I was recently invited to speak at the Internet Dating Conference in Miami about Augmented and Virtual Reality and their effect on the dating industry, so I thought I would share my views on how the Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality and their applications can change our lives.
IN THE FUTURE, WE WILL LIVE IN MIXED REALITY
Futurists predict that we will live in mixed reality with robots and virtual creatures existing alongside us and interacting with us. Hollywood keeps actively pursuing these ideas in such movies as Lawnmower Man, Matrix, I Robot, Surrogates, Minority Report, Avatar, and many others. We will also communicate and interact with real people like us in the virtual, fully artificial and computer-generated, worlds. Philip Rosedale’s High Fidelity or the first “VR sociable network” vTime would be good examples. HBO just issued a new series about Mixed Reality named Westworld where real people ("guests") can travel to a simulated world and live and interact with programmed androids ("hosts"). I am sure there is much more to that than we could see in the first season, so we will have to wait for the new seasons.
I haven’t seen any companies which would allow you to interact with your friends in the virtual reality world while looking exactly as you are (not your computer avatar) yet, but I am sure there are teams working on this already. Some people including scientists, philosophers and investors (among them is Elon Musk) think that we might already be living in a simulation. Mixed and Augmented Reality companies Magic Leap and Meta are working to make the wildest dreams of any futurist come true.
By now, everybody in the industry knows the expected market size – $150 B for AR/VR market by 2022 with the exponential growth starting in 2019. Today, Angel.co lists 1,104 VR companies and 752 AR companies. Facebook, Apple, Microsoft all have divisions who work on VR/AR/MR applications and products. There is no doubt that these technologies created by large and small companies will shape the future of humanity. We may, as well, end up having no computers, no phones, no TV sets, no radios, no photo cameras – no devices at all, except for maybe just a pair of contact lenses, through which we would be able to communicate with the external world. This may happen sooner than anyone would expect.
Leap Motion allows you to interact with virtual and augmented environments by touching the objects, moving them, playing with them. They already have the technology that allows you to see your 3D-modeled hands in virtual reality and this may be the first step towards “real” virtual reality. Microsoft has demonstrated its Holoportation technology which allows people to virtually (and very realistically to the others) be present at any place anywhere in the world. In this case, “the world” is not limited to the Earth, but can be any other place anywhere in the Universe. Our world will literally have no physical borders anymore: you wouldn’t need to take time to fly, drive or go anywhere, you will be able to “get” to the point of your destination in seconds. We will be able to “live” in any place on Earth, other planets or even in our own created world. If this all turns true, why would you want to own a car, go on a date or travel when you can have it all in your own surprisingly real virtual world with no effort? Scary and exciting, isn’t it? However, this may as well be the world our children and, more than likely, us too, will live in.
Many people already tried virtual reality headsets (Oculus, Samsung Gear VR, Vive and others) and know how VR feels. What they see through these headsets does look very real. When you are riding the virtual rollercoaster you can’t help but fall if the car goes down because your brain doesn’t distinguish between “real” reality and “virtual” reality, even though you consciously realize that you are just standing in the middle of the room wearing the VR headset. And now imagine sitting in your dining room and talking to your cousin who you haven’t seen for 20 years and who lives thousands of miles away from you, – and that cousin sitting next to you is nothing more than a hologram. You can still feel as if she is real, as if she is physically there with you and you can almost touch her but in reality she is still thousands of miles away. By the way, there are companies which work on digitizing senses. One of them, for example, digitizes smells and allows you to add scents to your text messages or books. Obviously, we will turn the whole world into a digital platform – and our own playground – soon and people will be able to feel, touch, smell and see whatever they wish. All this technology will be available at our fingertips and will be so cheap anyone will be able to afford it.
And this is just the beginning. I think no one can fully imagine how different our world will be in just a few years from now. As Neal Stephenson said, it’s becoming more difficult to predict the future because the process of innovation is not concentrated in the hands of large companies anymore, it comes from all over the world. There is obviously a huge technology revolution underway, which changes how people communicate, travel, learn, play, fall in love, spend leisure time, and even though there is no doubt our lives will change forever, it is hard to estimate the real magnitude of this profound change.
So there I was – lying low in the cold muddy water with my nose just 1 inch above for breathing, holding the rifle in my hand and waiting for others to move forward as quickly as possible. Constant screaming and yelling only added more stress while shivering cold made me think I would definitely get sick if I ever survive this. I was crawling in this water and mud for what seemed to be hours.
That place where I was is called the Officer Candidates School. It is located in Quantico, Virginia and we were taking the US Marine Corps obstacles course while the instructor was yelling at us to move forward faster. This was a course offered as part of my MBA program for those who wanted to experience the real USMC life. It was a very short event, just a few days, but it gave me a totally different perspective on many things in life.
USMC is one of the most respected branches of the US Armed Forces and is very well respected for their leadership and courage as well as the fighting skills and the commitment to the mission. Marines are some of the best trained professionals in the US military and they go through a series of never-ending tough drills and trainings to become fearless and committed warriors.
Having seen what Marines go through, I have the ultimate respect for these people and I tried to learn as much as I could in such a short period of time when I was in Quantico. As soon as you get there, you realize that no matter how physically or mentally strong you thought you were, it won’t be an easy task to survive – your skills, both physical and mental, will be challenged and the instructors will drill you over and over again until you learn to survive and win. They prepare the officer candidates for war, and there is no better way to make you ready than to give you the ultimate pressure on all possible fronts. Constant physical exhaustive exercises, no privacy, uncomfortable and nasty conditions, timed team tasks that require you to take leadership and think on your feet, yelling and screaming of the instructors, extreme discipline and stress – these are just some of the things future officers have to co-op with and go through in the boot camp.
Why would I want to take this course in the first place (as well as tens of other MBA students, including women)? I wanted to get the warrior’s perspective on things, learn the leadership lessons from someone who knew how to survive in extreme and deadly situations; I wanted to understand what matters to these people most, what drives them and how I could apply the skills and knowledge I would acquire in the boot camp in my business career.
Here are a few things I learned from the Marines:
1. You have no idea what you are capable of.
These are life-or-death situations, when a sign of weakness or a wrong decision may mean the end of your life (and, often, the lives of others). On the other hand, reading hundreds of pages of professional finance books written in a foreign language and sleeping 3 hours a day for 6 days a week just to keep up with your homework is a different challenge you will have in a business school. All of these change your perception of your capabilities forever. You realize that you can always do much more, and more, and more, and even more than you ever thought you could. Motivation is, of course, a different question.
I took classes with a trained American spy deployed in Iraq, Black Hawk pilots who went to war and military professionals who participated in special operations. I can only imagine what these people went through in their first 25 years of their lives. Any issue you think is significant is nothing as compared to what you could have potentially been exposed to. Just remember, that you are capable of much more at any single point in time.
2. Credit your team for success, take responsibility for failure.
When it comes to failure, it is very often something that you’ve done wrong somewhere in the process, even if you just didn’t make an influence on your team at the right moment. Take responsibility, always do your homework and learn the lessons. And don’t be too stressed about doing something wrong – after all, failure is just a stepping stone to success. Many people actually learn much more from failures than from successes. We all know that the bonds people build in extreme situations last forever. Bring those people who you trust and who helped you achieve success previously to any new business you want to make successful and don’t forget to motivate them. The strongest teams I’ve seen had the leader who always stood for his team and did everything for them caring less for himself and leading by example.
3. Learn, always learn new things.
Well, though it may be true for some positions in business, if you are a top manager or are running your own company, there is no way of making it successful unless you learn how it operates and what interconnections exist among different expertise domains. This brings me back to the lesson number 3 above. In order for you to learn more, you must know what you need to learn. This is where your self-awareness comes into play. Sometimes you will work with people who think or claim they know everything but the interesting phenomenon is that the smarter the person is, the more he or she understands that there is even more to learn. The higher you climb, the further you see, or as Albert Einstein put it: “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” The first step of this journey though is knowing exactly where to put your efforts and energy and where you need to improve. Marines are trained to know themselves inside-out and this knowledge is reiterated over and over again through rigorous, thorough and profound trainings. Since they are pushed to execute on the edge of human physical and mental limits, they grow to learn themselves well, and this is what we all should try to do in business too.
90% of startups do not survive even when the founders put everything at stake to make it work – and they still lose. It’s not the end of life, it’s not the reason for depression, just get up and move forward. Regardless of what is happening with you now, you have a million reasons to enjoy life and be thankful for a good lesson you will learn from the failure. I am very thankful for the opportunity to come to the Officer Candidates School and learn from the US Marines some of the principles which I think are very relevant and very important in business.
Here is the last part of the story I wanted to tell you. A few years ago I was on an international flight wearing the green USMC t-shirt (I still have it) when two different people (a flight attendant and just another passenger) came up to me and said: “Thank you for your service!” Of course, I immediately confessed that I am not a real Marine but the fact that USMC are treated with such an utmost respect only made me feel very proud for having the honor to at least train with them for a few days, get this amazing experience and learn the lessons. If you’d like to get a feeling of how the trainings look like, you can watch the videos here for men and here for women.
If you are reading this and you have been a Marine, please share your experience in the comments – I am sure people would love to hear about it. And, indeed, Thank You for your service and your wisdom.
What do you have when you are employed by someone else? First of all, you have a more or less predictable schedule (even in investment banking you know you will be working 75+ hours a week – pretty predictable, huh?), no financial responsibility for paying salaries to your company’s employees, you can go to a gym or to a dinner with your loved ones after work, meet friends on the weekends or take short relaxing trips to some nice places – all of it knowing that you are going to get a paycheck in the next 2 weeks. This, by itself, is a huge benefit. You are not stressed out when the company is not doing that great (after all, you can find yourself another job), occasional business trips are actually a pleasure and a short break from your work routine (and can actually be fun), and you often have time to think about life, maybe even read a philosophical book. These are all important things in life and there is huge benefit to being able to do this all.
THE MORE YOU WORK, THE MORE YOU HAVE TO WORK, AND OFTEN - FOR FREE
Now, what do you have when you are running your own business? You are the only (if you have no co-founders with equal equity proportions) person in your company responsible for getting the money to pay your employees, the daily exercise which can totally kill the effect of having more flexibility than anyone else during inevitable bad times in the company. Of course, things are great when the company is doing well – then you take time off, go on vacation, travel and have fun. But even then, you still think about your business 24/7. I mean it – you are literally thinking about it 24/7, even when you allow yourself to sleep a little.
When you only have an idea, you work hard to make sure no one copies it (and to your surprise, in a month you find 5 other companies working on exactly the same thing at the very same time). When you hired a first employee, you constantly think about increasing your company revenue, keeping his/her salary at a stable level and about motivating that single person who believed in you. The more you work, the more you have to work because you can’t trust your company to anyone else, you have to do it all by yourself because nobody can do it better than you. When you are on a flight, you are sitting with your laptop drafting investor presentations or product maps. If you are raising capital, you go from one meeting to another and keep watching the famous Steve Job’s motivational speech not to give up and not to take “no” for an answer. Then you suddenly find that someone who was supposed to be by your side "no matter what" starts to express his/her concerns about your financial situation or your commitment to your relationship. You run out of savings, have no time for doing regular doctor checkups or even for an hour of workout. You start feeling as if you are losing it all in life. So you end up being completely and totally stressed but still left with a motivation to succeed and entrepreneurial “independence”. On top of that, if you were finally able to raise money, you have a few angel investors who always think you are getting paid too much for doing too little and that you basically don’t need money at all before you raise another round. Sounds surreal but very often this is exactly what you’ll get when stepping on an entrepreneurial path.
Now, is it all worth it? Should you be considering leaving your full-time job to go and establish your own business? Absolutely – especially if you haven’t done this before. The only regret I may have in my life is not doing my own businesses when I was younger - instead of going to work for Clifford Chance, Morgan Stanley and other nice places. Don’t get me wrong, these companies are wonderful and they gave me a very strong foundation but I didn’t learn even 10% about business working for them. Starting a business gives you a totally different perspective on things (and make you even more valuable for employers if you ever decide to come back to a corporate world). You would probably think MBA will give you a good understanding of how to build your own empire – not even close! I got the best education possible and after I thought I learned it all, I realized I had no idea about how to build a business or even where to start. In fact, I would even argue that MBA might not be worth your time if you want to be an entrepreneur but that’s a topic for a different discussion.
Having said all the above and assuming you agree with me that founding your own business as early as possible is one of the best decisions in your life, here is 7 things you may want to do to be less stressed (whether you will be stressed is not even a question):
These all seem to be very common sense and obvious things. However, I know from my own experience that I needed someone to remind me about them. Hopefully this article will serve you as a good reminder.
One last thought - never give up or fall into depression! Even if it all doesn’t work out, you will get new experience and gain knowledge, and in the best case scenario you will become rich – both are very good outcomes. Try new things, experiment and do what others don't - and you will have a very interesting life which you will never regret!
You may agree or disagree but for the sake of argument let’s assume 360 video is part of VR. So what is 360 video? As opposed to 360 photo which has been long known to the photo enthusiasts and can be taken with a single photo camera by spinning it around, 360 video requires multiple cameras or multiple lenses to be created. Some cameras, like 360Fly, can do 360 video with a single lens but let’s be honest here: this is not full 360 video. It leaves a pretty significant blind spot on the video which takes the immersion away when you view this on the VR headset. Still, these are often included in the list of 360 video cameras.
So there are various ways to take 360 video:
Here is a detailed map of major players in the 360 video and VR camera market space: