In this Digital CxO Leadership Insights video, Mike Vizard interviews Inpixon COO Soumya Das about how the business metaverse has already arrived.
Mike Vizard: Hello and welcome to the latest edition of the Digital CxO Leadership Insights video series. I’m your host, Mike Vizard, and today we’re with Soumya Das, who’s the COO for Inpixon. I don’t really know Inpixon all that well. I think, as I understand it, they do a lot of stuff with analytics and indoors and tracking what’s going on inside, and trying to show up some maps, here and there. But we’re gonna be talking about the metaverse, and specifically, the business metaverse. So, Soumya, welcome to the show.
Soumya Das: Thank you, Mike. Nice try with all the names. Inpixon, you know, is an indoor intelligence data company, and, so, you can give the basic description pretty good: we are tracking everything indoors and trying to make life safer, smarter and more secure.
Mike Vizard: So, the metaverse is all the rage, these days, but it seems to be all about consumer stuff, and I might contend, and I think you might agree, that we’re already seeing the business metaverse in the forms of digital twins and other technologies. So, you know, has the future already arrived? It’s just a little unevenly distributed, as they say.
Soumya Das: Yeah, you know, we have been dabbling in metaverse, for a little bit, with the VR, and in the games and some of the consumer industry and consumer applications, like you mentioned. Enterprise is very close to following on that, right? With the hybrid model that we have gone into, because of the pandemic, meeting rooms and office spaces have become more hybrid, and induction of metaverse has come into being. On the industry side, the digital twin part is a very important piece of the industry 4.0 with the locational context. So when you’re trying to do warehouse management, supply chain, production, you know, having a digital presence with all the metadata attached to that particular component is very important, along with all the physical parts, right? In a manufacturing environment, in a warehouse environment, where you can look at a digital image of that particular part that you are working with, and get all the information around it, right? Which you won’t have by just holding the part in your hand.
So, having the digital twin brings a lot of efficiency into the industry. Overall, I would say, Mike, if you want to kind of summarize, you know, what metaverse is and what it’s doing for the industry, I will say it’s about experience, right? You know, one thing about software and technology is about efficiency. You know, human beings want to save their time, everybody has got 24 hours a day, and how best can you utilize your 24 hours doing your work, right? And that saving of the time.
So, starting from fax to e-mail to now instant messaging and stuff, we’re trying to shorten stuff up, trying to get more time to be able to do what we want. Once they have the time efficiency made, next thing they want is better and better experience, and metaverse brings that experience in a very digital and immersive way. Longwinded answer, but I just bring in the whole overall understanding.
Mike Vizard: When we think about digital twins, it’s usually in some sort of large-scale industrial context, somebody’s made a twin of an engine or something. But how do you think this is all gonna play out in a more mainstream fashion, so that, you know, is everybody, on any given day, gonna have some sort of metaverse experience in a business context? And what might that be like?
Soumya Das: Yes, more and more around the counter, when we are talking to our customers, we are finding in this whole question about, you know, what are the most effective areas that we’re gonna get into. Like you said, you know, parts management or warehouse management, building complex machines and all that, you know, absolutely is very important. But also, having whiteboard sessions, you know, brainstorming sessions, in a hybrid environment, having a metaverse, having this meeting room feeling, you know, is also very effective. You know, when we’re having these virtual meetings, we feel distant, you know, we see ourselves only in small boxes, you know, we don’t get the emotions across, we don’t get the hand gestures and stuff around.
So having your avatar, having a metaverse present, I think, will get more and more prevalent in our world. The challenge of metaverse, of this immersive experience, is not the want of the people. I think it’s the technology that is sort of impeding the success or progress of this technology, because we still view, you know, these phones are only two-inch by four-inch or four-inch by six-inch, you know, this is glass that is restrictive to the immersive experience that metaverse brings.
Mike Vizard: And it doesn’t seem like we’re all gonna wear these big giant headsets at work all day long to kind of engage with other folks, so, do you think that the technology will advance to maybe all we need is a pair of sunglasses?
Soumya Das: Absolutely, yes, yes, display – you know, the next evolution that we are getting into will be display. You know, display will get more sophisticated, you know, we will get more depth in the display, right? So not only just a two-dimensional display, but, you know, you can see the depth, you can see around the images, with glasses. It won’t be the cumbersome big giant helmets that you have to wear on your head to get the peripheral images, but it will be more like your glasses projected or, you know, more sophisticated technology that will give you an understanding wherever you need data imposed on what you’re looking at.
Mike Vizard: Do you also think that maybe this will have some retail implications? And I’m asking because, like most guys, I get sent to the store looking for something by my wife, and invariably I get there and I’m not quite sure, so I take a picture of it and I send it back to her and I go, “Is this it?” And, you know, we go back and forth. But would it be much more likely, in the future, that maybe, you know, she’s along for the metaverse ride, as it were, and, you know, I can ask her right then and there, “Is this what we need?”
Soumya Das: Yeah, so, look, I mean, this is a really good question. Think about this, you know, what you just said is, basically, you’re looking at a source to verify the decision you are making is correct or not, right? So, if that wife role is played by AI, or if the wife role is played by some other, you know, third-party endorsement or giving you the acknowledgement that, yes, this item is what you are looking for. It’s about visualization; it’s about the image, right? So you capture the image and the image comes with the metadata, that then can be verified. So, even if you are picking up a box of cereal, right, or a bar of soap or a shampoo, and showing it to your wife through your visual aid; that is the right one, you know, she needs to see the data. She needs to see if this is the right make or if it’s the right color or not, right?
So those are the kind of things that you are sort of concentrating on, visually, but imagine if you pick that up and your visual aid recognizes that image and gives you all the data along with it? And that data confirms what you are looking for, you know, confirms what your wife asked you to buy, right? Then, you know, that is the main thing, so, immersive technology with the right data coming in at the right time.
Mike Vizard: I like this idea, because the AI isn’t gonna give me that heavy sigh that my wife gives me every time I ask a question.
Soumya Das: You have somebody else to blame on, also, if you get the wrong stuff.
Mike Vizard: How smart can all this really get? I mean, what is the intersection of AI and the metaverse gonna be like? And are we always gonna be streaming data? And how much data can we collect? ‘Cause it seems like there’s a massive amount of data to make all this work, but I’m not quite clear how we’re gonna gather and collect it and store it all.
Soumya Das: Yeah, so, it’s a really interesting question, and, you know, I was at a conference and we were talking about this exact thing, about, you know, the restrictions, right? When we’re trying to do innovation, where are the bottlenecks, where are the restrictions, right? So right now, the restriction, like, we talked about, is one, this visual aid, you know, glasses being a part. And the next is the computing power, right? So all this data coming in, how do you compute? You know, how much more powerful can these devices get? How much data can they download and hold? And will that be instantaneous, right? You know, when you need the data and you look at something, you know, will the object be able to capture and show you the right image.
And that’s where 5G comes in, right? A lot of computing will now happen in the fog or in the cloud, and these glasses will just show and project that particular data that you’re looking for, while most of the computing doesn’t happen on your device, anymore, right? So the edge computing, with the advent of these huge pipes that, you know, 5G provides, not only externally but offloading it into your wireless mess within your office or your home, will aid in those technology advancements. So, I’d like to, you know, put to your viewers that looking at this, that all these three things have to come together: the communication layer with 5G, the visualization with the new technology, and the adoption of the technology from the app standpoint. These three things should have to culminate, in order for us to get to where we want to go with this metaverse.
Mike Vizard: How long do you think it will take for all of that to come together? Because, as one wise man once said to me, never mistake a clear view for a short distance. So is this, like, next year or five years?
Soumya Das: It’s coming pretty fast, right? You know, there are some things that get held up. With, like, 5G, you heard there were some transmission issues and stuff like that; there are some issues with the lenses, that we are facing. But in the progression, I mean, I won’t be able to give you a crystal ball answer on this, but I would say in the next 18 months we’ll see some really good display technology and really good edge computing and offloading coming through.
Mike Vizard: Do we have enough talent to build these kinds of applications out there? I mean, we’ve always had a shortage of developers, but I’m hard-pressed to think how many of these folks out there might be able to build a metaverse application.
Soumya Das: True. Again, you know, the adoption and getting into the new area, I think more than building these new metaverse applications, it’s just converting what we already have, right? A lot of it that you see today, our photographs, our video images, are in a very high resolution, already, right? So how can we convert those images that are existing in our database into the metaverse? That will also get us there much quicker.
Mike Vizard: So what’s your best advice to businesses today? What should they be doing? Should they just be experimenting, or should they be doing something more aggressive?
Soumya Das: I think, you know, businesses should be looking at efficiency gains, right? Businesses should look at this experience more closely. I think as human beings, as we are progressing, you know, experience is very important. I think it helps us get our job done well, it helps us communicate better, and we need to pay attention to that experience part of it. It’s intangible, it’s emotional but it’s important. And I think that’s something that businesses should pay more attention to.
Mike Vizard: Well, Soumya, thanks for being on the show with us.
Soumya Das: Thanks, Mike.
Mike Vizard: All right, and thank you all for watching this latest episode. You can find this show and our other shows on digitalcxo.com. We invite you to check them all out, and, once again, thank you all for watching.