Immersive Virtual Reality Training Technology & VR Content with Tom Symonds of Immerse

In this edition of the UpTech Report, we connect with Tom Symonds, to talk about building a VR training simulator on his platform — Immerse.

It’s clear that virtual reality training is going to be one of the top ways employees are made job-ready in the future with companies such as Walmart already plowing full-steam ahead. If done correctly, VR training can actually be even more beneficial than traditional methods! However, it’s not just retail that can benefit.

Symonds walks host Alexander Ferguson through his personal journey of launching a VR training company and explains how he has seen this field change dramatically over time. What started as an idea surrounding language learning has now expanded into equipment training in the oil & gas industry, aviation instruction, and even surgery, just to name a few exciting use cases.

Instead of training in real-life dangerous environments, job seekers can now prepare themselves for their roles in a risk-free, virtual setting. The epic training experiences created on the Immerse Platform are fun, engaging, and most importantly, extremely effective.

Tom Symonds has gained a reputation for innovation and the creation of disruptive business models following 8 years at GE Capital and 12 years at leading internet businesses. He led Sky through the dotcom fall out, establishing it as one of the major internet players in the UK.

Tom has since worked with start-up businesses within the field of e-Learning, using his extensive expertise to leverage technology in order to address key business needs.

Immerse is a global virtual reality technology company that has developed the Immerse Platform. Built for enterprise from the ground up, the Immerse Platform enables companies to create, scale and measure virtual reality training.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience

Tom Symonds 0:00
But what we really want to be able to do is go to, you know, the small developer and say, Look, you haven’t got the platform. But why don’t you use us? You know, and then we can we can collaborate.

Alexander Ferguson 0:19
Welcome to UpTech Report. This is our applied tech series. UpTech Report is sponsored by terribly learn how to leverage the power of video at Today, I’m excited to be joined by my guest, Tom Symonds, who’s based in London, England. He’s the CEO at Immerse. Welcome, Tom, good to have you on.

Tom Symonds 0:36
Great pleasure to be here. And you know, what I am speaking to you from New York City today, which is very exciting. Because I’ve been waiting 20 months to get back into your fine country. So it’s a big moment here.

Alexander Ferguson 0:53
Not not only virtually but your, your presence on the soil of the US. But what’s interesting, and which we’ll dig into, is, maybe not always having to be present, because immerse you guys are an enterprise VR company, VR is is one of my own particular passions. So I love talking about whatever I can. Let’s start off though, tell me the problem that you initially saw in the marketplace and still see today.

Tom Symonds 1:22
The reason why I came into this business was that I saw that in the field of learning, there was a pretty miserable use of technology. And I thought, this space needs shaking up, disrupting. And I thought that if I could bring to bear immersive tech, into this space, with some solutions, I could potentially change things. Now. 10 years ago, there was VR, but it was the kind of VR that existed in labs. And in the defense industry, there was no consumer VR, then. But that was my kind of thinking that there’s a real need to deliver engagement that is online, that makes you lean forward into your laptop, rather than lean back, gaze out the window, look at your watch, do something else at the same time. And so that, that that was kind of the faces. And so the problem, if you like, as I saw, it was lack of engagement. That was fundamentally the problem. And this ability to really engage virtually in a meaningful way.

Alexander Ferguson 2:48
VR is, is a tool, but it’s like coming back to that root problem. Okay, how do you how do you get someone to engage more with training or other elements, and there’s been different approaches to it. But we’ll we’ll dig into how you guys are solving that in a moment. But I’m also always curious of the journey of folks of how you get to where you where you are, can you maybe just take us back? Have you been in technology? I feel like you’ve been a lot a couple different industries and roles over time. What’s your personal journey?

Tom Symonds 3:17
Yeah, well, I was, I guess, in the 90s, I was working for what was then the mighty General Electric, when it was being run by Jack Welsh. So learn a lot of my kind of business training from from that company, and then shifted, because that was in 2000. Because the internet was just, you know, coming into sort of public consciousness, I would say, and I thought, well, this is a great moment to jump into that space. And I was fortunate enough to work for Sky, you know, a day was in a party owned subsidiary of news Corps. And spy had a great reputation for innovating, using digital technology and a really clever, exciting way. And so, you know, I ended up running, you know, most of the web business there running websites, launching digital services. And that’s where I developed my kind of love of digital technology, and the love of innovating,

Alexander Ferguson 4:25
I guess, because that whole combination of the technology but also so capturing people’s interest and awareness, because you’re on the marketing sales side of trying to capture people.

Tom Symonds 4:34
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that’s a Yeah, it’s a good point. I think. You know, I think it’s very true for for what immerses today there is incredible technology in our solution, but fundamentally, it’s about solving company’s problems. And some people you speak to really want to get into the weeds and understand, you know, how it all fits together. But many, don’t. They They want to say, Well, can you help me? You know, with this changing working environment? I’ve got everyone working from home. How can you help me solve that problem and that that’s what interests me.

Alexander Ferguson 5:13
So you go from GE in the 90s, and 2000, interest footballing up. So you join sky? And after that you were there for six years, is that right?

Tom Symonds 5:22
That’s right. And then I then I went into another digital media business that Metro, pre newspapers around the world, and that was building a whole digital strategy for them. And then I kind of thought, Oh, my God, oh, to try my hand at this entrepreneurial startup thing. Sounds fun. How hard can it be this? And of course, I got the answer. Pretty quickly. Pretty hard,

Alexander Ferguson 5:52
complex financial technologies. Is that what you launched?

Tom Symonds 5:55
Yeah, that’s right. It was a fintech. It was a very cool, brilliant idea. Which another US company called mint, we were doing something very similar. At the same time, men raised a lot more money than than we did. And yeah, I, I don’t want to talk about it, because it just makes me sad on this call. But I learned a lot. And there’s always those kind of painful experiences. You know, that’s, in many ways, that’s when you learn the most. And I was very green, going into the startup space. How is naive in many senses? I’ve never raised money before. I’ve never really taken, you know, an innovative new product to market, certainly not with a tiny marketing budget. So, yeah, that was

Alexander Ferguson 6:47
like, if you have one lesson learned there, because we have a lot of entrepreneurs and other founders that are listening to this series. And honestly, it’s the things that don’t go right, that you learn the most, and other people can learn from too. So if you have like one lesson there, that you’ve kind of stuck with you, what would be one wanted,

Tom Symonds 7:04
I think one of them would be fail quickly and move on. Don’t, you know, don’t try and boil the ocean, you know, just get some stuff out there, test it. If it doesn’t work, then move on fast. I think that’s a very key point. The boiling the ocean thing is, is a tendency that some early stage companies have and you know, I think that’s to be avoided. At all costs. I think you’ve got to, you’ve got to generate traction momentum, even if it’s for a subset of the total proposition.

Alexander Ferguson 7:41
So you go, you go from from from that endeavor that that launch and getting your feet wet. And and then you go, I think to other things, you wise and customer, Bryce?

Tom Symonds 7:50
Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. And then I think I was thinking, you know, you sort of reached that moment where you think, Well, you know, cool, Black Swans are was a failure. It didn’t, it didn’t work. Do you? Say, Okay, well, at least I tried it, I’m going to go back into cozy corporate world? Or do I say, No, I’m going to give this another go. Because I want to prove to myself that I can be a successful entrepreneur. And so I, you know, and I think this is probably what many people do, they think, no, I’m going to give this another go. Because I, there’s something about it, even though you feel a bit like a masochist? You know, you’re thinking do I really get, you know, in those early stages of being an entrepreneur, you don’t make any money. I mean, you take a tiny salary out of the business. And, and it becomes very personal. You know, it gets to a point where it really defines you in, in many ways, I would say. And so I, I was then beginning to look at this learning education space. And it was clear, and this was at a time when there was no such thing as edtech, you know, as a term that didn’t exist. This was probably 12 years ago, I would say, as I was doing, you know, researching the space, I came across, immerse when it was called something else, when it was a, it was a language learning play on Second Life. And I thought, Oh, wow, this is a bit different. And it was really trying to prove that you can teach languages remotely. So your, you know, a good example would be you’re a Saudi housewife who wants to learn English, but your husband won’t allow you to go to England for two months. Not surprisingly. But He would allow you to go online, be an avatar on Second Life, and be taught by another person represented by an avatar, who was a, let’s say, an, you know, an American English teacher.

Unknown Speaker 10:16
And so

Tom Symonds 10:18
it was, and I thought, Okay, this is this is genuinely innovative as it was one of the only things I saw that was really trying to move the dial. And then I got to know the founder, and I began to sort of give him some advice. And then he said to me, after about six months, do you want to take this business on and run it? And I thought, well, yeah, I’m gonna give it a go. Because the central idea of marrying gaming technology, with learning or live learning, was a brilliant idea. It was a brilliant idea. And to be honest with you, much of what we are trying to deliver for our customers today is that it is the marriage of immersive tech in a way that is relevant with specific, you know, business objectives. Now, second life was a really super clunky user experience, you needed to be really patient to engage with it, lots of, you know, different keystrokes. And I mean, it was it was no thing but intuitive. If you are willing to get into it and actually get into that live experience, it was yeah, it was good. So that’s kind of what year was that? Well, that was that was 10 years ago.

Alexander Ferguson 11:57
I mean, yeah, that was 211 Doesn’t Wow. Yeah, yeah. timeframe. So you see the potential like, okay, marrying the game world, I remember Second Life. And it was it made headlines, because the concept, but it’s an excellent point, that it’s just was hard to get past it, that interface on how to use it. And and you say, you see the potential? So you, you say, Yeah, I’ll I’ll lead this. And so that begins, in some ways, the journey helped me walk through what happened from there.

Tom Symonds 12:25
Yeah. So. So once I was made the CEO, the first thing I did was pivot to be to be, I said, Look, unless we raised a lot of money, we are not going to become, you know, Rosetta Stone, for example. We need to focus on an enterprise proposition. And I think we should focus on two sectors, we should focus on oil and gas, and we should focus on aviation. And so we created this,

Alexander Ferguson 13:02
how did you get will come up with those two, because

Tom Symonds 13:05
oil and gas you have the the operating areas for those businesses typically a remote difficult to get sort of get people to travel in and out. So your your offshore or your some oil field in an inhospitable place, international workforces, so a real need to be able to communicate effectively in English. And then obviously, aviation, you know, there was a, you know, a use of simulation that has gone back many, many years, and a need to communicate again, clearly in English or pilot communicating with someone in the control tower, for example. And so that was, that was my thinking. And then the challenge was, okay, well, we need to find a client to be able to prove that this was a good idea. And then there was a business owner, to be friend, and I was already talking to potential investors. And they said, Yeah, Tom, we, you know, we like the concept. If you can win a client, then, you know, we may put some money in the business, but you know, we’re not going to put money into your, you know, fancy pipe dream, you’ve got to, you’ve got to prove that someone is going to spend some money to buy this solution. And so, that was kind of where we got to, and then within probably three or four months of kind of honing the proposition creating a curriculum, identifying teachers, all that stuff, and building on Second Life, a really slightly sort of babyish version of an oil refinery. I mean, it would make me wins if I saw that again today compared to what we’re doing today, which is a level of sophistication, far removed, but the idea was that it was learning in context. And so long story short, we won Chevron as a client, they had, and this was their JV and Kazakhstan, TCO. And they, they’re all fields are in extremely inhospitable places, the tank is all filled in western Kazakhstan, very difficult to bring in, you know, an English trainer, there’s a there’s a cost, you know, to bring in an English trainer, and then and then there’s, you know, there’s a calculation, well, we really want to pay an English teacher to come in, we’d rather have, you know, the engineers, for the people who are extracting the oil, obviously. So there was a compelling need to find a virtual solution that would allow an English teacher to be connected with a Kazakh drilling engineer, in real time, but remotely. And of course, you know, a possibility might have been some sort of Skype video based, you know, this is obviously the year of presume. Or maybe this slightly funny sounding language lab, guys, they using avatars and gaming. And anyway, long story short, we convinced them to run a pilot. And the pilot went really well, we had great feedback from the Kazakh drilling engineers. And, you know, there was, as there always is, with business, it’s all about the timing, the price of oil was climbing to above $100. Chevron saw a need to really emphasize language training, because they thought, well, these Kazakhs are brilliant engineers, but they have quite poor English, if we could get their English to a better level, then we could put perhaps take the Kazakh and put him in, you know, the Gulf of Mexico, for example. So for a period of, I would say about a year, suddenly, language learning within TCO became a hot topic. And we were we were in the right place at the right time. And then, you know, we want a much bigger contract. And of course, that was allowed me to raise more money and my investors were thinking, Okay, we made a smart decision here. Maybe Tom was right about this immersive tech meets learning. And so that was all going really, really well

Alexander Ferguson 17:58
versed at this time, as well.

Tom Symonds 18:01
We, we had would we, we were leaving language lab to become involves erotica.

Alexander Ferguson 18:10
There’s no VR yet. It’s the idea of of being in a immersive reality just through a screen there obviously connecting to their computers. And then still, but it’s a two way talk. Because it’s it’s a live chat

Tom Symonds 18:20
live. It’s it’s a live voice.

Alexander Ferguson 18:26
But with an avatar.

Tom Symonds 18:28
Correct. And so kind of kind of cool. And I think for for a moment, we were thinking, well, maybe there maybe we just stick to languages. And if because if we can win these big contracts with Chevron in Kazakhstan, then we can maybe get into Chevron in the Gulf. And you know, that that was the thinking. Looking good on paper, suddenly, the price of oil crashes to $25 a barrel. Not quite so good. So, so that was Yeah, I mean, again, these things happen, you know, you and it’s really in those moments. They’re kind of define you, as an entrepreneur, as a team, can you survive, you know, effectively losing your only customer?

Alexander Ferguson 19:22
Because the team at this point?

Tom Symonds 19:24
Probably 14 people, okay, can we, you know, when we were when we won the contracts, that’s a significant wins in dollar terms. And so we were thinking, you know, as you would you’re thinking, well, we’re going to scale up here, this is great. And then suddenly, oh, no, we’ve got a, you know, pare down by an investor’s then getting quite nervous thinking, maybe this is not such a good idea. And so it was, it was really around Last time that we were thinking, you know, because we we’d come off, we were just coming off second life at that time, onto our own platform. Okay, there, we had a platform, a 2d platform, again, this is pre VR, but we had a 2d platform that could deliver this multi user experience. So you can have multiple people as avatars in a space. And so lots of sort of accelerated thinking around, okay, we need to be a training platform, you know, just trying to be a languages, you know, we’re, we’re going from a sort of small training budget, which is a tiny percentage of overall training for health and safety, whatever it might be. So that was kind of 2015. And then, you know, think we were not in good shape as a business. But we were really teetering on the edge invest, I couldn’t raise money, because we just be was a well, yeah, I like the idea. But you know, where’s the revenue was, was going down, not up. And that’s part of the challenge of always, certainly raising money in Europe, you are very much judged on, you know, the revenue. And there’s a slightly different view, I would say, from what you might encounter, you know, in the US or on the west coast. So that’s, that’s the reality, you have to deal with. What you do next, and what that is like, Oh, my goodness, this is where we’re heading into the wall there.

Unknown Speaker 21:34

Tom Symonds 21:36
arrives on the scene, you know, the rift came out, I think, sort of end of 2015. And I said to my team, Look, why don’t we see whether we can incorporate the rift into our proposition and create something that’s truly 3d, truly an immersive experience? And then see whether we can pivot and sell that as the proposition. But you know, by that time, we were in very poor shape financially, and, you know, close to going on that, right Long story short, because I’ve got some brilliant engineers on the team, a brilliant co founder, in Justin, we were able to integrate VR, and then we were also able to win a first VR based client in GlaxoSmithKline. And it was, how can I use VR to disassemble a pill press? So rather than me, you know, classic? How is training delivered today? Or has been for 20 years? It’s a mix of classroom and elearning mainly, how could we show how VR could be used to really transform training? So winning that contract was, I suppose in many ways, what saved the company?

Alexander Ferguson 23:17
2015 2016 2016.

Tom Symonds 23:19
So that was the the first few months of 2016

Alexander Ferguson 23:24
Okay, okay, so you so comes out, you see the opportunity, you were able to pivot you, if anything, a testament to your your salesman ability to to explain the idea, get the contract 2016, and then you now focus fully on VR, of

Tom Symonds 23:40
course, of course. We thought, wow, this is this is not just, you know, 2d avatar, kind of cool, kind of this is, this really is the transformative tech, particularly for learning. And so the challenge, then was to, you know, build the capability, build out the platform, win more clients. But, you know, if I’m honest with you, you know, we had within the first three months, we have this multiplayer VR platform, you could have seven or eight people in VR, simultaneously. But we were way, way too early way too, you know, no, you know, it trying to find an enterprise or number of enterprises that were willing to put their foot in the water was super hard. I mean, it’s not that easy today, six years on, but back then. Oh, wow. It’s a tough sell. Really, really tough sell. You know, you could always you always knew that if you could persuade someone to come to the office.

Unknown Speaker 24:52
Put on the headset. They will always

Tom Symonds 24:57
when they can only took the headset off and then they went Oh my god, that is amazing. You know, get it,

Alexander Ferguson 25:03
they get trying to communicate verbally or written whatever the concept of VR and the power of it is, doesn’t quite work. It’s only when you’re immersed in it, that the differences,

Tom Symonds 25:15
right, and I think, you know, I could count on one hand, I mean, literally one hand over the last six years that people who’ve who have been underwhelmed, I mean, everyone comes out thinking, Okay, I see what you mean, this is, yeah. So that’s great. But then it’s well, how do I, how do we implement this in our organization? And so the kind of the how bit is really where we’ve been focused. So how can we move, you know, a client who, for whom you build a proof of concept, you know, that’s typically anything between two and six months to build some some kind of small subset that illustrates how we could potentially solve a problem. So as part of a training program,

Alexander Ferguson 26:18
so your your route for doing this is creating a simple pilot of a small piece of the training that they can experience and see, and then you can build up from there.

Tom Symonds 26:27
Correct? And so if so, imagine your shell. And you’re thinking, poker, yeah, this this technology looks like it’s interesting, it looks like, you know, you can simulate different experiences, you can, with this platform, show, how will you how you can deliver a training experience where the trainer does not need to be in the same place as the train. That’s a, that’s a big thing. But if you’re shell, or indie with any big enterprise, you’re gonna say, Well, who are these immerse, guys, I’ve never heard of them before. You know, they look tiny. That’s, you know, look at their financials, all. They look like, they’re about to go out of business any minute, you know, like many early stage businesses, so to try and convince them, that you are worthy, if you like, of being able to work with them, that you can understand their industry understand their challenges, and that your technology does what you say it can do. That’s not a quick process, believe me.

Alexander Ferguson 27:43
Versus and that’s really what your focus on your role is to to make these types of conversations happen.

Tom Symonds 27:50
Yeah, it is what it was in certainly, for those first sort of three or four years, it was me in and now I now obviously got a really good team of people that are beginning to do that. themselves. But there is there is certainly an element as virtual as our technology is, you know, in a, in an enterprise solution cell, there, there is still no substitute for, you know, getting on a plane or you know, train or whatever it is to travel to see the prospect and look them in the eye and talk to them. And, you know, that is part of the of the selling process. So we, with all the amazing blue chip clients, we have that there is a there’s a human element to it. It’s a small part, but it’s a very important part. And of course that, you know, when we think about the pandemic, you know, with me, and my team not being able to get in front of people for 20 months, that doesn’t make it hard. You know, there’s a harder

Alexander Ferguson 28:58
selling, selling during COVID. It has its own challenges right there and marketing outwards. But it did you see any uptick or interest increased interest in virtual solutions? So VR solutions,

Tom Symonds 29:11
of course, because I think everyone you know, everyone is suffering from zoom fatigue ever. No one really is gonna say, oh, no, I want to do I want to run my whole business life on Zoom. Most certainly most people who might be in a potentially customer facing sales, marketing, maybe product development role, where there’s some interaction is not going to want to do everything on Zoom, or other people, you know, a lot of my development team are quite happy working remotely because I don’t need to have a huge amount of I would say not not face to face. So I think what we see is that clients saying, well, the world of work is definitely evolving, it’s never going to go back to exactly as it was, I think we’ve given people a taste of what virtual is like. And there’s some really good elements to working virtually, as we’ve all discovered, you know, a bit more kind of work life balance, which is a great thing.

Alexander Ferguson 30:29
I wonder if a lot of people are expecting now as far as employees and team members that to have that same freedom for that to stay and exist?

Tom Symonds 30:36
Yeah, I think I think that the expectations are the, my company needs to evolve. And they need to be offering me different ways of engaging, virtually. Now, some of that were, one of the things I think we’re good at now at immersive is being playing the role of trusted advisor with our clients. Maybe in the early years, where we were desperate to win money and generate revenue, we would have said yes to anything. Oh, you want to build it? Yeah, of course, of course, we can do to great idea. Now, I think because we’re more expert, and more, more confident the company is growing faster. For example, if someone said, I want to use your platform to run meetings, I would say, I don’t think that’s a great idea. I think you just want meetings, sticking on a headset for meetings is not a good idea. That is not a good use of this incredible technology, you might want to

Alexander Ferguson 31:48
what’s interesting is when we look at said large company that’s changed his name just recently, and their whole push for this metaverse. name in there. They’re actually trying to create these work rooms and where you’ll you’ll go and meet with people. It’s like, there’s these people that are trying it. But it’s a lot of people that have figured out the best use case for for an immersive VR experience. But it’s like you’re trying to play that role of educating where those places are best. Right?

Tom Symonds 32:19
That’s right. Look, I think it’s clearly wonderful that more people are talking about the metaverse or, you know, we’re talking about immersive tech and how things are evolving. That’s clearly clearly a good thing. Because I’m a, I’m a passionate believer in the technology, but applied to the right, you know, problem. And so when we look at our our current client base, and the problems that we are solving, that they’re not about bringing people together in VR headsets, they are about delivering a training, a learning and assessment experience that is valuable, and engaging and effective, where people’s performance can be improved. That’s, that’s what’s exciting. And of course, it’s brilliant to have companies like metta developing incredible hardware. Of course, that is a that is a great thing, because it’s, you know, clearly the investment needs to be significant. So any that kind of the awareness is a great thing. And the investment they’re making in the in the hardware is a great thing.

Alexander Ferguson 33:35
$10 billion dollars in the next year to go towards this. That’s that’s no small chunk. Yeah,

Tom Symonds 33:40
I mean, that’s, you know, that’s not within the, you know, the realms of every every company clearly. So, we’re, you know, we, as a platform, you know, we work with all the main media, I mean, today, there’s probably three main headsets that we would work with. We work with Oculus, we work with HTC, and we work with our Pico, and it’s clearly going to be more manufacturers coming out over the course of the next six to 12 months, because there is a sense that this is not, this is not a throwaway technology, it is going to get to a point where there’s a headset that actually is something that you can just slip in your bag and put on very quickly, without feeling self conscious in a public space. I mean, all that is clearly coming up that’s gonna come in the next year, most likely. Are you

Alexander Ferguson 34:36
do you see for immerse exploring anything in the AR space or strictly focused on VR?

Tom Symonds 34:43
Yeah, look, I think the big thrust of our strategy now now that we have, you know, a bank of amazing blue chip clients like Mars, Nestle shell BP, now that we are you know, the The only VR play in the SAP Store, you know, we’ve got that we’ve established that credibility that this is a proposition that is here to stay and will only get better. What we’re really interested in now is facilitating this content ecosystem using our SDK. And this is where the big pushes, what we’ll continue to build content for are our key clients. But what we really want to be able to do is go to, you know, the small developer and say, Look, you haven’t got the platform. But why don’t you use us, you know, and then we can, we can collaborate around that. So there’s already strong evidence of that. And so we’re, we’ve just launched our new SDK, which sits on top of unity. And the big driver of that is allowing people to create content quicker, and bring down the cost to their clients. So it’s an SDK that has a lot of existing interaction libraries, it draws on our six years of building solutions of our clients. So it’s taking that intelligence, and then putting at the disposal of, of this developer community. And so we’ve already got 10, developer companies that are creating content. And so what we’re what we’re really excited about, over the next sort of six months is building a library of existing content. And we see that as being a potential game changer, because the biggest barrier to the growth of of enterprise VR is really the cost is the cost of creating the content. And we think that if we can go out there with a library of content, and so for example, if you’re working in, you know, a manufacturing business, there’s a certain suite of health and safety related programs that you will have to do, you’ll have to do, for example, working at heights. Now, working at heights is probably 80%. The same across most businesses, there will be local flavors, local processes, procedures may be that are geographically related. But on the whole, there’s a, there’s a core, that’s insane. And so we think that if we can offer an off the shelf experience, at a minimum, to get people to try it and say, Come on, don’t be scared, you know, this is just a least experience it but in the hands of some of your employees, we can, we can start the dialogue. So the creation of the library with our content upon the companies we see as a really big step forward, because it lowers significantly the cost of entry.

Alexander Ferguson 37:58
It’s definitely multiple lines of business model that allows you to do not just the content creation for you know, one particular enterprise, you the fact that you now have this distribution method as well, and then coupling with your new SDK, others can develop and use your distribution method. And then you creating a library content made by you or others. Yeah, that just kind of levels up the, the, the options, and it’s like, when there are more options, there’s that increases the the making the push for the enterprise say, Yeah, okay, well, let’s make an investment in the hardware side, because there’s, it’s much easier now to get the content side. Yeah, and

Tom Symonds 38:35
I think that’s why the distribution is a very key point, because everything that we build, or our apartments Bill, can be delivered simultaneously to a headset, to a mobile device, or a PC or laptop. So, for example, you know, let’s say we’re doing a bit of health and safety training for an offshore application, you could be in the headset, I could be coming in as we’re doing today, through our, you know, computers, we can, we’ve got real time voice, I can see everything that you’re doing. I don’t need necessarily need to be in the headset myself. And I am so that allows, you know, something that is much more accessible because at the moment as we know, not everyone’s got a VR headset, in fact, very few people have. So what we’re trying to do with our clients who say, Look, you know, don’t stress about having to order 5000 headsets, you can have much less than that you can have the person who is being trained or assessed in the headset, where it’s important that they truly are in the 3d environment. But you as a trainer or as an assessor, you don’t need to be in the headset. You can see you you can by the way, record the experience in VR, you can play it back You can analyze it. I mean, the platform is extremely sophisticated. And as I said, you know, back six years ago, ahead of its time, you know, we had a lot of this stuff in place when people were, you know, barely ready to get going. Now, we’re thinking, and our clients are thinking, Hmm, I really liked the way that you can record that experience of someone in VR, it can be played back in VR, or through the laptop, I can annotate where someone’s doing something wrong, I can share it, I can keep it as a file. From an audit perspective, these things are like, super sophisticated, and, okay, we were a bit too soon. But now, our clients are thinking, that’s really useful, I can see, I can see the value in the platform.

Alexander Ferguson 40:54
How big is the team today?

Tom Symonds 40:56
We’re about 45 people, mainly based in the UK, we have some remote working. But I think, you know, our scale will come from the partner ecosystem, you know, some of some of the partners that we work with are creating content for us. So I don’t expect, you know, we’re not going to be hiring another 100. Developers, we don’t need to, because there are, they’re assuming, bigger from the

Alexander Ferguson 41:27
net. Yeah, that’s

Tom Symonds 41:28
right, I think it’s about this is sort of trying to build this network effect. And there is amazing content being created. Around the world, we, we have within this new emerging partner ecosystem, you know, we have an incredible content company that’s based in Peru,

Unknown Speaker 41:48
for example.

Tom Symonds 41:50
So that’s really exciting, you know, really, really exciting. It’s empowering those companies, you know, through our SDK through our platform, to help them build their own business with their own clients. That’s, that’s what is really energizing us about, you know, the next sort of five years,

Alexander Ferguson 42:10
with this platform and distribution SDK, are you seeing not only serving enterprise companies now being able to serve midmarket? Or or other?

Tom Symonds 42:20
Yeah, I think, you know, that certain companies have not been able to move forward. Because often, you know, a proof of concept, you know, can probably cost anything between maybe 60 $70,000, up to a quarter, half a million. It’s a lot of money, some companies, you know, can afford that, but most can’t. And so, with the emergence of the library, you know, where you can say, you know, let’s say I can buy 100 confined space entry licenses for in the low 1000s. You know, that is what is going to unlock the kind of the mid market and below, so that that’s where we see significant growth coming from certainly,

Alexander Ferguson 43:11
I want to kind of land here for the benefit of the conversation is it’s the future. What do you see the future in like two to three years from now? What is immersive VR training and experiences? What is it gonna look like?

Tom Symonds 43:27
Well, I, the one of the things that excites me the most is choice, you know, it’s giving customers small, medium, big fortune 500 The choice to implement XR content in whatever way they think makes sense. And it’s, it’s kind of empowering that growth in the market. So you can deploy in a way that is adapted to your particular company’s needs. That’s what I want immersed to be the hub of that, that’s what we’re, we’re driving for. We’re all about empowering our clients by giving them the choice, you know, if they want to use our premium content, creation of our brilliant team of people in the UK, great. They might want to use their own preferred content creator or they might say no, actually, I’m I want to use a bit of that off the shelf and then I might want to adapt it that is the right way to to proceed in in our opinion.

Alexander Ferguson 44:40
Noise is gonna make the difference is good. It’s

Tom Symonds 44:42
I’m yeah, I’m always gonna champion choice. I don’t I think that kind of walled garden approach, you know, the way you try and own everything, be okay might work in some senses, but I don’t think that’s anything that’s really the right thing to be proposing. In a space that is moving so fast, why do I want to be wedded to one particular company from my platform for my content? Just, it doesn’t make sense. And I think the other thing, you know, we talk about the future, clearly, you know, a lot of it is related to, well, what is the device, I’m going to put my head, you know, who knows who’s gonna win that battle? Is there going to be one winner, or you can see multiple different types of device, you know, that there will be more and more people coming onto the scene, as we all know, Apple are, you know, going to be bringing something out next year, Apple don’t tend to launch bad products, you know, it’s going to be, clearly it will be a device. That is That looks great. That’s intuitive. So that’s really exciting. We see that as a real engine of, you know, further driving, you know, awareness of what these kind of augmented technologies can can deliver. So, ya know, the future is the future is truly bright. I would say

Alexander Ferguson 46:13
it’s coming. I love that you saw the future a long time ago, Second Life. And then and then you start to, to push into VR, still very early. And in some ways, we are early, but not that early anymore. It’s almost like we’re getting from the innovators to some case made the early majority could quickly say that we ever cross the chasm. Now we’ve got the early majority,

Tom Symonds 46:38
we’ve definitely crossed the chasm, because I think the types of the evolution within our existing clients is proof of concept. Big box ticked, we don’t need to debate whether it be as good for training and assessment, it obviously is because of the way engages. So now it’s how do we deploy it? And that that’s

Alexander Ferguson 47:01
a better question to dig into how instead of, should we?

Tom Symonds 47:06
Yeah, not much better. As I said to you at the beginning, it’s like, you know, when you’re trying to convince shell, when you’re a tiny company, to use this new technology, that’s only been out for a year, that’s like super hard, super, super hard. Whereas now it’s a it’s a totally different discussion.

Alexander Ferguson 47:26
Totally different space. Well, I really enjoyed our conversation, Tom, for those that maybe you’re a developer that has wanted to create something and can use the new SDK, if you’re definitely enterprise is a platform you want to check out or if you’re just an individual and training, you’re trying to keep your eyes open. This space is definitely evolving. If you want to learn more, then you can head over to That’s Thank you so much, Tom, thanks for joining us.

Tom Symonds 47:53
Right. Well, thank you very much. I love the chat. Nice to do a bit of reminiscing, but also talking about the future. So thank you.

Alexander Ferguson 48:00
We’ll see you all on the next episode of UpTech Report. Have you seen a company using AI machine learning or other technology to transform the way we live, work and do business? Go to UpTech and let us know


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