UK company use the metaverse to bring live events even closer, and empower VR creators with its own studio
Talks about virtual reality and the metaverse seem to have little impact on our day-to-day lives. Its influence is still limited, and still very much on the penumbra. It’s not as noticeable as the self-scanning machines in supermarkets, or as benign but novel as the automatic ordering counters in fast-food outlets these days. Yet these examples would be anathema if you mentioned to Sainsbury’s employees 40 years ago that consumers would be scanning their own shopping. However, it’s symptomatic of the slow encroachment of technological change on parts of our lives: making processes easier; gently nudging us to adopt new patterns of behaviour.
One company really making strides in the VR and XR field is eyeora. Founded 10 years ago by Daniel Corazzi, it positioned itself as a tool to redefine how “virtual reality is created, shared, experienced and monetised”. It aims to put the power in the hand of content creators rather than have them become virtual supplicants, and be swayed by external influences or market forces. Perhaps its most notable aspect is that it offers a “turnkey” studio that gives creators the freedom to develop and share their ideas, and bring them to a visual life efficiently without the need for developing nous, costly studio hire or abundance of equipment.
Speaking in the eyeora office next door to London’s O2, Corazzi said he began to develop the company through the lens of a musician. “The whole idea was creating tools that can benefit creators. So knowing that it was what I needed back in the day, we didn’t have an option back then. Today, there’s a lot of ways to sustain a career. This is just another way to allow, I guess, on an entertainment value, people to have virtual tours, to be able to still have larger audiences, even if they don’t have the budgets to support that kind of level. So the metaverse does help a lot of different types of creators to still make their career sustainable.” It’s not just musicians or film types that can use eyeora on a Pico or Oculus headset – it is aimed at those who like to use VR socially. Just sign up, create an avatar and invite your friends to hang out, all in a fully customizable room, which is compatible with YouTube, Twitch and Vimeo.
The company’s studio is spacious, housing a handful of employees within the UK, and 20 or so developers working in Pakistan helping to catalyse the company’s drive to empower creators. The interior is cavernous, concrete and angular in places – a touch of industrial mixed with the large windows that call to mind the interior sets of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Bookending the breakout area and banks of desks is a capacious studio, half-decked in a green screen, the other half, carpeted with various props and appliances for shooting and directing. Given Corazzi’s entertainment background, it’s not surprising that the company is more than prepared to manifest his vision. More recently though, it’s not just been those in the entertainment industry who have capitalised on what the platform has to offer. The company began to take enquiries from the financial and retail sectors as well as blue-chip companies, asking for demos of the product to use in their training programmes. Tom Simpson, the head of sales and business development at eyeora has his own theory as to why it’s proved so popular.
“If you do VR training, you’re going to be more focused, you’re not going to be distracted by the cell phone, your laptop or something out of the window. If you’ve got the headsets on, then everyone is more focused on what we’re doing. There’s hard statistics out there that have proven that using VR for learning and education is stimulating the brain and allowing these people to retain that knowledge.” There’s also another benefit to this kind of training, which companies can see benefits in. “You don’t need to hire an external trainer to come in, to train, you don’t have to pay them a huge fee – you can have the training programme and you need the headsets, and they don’t need to be hugely expensive. Then it can be used from that day forward for the employees. Also companies need to be innovative. They can’t sit behind the times – they need to use modern day technology to make things more efficient,” adds Simpson.
The real-life applications
Corazzi provides another revealing insight into why companies and educators find it useful, with built-in features such as heat maps and gaze control to provide real-time data on what part of the presentation, performance or demonstration the audience is focussing on. “This is the future of learning in my opinion, it isn’t going to be real-time teachers, they’re going to be holograms and clients, with AI-based educators that they’re going to teach you the fundamental basics. And you’re going to see that teachers are going to be freed up a lot more when you can really licence that to different schools. It’s going to give us a lot more time back to do a lot more.”
Simpson and Corazzi also say that it can be employed to train those who want to compress time and distance – sailors unfamiliar with the layout of new naval vessels, or oil rig employees who don’t need to be airlifted to remote locations to familiarize themselves with the arrangement of a particular rig. It’s a trend that Corazzi is sure will continue. “We’re dealing with companies like the Bank of America and Walmart and they’ve all got some smart people around the table saying maybe we can be saving a lot. Their teams can be using something that’s on demand and can be easily managed and accessible to anyone at any time of the day, rather than having to rely on a specific manager at set location and time to train groups. Organisations are working it out that in the long run, they’re gonna save a few million just by adopting technology.”
Having started off as a way to empower creators and entertain audiences, eyeora have found an unlikely niche in the HR departments of corporations around the world. However, it’s worth remembering that NFC access chips were once the preserve of transportation documents, fobs and cards the world over. Now they’re installed in every payment card and mobile payment device or smartphone worldwide. Prepared to be educated. Prepare to be entertained.