In this Digital CxO Leadership Insights series video, Mike Vizard speaks with Brand 3D CEO Hans Hansen about why the metaverse will begin with 3D applications.
Mike Vizard: Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of the digital CXO Video Cast. I’m your host, Mike Vizard. Today we’re with Hans Hansen who is CEO of Brand 3D. They help websites and retailers and a bunch of other organizations embed 3D type of images into their applications to improve the overall sales experience. Hans, welcome to the show.
Hans Hansen: Thanks for having me, Mike.
Mike Vizard: 3D has been around for a little while. It’s perhaps not as widely important as it might be, but we hear a lot now more about the metaverse. So how do you think 3D and the metaverse will all come together and kind of change the whole buying-shopping experience, both for consumers and for that matter for B2B?
Hans Hansen: Well, as you have said in the intro here, 3D investments for most businesses is a long-term investment. So you’re creating 3D now that’s a way to go later for the metaverse as that is getting built out. And what brand feeding and my company is all about is taking advantage of the 3D content today. So we basically allow any business to embed content into any web context without need for virtual reality glasses, and without waiting for the metaverse to really happen, but other 3D assets once developed can be inserted into the metaverse of the future.
Mike Vizard: Why don’t I see more of these 3D applications? What’s the challenge, and what does it take to get people down this path?
Hans Hansen: Well, there’s been a couple of hiccups. So not to take dimes like Amazon has made acquisitions into 3D. They’ve acquired ideal labs out of New York. Target. Other retailers have done the same. But I think it comes down to IT’s journey. So there just hasn’t been enough framework for embedding 3D. And you know, companies like ourselves have been around for a long time. We’ve been doing web embeds ad hoc you know, in websites all over the world. But getting to the retailers, getting through the IT scrutiny and IT audits required to embed 3D, that has taken a while, but I think we’re beginning to see it now. We’re seeing more and more visual product configurators on websites where you can configure a product, and then you know, make an order on the product. Not mainstream products yet, but it’s coming. I mean we see it now. I mean a lot of our customers are retailers so it’s just a matter of time.
Mike Vizard: In addition to the metaverse, people have been talking about augmented and virtual reality for a while. Are these all one and the same things, or are there slight differentiations between 3D, augmented reality, and the metaverse that we’ve got to figure out?
Hans Hansen: Well, if you talk about the metaverse and Facebook, or meta since, then it’s one thing. That’s an immersive environment where the entire web changes into a 3D world. But if you talk about embedding content into augmented reality, we’ve seen companies like Ikea have augmented reality in their mainstream offering for a long time. We offer that right out of the box with our service, so you don’t even need to download an app. You can just take any 3D model that’s _____ augmented reality. You can take your smartphone, you can place a car in your driveway. You can put that sofa in your living room. It’s all there. It’s all out there. So I think the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality is that augmented reality is already out there. Virtual reality is still waiting for the headsets.
Mike Vizard: What is the hard part about setting all this up right now? You alluded to some IT issues, but what level of expertise do I have to have in order to take advantage of these kinds of presentations?
Hans Hansen: Well, less and less. So it’s getting more and more common to get access to these 3D models. It’s almost like what _____ was in the ‘90s so there are more and more sites where you can download 3D models in standard format and then you can upload them to services like our P3D service. You can upload it to Sketchpad. You can upload it to a myriad of different 3D hosting sites. Once it’s uploaded then you can share it on the web with just a single line of code. You can view it in augmented reality. And you don’t have to be technical. It’s virtually downloading a file, uploading a file, pasting the URL and you’re good to go.
So we’re seeing an increasing number of Shopify outlets with a long chain of Shopify retailers using this. We have customers doing augmented reality for their art. So you can place their art on your wall and see how it looks before you purchase. That’s all available today. So I think that’s really the game changer once people realize that this technology is out there.
Mike Vizard: Are we approaching a point where the average buyer, whether they’re a consumer or corporate for that matter, may look at your product and kind of assume you’re outdated because you don’t have some sort of 3D presentation that they can play with and look at, and kind of examine something, because I think a lot of people don’t want to have that sales call until the last minute.
Hans Hansen: No. I totally agree. It needs to be as accessible as possible. And it can’t be a sales call. It can’t be where you have to handhold the retailer to get this technology out there. They need to be able to play with it. They need to be able to create a 3D environment, and get it on their website very, very easily. And then yes at some point you’re right, when virtual reality becomes pervasive so everybody has a headset, kids don’t go to school, but they just wear their headsets and _____ glasses. That future is coming, but it’s probably still ten years down the line. So I think there’s a lot going to happen in retail before that becomes reality.
And you know, all technology is following all the standards and technology trends so yeah. No, I don’t see that as a risk for my company at least.
Mike Vizard: Do you think people will be less inclined to actually want to go to a mall or actually have to physically touch something, or will they just use this as a tool to kind of decide when they want to go to the mall and for what exactly? There won’t be this kind of random shopping. You know, be like well I already checked this out. I know exactly what I’m looking for, and I’m going to go get that specific thing.
Hans Hansen: I think it’s going to be a combination. I don’t think that physical stores are going away. I mean, we don’t see that. They’re shifting in focus. People still want to be able to go in and touch an object. But exactly as you say, retailers, even brick-and-mortar retailers like Home Depot have seen a 30% decline when they started using 3D and 360 in returns. Because when their shoppers either bought online or in-store, they already knew the product. They’d already taken a look at – you know, for example I showed you this x-ray vision into a dishwasher where you could see all the different features. That kind of in-depth walkthrough of the product where you almost feel like you’ve had the product, where you put it in your kitchen, you put the dishwasher in your kitchen so you’ve seen how it looks before you go to the store, and maybe sign the contract, because for larger purchases people would still want to go into a physical store in many cases. But as you say, then they’ve already done the deep dive into the technology. The features.
I mean, I have another example. Motorola. We did a walkthrough of the Motorola product. It’s a _____ with fifty-seven features. The only digital presentation of this they had was a thirty-seven-minute long video on YouTube. We replaced that, creating a nursery where you could see all the three components. Both the alarm itself that had a camera, the screen where you could see, you know, what was going on, as well as the Smartphone app. We walked the customer through all of that. We created a heat map where you could see where people clicked. What they were most interested in. And suddenly those fifty-seven different features became fifty-seven different journeys into that product, and it was trackable. And you know, it just opened up a myriad of new possibilities that you would never be able to do with video. You’d never be able to do in-store in the same way.
Mike Vizard: Are there some best practices for implementing this and telling a narrative around it, because I’m sure a lot of people have, at this point, done a lot of trial and error, but what have you seen, or what do you think people should know going in?
Hans Hansen: Keep it simple. So focus on the product. Make sure you have a high quality representation of the product. There are many ways to do this. You can 3D scan, and we have support for the leading Smartphone 3D scanner apps. Once you’ve scanned something you get a very high quality representation. Then focus on camera and navigation rather than making a super complex 3D model for most products.
So for example, use our technology or similar web technology to create camera angles. Zoom in on what’s important. Put text labels that explain what is going on. Either if it’s a technical product; the feature breakdown. If it is a fashion or an apparel piece, focus in on what makes this different. Is it a high quality seam? Is it a better cloth than the competing products? Is it a better, more humane manufacturing process? All of those things can be explained on the model as if you were in-store, and present that.
Make it simple. So make it clickable and simple, and break it down so that it’s easy for the customer to get an overview and kind of keep the perspective.
Mike Vizard: When people look at 3D, of course, they already start thinking a lot about games. So do you think that with this kind of technology that we could gamify a lot of the shopping experience in ways that we haven’t thought through before?
Hans Hansen: Absolutely. And things like loyalty programs where you kind of start paying loyalty points for exploring products is an area that hasn’t been explored much. There’s a lot of talk about NFTs these days. An NFT is just like a digital representation of some physical good. So maybe use some of that thinking in retail. So think of your product as not only a physical product, but also a virtual digital representation of the product. Make sure that people, even if they don’t buy the product, make sure that they show their loyalty.
So for example, people pay a lot for sneakers. Right? And some of these sneakers are very pricy. But they only buy so many. I mean they have a certain budget. Why not let them earn loyalty points by sharing other models that they would never invest in to their communities. You know, exploring them in 3D. Sharing them with one click. It’s something that’s available today. You can do it. And why not, you know, take that, as you say, gamify the pre-buying experience as well as the post-buying experience.
Mike Vizard: Do you also think that the cost of testing products will drop because I will be able to have a richer experience and I’ll get some more insight from my customers about what they might like, from a design perspective at least, if not a functionality perspective?
Hans Hansen: Absolutely. And I think there’s two steps to this. First is, as you say, testing it before you actually decide to produce it. Once you make the decision to start production, use the Tesla model. I mean, presale using a very attractive 3D model of the product. Make sure that you have people buying into it.
I mean, for example, the sneakers. If this is a $500 or $1,000 sneaker, why not have people pay a down payment once they want that new model. They’ll get it before everybody else, just like you get the Tesla before everybody else, but you make a small down payment. I think we’re going to see a lot more of that, and that’s going to be enabled by attractive 3D models.
Mike Vizard: We hear a lot about artificial intelligence these days. How do you think that this technology and AI might come together to kind of transform the way we think about buying and selling?
Hans Hansen: Yeah. First of all, I think AI is very, very important in the digital processing of 3D. So I think we’re going to see more and more 3D content creation using AI. so that you can very quickly and cost effectively create variance on one product using AI. You’ve already seen some researchers from Stanford and elsewhere create 3D model variants using AI. So you take one sneaker and then you can basically calculate a myriad of other variants.
That’s also back to your question about testing. Using AI to generate new product variants that you can then test to make sure that you produced the one that people really want is a very interesting aspect.
And I was being interviewed about 3D printing where AI plays a very, very important role optimizing the 3D printing process so you can print better, faster, more reliably, and you can scale printing to sizes that wouldn’t be possible without AI. So I think the same thing applies here.
By using AI you can certainly present 3D in ways that we can’t even think about right now. You can embed 3D into real-world scenes way beyond just projecting a piece of art on the wall, or putting a car in the driveway. You can go one step further and you can actually let AI precision place 3D in real world scenes. Just like we’ve already seen AI now generate spokespersons. I mean, I was using an AI generated spokesperson to present new features of our platform. It’s very compelling. It’s almost like the real thing. Why not take that into the 3D space and use that to create 3D scenes that will drive sales and product tests?
Mike Vizard: We’ve been talking about the idea of mass customization forever. More than I care to admit. I think we’re a step closer now.
Hans Hansen: I think we are. So I was actually in that same interview. I was talking about Project R from Google back when they wanted to do smartphones that were completely hyper personalized and printers on demand. That didn’t happen because of technology limitations. But it also didn’t happen because you couldn’t handle all of the data processing of doing that. I think we’re one step further. And especially if you’re in the virtual domain.
So, people already now have NFTs that are generated in the tens of thousands completely customized to a particular character, a particular game, you know, etc. Once that hits retail so that you can adapt and personalize products that may not exist in the virtual domain until they’ve been sold.
Mike Vizard: All right. Well hopefully the next time we do this interview, it’ll be in a 3D world and we’ll see what happens from there, but Hans, thank you for spending some time with us. Your insights are awesome.
Hans Hansen: Well, thank you for inviting me.
Mike Vizard: All right, and thank you all for watching our latest episode. You can catch this episode and other ones on DigitalCxO.com. Until next time, thank you all and stay safe.