Episode Summary

For UPS, XR is no longer proof-of-concept. It’s essential for business. Virtual reality changed how UPS trains its workers, saving countless hours in training and millions in labor costs. But how did they get there?

In this episode, Brad and Will interview Mark Gröb, the Head of Immersive Technology for UPS. They discuss the years-long approach to creating “XR as a practice,” challenges integrating consumer XR headsets into enterprise settings, examples of how XR is impacting UPS’ business, advice for new XR adopters, and more.

Key Moments

  • How did you get started in XR? (02:24)
  • Perspective on VR in the 1990s (05:51)
  • XR changing from expensive implementation to very accessible (06:20)
  • The “Whatever-verse” (07:15)
  • Challenges with XR going from consumer to enterprise (09:21)
  • How do you create an “XR practice” (10:50)
  • Challenges of XR deployments (13:35)
  • Examples of ROI (25:37)
  • Advice for new adopters (31:01)
"The biggest challenge I’ve faced in XR in the last 3 years is deployment. For enterprises being able to deploy the technology in a cost-effective way is incredibly important… Now, we have a defined, mature XR practice around training. And using technology like ArborXR, which I define as a self-support MDM solution, goes a long way to help scale.”
xr industry leaders podcast with arborxr and mark grob of ups
Mark Gröb
Head of Immersive Technology at UPS

About the Guest

Mark Gröb is a seasoned Veteran of the broader industry of Visual Simulation and Entertainment. He has a long history in the area of Virtual Reality started in 1998. Currently building a practice of Immersive Technology (VR, AR, MR+ML) at UPS.

Head of the Immersive Tech Center at UPS. Developing Innovations to solve Enterprise problems for UPS and our Partners. The primary focus is on Human Factors and Data Visualization. Leading XR practices in highly cross-matrix teams to explore and develop IP (patents and business methods) for UPS. Global SME in the practice of XR Enterprise deployments and support for UPS.

Episode Transcript

Brad Scoggin: Hey there, welcome to “XR Industry Leaders” with ArborXR. My name is Brad Scoggin, and I am the CEO and one of three co-founders of ArborXR. And we’ve had the opportunity of working with thousands of companies since 2016, and we’ve learned a ton about what it takes for XR to be successful in your organization.

Will Stackable: And I’m Will Stackable, co-founder and CMO. This podcast is all about interviewing the leaders who are on the ground making XR happen today. True pioneers in the space from Amazon, Walmart, and UPS to Koch, Pfizer, and beyond to uncover the pitfalls, lessons learned, and secrets that you can use to help grow XR in your organization.

Brad Scoggin: Today, we get the privilege of sitting down with Mark Grob. Mark has been in XR for almost 20 years, a little over 20 years, which I mean probably feels like 60 years. He is currently the Head of the Immersive Tech for UPS. I think he’s been doing that for a little over five years. And Mark, my first question for you that I did not ask you in the pre-interview is, are you wearing brown shorts right now?

Mark Gröb: No, I’m not wearing brown shorts, I have slacks on. You know, not the proverbial,

Brad Scoggin: Okay.

Mark Gröb: you know, homeworker thing. So, no.

Brad Scoggin: I love it. Well, before we get into, there’s a lot we have to talk about, even back to some of your early days in VR and then what UPS is doing today. I would love to hear, I noticed in a number of places when you list your bio, you always mentioned that you’re a dad, and so that seems important and we’d love to get a little hear about the personal side of the people we visit with. So yeah, tell us what it’s like being a dad in 2022 teenagers.

Mark Gröb: Hey, you know, kind of pre-discussion there. You know, the whole aspect of device-dependent teenagers. I’m a parent of two and yeah, you know, I kind of make the joke when I hear metaverse, I think “Roblox” ’cause that’s what they live in. But generally, you know, two lovely ladies, lots of emotion. And you know, as a dad, it’s making the time for their sports and everything else. So I’m a lucky guy.

Brad Scoggin: That’s awesome. Yeah, I just had to navigate. My oldest daughter has a tablet, so no actual cell phone connectivity, but just texting etiquette was a thing that, you know, I hadn’t thought about. So that is fun. Okay, well before we go to some of the UPS stuff, you have been in VR, XR a long time. You started a company in the late 90s. So tell us about that, tell us what made up both the, I guess the interest in tech and the entrepreneurial side of Mark.

Mark Gröb: Sure. Way back when the internet was first talking about community internet and they called this tech, you know, internet and there was technology like VRML, and they wanted to create communities, I got the bug. So I was an intern developing on Linux flight simulators using VR technology in a company that doesn’t exist anymore called Silicon Graphics. Really got the bug, it was awesome. You know, back then, all the headsets weren’t put together. You had to modularize and put everything together. And right out of college, I was an accounting major. You know, my friends and I did a startup, Digital Cybernetics Corporation. It was based around 360-degree operating system. Now, know, it was an enhancement and you know, we had it working on MAC OS 9 and Windows NT 4.1, something like that. And you know, it was an enhancement, it was really cool. You know, you used the motion tracker, almost like kind of a panoramic 360 degrees around you workspace. It was cool, you know, great technology in my mind at the time, but a very famous person said to me when I showed ’em it was, “People don’t pay for enhancements.” And he was right ’cause two years after that didn’t go too well, and also we saw a major decline in VR. So yeah.

Will Stackable: I have to ask, did you read a lot of sci-fi growing up? That sounds like a straight out of a sci-fi company name.

Mark Gröb: Digital Cybernetics Corporation, I would say maybe my brother had some influence. He’s actually now a medical doctor, but back then, he was a, you know, pre-med student. So maybe there was something there exploring with copper wiring on lab rats or something, I don’t know. But yeah, you know, back then, I think when you thought about technology combined with living things, people would think cybernetic. So technology terms change, I guess.

Will Stackable: For those of us that weren’t around at the start of that age, what was the feel? Was the sense that this is gonna be here tomorrow, like we’re seeing into the future and it’s gonna, was there a sense of how long it was gonna take? And did you have any realization of, “Oh, this is gonna take 20 or 30 years?”

Mark Gröb: It’s a tough question. Back then, the line I was giving my investors was five to seven years. That was the line, but in the interim, right, we had a lot of things happen, recessions and things of that nature. They all impact the technology. You know, I would say the feeling then was very similar to the feeling a lot of people have now about the metaverse. So from someone like me now, I get cold sweats and I get nervous because, you know, you can reflect on things you learned. But you know, it’s interesting and challenging times. That’s the saying, right?

Brad Scoggin: I wanna ask, you said that somebody said that people don’t pay for enhancements, which I think is really interesting. So just even jumping ahead for a bit to today, I mean, does today feel different from that perspective with XR? Does it feel like is it finding more of a core place in our lives, you know, even in enterprise? Or do you think it’s still an enhancement to some degree?

Mark Gröb: Well, no, I definitely think the market’s changed enough. To give you an idea, in the late 90s, early 2000s, you had to pay $50,000 just for a modded version of Unreal to run the devices, right? Nowadays, all that tech is freely accessible. You know, we have amazing tools like Unity and Unreal. You know, I mean I wish I had it when I was going to college, right? You know, now students are able to learn all that technology. So the marketplace is definitely different. The fact that everything’s integrated, I would say sort of the commoditization of the technology has happened. When we have these amazing things now like smartphones, you know, back then, those didn’t exist. So there’s a lot of innovation has happened for the technology since then. So you know, I have high hopes, but you always in the back of your mind says, “Well, what’s gonna sort of trigger disinterest,” right? You know, you always wanna think about that, but yeah.

Will Stackable: I wasn’t planning on asking this, but we gotta get a hot take. In your mind, what is the metaverse, if you’re gonna define it, which it’s a hard one. And then, yeah, do you have a feel on, I mean, we were seeing everybody, chief metaverse officer, every company has a metaverse strategy. What’s your feel? You’ve been in that world longer than most.

Mark Gröb: One thing I’ll say working at UPS, one thing I’ve learned is to think things out thoroughly. So in answering your question, I would say it’s a whateververse. My opinion, I’m focused more towards enterprise. It’s really the decentralization of technology, the enterprise or industrialization of technology into, like UPS, we call our Smart Hub or Smart Network. I really kind of see the metaverse being more of that, more Web3, less social networks because you know, I mean, there’s the appeal of, and from a business sense, right? Still trying to figure, we’re gonna have to formulate what that means in regards to multiple users socializing on a platform, right? We’re not in a marketing business, right? We’re in a service business. So maybe there’s value of quote, “the whateververse, the UPSverse, whatever-you-wanna-call-it-verse,” for better customer service, you know, better employee experience as well. The aspect of using the same technology, digital twins as a process to onboard employees, you know, things of that nature. But what does the metaverse mean to UPS or to me? You know, it’s an opportunity to sort of improve customer experience as well as employee experience. But how that actually is gonna shape out or how that’s actually gonna work? That’ll be an interesting question. From the deployment IT side, there’s a ton of challenges. When you think about on the enterprise side, right? Unlike a social network business, all of the infrastructure’s owned and maintained by you. So it’ll be interesting, you know, I have made jokes in previous association meetings about corporate doesn’t care. The enterprise is not gonna care about it till there’s the intranet version of it, right? Otherwise, it’s just gonna be a marketing portal store, you know, in the public eye. We’ll see.

Brad Scoggin: Okay, so let’s shift to UPS. So UPS, I mean, it’s been around for decades. You’ve been there for five years as the head, I mean, doing VR stuff to some degree, right, XR stuff. So I think one question that’s always really interesting to us, really interesting to a lot of our listeners and people in the space is what was the process for a company like UPS to shift from business as usual to, “Okay, there’s this new XR thing. Maybe there’s a way to use that in our company”? What was that process like, and what role did you play in that?

Mark Gröb: Yeah, so I came on board in late 2017 in November. So as of this month, it’s been five years. And when I came on board, really, the challenge or the question I was given by the portfolio manager of UPS, name is Joe Lalas, was really how to build the practice. That’s that journey that you’re kind of talking about. It’s the how do you utilize the technology in the space, right? We all know about how XR has a bad rap when it comes to, you know, people get the, I call it the magic effect glow when it comes to the technology, right? They want to do something with it. But in enterprise, it’s really about, “Well, how does it align to business?” You know, the aspects of… And specifically for enterprise, right? The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the last, I’d say the first three years was the challenge of deployment, right? So for enterprise, being able to deploy the technology and the cost effective way is very important, right? That was the initial challenge, right? Everybody had beacon stations and everything else up, right? That cost a lot of money to install every time you wanted to do it, right? 2019, right, we were deploying PC-tethered stuff. You know, it was 10,000, $9,000 per unit install to do, right? And then, you know, put the brakes on and now we have all-in-one headsets, which cost 1,500 to deploy, right? So all of a sudden, the scale of deployment’s a lot higher now in the standpoint of cost and just the resources need to deploy. So that was a big learning process. You know, that’s excluding things like developing VR publishing platforms for, you know, what I would describe as subject-matter experts within your organization so that you can utilize the tools. But specific to sort of the deployment aspect to it, it’s been a big challenge. But now, you know, we look at UPS. We have a defined sort of mature VR practice around training. So you know, the latest change in the last two years have really helped accelerated where we’re going with that. And you know, with technology like ArborXR, sort of what I could describe as a self-support MDM sort of solution, you know, it’s good stuff. Very positive motions in that direction. Now it’s really a case of in the practice, defining processes for your business people so that they can properly utilize the technology, right? Because part of that is education. You know, everybody gets the big glowy eyes, they wanna play with the toy, but that only lasts so long. You know, you really have to build a tool that creates value and profit for the company.

Brad Scoggin: Definitely, and when you talk about deployment challenges, can you like expand on that a little bit maybe for our audience? Like what were the biggest or what are the biggest friction points you’ve faced around deployment specifically?

Mark Gröb: Well, I mean, if you think about it, if you’re gonna deploy any technology into the field, it has to be managed and maintained, right? Then you ask yourself two questions, is it gonna be something that’s internally maintained and supported, or is it gonna go out into the wilds, and I don’t have to support it, right? But if it goes out into the wilds, I still need analytics, I still need some sort of return on that investment. So you know, thinking that way, right? Internally sort of deploying the technology, right? You have to do things as silly as maintaining certificates for wifi, right? You have to maintain proper security protocols for devices. Honestly, that’s been a huge challenge for the last four years of my career at UPS because specifically the XR industry, if you wanna call that or the market, it’s constantly playing catch-up to the rest of the business smartphone world, right? So the aspect of, you know, XR devices running on Android 10 or 11. Meanwhile we have smartphones that are running so many things higher or they have, you know, specific enterprise standards that we apply to smartphones, but we can’t apply to XR devices. It’s a big deal, you know, you get wifi engineers saying, “No, you can’t deploy this to this area because it doesn’t meet these requirements,” right? Huge challenge, you know, the last few years has definitely improved. Hopefully, that kind of gives some light into it.

Will Stackable: What have you mentioned the Android versions and most people on this call probably know that, you know, these headsets are running Android Open Source and there’s some unique challenges there. What have you found just when it comes to doing deployments and looking at general compatibility with existing device management solutions? What are some of the sticking points?

Mark Gröb: Well, I mean the big one I think that kind of sticks out when it comes to you guys is cost to experiment, let’s say. A lot of, I would assume businesses right now are hesitant to explore MDM because their traditional MDMs are very expensive. And when you think about that, right, you guys make it so that it’s very easy to sort of explore, you know, this sort of stick your feet in the water, test it out. It’s not very expensive. It’s very easy to use as long as you have the connectivity. That would be kind of the key points. Other aspects is some business may have MDMs that don’t have or have even thought of supporting XR devices. So you know, those are all challenges when you have business-aligned roadmaps, and then you’re trying to look at this technology.

Brad Scoggin: I wanna go back to 2017. So you come on in 2017 and you’re charged with building the practice. So at that point in UPS, I mean, was leadership already sold on VR as something that needed to be implemented, or were you still experimenting? Like what was the kind of the temperature at that point?

Mark Gröb: 2017, I came on board. We had some amazing upper level management where they definitely could envision the potential, but it was the case of, “Well, how are you gonna properly do it?” You know, the practice, right? The idea of standards, guidelines. So senior management, and I think generally UPS as a whole, I’d say they had a lot of familiarity with augmented reality because UPS with automation and everything else, computers, robots and everything else, computer vision, aspects of markers and that aspect. They had a strong understanding, right? You know, this is a company that built their version of the iPad before the iPad was out there. You know, they had their DIAD, right? So they were pretty familiar with augmenting reality-type technology. VR, less so, but they already had groups. UPS has a institution called Integrad. That’s like your driver’s safety, right? When I came on board, they had preliminary sort of POCs, but nothing that was localizable, nothing that was deployable globally. You know, and the way they were deploying it was very… And desktop, you know, again, it was high, it was expensive. So all these things, when you start playing into rubrics, KPIs, return on investment sort of questions, you know, it plays against the technology at the time. And it was really a case of sort of engineering and finding solutions that best match to what the organizational need was. And in that frame, you know, graduating from concepts or proof of concepts or MVPs around VR training to all of a sudden, I describe it as going from 0 to 60 in three seconds because the proof of concept had value, you know? And all of a sudden now from an IT organizational standpoint, you have to support that. You know, there’s those challenges as well. So you go from one sort of concept all of a sudden to different business groups saying, “Oh, we want health and safety for hazmat. We want a proper way to pick up a box,” to you know, “We want more experiences around driver safety and our special methodologies,” right? And then all of a sudden, this is within initial launch of a POC to three months down the road, all of a sudden people see it. You know, you can watch the YouTube video to all of a sudden, you know, all the business groups flying to rush into the technology. And I call that it’s the magic phase, right? Everyone sees this cool toy, it’s magic, right? You know, and in a way from an organizational standpoint, that’s a huge challenge as well. And it was frustrating because the organization looks to you as sort of, you know, you’re the guidance. You’re the smee, you know, on this. “So what should we do?” So it is definitely challenging.

Brad Scoggin: And tell me, this is something, and forgive our ignorance here. We think about this a lot and we talk to a lot of companies that are different stages of deployment, but one thing I’m always really curious about is you talk about different departments saying, “Oh, you know, we want to use VR for this or that.” Like what are the steps in that process? Like is it a department has an idea? And then, I mean how is that validated? How does it even get to the point of saying, “We’re gonna actually go build content for it, we’re gonna use this piece of hardware, and then this is how we’re gonna measure if it actually is beneficial”? What could you share with kind of some of those steps?

Mark Gröb: So I think I can share that, you know, over the last four years, my groups built the practice around that. So the idea of the best solutions I always say are somebody that’s in the field, boots on the ground, right? So you know, it took some time, but now we have the tech in place, the business process, the culture where somebody that has an idea can say, “Okay, hey, I wanna do this. You know, I wanna create a simulation to prevent people picking up some hazardous material in a broken package,” right? I would almost say a business process where we teach them about, I would almost describe it like game development 101, or sort of how to express your technical requirements to a technical vendor so they could develop it, right? Those are the things we actually had to put in place. Every organization, believe it or not, has very creative people in there that if it was up to them, they would do it themselves, right? So creating the processes to help them sort of vent or express what it is they want to do, it’s very important. So that’s generally it. You know, someone has an idea, generally, they would either go to like some of our events. We do roadshow type of stuff internally inside the company, or you know, they have an idea, it bubbles up to top level management and Alp, or used to be one, or you know, Joe or somebody else, even Carol, they’ll say, “Oh, you wanna do something in VR or AR? Okay, there’s this group. Send an email to these guys.” Or we have a Teams channel, right, where people can, you know, through exploring SharePoint sites, right? They can find us and they can kick off a process. But that took time to figure that out, right? Kind of reiterate, right? One cool thing about UPS is typically we do things and they’re well thought out, they’re not impulsive. So you know, and where you ask, it’s all part of that process.

Brad Scoggin: Mm-hm, I love that. I love that there’s the freedom for people to be creative, and then there’s channels and there’s outlets for that. I think that’s really, really cool. What can you tell us about just some of the different use cases of VR today at UPS?

Mark Gröb: So around VR-

Will Stackable: And I’d love to hear- Sorry, I’d love to hear too

Mark Gröb: Go ahead.

Will Stackable: if there’s any particular success story you’ve got. And if you wanted to zoom in on, I’d love to hear a few of the different ones, but if you’ve got one in particular, maybe that’s already well underway that you could just sort of zoom in on a little bit.

Mark Gröb: So I mean a big success story for us would be obviously, it’s our driver safety. You know, I originally talked about one experience. Right now, that group has 12 experiences in our catalog, right? And that’s all, you know, managed and uploaded to the devices through the MDM, right? The fact that they went from looking at what I would describe as more of a traditional mentor system, where say someone observes them driving to saying, “You know what? There’s time lost there.” And simply saying to ’em, “Hey, if you want to learn or experience this program, this particular curriculum, you know, here’s a VR headset.” And they don’t have to go travel somewhere, sit in a car with somebody and see what they’re doing. Instead they can sort of virtually experience that all themselves. And the cool thing with the tech was we found it’s accelerated. So they didn’t have to do eight hours, they could do two hours, and they’d have the same level of retention and understanding of an eight-hour day, right? So that’s a big deal when you start thinking about time spent.

Brad Scoggin: That’s very cool. So we were at AES recently, and I got to listen to a lot of talks, and one thing that came up a number of times that I thought was really interesting in talking about the ROI, there were several companies who said, you know, once you, as a company, can really land on the sweet spot, on your sweet spot for XR, and really find where the value is being added, almost the cost of implementation doesn’t matter because the ROI is just so great. Agree with that, disagree with that? I mean, where’s UPS on that spectrum of finding the sweet spot?

Mark Gröb: Well, I would say UPS could probably definitely agree. There’s some areas where I would describe as our trained knowledge workers. So aircraft maintenance because UPS is a big airline, right? You know, cost of the equipment versus the cost of something’s done wrong. It’s a huge difference, right? So the fractions of the cost of that equipment to the prevention that it does, it’s excellent, right? It’s great return on investment. Health and safety, right? The idea of mitigating, you know, injury. Any scenario like that, the equipment pays for itself because it’s preventative. So those are easy ROIs.

Brad Scoggin: Well, I just love that we’re at a place, you know, the whole theme kind of AES was no longer asking the question, “Does XR work,” but, “How to scale XR?” And then there were a lot of conversations like this where lots of different use cases where, I mean, exactly like you said, whether it’s health and safety or whatever, the costs just don’t compare to the benefits. And I think even when you talk about shaving training down from eight hours to two hours with an increased retention. I almost think we’re seeing it play out, but I don’t know that we collectively are really grasping how much that’s gonna impact our ability just to learn, you know, I mean beyond enterprise, even in education, which I think is really, really exciting. And especially I would assume someone who’s been in XR since 1998 to see us getting to this point with really clear ROI and really asking questions that haven’t been asked for a long time. The things have matured enough to get to that point. So maybe tell us, you know, either from UPS or just you personally with where the market’s at today? What are you excited about and what’s kind of what’s ahead?

Mark Gröb: I’m really excited that, you know, it’s not a question of can it be done anymore. It really is exciting that we’re past that. In enterprise, you know, it’s exciting that now it’s a case of why aren’t you doing it? For me, you know, those are the encouraging, the exciting stuff. There’s some other things I’d like to say, but I can’t talk about. But you know, the progression of the technology, the aspects of, yes, the M word, the concept of decentralization, I would say not for nothing. You know, one good thing about COVID was it very quickly allowed business to realize that decentralized workforces, you know, giving your employees tools to be highly productive, they’re all very important. And look at UPS, it progresses and gives your company success. And I think XR as a whole, it’s really exciting. You know, VR, I think we’re at a point where we are almost at a point where it’s stable, there’s a high confidence tool that you can use in the space ’cause that’s something that’s been a bane to XR, sorry, to VR is just the reliance and consistency of the technology. You know, it’s stable now. It’s not is it gonna work? We know it’s gonna work and we can rely on it. So that’s exciting too. VR is exciting, sorry, AR is exciting because we see a lot of initially, you know, the last year or so, a lot of sort of pivots and people are starting to get the idea, “Hey, VR has its value. In the end, what’s the final product gonna be?” I think everybody would say VR and AR in the end, they’re gonna be together because it’s really gonna be just a case of what it is that you’re doing at what time. That’s how the devices’ features are set. It’ll be interesting. The sort of trends in regards to just the technology and knowledge sharing, you know, within the community. The community has grown so much just since 2014. I’m amazed that now universities are offering certificates and majors for the technology, which to me is always a good thing. So there’s a lot of good things going on. You know, my hopes is that the excitement continues and as a community, as a group, things develop.

Brad Scoggin: Yeah, I love that. As we close here, what advice would you give to new adopters? If you were starting today with a deployment, a new fleet of headsets, what would you do differently?

Mark Gröb: Slow down. Get away from the smoke and mirrors as quick as possible, no matter what the technology is, and I think any solutions architect will tell you that. Really, you have to reflect the technology based on your business. You know, get away from the, “We wanna do something cool with this trinket,” and really reflect on, well, “How can this trinket make our business better?” You know, you’re gonna save yourself two years if you get that done right away. The other thing is there’s still risk aversion because there’s businesses out there that thinks that the latest tech coming out, the VR headsets coming out are just like cardboards, they’re not. I’ve had previous business stakeholders within UPS say to me, no, they don’t want to do something. And then I present them with the newer technology, and I’m like, “Hey, wait a second. You guys fixed this, you know?” So technologywise, the tech is a lot better. You know, there’s a lot of us out there that have been making lots of mistakes, and we’ve been learning from those mistakes. So you know, my advice would just be there are groups out there like you guys where they’ve made the mistakes for the business person that, you know, I’m talking to. So the risks of applying the technology are a lot less. You know, there’s a lot of opportunity on the business side for this technology. And my kind of feeling right now is, you know, we’re past the, “Can we do it?” And it really is a question now about, you know, you gotta look at the tech and say, “How can it make our business better?”

Brad Scoggin: Mm-hm. That’s great, that’s super helpful. Okay, last question here, kind of a fun one. So 10 years from now, looking back, what surprises us?

Mark Gröb: Oh, I hate these questions because when I was doing startups, I was notorious for doing bleeding edge. So you know, 10 years from now, barring our words and financials and wars and things like that, my hopes is in 10 years from now, successful business frameworks or technology frameworks related to wearables, XR wearables will be a thing and hopefully relevant. Do I think it’s gonna replace the smartphone? I don’t know. I think VR and specifically XR wearables are gonna become slaves to fashion in 10 years.

Brad Scoggin: Mm-hm.

Mark Gröb: So you’re always gonna have the variety. But from the standpoint of technology management, things of that nature, you know, I think like we have now with smartphones, XR devices are gonna be in the same book, you know, the same thing. Everyone will support it. The metaverse question is iffy. I just say because even in 10 years, there’s a lot of factors that are dependent on the technology to be successful. So you know, maybe there’ll be a 3D web out there, right? Or maybe more open multi-user services out there for gaming, right? Or as we’re seeing cloud collaborative solutions for, you know, interfacing with XR wearables. I think in 10 years, we’ll have something, right? Definitely feel the acceleration of the technologies a lot quicker than it used to be. Back in the late 90s, it was seven years. Now some trends are two years, some trends are five years. So how will it be in 10 years? Ah, it’s a tough one. One thing I would say is probably, I think all businesses speaking from a standpoint of enterprise, there’ll be some level of adoption of the technology, but how they use it, obviously gonna be specific to their business case.

Will Stackable: Before we wrap, I’ve gotta ask, Meta Quest Pro or PICO 4? You don’t have to answer this UPS if you don’t want to.

Mark Gröb: UPS has partnerships with HTC. So my answer is Vive Focus 3 or any future device that might be soon announced. But you know, on a personal note, I mean, I like the technology. Social trolling, not as much. The PICO 4, I really like because of the auto IPM, things of that nature. From a standpoint of, you know, being a business nerd doing deployments, I probably would go for the PICO 4 over the Meta Quest Pro. I think the Meta Quest Pro is a little early, but I’m reserving the decision on that because I haven’t officially evaluated it yet.

Will Stackable: I had to ask current event, but, well, speaking of HTC ’cause we work closely with them, we’ve even worked with them to develop a batch configuration option for large deployments. Could you talk a little bit about, yeah, what is your experience working with them on enterprise deployments and what do you like about the headset?

Mark Gröb: I mean, you know, UPS gave them the designs, I would say requirements of the Vive Focus 3 in 2018. We basically said, “Look, if there was a device for VR training that we’d want, what are the characteristics?” What you’re seeing in the Vive Focus 3 is what they were. The ability to deploy with their methods, you know, I would say right now it’s pretty standard in the sense of they’re not smart devices, in this instance, smartphones, so they don’t have their own data service. So the method of how to deploy is pretty similar to everybody else. I would actually say what you guys offer is more a preference because it’s more intuitive and it’s a better experience than kind of the way they’ve currently have it going. But you know, we’re very happy with the batch processes that they have now since now things are more generic. The reliability, you know, the ability to know, “Okay, the boot image that I’ve got on this system, it’s gonna work every time.” It’s there now. I mean, two years ago, it was sketchy, especially with the Vive Focus Plus. But the Vive Focus 3, after three or four firmware updates, you know, like running 514 or above, it’s been pretty consistent. So it’s been a good experience. And you know, going back to the whole scalpel reliance of a tool question, right? You know, we can rely on it now compared to previous things, where it was sketch. My hopes is obviously, you know, they get more resources and more support. There’s a lot of features, we’ve talked about firmware over wifi sort of updating and things like that, I’d love to see. Other things, you know, things like better tools for the virtual classroom. Things like instructor’s ability to see multi-client screen grabs or streaming is huge because for the last three years, our VR instructors in a lot of these institutions have been asking for that. And I would love to see like a really stable solution that’s not like a borderline spyware by a provider. You know, those are the things that I’m hoping. In the sense of Vive and things like that, you know, Vive’s come a long way, VIVEPORT’s come a long way. So you know, it’s definitely a better experience, but my hopes is there’s continued improvement.

Brad Scoggin: Love that. It is nice to have stability and to be asking new forward-looking questions.

Mark Gröb: Key thing when it comes to enterprise.

Brad Scoggin: Yeah.

Mark Gröb: Business isn’t gonna sign up for jankiness.

Brad Scoggin: No, no, no.

Mark Gröb: They want stability,

Will Stackable: Maybe it works fine for a pilot project, but when you go to start scaling up, if you’re on the line and when something goes wrong, you don’t want-

Mark Gröb: Side loading is not fun. Not fun.

Brad Scoggin: No, that is truth right there. Side loading is not fun.

Mark Gröb: I need a T-shirt that says that, “Side loading’s not fun.”

Brad Scoggin: Well, Mark, it has been great chatting with you today. We really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to come and answer some questions and share what UPS is up to. It’s exciting to see UPS in a leadership position in this new technology, and exciting to see what you’ve been able to do there.

Mark Gröb: It’s my pleasure. I really appreciate the time, guys.

Brad Scoggin: And people can find you on LinkedIn. Mark Grob, G-R-O-B, and we appreciate it.

Mark Gröb: Not a problem, and they can also attend, I co-chair the VRAR Association’s Enterprise Forum. So they’re always welcome, you know, feel free. As a community, I’m here to support anytime.

Brad Scoggin: Well, I have to say, the thing I’m most surprised about from that episode is that Mark was not wearing brown shorts. I would’ve bet a lot of money that he was. But honestly, I think interviews like that are what the industry needs to hear. You got a company that I think most think of as a brown truck delivering packages. It’s 100-year-old-plus company, but the reality is they’re on the cutting edge of technology. They’ve been testing and proving out XR for years, and seeing results like eight hours of training down to two, no truck, no trainer, increased retention rate. Very, very impressive.

Will Stackable: It really is, and you know, going into a recession, potentially seeing companies that are actually ramping their spending on XR because it’s been proven out, they’ve done it in pilot projects, and it saved them so much time and money that they’re now ramping. I think it’s exciting and it’s a good sign for the industry. So thanks for listening, everybody. If you want to find us, check us out on arborxr.com/podcast, and we’ve got show notes and a lot of great links there. And you can find us wherever you like to listen to podcasts. Thanks for listening.

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