Alan Smithson co-invented the world’s first touchscreen DJ system called ‘Emulator’ – an award winning piece of performance kit used by some of the top DJs on the global dance music circuit. In a twist of fate, the company was taken from him the night his pitch on Dragon’s Den for it aired.
Since Emulator, Alan has built a company to make XR experiences more easily available to anyone, anywhere in the world. MetaVRse is a proprietary, code-optional web platform that makes it easy to create and share interactive 3D experiences instantly.
In this episode of the StartWell Podcast, you’ll hear from Alan’s career history and get a sneak peak into the world’s largest virtual shopping mall which his company built using their web platform that already has some interesting tenants like Starburst’s Juicyverse space.
In a rush? Here are some highlights from this conversation
- Entrepreneurship, music, and DJ culture. (0:00)
- Starting a tech company and its eventual decline. (3:11)
- Virtual reality experience at a tech camp. (6:30)
- Entrepreneurship, AI, and education. (12:16)
- AI in education and its impact on society. (15:02)
- Virtual reality platform for training and marketing. (21:15)
- Pushing polygons in mobile browsers and enterprise adoption. (23:27)
- Creating interactive 3D product training experiences. (26:27)
- 3D modeling and photogrammetry. (34:40)
- Virtual reality mall development and e-commerce integration. (38:22)
- Early web infrastructure and search engines. (43:34)
- Virtual reality mall and cryptocurrency launch. (46:59)
Spend time with this conversation - here's the full transcript
Alan Smithson 0:00
The time it wasn't really started, I just saw this cool DJ thing. I was like, I want to buy one big touchscreen video, you know, touch controller thing. I was like, What is this? Yeah, I wanted to buy it and I went to Guitar Center. I went to Lowell Quaid, I went all around the world. Nobody had ever even heard of it. And I found the guy who made the software name is Pablo Martin. He lives in Argentina. And I said, Pablo, I'll fund it. Let's go. We were all in. And when I mean all in I mean, we got
Qasim Virjee 0:24
to start house tattoo of glass next. Not only to get
Alan Smithson 0:29
that, but I got a tattoo of the logo on an easel. And then we brought on the wrong investor. We were on Dragon's Den. And we ended up getting a deal on Dragon's Den it was all hype. And then the day that it aired these investor forced my wife out of our own company. Yeah, and he sold the company so we ended up losing not only the company but our house and our all our money and why pretty much everything we went completely tits up.
Qasim Virjee 0:58
Founded in 2017 Start well is Toronto's independent hub for innovators to collaborate. Our podcasts relate perspectives from the world's most diverse urban population to reflect unique insights into global business, Media and Culture.
Qasim Virjee 1:20
Alan Smithson it is welcome to the studio. This is once again an episode of the stairwell podcast. And we're gonna keep it brief because today, I ran late on a meeting and ruined our shedule.
Alan Smithson 1:33
You know, sometimes you just gotta go,
Qasim Virjee 1:37
just go. It's not about how long the conversation is. It's about how much goodness comes out of their mouths. Amazing. Okay, you do a bunch of stuff I do. You've done a bunch of stuff. I have we before we pressed record, we were talking about music a little bit. You saw my turntables in our producers booth.
Alan Smithson 1:57
And I have the edge of a 1200 turntable is a bunch of dots on it. That keeps the speed that shows you the speed of the record. Yeah, I have that tattooed on my arm.
Qasim Virjee 2:06
Wow. You are really gung ho
Alan Smithson 2:10
Getting a tattoo of your logo, not
Qasim Virjee 2:12
what's the craziest place you've DJs?
Alan Smithson 2:14
Who eat in Ibiza? in Ibiza, there's a club? Well, I think it's gone now. But there was a club, super club 5000 people. And I played this event called the pornographic party and it was pornographic label. And I thought okay, whatever. It's just a label. No,
Qasim Virjee 2:29
he was full. Everyone was first last full on.
Alan Smithson 2:32
Club and there was a show and it was crazy. He beat I was DJing and I looked on stage at one point I went Oh, wow.
Alan Smithson 2:42
That's very graphic. It's always funny. When you look up from the mixer, you're really into the mix and then you look up and you're like, Wait a second.
Alan Smithson 2:48
Wait a second. Why why?
Qasim Virjee 2:52
Whole night already.
Alan Smithson 2:55
It's only 11 and people are having no clothes on what happened. And then
Qasim Virjee 3:01
the Okay, so wait, what kind of beats you said all sorts of beats.
Alan Smithson 3:04
I kind of started off doing you know, I DJ at school University and the bar and the club. So I did like there was this? University of Guelph. Okay, so I played the on campus bar and the club so on Thursday nights it was the pub Friday nights was ladies Ladies Night. Saturday's was the club night. So I did that for three years in university and then out of there, I played it filthy. McNasty is in Waterloo, okay, had a residency there for ever. That's a pub is a pub club bar thing. I mean, they put the DJ right in the middle of the dance floor, which seemed like a good idea until it wasn't. It's like wait a second, you open the table to the table. And they didn't have glass up. So everyone just put their drinks the first week it was drinks everywhere. I'm like, this is a bad idea with but some plexiglass here.
Qasim Virjee 3:47
And that led to starting a startup. It did
Alan Smithson 3:50
and at the time, it wasn't really startup. I just saw this cool DJ thing. I was like, I want to buy one. It was the big touchscreen. Video, touch controller thing. I was like, What is this? Yeah, I wanted to buy it. And I went to Guitar Center. I went along and McQuaid. I went all around the world. Nobody had ever even heard of it. At the time. Where did you see this? I saw it on a YouTube video. Somebody sent it to me. Wow. And at the time, it was super cool because it only had 30,000 views. And that video ended up getting 8 million views. So kick started the company I found the guy who made the software name is Pablo Martin. He lives in Argentina. And I said, Pablo, let's, you know, I'll fund it. Let's go. And so we ended up building the hardware and software with my wife, Julie and our team here in Canada. And he built the software and basically told us how to build it. He's like go buy these parts and put it together. And so we glued it all together and we ended up selling 500 emulator units around the world.
Alan Smithson 4:40
And these were mainly like special performance devices for big name DJs. Or at least we
Alan Smithson 4:46
worked with our van buren Linkin Park Infected Mushroom Morgan page. Jean Michel Jarre just used it recently, in 2020, actually at his big concert in Notre DOM before it burned down Nice. Yeah, he did a whole virtual concert. It's really cool. Look up Jean Michel Jarre, New Year's Eve 2020 is incredible. It was like a full on virtual concert in LA. And they used our emulator in that. So
Qasim Virjee 5:11
this is okay. This is a touch control device that at the time,
Alan Smithson 5:16
when am I remote before the iPad? In 2010 This is the thing. That's what I was gonna 46 inch seethrough touchscreen, full multi touch before the iPad was out.
Qasim Virjee 5:26
And and then where did that go? Like in terms of primary business? I'm sure you were very invested in it. And you were focused on it for a few years there.
Alan Smithson 5:36
We were all in and when I mean all in I mean, we got to
Qasim Virjee 5:40
the Star House tattoo of glass next.
Alan Smithson 5:42
I got the not only to get that, but I got a tattoo of the logo. Wow. Says emulate Yeah. So we changed the logo. That is That was the old logo. I got uneasy. And then we brought on the wrong investor. Yeah. Yeah. And he sold the company so we ended up losing not only the company but our house and our all our money and why was everything that we went completely tits up. And
Qasim Virjee 6:06
what was the process of decline in terms of timeline, so should just disappear quick.
Alan Smithson 6:11
It was about a year. So in May of 2014, we were on Dragon's Den, and we ended up getting a deal on Dragon's Den, it was all hype. And then the day that it aired he these investor forced my wife out of our own company on the same day. So imagine it aired across Canada. And people are congratulating us Oh, amazing. Like, literally, oh, shit. And of course you can't say anything because you're trying to keep the business going. And it all fell apart in in late, late 2014. But yeah, but I actually had the opportunity to go perform on the emulator at a thing called Curiosity camp. Okay, it was put on by Eric Schmidt. And it's a tech camp for entrepreneurs, investors, PhDs and a bunch of nerdy people. Yeah, they get together in this camp. It's like, Camp camp. You mean you drive for an hour into the bush, oh, find there's no Wi Fi no cell service. And it's like you have these great conversations with, you know, some of the people building the biggest tech companies in the world. And I performed there. And then in little tiny tent and middle of nowhere. I tried VR for the first time. I had this kind of like, Here, try this big, bulky thing with these big headphones and put it on I was like, Okay, what is the stupid thing to throw up? Oh, my God, I sat there I am. I'll never forget, I was sitting there. And I looked at, and I was like, Holy crap. I'm at a concert. Like I'm in a tent in the middle of nowhere. And I put this on and now I'm at a concert. Wow. And I'm looking down at the stage. And the stage is, you know, way down there. And I was like, Okay, this is cool. And then the guys like, no, no, no look around. He pushed my shoulder and I was like, Oh, I can look everywhere. And then he hit a button and put me on stage. And I was standing on stage next to back. And now back is passed away. But you know, that was my first experience in VR. And I when I left that experience, I took it off. And it was this kind of moment old lay
Qasim Virjee 7:55
back. He passed away. Yeah. Was any young? Yeah. Oh, poor guy. Or poor people around him? Yeah, I'm sure he's in a better place. Wow. I
Alan Smithson 8:05
didn't even know that recently. A couple months ago. I
Qasim Virjee 8:07
have a five year old. So I'm kind of tapped out of everything. So you're
Alan Smithson 8:11
in the know. I don't even know what school for five year olds anymore. Is the Dora still a thing? Or? Yeah, my daughter never really. You know, there's already Nikes coming up.
Qasim Virjee 8:19
What like purple Knight? Yeah, that's cool. Yeah, I'd actually wear those right. Fun, man. Although Barney was a copycat of like the guy from McDonald's, wasn't he? Yeah, grimace, grip, my wrist and lunch hungry? Bring him back.
Alan Smithson 8:35
Yeah, which grimace? You know, was
Qasim Virjee 8:37
he an eggplant? Or a monster? I don't know. That'd be too healthy if he was in a plant for McDonald's. But we digress. So okay, so you're at this camp with these tech visionaries. And you discover virtual reality. You experience it for the first time. Not
Alan Smithson 8:56
only do I experience it, but it literally had a profound effect on me. I pulled it off. And it was that kind of, I was in a tent. And then I was in a concert and I pulled it off and put it back on. I was like, Holy crap. Like, what? You know, imagine that I've never seen this before. Nobody's ever heard of the art at this time. This is like 2014 early. Yeah. And I was like, This is gonna be the future of human communication. This is how we communicate moving forward. I jumped right in because, you know, we had a catastrophe at our work and everything fell apart, and I got fired for my own company. That was fun. And then I just started an XR company while at the time virtual reality company. So at the time, I thought it was just 360 videos. So we went and 3d printed a 360 camera rig and we put GoPros in it and went around and filmed a bunch of stuff. We've The first thing we filmed was the groove cruise. And the groove, groove groove. The Groove Cruise is a buddy of mines. It's called Wet travel. And what they do is they rent a cruise ship like this year is the 20th anniversary and they've rented a billion dollar cruise ship. Whoa. So I think it's like 3500 big
Qasim Virjee 9:57
book the whole thing out
Alan Smithson 9:58
the whole thing. So it's a like a rave for adults basically. Wow, that goes for three days down to the Caribbean. And it's it's full out for four days. Crazy. Four days. Yeah. Crazy. It's so good. And we filmed it in 360 we filmed all of it. And this
Qasim Virjee 10:13
is like the first gen GoPros Oh,
Alan Smithson 10:15
yeah. Right. Like we were literally, you know, you'd have to spin the camera because there was no key lock there was you know, you'd have to stitch the images together. It was a pain in the ass. And then a couple years later this Samsung came out with it or little GoPro or their little camera, that little sphere one 360 camera. We ordered it from Korea. We got the first ones in North America. And I remember filming with it. And we tried it in VR was like, Holy crap. This one stupid little camera. It does exactly what we're doing over here. All that hardware, all that stuff. And it's instant. And it gives me a preview on my phone like, Okay, this is going to be a Race to Zero. Yeah, because you know, once you have this so we ended up buying. I don't think we bought 50 Those cameras just sent them everywhere. Go to mountain underwater doesn't matter. Just film everywhere. We melted one we put one fell into the ocean. One fell off a car at high speed. We filmed lions. And these Yeah, we filmed a pier. There's a lion Preserve. Up here.
Qasim Virjee 11:10
I thought you're gonna say you went back to my hometown. I used to live in Kenya. Oh, wow. And so I grew up on Well, we brought some
Alan Smithson 11:15
lions from Kenya, I'm sure. Amazing. I don't know if they're having a great time here in Canada. It's freezing. But but we filmed this thing. And we ended up raising $50,000 for this line. habitat here in Pickering.
Qasim Virjee 11:28
Oh, yeah, it was really you went okay, so then with
Alan Smithson 11:31
baby lions like I was in the cage with baby lions. Amazing filming. Like, it's crazy. That's awesome. Yeah. And we just tried to camera that way to hit the plot it we got a video and it just goes it just playing with it and just knocked it out of my head.
Qasim Virjee 11:44
So from kind of figuring, experiencing it figuring out 360 recording, and the software that's required in order to stitch it all together and going deep into that tech to then content. Yeah, this what happened? Well,
Alan Smithson 11:58
what we really my goal was never to do build a Content Studio or production studio. It was really to build a I only had three recommendations, but my Three Things where it needed to be scalable, repeatable and generate recurring revenue. I didn't care what it was. Yeah, scalable, repeatable, recurring revenue. And so with that eyeball, we just did everything. And we actually even had thing we do everything like Evie are everything. So we did VR, we did AR we did web AR, we built VR photobooth for Samsung to promote their cameras in their headsets. We launched that in New York, at 33. Seven store and in LA at the same time. I was supposed to be in every mall in America, this this VR Photo Booth it was the size of this room actually is about 10 by 10 by 10. And you could go take a picture with this camera, see yourself in VR, share it with friends. And then the Note Seven exploded. Yeah, so that whole program got cancelled. Okay. So anyway, we've had a bunch of these kind of great, we're ready to go. And then yeah, so over the last, I guess since 2015, when we really started kicked off the company. We've done about 185 projects across VR, AR 3d games, you name it was all marketing, retail, training, that type of thing, right. But our ultimate goal has nothing to do with that their ultimate goal is to really build a new education system.
Qasim Virjee 13:17
I like this. Okay. Yeah. So this was our let's dig into that. Well,
Alan Smithson 13:22
what happened was, as I was losing, as Julie and I were losing, so Julie got fired from our company. I got fired from our company as we're, that's happening at the exact same time. And we were part of the Ryerson Digital Media Zone and inception. The second we were the second cohort. Okay, wow. Yeah, second cohort of the AMC, but we had the support group around us. And at the exact same time, we were losing our company, our 11 year old daughter at the time, had invented sandals that leave a heart shaped handle and on top of your feet for the love sandal. That's amazing. Amazing. So cute, right? And so she got coached by the President of although, and the auto team helped her design them. And then we had the made in China. We brought them in, she sold 3000 pairs of shoes over the next two
Qasim Virjee 14:01
years. 11 year old. Wow. So daughter of two entrepreneurs, it was
Alan Smithson 14:07
the combination of our losing our company and seeing that a young person could grow a company like that, right? It was that combination reinvigorated. I wonder if we could create a new system to prepare humanity, you know, not just people in Canada, but everybody for the upcoming technological innovation revolution. Yeah, I mean, what we're entering in double exponential is now AI changes the game completely. And I knew this back then I had been studying, you know, technologies. And I actually did a TED Talk back in. I actually don't remember 2016 17 was like a different life. Knuth called everybody pre pandemic, right. We're just talking about this. But we did a TED talk. And the TED talk was the marriage of technology and education. And really, you know, at what grade level in Canada Anyway, do we teach AI? We don't But, but here it is. And,
Qasim Virjee 15:02
you know, and kids, you know, this is the interesting thing. You're right, like kids, kids are learning outside of school I would expect at a far greater pace than inside of classrooms because the education system isn't agile isn't programmed to be agile and a lot of responsibilities on educators who are professional educators. They're not necessarily out there in the field learning cool things. So it's
Alan Smithson 15:25
the average teacher ages in the 60s. It's crazy.
Qasim Virjee 15:28
Is that true? Across Canada and the public's all across
Alan Smithson 15:31
North America? Wow, it's not. So like people that graduated 40 years ago, are teaching our kids what to learn. And to be honest, they were in a different world AI as of November 30 2022, the world changed when chat GBD came out. I stayed up all night. I literally stayed up all night wearing a suit on my phone. I was like, Okay, this is Whoa, whoa, what else can I do? Oh, I stayed up all night writing cruise. Yeah, at the time, it didn't save your cruise. I wish it did. But I had all the I just went nuts on it. And then I left for the airport in the morning. And I remember the last thing I sent, I sent a link to my kids. And I said, You will never write another essay again, use this. But caveat, you must understand what you submit before you submit it. Okay, so use the technology because it's there. And if you don't use it, you're gonna fall behind. Yeah. And my I'm happy to report my kids are getting 80s Thanks to GPT
Qasim Virjee 16:23
Wow, yeah, you hacker you.
Alan Smithson 16:25
I mean, it's here. And then you've got you know, New York State banning, you know, bending AI in schools will have they have to try it doesn't
Qasim Virjee 16:34
even make sense. Like all this. Everyone is so out of their depth. I think this is a big part of this exponential reality question is like, how relevant infrastructure has been to society, like people are entrenched in infrastructure and technological infrastructure for their livelihood, and for like, okay, so I'm helping my wife update her WordPress website this weekend. And I hit so many walls, with just explaining a front end editor. And the difference between like a Microsoft Word document, and the web, and dynamic information versus static information. And it got frustrating for me, because it's frustrating for everybody, right? You know, but again, it's about infrastructure. And that's like a dumb example. Well, this
Alan Smithson 17:23
is why Canva is a $40 billion company, right?
Qasim Virjee 17:27
And all these years, being the stupid technologists that I have been, I'm like, Canva, just use Photoshop, learn this stuff. Because if you learn it, you could do so much. And then everyone, but I can do so much without learning anything.
Alan Smithson 17:40
Drag and drop baby, man. Oh, take an image, put it in, drop the background out, put a new background and done I got an invite. I use Canva all the time. Right, right. I had Photoshop I used it. I'm like,
Qasim Virjee 17:51
it's like, and there's so many examples of this. Like, of course, unfortunately, with the Zoom revolution, you know, someone ever has decided Zoom is better than you know, what was Skype 20 years ago. I mean, right? The chroma keying, and the fact that it's instant green screen anywhere, even though it looks like shit, but it worked. It's
Alan Smithson 18:09
not bad. Now they've fixed it. It's better than it was. Yeah, I mean, you can still see, you know, I'm gonna get white and in between the fingers and stuff, the AI
Qasim Virjee 18:15
is gonna help everything get better and being easier to use. So how
Alan Smithson 18:19
do we? How do we prepare humanity? For the exponential growth of everything? It is really what it comes down to, and it's not around. Look, the school system is great at teaching you geography and math and science and social studies and these types of things. What it's not great at doing and what it fails to do is prepare you for financial literacy, right investing, mindfulness, gratitude, positivity, marketing, email etiquette, communication skills, preparing a proposal, using AI, leveraging the tools, it doesn't prepare us for that. And so what we want to do is create a new education system that leverages the technologies as they come on to deliver that. So what technologies in our world right now are being used in our education system? Or is the education system in Ontario or in where we live now? Are they using AI to help students know that we're actually trying to prevent it? Yeah, they're using so IBM XTS Oh, my goodness. Yeah. Windows 98. With Clippy Clippy clip is back.
Qasim Virjee 19:21
Someone was being GPT. Someone was so inspired by a talk I gave once at Drupal conference, open source CMS that they created cost me or something. It was like Clippy for Drupal, but with like my face on it. I was so proud. I was so proud that I inspired someone to do something like that. But anyway, I digress. I think this is fascinating, because if it doesn't come from the private sector, it's unlikely to happen quickly from the pool
Alan Smithson 19:52
fast enough. It won't happen faster and actually to be honest, when I realized we tried to change the system locally. So we got involved in our children's schools, we went to the, you know, the actual school meetups, and then we moved up to the kind of the, the board level. And then we tried to, you know, impact at the provincial level, education system level. And we realized that this system was designed not to change is literally designed not to change, you know, when, when the Minister of Education can't make changes to the color of a pencil, how the system is not going to change. So it was the combination of seeing our daughter successful with her company losing our company, seeing what's coming in technology, we were like, Okay, well, we can do better than this. And we can create something that isn't just for Canadians isn't just for Ontarians, but for the world. And the only way to do that is to allow people to appear as themselves, but as avatars in a virtual world. So that way, we're not judging you based on sex, skin color, race, geographic location, everybody's treated equally and given access to knowledge equally. And YouTube has been a great equalizer for this. But what if we could create a place where people can show up almost like Roblox, but you show up and you meet people? Because education is one thing, but the network that you build, that's why you pay, you know, 100, a couple $100,000 a year to go to Harvard. It's not for the education, it's for the logo, the logo on your resume and the network and the network. The network is the key. So
Qasim Virjee 21:15
this is a virtual environment. Is there something specifically unique or interesting about how content is delivered through it? Yeah.
Alan Smithson 21:22
Qasim Virjee 23:00
is linear, like 2d content delivered through the metaverse or Metaverse, you
Alan Smithson 23:08
can so once you're in the 3d world, you can have 2d videos, you can have any anything 2d drops in easy, right. But you can also have any website in the world. Inside the 3d worlds, you can walk up to a big screen, it can be a website, and you can interact with it. So we've really pushed the limits of what's possible with this technology. We're able to push millions of polygons in a mobile browser without an app. So
Qasim Virjee 23:32
what do you think is the near future like any particular things that are on your milestone list for rolling this out? We're looking for adoption. Specifically, I guess this adoption has been the big question in this world, right? So we
Alan Smithson 23:45
are just starting to go from innovation to operations with with a couple of our clients. So we've been doing kind of a bunch of trials over here on the innovation side. And one of the things that startups do well is they get, you know, get into the foot of the innovation. So you're dealing with a big company, you're dealing with innovation, you build these all these prototypes, and pilots and POCs. The hard part is taking that and bringing it into operations. And that's actually the missing part between startups and scaleups. Sure. And so we're in that kind of messy middle right now, where we're going from, hey, we've done all these POCs and pilots and you don't want to get stuck in pilot purgatory. Yeah, awful. So what we're doing now is we're in between that we just partnered with Microsoft. We're partnering with Microsoft and KPMG. We're doing quotes for Accenture now. Like, we've kind of entered into the enterprise level of everything. So we actually designed the system when we acquired the technology. It was built with what we knew at the time. And so when we launched in 2020, we landed all these big clients. And then they said, Oh, well, doesn't do this doesn't do this. Do that. And what about security protocols? What about this what was single sign ons and deliver multiple users, multiple editors that I was like, Oh, crap, we didn't build it. Right. So for the last two and a half years ers. We rebuilt it from scratch. Okay, we took the rendering core out and rebuilt the entire infrastructure. And it is built with enterprise grade everything. It's
Qasim Virjee 25:09
interesting because fundamentally, it needs to be browser based if it's going to be globally adoptable. And all of this learning is certainly going to make for a product that's more, you know, what do you call palatable, adoptable? And you're talking about the corporate applications, then education and children? What's the plan? Well, if
Alan Smithson 25:30
you can serve the needs of an enterprise grade solution, then
Qasim Virjee 25:35
because they're basically children, they're basically children that are under educated, they have really
Alan Smithson 25:40
stringent requirements for security for privacy. Like if you can meet all of Microsoft, Siemens, we've been through Samsung soft MasterCard, you're going to meet the security requirements of these companies, which we now have built our system to meet those requirements. Yeah, we build it from scratch to meet those if you can meet those requirements. You're training children around the world is amazing, because now you've got the best of everything in your product, if it's good enough for Microsoft is going to be good enough for a kid in Africa to join in as well.
Qasim Virjee 26:13
It's interesting as hearing the arc of your kind of like career experience in tech, and how you've followed media really an emerging media. I'm excited to actually, you know, play with your platform. I think this is going to try. Yeah, yeah, let's do it. Wow, your phone is two phones. It's a fold. I don't need to fold those come out. Again, my child is five years old, right? So Allen, show me what what do we what do you have in front of
Alan Smithson 26:42
you? All right, so on my phone here, and the reason why I wanted to put it on my phone. And also the screen, we'll we'll do a quick demo for you is our Metaverse engine. And this is actually is a representation of a training simulator that we did for our client. It's a medical device company, this is not their product, because obviously we can't show their product because of confidentiality. But the idea here is that you now have the ability on a mobile phone over a browser, I'm just running in a browser tab is if you can see that above, I don't know. Maybe you can see this in a browser tab. Yeah. But the idea here is that it's fully interactable. In 3d, and I can now zoom right in, that's incredible. We don't have any loss of fidelity, we take it from the CAD models, so there's actually accurate to the manufacturing
Qasim Virjee 27:27
large data like that's huge. Wow, we actually
Alan Smithson 27:29
have to take it and jettison a bunch of stuff. Because you know, there's bits and pieces in here, screws, nuts, bolts, there's all sorts of stuff inside of a product, right? When you're training somebody on on this product, you don't necessarily need all the bells and whistles, right. So it part of the part of the process is taking the CAD models from manufacturing, and making them simple so that anybody can do this. And so I'm able to hit this overview, get an understanding of the product. And I'm going to switch to the to the screen up here. And let's go for it so that we can
Qasim Virjee 27:58
see it on the big screen. Exactly. So
Alan Smithson 28:01
what you're gonna see here is the ability to zoom in and zoom out of a product.
Qasim Virjee 28:06
And of course, this is like we're looking at it in the browser, but it can be you can interact with this through a headset, right? Yeah,
Alan Smithson 28:12
of course. It's VR AR, it's 3d, right. So you can, you know, most of our clients haven't really requested VR yet. Just simply because of the scale, they want to make sure that it just gets in the hands of everybody. So one of the things that we're uniquely positioned to do is create these experiences, and deliver them over the web. So you don't have to build an iOS version, you don't have to build an Android version and a desktop version. And then a VR version
Qasim Virjee 28:35
works on everything. And globally, like instantly available globally. Exactly. So
Alan Smithson 28:39
if I go overview here, and I'm actually going to switch into night mode, because nobody wants the brightness of a daytime mode. And what you'll notice here is I'm able to now have this product, I can learn about it, I can let's maybe click down here at the bottom. And we can learn about the disk storage, right? So any part of this product, you can just click in and learn. And then we have what's what's called Teach, try test, or teach test, right. But we can also do this, you know, we've got a full exploded view because we have CAD models, right?
Qasim Virjee 29:11
Yeah, break down each component. So this can be used for so many different things, you got a piece of hardware that's going to be used for an end user versus a technician, you know, someone's going to repair it as
Alan Smithson 29:23
well. So usage repair, replace even right down to the screws. That's pretty cool. Yeah. And so you know, we're able to do this with pretty much any product. I really want to get IKEA because you know, I had to build a dresser drawer the other day
Qasim Virjee 29:36
with a piece of paper on my dad and then you always throw the piece of paper out and you realize I have 5000 of the same allen key in my like spilling through my kitchen drawers. And so we've
Alan Smithson 29:50
we've got this process that we created a teach try test, then the idea is that you can teach people, anything you want. And you'll notice here, I don't know if the audio come through but I'm gonna teach If you had to repair the power supply, there's no audio. But yeah, we have an a fine, we have an AI that reads the the audio. So you can have it in any language. You can have these text panels here in any language nice. And then you go step by step instructions on. Okay. So step one, you've got to remove those screws. Yeah, step two, pull the panel off. This is incredibly step three, pull the power out, obviously. Step four, these two screws.
Qasim Virjee 30:25
And so for the, that overlay, which is text, I mean, you could have multimedia in there, right? You have
Alan Smithson 30:32
video audio, you can actually have a real time person explaining to you as well, it's multiplayer.
Qasim Virjee 30:36
Really? Yeah. You could have a live video session in there. Yeah,
Alan Smithson 30:39
wow. Not only live video, but like, you can have an avatar of somebody to come up. So you could be in a room together, walk around to a machine, learn how to fix it. You group people, you can, yeah, amazing. It's like a modern day video game platform. But we've focused on an enterprise application. So now you put the new power supply back in
Qasim Virjee 30:57
is this kind of technology being used on the next piece of it, which is like you instruct something in this virtual environment, and then it tells the robots to do it in human life. Like I was thinking about this just going going back to my own career experience at SoftLayer, IBM, you know, in our cloud infrastructure company, it would have made sense to have when we're deploying like custom built machines, custom server hardware, someone kind of like remotely controlling visually, the configuration. The answer is,
Alan Smithson 31:32
Qasim Virjee 31:55
like you said, I mean, it'd be done like even that. What we're looking at is a you know, that scan could be live data from an actual machine, of course. I mean, we've
Alan Smithson 32:07
bidirectional communication. So one of the things that we do, we're building a virtual mall, as I told you, actually, I'll pull that up. Yeah, we're building a mall called the mall, of course, because, you
Qasim Virjee 32:15
know, in Nairobi when when I was growing up, then I was a teenager, there was a mall called the mall, no kid area called Westlands. And it was like, the best Indian restaurant than I've ever been to the best movie like Indian cuisine in the world.
Alan Smithson 32:28
Nice. So this is the mall. It's the world's largest virtual Mall. And we just announced our brand partnership on floor to the mall. So the mall is 100 floors. It's a big building. And each floor is a million square feet. It's virtual. So why not? We had to pick a number of like, million square feet sounds reasonable. And then we realized, holy crap. That's the size of the convention center. Yeah. So we just partnered with Mars Wrigley. And they're going to be doing the juicy verse in the mall. And you know, they put that up, and you can take a look at that. It's just a quick loop. But yeah, we're building the juicy verse, which will be launched in April 2023. And that's super cool. It's like a mini video game where you get to go and get your T shirt of the you know, and you can create your own experience. Okay, so we built, there's a t shirt, there's a show, there's all sorts of things, it'd be really cool. It's like, super fun. And you can build your own art piece using our engine using this drag and drop out of Starburst pieces. And then you can mint it as an NFT. It's your
Qasim Virjee 33:25
alter the same app. So this will be the first
Alan Smithson 33:29
this will be the first experience where you can go from physical so they have a display in the store with a QR code takes you into the mall virtually. Then you do all the experiences gives you another NFT, which you can then it goes directly in your apple Google Wallet doesn't matter. So you don't have to remember a seed phrase and all this craziness, right? So it takes you directly into that. And then you can take that into the store and get a free pair package of a Starbucks
Qasim Virjee 33:54
release. So cool. physical to digital back to faculty physical. I love it. Yeah, that is so without having
Alan Smithson 34:00
to do with a wallets and all that stuff. Instantly. It goes into your Google Wallet. Amazing. Let me show you another experience here. So we've been doing all sorts of cool stuff we've done, like I said before about 185 projects. This was one we launched last summer for Monaco art week. And what it is, is a full museum. So the people that built this with us that own they own floor, 21 of them all. And they're going to be building your tenants our tenants in the mall. And they are the largest collectors of private artifacts, cultural artifacts in the world. So in real life in real life, so they they have over 55,000 artifacts. What you're gonna see here is a couple of them. We took them digitize them. So if I walk forward, for example, if I walk back, I can walk around the space. I can go over here, I can go see these pieces of art on the wall.
Qasim Virjee 34:50
How did you guys digitize their their collection? It was manual. Okay, so there's no photographing
Alan Smithson 34:56
all of these. They send us photographs and we just 3d model them. So these are photographs of what's called a Bucha Lottie, it's an artist out of Italy that makes these sculptures out of metal. And they're super cool. Yeah, there's a whole bunch of them. I got to touch them and they're actually sharp, they're the middle is very sharp. So you can see it's like a video game. I can walk around. Let me go in full screen here. Yeah,
Qasim Virjee 35:17
this is like, you know, Duke Nukem? Yeah.
Alan Smithson 35:19
All right. So higher in higher res that even the way we're positioning is like, we're we're gonna be like the fortnight for shopping instead of shooting. And just saying, right, interesting. And because it's web based, there's no barrier to entry, you can see we got real time videos. And if I walk up to this 3d object here, which you can see in the video, I'm gonna walk up. And now I have the full autonomy. So we took these 3d objects, they were actually a little stuffed box. And when we built these, I didn't know how big they were physically. Yeah, right. They just said a scale model. And what we did, we realized that this thing here is only like two inches by two inches. It's very small. So the details incredible. He's made it a solid
Qasim Virjee 35:55
gold. And then you built a vector version of
Alan Smithson 35:58
it, we scanned it. Well, we had our team build it into 3d. So if I go across the top, you see some of them are really intricate, like this one here. It's got not only gold, but these kind of inlays as well, which is super cool. And I'll zoom in a bit here, you can see what I'm talking about here. Wow. Really, really beautiful stuff.
Qasim Virjee 36:19
And that gold really looks realistic. That's amazing. We're getting we're getting lighting.
Alan Smithson 36:24
We're getting there. It's you know, that's the whole battle with 3d is how do we make it look as real as possible? Yeah, like this one's got piano black piano finish on it. These are really beautiful. And they're only two inches by two inches like crazy. Two inches by one. Wow. So it's a snuffbox. It's
Qasim Virjee 36:38
sweet. Sorry, is that a? Is that a mixture of photography and a rendering? No.
Alan Smithson 36:42
It's a yes. It's photography and rendering. Okay, exactly. Exactly.
Qasim Virjee 36:47
Alan Smithson 36:48
Now, it's not ideal, because it's very hard to scale that. Because like, how do you do 1000 of these 50,000?
Qasim Virjee 36:53
But at the same time, how do you photograph in 3d the dimensionality, it's difficult?
Alan Smithson 36:58
Well, we use what's called photogrammetry. So if you take, let's say, 100 photographs of something, and you throw it into a software called capturing reality, it's called, and it'll automatically do it for you.
Qasim Virjee 37:08
What are the three amazing if photo stitches all that stuff together using AI?
Alan Smithson 37:14
I don't know that uses AI, probably somewhere in the background is using some sort of machine learning. But the penultimate is how do we do this with, you know, six photographs? top bottom left, right, up and down, right? Yeah, as simple as possible. It's not possible just yet, you still need like a minimum of 100 photographs. You know, if you're doing a room like this, if you wanted to recreate this room from physical, you'd need probably 1000 photographs or something. Wow, this is really cool. Yeah. So this is one of the examples that we're doing. And let me find something else really cool for him. This was a prototype of the mall, were like, hey, we want to build a mall. We built some crazy stuff. And then what we realized is that brand, it was too advanced for the brands, this stuff that we're building, we're like, okay, let's make it look like a mall.
Qasim Virjee 37:53
Oops, Yeah, cuz you don't want to be like, Oh, you're in fluid landing.
Alan Smithson 37:58
Exactly. We built one called Box land literally showed the after, but it was too far out for battle, they couldn't get it. And there's a term called skeuomorphism. Yeah, meaning taking the real world and taking cues from the real world and bringing it in, we had to do this with this because it just was too too far advanced for people. So I'm gonna go into full screen and you asked me about, I don't know if it's gonna work, because I don't know what cameras are connected. But you asked me about real time video. In a virtual world. If there was a camera connected, it would pop up my camera feed here and I can now walk around, have a meeting with you. And we can walk around a virtual world together, maybe it's training, maybe it's retail, whatever. And I can show up as a as myself and an avatar or, or that's
Qasim Virjee 38:38
really interesting. And I could jump we
Alan Smithson 38:42
go into the non branded
Qasim Virjee 38:44
do some shopping in the federal store, the
Alan Smithson 38:47
Fago. Store. Exactly. We get to relax from downstairs. So yeah, and this is all multiplayer, we can join in together actually, as a matter of fact, what I'll do, I can't do it from here. But I can I can set it up so we can go in here together and walk around. It's that's all multiplayer. And of course, physics don't matter because you're in a virtual world. So we'll jump down first. She didn't die. No, no death. So it's shopping instead of shooting. And I'll go in here and check out this amazing Harley Davidson store. They're not a client, but that's okay. They will be eventually. And you can have interaction so you can maybe see this motorbike from any angle but you see the level of quality we're able to get on a mobile browsers on scene.
Qasim Virjee 39:28
Now I liked that metallic sheen is is so nice, right? Again, the reflections are accurate.
Alan Smithson 39:33
Yeah, it's reflecting off the skybox. So we have full Skybox PBR materials are physically based rendered. Materials has incredible auto browser. Yeah. Here we can push millions of polygons on a mobile browser. Now. That's our that's our sweet spot. And we're the only ones that can do this.
Qasim Virjee 39:49
What are the minimum bandwidth requirements to like shop in this mall through your browser?
Alan Smithson 39:54
There's no real minimum but I mean, it depends on how big and complicated the shop is for this one here that What you're seeing this mall is roughly 100,000 square feet, like if you were looking at from here and look at all at all angles, both floors, roughly about 100,000. So represents about 10% of a floor in them. All right? This will work on an iPhone eight and above.
Qasim Virjee 40:15
Okay? But in terms of bandwidth, like the data that's running on the device,
Alan Smithson 40:19
so all I have to do is serve it once. And as long as I walk around in here, it doesn't, it's not loading any more stuff.
Qasim Virjee 40:24
But it downloads initially to your phone. So this
Alan Smithson 40:26
project is probably the whole thing is maybe 100 100. Meg's
Qasim Virjee 40:31
Wow, that's small. I mean, that's big and 98. But now, it's nothing. It's not so the mall,
Alan Smithson 40:39
the first floor of the mall, we just finished 50% of them all, a floor one, and it's massive. Like, it's a million square feet. But we could only we didn't have time to build out a full million square feet. So we build out half of it. So half a million square feet. And that project, yeah, is 800 mix. So but it's got a car configurator it's got a room configurator. It's got six doors.
Qasim Virjee 41:02
And now I see like looking at it, you know, on screen and makes sense, what you were telling me about, you know, the potentiality of the way I look at it is putting a lot of knowledge in one place in a lot of experience in one place. And one interface. Yeah, that's really the magic of this stuff.
Alan Smithson 41:17
And this is all built drag and drop. Yeah, so the hard part where you need coding is to say, Okay, I'm gonna go into the store, and I want to buy this Rolex, for example, or this watch or whatever, I want to go buy it. Now, the hard part is actually not making it appear in 3d. The hard part is, how do we connect this to their inventory management system? Right? How do we make sure when I click this, it pulls the we have inventory, we can ship it to you that sort of thing. So we actually, we partnered with a company called Bamboo Mehta, and they do all that back in integrations for us nice, because that's not what we do.
Qasim Virjee 41:47
So is it tight? And is there a particular ecommerce platform that it will be done and everything
Alan Smithson 41:52
you can connect to? Cisco or shell, SAS, Shopify, Microsoft, Oracle, whatever, because big enterprise clients are the ones we're going for now? They don't use Shopify. Typically, they use you know, like, you know, SAP or you know what, alright,
Qasim Virjee 42:10
so yeah, fascinating, man. This is super cool. Thank you for showing this to me, of course. Amazing.
Alan Smithson 42:16
And you'll be able to buy physical and or digital goods when the model in fit and or cryptocurrency that's crazy. You can use all forms of payment. Yeah, it opens April 15.
Qasim Virjee 42:27
Will there be a currency exchange on the floor of the mall?
Alan Smithson 42:31
No, it's all automatic. You just put in your credit card or your wallet. It's all automatic.
Qasim Virjee 42:36
So no one needs to go and buy the currency to say no, we're
Alan Smithson 42:39
not. That's dumb.
Qasim Virjee 42:43
Translate on the fly. And don't charge people an upsell on the currency. I don't care how
Alan Smithson 42:47
you want to give us your money. We'll take it yeah, this is the whole idea of like, you gotta buy in our currency. This is dumb. And then, you know, look at Roblox, okay. They're great. They got a system for taking your money from USD into robux. And there's no real way to get it. Well, I guess you can, but getting it from robotics back into USD is they don't typically like to do that. Okay, right. Keep the money on the platform.
Qasim Virjee 43:09
Alan Smithson 43:10
not playing that game. We're playing a different game. Look. If you want to build the metaverse, so to speak, or this infinite virtual world, the mall is is a fixed space. There's 100 spaces. There's only 100 floors. And that's it. Yeah. 100 million square feet. And that's it. But around them all. Once you leave them all it's an infinite virtual space. There's no limits to it. Okay,
Qasim Virjee 43:32
you're an OG technologist. Yeah, in a way. Is this the new version of geo cities?
Alan Smithson 43:40
I don't even know geo
Qasim Virjee 43:42
citizens. Oh, you're not maybe I'm more more of an OG old do you think I am shit? Okay, so in the beginning of the commercial web, right, in 9796, there was a thing called geo cities and geo cities was a very interesting thing. This is a predominance of social of search engines, right? Okay. Google didn't exist, you know, in a real way. And the search engines of choice were still Austin, Alta Vista, hot bot, and so on and hot but was the one old are you? I'm like six when those things come out. I'm 42 years younger than me. Yeah, I was just into this shit. I was like the first guy online in East Africa, man. But so when all those early search engines existed and hot, bought was owned by Wired Magazine, which is interesting. Wired magazine had for a short fleeting moment, way before Nicholas Thompson was the editor right when it was a Chris, what was his name? Anderson, was it? Yeah, Chris Anderson was Yeah, Chris Anderson. Didn't he go on to do TED talks or something? No, that's a different Chris Anderson. I think they have the same name. mazing. Anyway, in the early days of Wired Magazine, they had a search engine, unrelated to the search engine was an alternative to a search engine for exploring The Internet, which also doubled as a hosting mechanism for websites and this whole thing, this is at a time when people were playing with the the gated walled garden in terms of geospatial dynamics of the web. So did you want a website that you had to literally get featured in a magazine with a URL? Because that's the way it used to work? Yeah, we read those magazines about the internet.
Alan Smithson 45:23
That was when he was still by a.com. Yeah, exactly. That
Qasim Virjee 45:26
didn't have like foreign characters in it somehow, or whatever. But so you would read the URL, you go to the webpage, and then you have this exclusive experience of the webpage. The web page wasn't necessarily tied to anything except this was titillating. You'd click on a hyperlink, right? And that hyperlink would take you off into the galaxy to some other bit of knowledge. Right? That was the magic of hyperlinking.
Alan Smithson 45:47
And this is why I believe truly, that everybody's talking about the metaverse and talking about the future of the Internet. It has to be web based. How else do you have this ability to go from virtual world to virtual world, right? It has to be web based. That's how we do stuff. I don't know how much of your time is spent in apps in a day. I hate my apps. I don't I don't I just have my browser open. I got slack. And you know, I've got all the things tabbed. I got my Gmail, my whatever, all my productivity tabs, and then for the most of the day, with the exception of zoom, I'm just in the browser tab going back and forth. Yeah,
Qasim Virjee 46:20
yeah, me me for the same. I mean, it's just like VoIP. Gmail, and that's about it. Yeah, but even Gmail I use in the browser that's on my phone, I guess would be an app. Yeah. But I agree with you that the web is everything. The web is everything. And in those early days, though, of geo cities, it was interesting, because what they were trying to build was a hosting infrastructure. That was also an indexing infrastructure. But were geo cities had neighborhoods by theme. So if your website was about like, film, you would be down Ventura Boulevard, cool in Hollywood, or whatever, if that's the right super reference, of course, really interesting. Super high adoption, we
Alan Smithson 47:00
haven't figured out how to, like outside of the mall. So the mall is a fixed place. And the reason why it has kind of a price associated with it or limited is because everybody who lands in this infinite virtual world has to land in the mall first. Okay. So if you have a floor in the mall, or a space in the mall, you can have them land in your space. From there, they can wander anywhere they want, they can go out into the virtual world, right? But that is the central spawning point, okay? Have an infinite virtual world. That's why it has value because everybody has to come through there and funnel through your system, you know, and that's why it's value. It's like when you leave the airport, or you get off your airplane, and they make you walk through the duty free, right? It's the same idea. You have to go through the mall to get through the infinite virtual world, which leads to commerce. And some somebody's got to pay for this infrastructure of this inventory. World. So we partnered with big companies to
Qasim Virjee 47:46
build it out. I think it's fascinating. I think I'm excited to see how people enjoy it. When does it officially launch said, so
Alan Smithson 47:52
it's launching to influencers and the press on first week of April? Okay. And then it to the public? April 16. I think is the official lunch.
Qasim Virjee 48:03
Exciting. Yeah. How are you going to tell people about this? So they influencers? Tell people about it? Yeah. So
Alan Smithson 48:07
we've partnered with, well, Marjorie, Gliese, our first brand, and they're going to, they're putting a huge marketing budget behind this. We just got a whole ton of press. We announced it at South by Southwest last week. Awesome. Awesome. A ton of press about that. And we've got, we've got $5 million in cryptocurrency to give away from our partners Hadera. So we've we've built our blockchain infrastructure on Hadera, which is an enterprise grade blockchain. We went, we chose them for a couple of reasons. One, they have always been environmentally friendly. Right from the beginning. They're 10,000 times less power than Ethereum. Not now because Aetherium went to proof of steak, but they've always been proof of steak. They've been environmentally friendly. They've been enterprise focused. So they're not trying to, you know, be the next, you know, bored ape or something. They're just focused on enterprise boring stuff, like tracking pharmaceuticals through the pipeline of production. Nobody cares about these things. But they're secure. Its enterprise friendly, and all the companies we work with, don't want to have this, you know, the security breaks and, you know, it can't have something it gets hacked. Sure, you know, so we went with Hadera they gave us a grant to give away $5 million in each bar to the first users them all cool. Yeah, me, Bill, you make your wallet and we put the money in there for you.
Qasim Virjee 49:25
So spending in the mall, right? very
Alan Smithson 49:27
uneven cash out, like yeah, we're not forcing you to spend on the mall, you can cash it out as cash. I mean, the whole point of this is that, look, we want people to understand the value of not only the mall, but of cryptocurrencies in general. And once you have a wallet, then you can start participating. The problem is the onboarding of getting people into the crypto world. Okay, I get a meta mask and I gotta write down 24 words, and then I gotta do this and that man, I
Qasim Virjee 49:49
lost, I lost all those things. And I had a notebook and I was like, Oh, I'll put him in this moleskin and then you know, I changed my notebooks all the time, because I forget which one I was writing. Due
Alan Smithson 49:58
to. I have one notebook. In my house with a 55 $50,000 Yeah, just $50,000 gain or whatever it's gonna moleskin in 24 words along the way, it's, it's absolutely bonkers. That I lost so much money. I even
Qasim Virjee 50:12
posted some NF T's in my house. I mentioned a few NFT somewhere that were like my animated GIF art. And I don't even know where those are. What
Alan Smithson 50:20
to see what I mean, if that was just in your Apple or Google Wallet, you'd be laughing Exactly. So we decided to get rid of that whole nonsense and streamline it. Super
Qasim Virjee 50:28
cool, man. Well, I'm excited to chase a story kind of like, have you back post launch? Fun. We're gonna do a bunch a series
Alan Smithson 50:36
to do the interview from in the mall. Oh, that'd be cool. Yeah, we could just show up as avatars record ourselves walking
Qasim Virjee 50:41
around. Nice. Yeah. If you're listening to this in our audience, or watching this episode, let us know your thoughts on this stuff. And if we're going to do a live experience through it, maybe pre sign up by just dropping us a line,
Alan Smithson 50:55
you can sign up for the mall. So it's the mall.io if you sign up now, you'll get invited when the influencers get in. Cool. So we have got a few people signed up for that. But yeah, we're gonna give you early access to the people that supported us from the beginning, and you'll get all the goodies before anybody else. Nice.
Qasim Virjee 51:13
Well, thanks for joining me in studio today for leisure to talk about some of your cool innovations along the way and now, the mall and Charles's goodness.
Alan Smithson 51:25
Well, I'm really excited to get them all up and running. And you know, to start well, to GTM wham, wham wham tgz Here we go. Awesome.