David Barry on Creating Mixed Reality Experiences and Game-Changing Tech

By December 21, 2017 March 24th, 2020 No Comments

David Barry and I met virtually several years ago in an online community, and we’ve kept in communication since then.   We both share an interest in augmented reality (AR) technologies and, at the time we met, it was difficult to find someone knowledgeable about AR tech.  It didn’t take long, though, to learn that David had been thinking about this subject for awhile.

One conversation with Mr. Barry and your mind will be blown, I’m calling it now. Give him 10 minutes of your time and your outlook of the future will not be the same.  He studies, practices and teaches.  He’s all in when it comes to making the future better and brighter, and he is driven enough to try out his unique ideas on the world.

Interview with David Barry

Before we get started, David wants you to know:

The thing I’m most excited about in the world of mixed reality is the Disney Lenovo partnership for their mixed reality headset. Right now, the only experiences are Star Wars Light Saber experience app— it’s got 3H experiences in it. But with Disney and Lenovo getting on board with a consumer mixed reality product, I really think that you’re going to see some amazing experiences come out here in the future– just because of the power of those studios. Microsoft is more about a hardware company; Disney is a content company. So while I love the Microsoft Hololens, you get tons of crap on the Hololens Store– brand new developers that release something just because they wanted to see the release process.
With Disney’s partnership on this one, you get the entire Disney Library, the entire Marvel Library– you’re going to have a lot of really amazing experiences come thru on this system. It is unbelievable!

Meet David Barry

Questions and Answers

CJ: We first started talking after you had presented an awesome idea about unique use-cases for leveraging augmented reality technologies for political campaigns. From there, we had several conversations about how you think about all these mixed reality technologies and how they might be brought to the market. Can you explain where you’re at now with your thinking about augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality, in general?

David Barry: So I’m currently doing a lot of work in all three of those fields. Whether it’s augmented reality for print media marketing, mixed reality for training and taking the augmented reality to another step into the real environment, and also the virtual reality for industrial and medical training purposes.

But really I think of them all, mixed reality has the greatest potential for everyday game changing.

One of the biggest reasons is so many of the limitations with virtual reality– whether it be the vestibular systems of people not being able to handle the VR experience because either their hardware wasn’t good enough or the software designer didn’t know what they were doing, you have a lot of really bad experiences in VR. (Now) taking that same experience and putting it into a mixed reality environment, you can still create extremely immersive environments, but you don’t have nearly as many of those side issues to deal with for those people who deal with claustrophobia.

Or in some of the most recent stuff I’ve been working with, using virtual reality to train football players. With these athletes, their vestibular systems are fine-tuned instruments. So in an experience which might cause VR sickness in me, it will definitely cause VR sickness in these athletes.

If you switch that training to a mixed reality environment, we can still create that complete immersion, but because they’re anchored in the real world, there’s never a conflict between their eyes and their inner ear and so they never develop nausea. And so the length of the training sessions that you’re capable of doing are much longer.

So when you’re working with an athlete trying to install plays and things like that in VR, you have 15 minutes on a good day per each experience, and then they need some time out of the headset. When you stick with the Hololens or mixed reality, I can put you in that for two hours and you’re fine.

And again, when you think of things, like, walking around a manufacturing plant floor. Now the virtual reality is not going to be an experience which helps you with that. But I could walk around the plant floor with a mixed reality headset on, all the equipment on, not losing anything to safety as I traverse that environment. But with the digital information that can be presented to me– from everything from IoT data to IoT sensors to real world elements and digital recognition– I can see the status of not only my plant floors as I walk around it, but I can see work orders and their state of fulfillment, I can see any issues, and at the same time I can Skype with somebody and bring them into my world. And share my point of view and what I’m doing with them.

I really don’t consider augmented reality to be it’s own anymore. I believe augmented reality to be a subset of mixed reality. So when I’m speaking of augmented reality, I’m using usually meaning specifically trigger-based things that are anchored to their trigger.

So when I say mixed reality that can cover an augmented reality experience, but it doesn’t have to be tethered to a trigger-image. It could be in my real world environment. It doesn’t have to be a Microsoft HoloLens; I can have a mixed reality experience on my Android or iPhone or Tablet, as well.

Using the gyroscopic sensors on the phone, as I turn around holding the phone in my hands– similar to things like PokemonGo and the new Harry Potter one that’s about to be released– you’re using a mixed reality experience there. They call it augmented reality, but it’s not using the trigger image– it’s your environment. You’re turning your phone and it’s reading that gyroscope and the accelerometer to know where you are and what angle your phone is at, and what information to present to you. But you’re still seeing the real world. So even though it’s just through my device and it’s not a headset, I still count that as a mixed reality experience because it’s taking into account: my environment, my geolocation, and things like that.

CJ: A technology startup was launched to try to bring the Holodeck concept to the market. It took a different turn than expected. From your view, what happened to that idea and how did it inform your future business ventures?

David Barry: So from that idea, that biggest problem I ran into was one of the hardware companies did not pan out. So the maker of the glasses that I was planning on using for that experience, they didn’t ever actually release their product.

But between the interim, the Microsoft Hololens and other mixed reality devices have come on to the market now. And I believe the Hololens eliminated the need for that full installation to create that holodeck type of experience. Because of the Hololens having spatial awareness being able to recognize solid surfaces and bring that interaction as part of the elements for your virtual reality or mixed reality experience.

And so we’re now able to do everything that I wanted to be able to do inside of the holodeck’s structure without having to have that (physical) structure.

CJ: I read in a recent interview about you’re getting into more of the educational space. Why is this move important for you?

David Barry: A couple years ago I gave a speech for the Kauffman Foundation– their One Million Cups Program — on the use of mixed reality headsets with medical mannequins discussing that we’d be able to overlay digital avatars on top of these robotic mannequins that we use to train medical students.

Now at the time, I had the concept but I had no medical knowledge– being a tech geek, I never had the medical background for it. So I actually took a position (with a local medical-focused college), running their simulation lab handling their robotic mannequins as well as their virtual reality lab so I could get that experience to understand how these things lead in training so I could then understand how we could make use of mixed reality to create a better training experience.

It’s a space I’ve found to be very underpopulated– there’s not much being done for the low-level. Now there’s some surgical simulators and things like that– DiComm Data Viewers that allow you to overlay a 3D spine that was actually taken from CT and MRI scans and overlay that over the individual for surgery. But when you’re talking about your lower-level, entry-level CMA students, things like that, they’re just learning anatomy, they’re just learning basic patient care– how to do a modified bed bath. These things, having that digital instruction, allows us to have students that maybe need a little more assistance to have a digital tutor in the environment that they would normally be practicing in– without having to use one of my instructors to have to do one-on-one training with the student. Because when you think of a class of 30 for one instructor, they just don’t have the one-on-one delivery time. This enables us to have that remediation from a digital instructor.

For me, in my community, there wasn’t really a major recognized need. They have the need– they just weren’t willing to admit that augmented reality and mixed reality would make for much better print media marketing. When I realized that none of these businesses in my local community were really ready to embrace augmented reality and virtual reality, I realized I had to switch to educating. If I was going to educate, I was going to educate the educators so that I would get that bottom-up, ya know.

I worked with high schools, I worked with junior high schools, with elementary schools as well as the colleges so that a kid may come home and show his dad who owns a car dealership, “Hey, look at this cool augmented reality worksheet I’m doing,” and then his dad can understand, “Wow, I could sell more cars if my ads looked like this!”

And also having an email with a .edu actually opens up a little bit more software beta testing for me and things like that.

CJ: Where do you get a lot of your ideas?

David Barry: I sleep about four hours a night because my brain never shuts down– it’s always going.
One of the biggest things I’ve noticed is that I find a technology that’s being used in one industry and I’m like, “Wow, if the people over in this industry knew about that, they’d be using it, I bet!”

A lot of my ideas come kind of with the philosophy as someone who does supply requisitions– you tell me what your problem is and I go out there and I find solutions for it. So, “Oh hey, I need a new hammer”– okay, what do you need the hammer to do? Oh, well I heard about this one hammer over here that they’re using for concrete, but I bet you it would work really well for your drywall, ya know. Along those kind of lines.

A lot of people can have these ideas, but they’re not aware of other industries. So because of my broad base of industry knowledge– because I’ve worked in so many different industries whether it was the restaurant industry, or the film industry or with educational programs, woodworking, construction– I’ve done all these different jobs so I’ve got a lot more rounded viewpoints than maybe some people would have that have taken an industry from the beginning and have stayed in that industry.

So I think that’s where a lot of my ideas come from– that broad exposure to industries and the fact that my brain never shuts down and lets me sleep.

CJ: You mentioned, in the past, that you would play educational YouTube videos in your car all day long to keep your mind busy during your work day. What other strategies and tactics do you believe helped the most for staying on top of all the new technologies?

David Barry: Dive in elbows deep. When I first discovered augmented reality back in 2011, I was not a programmer, I was not a graphics guy and those are the two biggest things you needed for augmented reality.

But, I had passion. And so because of my passion, I said I want to learn this so then I went out and found the resources. So as I mentioned, I listened to a lot of Youtube. I commute an hour and 40 minutes each way so that gives me a lot of time to listen to lectures online.

On top of that, I go out and find assignments from colleges– Harvard, MIT— they have a lot of online open source classes that you can take. You’re not going to get college credit for it, but the knowledge is there. So I recommend checking with colleges that have courses on what you want to learn and see if that course has a Facebook Page– so even if they aren’t offering it online for free, maybe it has a Facebook Page so you can keep track of their assignments and things like that, and try to follow along with them.

CJ: For someone just starting to learn about uses for mixed reality technologies, and considering the amount of time you’ve already put in thinking along these lines, what might you recommend for them in order to steer them in the right direction?

David Barry: If you’re wanting to get in on the developer side where you’re wanting to build these kind of experiences, then I would say learn Unity 3D. It’s free software, free training and it gives you the ability to actually try this stuff out.

But if you’re more along the lines of say a marketing representative or a sales rep or an executive, and you’re interested in “How can we make use of this technology in our industry,” then I would start seeing what people have done with it.

Not just in your own industry– you know, “Oh, I’m in automotive”– what are they doing with this in medical– “Oh wow, look: they’re doing full human anatomy in 3D right here– I bet you that my guys that work with transmissions would love to see the exploded view of a transmission when they’re training a new guy.”

It’s taking that wealth of library of apps and assets that are out there and seeing how are people making use of this and how does that technique apply to my industry. And once you have your, “Okay, this is how we want to use it,” it’s actually pretty easy to get this stuff built.

One of my favorite things to do, as you know from my past, is to set-up a team of interns. And that’s another thing I would say, is that if you’re interested developing this kind of stuff, find a company that does that and say, “Hey, are you guys accepting interns? I’ve got a full-time job, but I can do some stuff at nights and I would love to learn.” And you’d be surprised how many companies out there are like, “What? You’ll work for free?! Sold!”, ya know.

And then once you have that experience under your belt, it gives you that thing you can put on your resume to get that next job in that industry.

CJ: For someone starting out at 0 knowledge, looking back, what is the 10% of information which helped the most and what is the 10% of information and activities you’d totally disregard/avoid completely in order to get ahead with thinking about these mixed reality technologies?

David Barry: In the beginning, I thought I had to learn it all. Since I was a sole proprietor, didn’t have a bunch of employees, I thought I had to do it all from beginning to end. And what I realized was that companies didn’t want to see my portfolio, they didn’t want to see previous projects that I had done for other people– the easiest way to sell a company on something was to build an MVP (minimal viable product).

Just throw together something that gets the concept acrossed. Because this industry is so new, and so many people have never even heard of it– let alone be able to understand what is possible, if you can put them in an experience that they can relate to…

You know, I used to do demos of the Land of the Dinosaurs on the Hololens, and I absolutely loved doing that demo because it showed the VR in a mixed reality headset. But the thing was that even though they thought it was cool, the executives and decision makers that I would put into that environment immediately would go to thinking about, “Oh yeah, my son would love this”– not “How can we make use of this?”

So then when I quit doing that as a demo, and I started doing something more along the lines of the Holo Anatomy or something like that, while I have them engaging in the interactive experience, they identified it and adopted it much easier and quicker for their industry versus thinking “this is just a kid’s toy.”

And so I probably did a thousand demos where I feel like I probably wasted a quite a bit of time because I was demoing the wrong thing. I was demoing the technology’s wow factor and not the appropriate use-case for my audience. Pitch to your audience!

Learning the minutiae– learning those tiny little details of how to develop for it (was a waste of time). I don’t want to be a developer. I don’t want to be a coder. I wasted too much time learning to code. If that’s not the job you want later, don’t learn it now. Learn enough that you understand the other people’s jobs, but don’t learn so much you can do their job.

CJ: What is something that most people don’t know about you?

David Barry: I’m a grandfather of five at the age 41. I never went to high school– not even a single day of freshman year. At the age of 16, I became an emancipated adult with a GED and high school equivalency and never looked back… Now I’m working for a college, and I’ve been a guest speaker at MIT.

CJ: What is your genius-level talent?

David Barry: I’d say that I have an unique ability to empathize and communicate. So when you’re a developer, being able to understand where your client is coming from and what their needs and desires are and what their learning outcomes are, is huge for creating the right product.

I’m able to sit down at a table with a guy that’s done construction tile work his whole life, and have a conversation on augmented reality and virtual reality that not only will he understand, but that he’ll be excited about. I can also do it with somebody that’s a COD at MIT for 10 years. It doesn’t matter where your station in life is, I’m very good at understanding other people.

CJ: If people want to connect with you, how do you suggest they do so in order to keep up with what you’re doing?

David Barry: The easiest way to keep track of me is on LinkedIn. My LinkedIn Profile is “Mixed Reality”– a lot of people use their name for their profile page, my LinkedIn Profile Page is Mixed Reality. And my Twitter handle is @MixedRealityMan.

Key Takeaways

Here are some notes I got from this interview.

  • David thinks that mixed reality has the “greatest potential for everyday game changing.”
  • Having an .edu email address opens you up more conversations with people who are hard-to-get-a-hold-of.
  • A broad exposure to other industries helps to develop unique ideas.
  • Always keep learning and follow your passion.
  • Take initiative and seek out assignments from colleges, like, Harvard and MIT
  • Consider setting up a team of interns to work on side-projects.
  • Continuously build MVPs (minimum viable products) to demonstrate the concept for new use-cases.
  • Don’t demonstrate the wrong thing (for your audience).
  • Don’t learn so much that you can do someone else’s job, but rather learn enough to understand the other person’s job.

Hopefully you enjoyed this 30 minute interview with David Barry!  What did you takeaway from the interview?  Leave your thoughts in the comments section of the star reviews below.  While you’re here, feel free to check out more interviews!

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