AiThority Interview Series With Jeff Green, Founder and CEO, Virtex Apps
Virtex Arena builds off of a natural interest in competition at a sporting event. We hope to harness the palpable energy of thousands of fans and apply it to an augmented experience.
Know My Company
Tell us about your interaction with virtual and augmented reality technologies in your daily life.
Quite frankly, aside from my involvement with Virtex Apps, I do not typically use VR/AR technologies on a daily basis. That does not mean the opportunity is not there, but rather that the opportunity has not been capitalized on yet. AR/VR will really take off with a broader audience when it enhances a part of our existing lives rather than requiring people to adjust to something new.
Toward that end, our Augmented Reality app, Virtex Arena, is focused on enhancing a specific part of a sports fan’s life: the experience at the stadium.
What inspired you to start Virtex?
The devices that we all carry these days are powerful enough to create entirely new worlds around us, so I created Virtex Apps to explore that opportunity. Our Virtex Arena app was born out of attending a few sporting events and realizing just how much downtime occurs with TV timeouts, halftimes, and other breaks. During these moments, teams already try to engage fans with simple games on the Video board and on-field competitions involving one or two people from the stands.
The thought was: What if not just one or two people but everyone in the stadium could actively participate in a group event?
This idea grew into Augmented Reality competitions that appear onfield, in which everyone in the stands sees the virtual action from their own perspectives as though it were actually happening in that space.
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As a CEO, how do you see the raging trend of merging AR/VR capabilities with traditional digital experiences for advertising?
AR is commonly used to supplement traditional advertising, often layering some kind of animated virtual scene atop an image or physical product. The effect is very cool, but it requires a user to make an extra effort to see what is essentially another advertisement. We believe advertising will move more in a product placement direction, where the main draw for a user will be some kind of unique experience, and some aspect of that experience will feature the sponsor’s message.
For example, in Virtex Arena, the main attraction is to compete against thousands of people in the same location in a novel way, and sponsors can be featured in that competition in a variety of ways.
As a mentor in the tech industry, how should young marketers and sales professionals train themselves to work better with AR/VR technologies?
I would recommend first focusing on creating an experience that would be fun to participate in or one that elicits an emotional response, and then worry about how to incorporate a marketing message. If you can entertain people, they will associate your message with their positive experiences. Along those lines, look to partner with people creating those kinds of experiences, even if they are not expressly created for marketing purposes.
Ultimately you want to attract attention and be associated with something people enjoy.
What makes understanding AR/VR for businesses so hard when it comes to actually deploy them?
The challenge at the moment is adoption.
Participating in an AR/VR event still requires some effort from the user, such as downloading an app or even investing in some new type of hardware. So the event must be compelling enough to justify that, and soon it will not be enough to just look cool. With Virtex Arena, the Augmented Reality aspect draws people in and enables a new way of seeing the world around them, but ultimately we hope to keep them by appealing to their competitive natures. Where else do you get to compete against ten thousand people all in the same location?
Would most businesses turn to AR/VR and interactive content eventually for better customer service?
Just as video makes a more lasting impression than text, immersive experiences will be better than video. We are all hardwired to live in a 3D world, so I think we will find that the closer an experience is to our normal perception, the more memorable it will be. And, once one business in an industry offers a compelling service like that, its competitors will need to scramble to catch up.
Elaborate on your playbook for company-customer interaction. How much of adtech do you use within Virtex and with your partners?
Virtex Arena was designed with sponsorship opportunities in mind, and there are a number of different ways a sponsor can reach their audience through the app.
Several options mimic real-world approaches but in a virtual setting. For example, in the app, a virtual plane pulls a banner overhead featuring the name and logo of a sponsor; additionally, large logos appear onfield as though they were painted onto the grass. But, other capabilities are more unique to the virtual world, such as branded targets that earn players more points and branded in-game equipment that can give players an advantage. A sponsor has many options and can choose ones that best fit with its message.
The Good, Bad and Ugly about AR/VR that you have heard or predict –
The bad is that adoption inertia is a real obstacle. Companies offering expensive new devices will need to convince users of the benefit. Even those focusing on mobile options will still need to convince a user to download an app. In either case, the user needs to make some kind of effort, which can be an awkward barrier.
The good is that a successful strategy to overcome that inertia has already been proven to work. Pokémon Go was a wild success because it provided a new way to experience something that people already loved. They took an existing, popular property, and enabled people to enjoy it in a brand new way, which the audience was happy to adopt.
In a similar way, Virtex Arena builds off of a natural interest in competition at a sporting event. We hope to harness the palpable energy of thousands of fans and apply it to an augmented experience.
The Crystal Gaze
What blockchain start-ups and labs are you keenly following?
I think you probably meant AR/VR start-ups?
- Magic Leap obviously has garnered a lot of attention, and it will be very interesting to see what kind of adoption they can attract.
- Niantic is also one to follow, especially with a new Harry Potter-themed AR game coming soon.
What technologies within AR/VR are you interested in?
We focus on mobile-based AR, so we are happy to see wider availability of ARKit and ARCore. Additionally, we use Unity as a development platform, and it’s great to see them supporting more AR/VR tools.
How do you inspire your team to work with technology?
The team does not require much inspiration. Most people work in this field because they already have an interest in it. Technology often seems to come in waves: PCs, Internet, Social Media, Mobile. AR/VR is one of the next big waves, and it is fun to catch it.
What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
This is not really a hack, but when prioritizing tasks, I try to do the ones that most others are dependent on first. That way, when I finish, they can concurrently do their jobs while I move on to the next item on my list.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Tim Cook. Where Apple goes, much of the mobile industry will follow.
Thank you, Jeff! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Jeff Green is a Stanford Computer Science graduate with 20 years of experience in software development and team management. He founded Virtex Apps in late 2014 to explore unique ways of combining real and virtual worlds using mobile devices.
Virtex’s first app, Chicken Charge, immersed players within a life-size cartoon in which a user walks in the real world to move in the virtual. Now Virtex has introduced Virtex Arena, multi-player augmented reality competitions at sporting events and concerts.
Virtex Apps created Virtex Arena, a mobile app enabling fans at sporting events and concerts to compete in stadium-wide augmented reality experiences. During half-time or other breaks in the event, a new virtual competition is started which fans can see on the field/court/stage with their own phones or tablets. Audience members all see and interact with the same virtual scene at the same time but from their own perspectives, as though the events were actually happening on the field.
Teams benefit by engaging their fans through an innovative experience that can only occur at a stadium. Sponsors benefit by reaching a large audience in a memorable, buzz-worthy way. And fans benefit with a new way to have fun during the downtime of an event, including a chance to win real-world prizes. Everyone benefits by augmenting an event with Virtex Arena.