so this is just the sixth generation of mobile technology - the work starts 10 years before. So this is normal for us. And so as we're rolling out one G, we are already working on the next G. And generally, that means also that each G solves the problems of the generation before. And so when 5G, for example, was being developed, the huge challenge that 4G was facing was that everybody was suddenly doing all this video streaming that had not been planned and had not been expected when 4G was developed 10 years before that. And so 5G, for example, in mobile connectivity, there's what's called the downlink, which is the size of the channel that comes to you as an end user. And then there's the uplink, which is the size of the channel for stuff coming away from you. When 5G was being developed, you know, back in kind of 2010, 2011, it was developed with a huge downlink to be able to deal with all the video that people were streaming. What was not foreseen was user-created content.

Chris: Right, the cat videos of today's TikTok. Of course, all the cats and dogs, and you name it.

Leslie: Yeah, exactly! So the uplink on 5G is relatively small. Now, if you're streaming something asynchronously, like uploading a video to TikTok, that's OK. You're not going to notice that. But if you're doing anything live and if you're doing something, say, in augmented reality, where you need to be able to read the three-dimensionality of your surroundings, and that's a pretty complex amount of data there, and then send that up into the Cloud for some kind of computation, that uplink is too small. So we're addressing that already in 2027 with 5G advanced, which is kind of 5.5G. But 6G will really be looking at that. And then, of course, in 2030, we'll look around, I'm sure, and we'll go, well, we didn't foresee this thing. And so now it's time to start working on 7G. It's a recurring cycle.

Chris: That's really clear. And that is, I guess, a very good way to put it. So could we say that Nokia's position is very strong in building the infrastructure, improving the infrastructure, 6G, and then obviously also 7G or anything that comes in the future. And Nokia considers this as the necessary infrastructure to enable future use cases that could happen in the industrial enterprise metaverse, or spatial computing.

Leslie: And especially the consumer metaverse. To be very clear, industrial enterprise use cases are 100% adequately catered for by existing technologies. Because you can have that computing in the headset, and you can make a clunky headset, and that's fine.

Chris: And it's okay if it's clunky.

Leslie: It’s okay if it’s clunky. For a consumer where it's not okay if it's clunky, that's where the network needs to get far more involved than today. And that's the change that we need to be making and planning for. Because also the phone companies in the world, you don't just snap your fingers and have a brand-new network. It takes a decade of planning and building out to be able to support these things. It's all very long-horizon stuff.

Chris: Of course. That's super complex. No doubt about that. But that's good to hear because I've seen, for example, Apple's announcement on the spatial computing headset. And if I were to imagine myself standing in the kitchen with my kids with a clunky thing on my face, looking through it, seeing my kid, but with a, I don't know, half a kilogram thing - I haven't tested it yet - but, on my face while cooking, I'm not sure if this is the goal. But I understand, of course, this is because the technology needs to fit in there because most of the processing is still happening in there based on various reasons. And then it makes a lot of sense why it was designed the way it was designed. And the consumer-ready thing that's planned for mass adoption is maybe a couple of years away, but the idea is to have it just integrated into simple, non-clunky, variable devices.

Leslie: Exactly. And I specifically talk about an eyeglasses form factor. Who knows? It could be something else. This is part of the, we don't know what's coming. The same way people in 1993 did not envision the mobile internet at all. We don't know what's coming. Right now, we're envisioning an eyeglasses form factor. And that's easy for me because I wear glasses. It may end up being something else. So yeah, it's very exciting. We're at a position where it's so early that anyone who gets involved in the spatial computing/ the metaverse area has the opportunity to shape the way it develops. It's a super exciting time.

Chris: I was just about to ask. So it might be the right time right now to get into it. You're certainly not too late if you're starting right now, but others consider it as well. And the more evidence and research there is, as your EY report, for example, obviously is also then making waves and pulling others in. Okay. But before, I would like to move on to technology convergence - and by the way, you have to tell me how you do your daily workouts in virtual reality, but that's for later - but before we do that, let's play a quick game. Let's play Rapid Fire Round. It's super simple. The key is speed. I would like to ask you three questions and you need to answer fast. Don't overthink; just fast.

Leslie: Okay. Cool.

Chris: Number one: If you think of the word “innovation”, what's the first other word that comes to your mind?

Leslie: Inspiration.

Chris: Why?

Leslie: Innovation is the fruit of inspiration.

Chris: Okay, that's fair, cool. Number two: If you could have dinner with any tech icon in the metaverse, dead or alive, who would it be?

Leslie: Oh, no question - Kevin Kelly.

Chris: That was fast. Interesting.

Leslie: Yeah. He wrote an article in Wired magazine, I think it was February of 2019. And he was talking about the mirror world, I believe was the term he was using or the mirror verse. Anyway, that was the first thing that opened my mind to the concept of digital-physical fusion. And just everything he writes is gold. His book, “The Inevitable”, he looks at what is inevitable based on the way technology has developed so far. And even though that book is a couple of years old, he really goes some very interesting places that really make you think “I try to think as widely as possible”, but he's just so much more all-inclusive in his thinking, extraordinarily inspiring man.

Chris: We've talked so much about the future. This one is for the past: What is one technology you wish would come back?

Leslie: I'd say not really a technology, but kind of an ideal, which is the idea of technology giving us a much shorter work week.

Chris: Which is not happening right now…

Leslie: It's not happening, I know. Every time a new technology comes in, if you look at magazine articles from the 1920s, they're like, “...and with new household technologies like the vacuum cleaner and the dishwasher, soon housework will not be a thing at all”. It's like, oh, come on. What happens is we humans, we keep inventing new work to fill the void.

Chris: Of course, it's the same with generative AI. Chat GPT can write great birthday cards or business emails and do some analysis, but then you're just asked to do more of that. But it's not that you can go home after 25 minutes; more like, “Great, we just improved your productivity by over 50%. Now you can do more instead of going home.”

Leslie: Exactly. I think we need to really, actually quite seriously, we need to really reevaluate what we humans are doing on this planet. Both education and work and value creation as a society. We're headed for a major shakeup here.

“We need to really reevaluate what we humans are doing on this planet. Both education and work and value creation as a society. We're headed for a major shakeup here.”

Chris: That's a whole other topic and maybe a different episode on this podcast because this would take us maybe half a day to discuss. But I agree. Let's come back to technology convergence. I just mentioned it before. Before we come to technology convergence, tell me, how can you work out in the metaverse?

Leslie: It's just fantastic. I have been actually doing all of my daily workouts in virtual reality since 2018. I've been doing it for the last five years. The first key thing is that you need to have a rubber cover for your VR headset so that your sweat does not get soaked into the padding. That's number one. There are a lot of absolutely wonderful applications out there. VR workout, VZ Fit, Supernatural. There's availability in different countries, usually due to music licensing. Basically, you've gamified working out. For example, Supernatural, which is very much like Beat Saber where you've got things coming at you and you're trying to hit them with swords. But there's trainers and stuff and it's very inspiring. Studies have shown that that is the equivalent of playing a match of tennis because it is such an intense workout. Studies have also shown that because you are not focused on your body, and in fact, you can't even see your own body, which is very empowering for, you know, as you get older, you get a little more overweight. I don't love seeing my body in the mirror anymore. So I put on the VR headset, my body's invisible. Woohoo. I'm focused on the game. I'm focused on earning the points. So I work out far harder than I ever have outside of virtual reality. One of my favorites, VZ Fit, full disclosure, I love this company so much that I invested in them. You take a sensor and you put it on a pedal of your exercise bicycle that you have at home. And then they use Google Street View. And on your VR headset, you can cycle down any street in the world that is in Google Street View. And so yeah, right now, I'm doing a 300-kilometer odyssey along the Oregon coast. It is just really beautiful. And I've cycled across Japan, I've cycled across New Zealand, all in VZ Fit. And I've been in the Peruvian, Andes. Yeah, it's just fantastic.

Chris: What happens if you hit a roadblock? Can you just go through it? I mean, would you fall over the bike and just, you know, crash into the application?

Leslie: No, because it's based on Google Street View, right? And so Google Street View, those cameras, they were taking pictures every 30 meters, I believe. And so what VZ Fit does is it stitches those together into a continuous streaming experience. And so it's actually very funny. Yeah, because you see, so the Google Car, it only is recording the stuff while it's moving. So traffic lights are always green. You're always waved through construction sites, because it's only what the Google Car experienced when it was moving. Right?

Chris: Yeah. Got it. That is actually pretty cool.

Leslie: It's wonderful!

The future of tech convergence

Chris: Okay, this is not technology convergence, but that's a nice use case. But now, let's finally come to technology convergence. Because I think that's interesting. And I guess many of the disruptions in the past also were unlocked by technology convergence. And now we have quite a few things on the table. We have, you know, metaverse or spatial computing or VR or AR. We have generative AI. You mentioned this a few times in the beginning. Now, let's blow some minds. How could that work together? And what is a vision for the future?

"The ability for all of us to create applications and new functionality on the fly, again, doesn't exist yet, but the building blocks to make that happen are there."

Leslie: The Augmented World Expo, which is one of the annual conferences that happens in the XR space; the organizer and the keynote speaker this year, Orion Barr, got up on stage and said, look, XR is the interface for AI. And that, you know, I think, you know, that's the very short form of what we can expect coming up. But I think a better way to explain that is one great example: in March of this year, so just a few months after ChatGPT came out, a couple of students at Stanford, they just kind of threw together this thing that they called “RISGPT”, which is short for Charisma, so CharismaGPT. And they just posted it on Twitter. They just kind of threw it together and put it on Twitter. And it consists of one guy who's wearing ordinary glasses, but he has a little monocle, an AR monocle, a little clip-on thing from a company called Brilliant Labs that lets you see AR text content, right, kind of out there in your space. And then they put that together, and they created, they mocked up a job interview. You know, they were actually just two guys sitting in a Starbucks. So what they did was, the job interviewer asked a question, then they used speech-to-text to capture the question. They sent it into ChatGPT, and then ChatGPT comes back with the best possible answer for the interviewee, and then the interviewee gets that in his AR monocle, and then he can read the text. And so this is a hint, a hint of the kind of thing that we're going to be able to see in the future with having, you know, within our visual context and leaving both hands free, real-time generative AI contributions to our ability to engage with the world. But I think reading text is actually just the beginning, because some of the other things, some of the other products that just OpenAI has, they have an early program called PointE, which allows you to use natural language, and this is the key, since natural language is the thing that opens it up to everybody. Natural language describes something that you want to see digitally in three dimensions, not just two dimensions, like in mid-journey or something, but three dimensions, and then they can actually create it. Like I would, you know, say, “Glasses, show me a vase of pink tulips sitting on my table.” Voila. And so the ability to do that right now with AR glasses does not exist yet. However, we have generative AI, we have AR glasses, the building blocks are there for us to put this together. And then much more powerful is the AI product codex, which has been out for a couple of years. Again, let's use natural language to describe a computer program that you might be interested in. And so, for example, you know, you're walking down the street, and you suddenly get an idea for some kind of computer functionality that you didn't have before. So you see a plane in the sky, for example, and you go like, oh, glasses. Okay, write this program. Every time there is an airplane in the sky in my visual field, use my location data and visual analytics on the plane to understand the livery and, therefore, the airline. And then run that into the publicly available flight-aware database and then just print the text of the destination of that plane over the plane every time there's a plane that appears in my visual field. The end. You know, thank you. And so the ability for all of us to create applications and new functionality on the fly, again, doesn't exist yet, but the building blocks to make that happen are there. And so this is why our industry is like XR is the interface for AI.

Chris: Yeah, understood. Okay. This is a perfect example of technology convergence, for example, generative AI, NLP, natural language processing, maybe also generation. You could also talk to that and get also voice back instead of on text back for sure. Plus, plus the other stuff. Okay. That's great upsides. Now, let's talk about some risks and challenges associated with that. Sure. I mean, that has great upside potential, but what could be some of the downsides and some of the more nasty and dirty stuff that should come?

Leslie: Oh, yeah, we're going to have to be so careful with people's personal data and their security and their privacy. And there will need to be, you know, limits. We can't have things like people saying, “Okay, glasses, write me a program that automatically friends me on Facebook”, you know, does visual analytics of everybody I pass in the street and then friends me on Facebook. We have to make sure we don't do that kind of intrusive stuff. And the problem is, as always, the path to hell is paved with good intentions. I was talking to a company recently, and they were so excited about the idea of using in an enterprise training scenario user-facing cameras to detect the emotion of the people as they're actually doing their work tasks to make sure that they are satisfied, happy little employees.

Chris: You must be kidding.

Leslie: I know, that's the kind of thing where it's like, well, okay, except the problem is…
I went through a divorce, you know, 25 years ago. There were plenty of days at work where I was not happy, and it had nothing to do with work. And do I want HR tracking my happiness or unhappiness at work? Absolutely not. So yeah, we have to be careful and totally open at any time because the people who were thinking about that really thought, wait, what to make happy little employees. And so we have to be super, super vigilant and call these things out when we see them. Silence equals consent. And so, you know, if somebody is giving you a pitch, you can't just go, “uh-huh, uh-huh”, and then later down the pub with your friends go, “Oh, can you believe what this company is doing?” At the time, you have to say, “No, that's a problem”. And we all have to raise our voices here. And happily, the people who are working on spatial internet today are very focused on inclusivity and privacy and all the positive things. That doesn't mean there's not going to be mistakes. That doesn't mean there's not going to be bad actors. But raising voices and listening to the concerns of others is actually going to be a really key part of making sure that we, you know, that this whole potential fabulous industry isn't overtaken by trolls. You know, that's the thing we have to watch out for.

Chris: Yeah. Understood. That's a risk. And if I just were to think about Germany and how Germany handles privacy and data, probably Germany might be one of the last countries to really pick this technology up. But again, that's for another discussion. But yeah, that's interesting.

Leslie: If we look at Internet and social media, I think the precedent is there.

Chris: Absolutely.

Leslie: But, actually, that's a really good point because every culture advances at different rates with these things. And every culture puts the fences in different places and, you know, different subjects have different fences. And when we have new technologies, unfortunately, we don't know where the cliff's edge is on some of these things until someone has gone over the cliff. And they were like, right, that's where the cliff edge was. We need to put the fence there. So there, you know, mistakes will be made. But I personally think that it's good to have the German model as the model of caution. Because at the same time, we're going to have other places that are going to be the model of uncaution.

Chris: Of course, this will happen. This is inevitable, I agree. I could probably spend a couple of more hours discussing the use cases and the benefits, but let's start wrapping this up. Two more questions. One would be, tell me about three, you know, really key and actionable recommendations that you would want listeners to take away from this episode and everything we have discussed.

“This is the time to patent ideas. If you have an idea for an AR or a VR application or new use, get that patent in.”

Leslie: If you haven't tried virtual reality or augmented reality experiences, go out there and try them. Those of us who are in this industry, when we get questions, we kind of laugh because we can instantly tell if the people have actually tried these technologies or not, because the level of questions is completely different. What I said before, you know, what came out in our survey about how these technologies serve, is magic and exceeds expectations in every case, a hundred percent. And it's, it's very hard to express until you've actually tried it. So, go out there and try, because you're not going to know what these technologies can do for you personally or your own company or your customers until you have actually experienced them yourself and, can say like, “Oh, wait, this actually solves a particular problem we have”, you know. I can't answer that for you. Only you can answer it by actually trying the experiences. Another thing that I would look at or that I would suggest is, you know, this is the time of building. This is the time to patent ideas. If you have an idea for an AR or a VR application or new use, get that patent in. These are super early formative days. This is really the beginning. And then the last is I really recommend VR fitness. So the subset of “try it” is go out and try VR fitness. You may never go back to the gym.

Chris: You may not. Okay, so the core recommendation is to try it out for yourself, see what's possible, see what's not possible, but get yourself immersed into that and really understand what this is about. Well, that's great. I think not too many people actually did that. It might be a great experience and there is lots of opportunities to do so, right. And Leslie, your greatest Innovation Rockstar moment in your professional career so far, tell me about that. What was it?

Leslie: Back in October 2021, I presented at a conference. It was a virtual conference and it was for a Polish film festival. I'm not really sure how they got my name, but they did. And they asked me to speak on the metaverse because it was really early days, and Mark Zuckerberg had just changed the company name. Everybody wants to know what it is. So I put together a presentation, and then the conference put my presentation on LinkedIn, and a publisher saw it. And then they contacted me, and they said, we like how you talk about the metaverse. We think you speak about it in very clear, clear words, and we would like you to write a book. And it had never occurred to me ever in my life to write a book, but I did. And it is now out in the marketplace. It's called “Interconnected Realities”. It's available on Amazon. And, and I have also written a second book, which gets into the whole social uses and the changes that these technologies are going to bring about, particularly driven by young people. And that was called “Virtual Natives”. And that one comes out in September.

Chris: So everybody should get this book. I'm pretty sure you will post about this on LinkedIn.

Leslie: Oh, definitely. And the second one I wrote with Katherine Henry. And the two of us together, we had great fun exploring the world of basically people 25 and under and seeing how different they are from the way that we've lived our lives and grown up. There are huge changes afoot, and they are going to be led by this cohort of people who are currently 25 and younger.

Chris: Will there be an audiobook too?

Leslie: Yes. “Interconnected Realities” is available on Audible.

Chris: Good to know because I love to listen to books. All right. Well, but in any ways, great rockstar moment. Congratulations, Leslie. That's pretty cool. And yeah, that's it for this episode. Leslie, again, thanks so much for being my guest on this episode. It was a pleasure to listen to that. So everybody who's not familiar with VR, AR, XR, metaverse, spatial computing, you name it, you get it. Leslie was pretty clear, try it out for yourself and then, you know, come back to the discussion table and maybe have a good discussion around that. Thanks for being here.

Leslie: Thank you so much, Chris. This was a great conversation.

Chris: And to everybody listening or watching, if you enjoyed this episode, then simply leave us a comment on this episode or drop us an email. The email address is That's it. Thanks for listening. Take care and bye-bye.

Show notes 

About the authors

Dr. Christian Mühlroth is the host of the Innovation Rockstars podcast and CEO of ITONICS. Leslie Shannon is Head of Trend and Innovation Scouting at Nokia.

The Innovation Rockstars podcast is a production of ITONICS, provider of the world’s leading Operating System for Innovation. Do you also have an inspiring story to tell about innovation, foresight, strategy or growth? Then shoot us a note!



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