On the 16th of June 2022, the VRAR Association Nigeria held a Twitter space to discuss the possibilities of AR/VR in our world today. We had amazing speakers that contributed to this conversation and they are listed below:
- Derrick Ikenga, the Founder of Euphoria Labs
- Chuba Ezekwesili, the Co-Founder of Akanka
- Hammed Arowosegbe, the Founder of SwiftXR
This conversation was hosted by Isiaq Gbadmosi, a VP of VRARA Nigeria. It was very insightful conversation and the rest of this article is a transcription the Twitter space audio for you to catch up if you missed it.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Welcome everyone, my name is Isiaq and I’m on the advisory board of VR/AR Association Nigeria chapter. So l’ll be hosting today’s event with Derrick, Hammed and Chuba. I’ll like everyone to introduce themselves so we can start. But before then, the main purpose of this event is to discuss the whole affairs of VR/AR, as well as it’s landscape in Africa and globally. So I hope that everybody enjoys this. Derrick, do you want to introduce yourself?
Derrick (Speaker): Alright, thanks Isiaq. Good evening everyone, I’m Derrick and I’m an AR developer as well as I run a couple of Metaverse projects mostly from the Metaverse products and I’m currently with Euphoria Labs and also the Metaverse Director of Fashion Startup brands. It’s nice to meet everyone here.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Thank you Derrick for that awesome introduction. Hammed, we would like to hear from you.
Hammed Arowosegbe (Speaker): Hi everyone, my name is Hammed. I have more than half a decade of experience in building AR/VR products, currently the founder of SwiftXR and also currently on the VR/AR section team and it’s nice to meet everyone.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Alright. Chuba can we have you introduce yourself.
Chuba Ezekwesili (Speaker): Hi everyone, my name is Chuba. I’m the co-founder of Akanka and the interdisciplinary designer and Akanka is a venture studio where we, basically, I would have mentioned to create experience that make people feel happier, better and kinder. I have absolutely no experience with AR/VR but I have a lot of experience building experiences that help people be better so I’m glad to be here.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Alright. Awesome So we’re going dive right in, today’s more of trying to explore the landscape and I have a couple of questions with me, so I would jump right in. I’m going to start with Derrick, when you’re introducing yourself, you mention something about the Meraverse and I know that this is a buzz world kind of, like almost everybody or anyone in the creative world is trying to take advantage of the word “Metaverse” now so I think it’s something that is going global and everybody is using it. We even saw Facebook changed their business name to Meta and a lot of people are confused, I think they might want to know more. So the question here is what actually is Metaverse and how does that relate to AR/VR?
Derrick (Speaker): Thanks for bringing that up. I know it always comes up, you know about the buzz word thing but it’s far from that pretty much. I think the buzz word help helps to get the word out there sort of you know getting people interested in the space but there’s really a lot more to it. So if you think about the history of the internet right, earlier on we just used to consume content from the internet that was what we sort of did, you know the earliest version of the internet right, we had this social platforms and creative platforms that allows you interact and create content do stuff on the internet right but again in as much as it’s very good, we’re still limited heavily to really experience the world and basically, what the Metaverse is it’s just the internet of experience right. Just like how we have many websites right now where you can do different types of things, different types of projects, new business models coming up, you know just business cloud architecture and with Metaverse there’s something like that. So in the internet of experience, we have different kind of experiences from different companies that try to help reach how you engage with the product or service or just a game or something on the internet right and by giving that full immersive experience, you are able to get the most benefits of the internet basically. So we know how helpful the internet has been over the years, you know, we communicating right now is a very good example of what could not happen 20 years ago like this you know, but imagine taking this one step further, how we would have a town hall meeting to talk about this topic and how I could look to my left and right beside me I can feel yor presence or I can see you making a joke or facial reactions and even a form of presence like I was actually there. These are the kind of experiences that we’ll see happening right, it’s really just about the internet, how do we take what we currently have to be limited to the size of our screens and we can actually just bring back the internet to our senses, just presence generally. Anything like that can be categotised as the metaverse. I hope I explained it enough to th extent.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): I think that you did justice to that, so basically, you mean that the form of interaction we currently have which is us being limited to the dispense of our screen size and how we can exponentially take that to the next step, try to sort of imitate our real world, interact in a more intuitive way but this time on the web or internet. Thank you for that Derrick. Hammed, I’m going to throw this to you, you’re the founder of SwiftXR and SwiftXR is definitely like a Startup in the AR/VR space, so I’m going to start with this question of how can businesses leverage this AR/VR technology to make more sales and improve theis kitsattraction.
Hammed Arowosegbe (Speaker): Thank you. I think when I look at sales and attraction happening more in the entertainment space for business, as we move to the next era of spacial computing, there’s a projection that we’re going to slowly feel the wave from our smartphones and where our glasses is our device. So I think businesses can start to position himself there, we have a lot of businesses working on mobile app. And as we move towards spatial computing era where we start to move away from mobile devices to move to eye wears so how will we position our business to take advantage of that. In terms of that, when it comes to training, there’s a lot of stuff that AR/VR does there, if you have operational procedures that you want to automate or you want to train people, rather than having physical where people could do that, you could create a VR app for example and stimulate their whole process. It is time saving and improves labour reduction in terms of training. Things happening in E-commerce, we have Amazon, and virtual footwear trials, eye care AR, E-commerce is also taking place on social media and 3D access. Businesses needs position themselves among this buzzword and to make sure their technology is adding value to them.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Yeah, I mean Amazon has taking advantage of the AR for virtual trial and I know that it is one of the things Derrick is passionate about, he’s been working on stuff like that over the years and he’s one of the few people in Africa that have probably seen this in their timeline and actually seen the do a project in regards to that. But before I go to Derrick, Hammed has highlighted some of the cases and what businesses can do with this technology but Chuba, what do you think of businesses in Africa because there’s this narrative of how Africans are always late to this technologies, so what do you think about the way businesses are taking advantage of this technology and gow Africans should not be left out at this moment?
Chuba Ezekwesili (Speaker): That’s a really wonderful question, especially because you’ve drawn on historical context that shows how we tend to be late on adopted technology. I think that hasn’t necessarily been the case when it comes to situations like blockchains and bitcoins, I think we stand a chance of coming in earlier with the VR/AR. I think the analogy I like to use is the story that I like to tell people was when Apple came out with their iPhone and I remember me coming back to Nigeria with an iPhone, it was very popular and people ask me is this phone not made by Apple? Is apple not a fruit? The incident was really funny. Fast forward down the line, you saw how used cases for iPhone could transform problems that we had into solutions right. Businesses will have to think of problems that can be solutions in Africa so specific problems can be solved. It’s very important that we don’t approach it as a new thing we gave to get ahead of, instead we have to approach it as how it brings values to customers and how it makes life easier and if it can be figured out, the we would have a huge case of VR/AR in Africa.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Interesting, from your last point, we noticed that in Africa we have some companies and startups that are trying to build stuff using the technology and I’m seeing some trends like the education sector and all of that and if we continue that way, we might just get it right. Coming back to you Derrick, if I want to be an XR developer, how do I go about it and what do I need to do?
Derrick (Speaker): I think they’re different ways to go about it, a lot of tools and platforms but they can be a little confusing, so what I advise young people is to be aware of what you want to build and how you want people to assume that piece of content or experience. If you want to go through a career route, it’s best to have clearly defined stuff, products, engineering or design. If you’re going into design, you’ll have to learn XR design as well as prototyping stuff with social AR tools like Instagram and snapchat. If you want into Engineering, you can use Unity, Unreal Engine to learn the development. But in my case, I’m more of someone that experiments and gives creative solutions to different kind of problems, I usually work from the solutions, what I want to build, the best way to deliver content, so with that type of thinking you would consider the virtual trials but if it’s something that is integrated into the product just like Amazon then you would go much more into Mobile Engineering or Web Engineering or WebXR. So you’ll just have to think about what you want to create and what the experience looks like because the thing with XR is that they’re different tools and right now there’s a limit to what a lot of them can achieve. Once you understand what you want to achieve, you can basically walk backwards and pick the right tools, but I’ll say design is necessary for everyone because if you can design you can get most of your concept out. So just learn general special design, then you can use any tool to get what you want.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Okay. So before I move to the next Speaker I also believe that you have to be motivated to do what you want to do. Derrick, what is your motivation for always picking these tools and trying to make something and how can a prospective developer remain motivated to do something?
Derrick (Speaker): Yeah apart from the obvious motivation generally, I think what I’m interested in doing this is because of the space, a lot of us would have been tied up to the African government if not for the careers on the internet, and with the way things are currently happening, so I understand that there’s a big idea that we’re fully immersed in the internet. We can be liberated from our physical sufferings, they’re somethings that can’t be learnt from just actual browsing like Engineering, Medicine, where you need to do practical stuff and be immersive for you to be an expert. I personally believe that the whole concept of the Metaverse is to help people wherever they are, to get the most if the world without being held down to where they were born physically and even a long term crazy vision I had is a better way to achieve immortality would be to have a digital replica of yourself living in a virtual world versus the current way to go about it which is trying to extend our biological cells which is very difficult. So we have to make it possible for everyone and hopefully make money out of it and everybody wins.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Thank you very much, I think I liked the money part. Hammed, you mentioned earlier different sectors using these technologies, which of these sectors do you think will take the most advantage of AR/VR?
Hammed Arowosegbe (Speaker): Based on the industries you mentioned, which of them is going to go mainstream?
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Yes, maybe the one that will just fly from wherever right now, which of them do you think has that capability?
Hammed Arowosegbe (Speaker): Okay, I can’t be like 100% sure but if I’m to gamble on one because you can only project, I’m going to gamble on sales more like virtual trials and E-commerce stuff and my major reason for saying E-commerce is that the total market for E-commerce is really wild, there’s a lot of money in E-commerce. If you use AR/VR, you get more sales compared to when you give someone a static image so when we get to that point where 3D is more available because one of the major challenges with E-commerce and AR/VR is that AR/VR is 3D consuming so you need that stuff to have a 3D version of itself where you can do your own AR/VR magic. If you look at the varieties of assets we have in E-commerce from tables to TVs, that’s a lot of 3D content that one would have to do, but I feel like once we cross that bridge, then it would be more accessible there and a lot of people would be incorporating. So how quickly will you position yourself into it? So I’m probably going to gamble for E-commerce and virtual trials.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): I think I want to agree with you because E-commerce has the tendency to build on our existing device like you don’t actually have to put on VR headset because most of our mobile phones have AR capabilities in them so building up on that I think I want to back your gamble. I should probably ask Derrick this question but I’m going to ask Chuba, it’s the last part Derrick said about trying to make money, I’ve been around for a couple of times and I know that trying to make money in AR/VR, doing either like freelancing or even working for a company, all sort of things might be a little bit challenging. So Chuba, how do you think we can approach this? I know that if you’re trying to learn anything don’t start with that mindset of money but I know that at the end of the day that’s what we want. How do we approach this so that we can make a living out of this technology?
Chuba Ezekwesili (Speaker): I really live that you added that towards the end because whenever I, which is very ironic for someone in the venture capital space, but whenever I of money all the time I get very uncomfortable but at the same time I understand that money is very key to anything that we’re doing, so I think the first place we can start with is the value and I have this conversation very frequently. What exactly is the value you’re bringing to the space because once you can determine the value, the end result of the value is money and one of the side effects of bringing value to people is money, people will pay for value but if you’re focused on money, you’re not necessarily focused on value and I think that’s super important when we’re thinking about this AR/VR space. One of the things I think that is key is when we talk about value, how do we extend it beyond E-commerce because E-commerce is such popular conversation in the AR/VR space, it make sense that if people are buying stuff, you convince them to buy more stuff, you possibly make it realistic. It’s one thing buying an iPhone and it’s another thing being on an Apple store and holding an iPhone, that usually convinces people to buy or sell more iPhones and the idea is if you bring more layers into your mobile phone then we can get you to buy more stuff which is great but not long term sustainable because it’s only so much buying that you can do. If I think about it, what are the experiences that you can create that people would love to tap into and would love to have as an experience to enjoy and it brings value to them. Thinking about today’s world, we’re dealing with depression and social anxiety, what are the ways you can think around and experience the designs for them and solves them, we’re dealing with isolation, what are the ways you can think around building platforms that helps the community bringing them together, connecting them in healthy ways where they can relate and learn together. The important thing is how then do you take education to a new level with these tools. You’ll also find out that they’re new experiences you can offer to people.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Right, I think I like how you did justice to that, the skills come first then every other thing can follow. Okay, so Derrick this question is for you, how do I go about the job search? Are there jobs available in this space? I think we should start from that.
Derrick (Speaker): If you want to go into the career route, you need to have specific skills, once you have that skill set, you have a couple of projects here and there, preferably building them in public before you start doing your job search. There are a lot of companies actively hiring for the space especially if you have pretty good projects you can do your typical job search and get them but I think most importantly, creativity matters a lot in the space, how you go about your projects or solving projects then you would get people attracted to you and when you show your work, it’s a no brainer that you’re the best fit. If you learn social AR tools, you can’t necessarily make a career out of it. You’d be more freelancing but to make a career out of it then it would be more of Unity or Unreal. WebXR is also there but it’s also kind of tricky right now because it’s not fully standardized, but it’s a very nice skill to have. But where the industry is facing now is Unity than Unreal for maybe more media based kind of projects, most importantly try to share stuff out in public as you build it because there are enthusiastic people in the space, people who are very open that would love to get you in. The spa e is really open and global from the design so there’s no problem about you being an African or Nigerian or that kind of stuff. Show your work preferably on Twitter or LinkedIn and if you have strength then Tiktok, something that would attract people basically.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Alright, nice submission. Thank you for that, Derrick. So, Hammed, what if I’m not interested m, but of course it’s good to have the Engineering part, but this time around I’m trying g to build from the advice that you’ve given and I’m trying to solve a particular problem in the community using the AR/VR, what are the challenges in building a business in this technology space and how do we overcome them?
Hammed Arowosegbe (Speaker): That’s a very good one Isiaq. When I think of challenges, I think of it in 3 spaces, firstly; Capital, secondly; hiring the right skill set of people, thirdly; tech. So I’ll start with tech, also because of the way AR/VR is currently, we’re still in the early stage and most of the companies you see doing crazy stuff, you can’t really say the company is going to be there in the next couple of years because law of standard are still not yet casting stone so we could go ahead and build a billion dollars company, get the right funding, build your stuff and that would stand up as a change in 1 year. New standards happen like maybe Unity has new ways of doing that, you’ve gone ahead and you need to refactor your codebase. One of the main challenges is the industry is still early so you need to think about the technology you want to use and gamble on it, make it relevant in the next couple of 5 years so even if it goes outdated, your old system won’t be refactored. The second space is hiring the right skill set, once you leave Unity and you’re trying to build some stuff in Unreal Engine especially for AR/VR dev, you can hardly find someone in that Unreal Engine space even if you see, it’s now worse when you move to WebXR space because WebXR has a lot if crazy code compared to Unity or Unreal, its really hard to get skills there. If you’re trying to start a business in that space, you need to be a technical founder or Co-founder, but if you are a founder and you have a Co-founder that’s not so technical, you guys are probably in deep shit. The last one is about capital, the space is still open but if you’re targeting European market, funds are currently available in the public support but if you’re coming from Africa, the challenge is we don’t really have used cases for AR/VR except from South Africa that I know about, you can’t really pinpoint a major used case happening in other African country including Nigeria except for entertainment and once you can’t show that level of attraction, it requires a lot of work trying to convince potential buyers to do the stuff. So oftentimes, you’re left with an African startup in that space trying to target the European market, they’re just lucky to find people in Africa willing to use the product. These are the key challenges I can share.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Alright thank you and I do hope we’ll be able to have access to funds and find the right partners in terms of Co-founders and everybody’s dedication is also key, that’s more of a global problem. I have one last question for Chuba, even though we still believe that the technology is not new but at the same time if compared to other developing technologies, there are still a lot of places to go with the technology. Even though we have that, there is still a lot of information that is everywhere, people saying different things, some of this information is relevant in the industry. The question then is in this world of fast information, how do someone still remain relevant in the industry?
Chuba Ezekwesili (Speaker): That’s a very good question, I think for starters, the solution is within the question you just asked. There’s a lot of things going on and there’s a role to play in solving information asymmetry, information asymmetry means when there’s is so much information and people can’t make sense of it but imagine if there was someone who said this is my responsibility to bring together every new thing that’s going on and show how it links to the previous thing. That’s how you create a niche within the space, I’m an economist and as an economist I realised that many people did not understand the economy concept especially when Nigeria was dealing with a lot of the gbas gbos, falling oil prices and inflation, I created the space for myself simply by explaining what was going on for other people n doing my research, understanding myself and explaining to other people. I think there’s a massive space and that’s part of the AR/VR Association, there’s a massive space for education so people can understand exactly where this can head to, understand the gaps, technologies, user journey and challenges that exist. So I would say start by organising the knowledge that exist and seeing what insight you can draw out of them, it’s a great place for anyone to just begin.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Thank you very much. I’m going to start entertaining questions from everybody. You can now send in your requests.
RealEstate Bond (Listener): Hi, I’m obviously into Real Estate, I’m a property developer and this is the space I’m interested in, someone said there are rare cases, personally I believe that AR/VR is the next frontier for us in Real Estate, I have that feeling that it will be the next thing that’ll push the industry. Let me give an explanation, in Real Estate, there’s something called an off-planned project where developers don’t really have money or land, they create 3D images, brochures to sell the idea of the project they want to build on a particular site. Personally, I believe if the developer can create that environment virtually, it will help sell the experience faster like if I want to create a new plan project, I just print pixels. The best case we have currently is some guys design some 3D architecture on the computer but I believe AR/VR will take you to the next level. Another use case is most of the people buying stuff in Real Estate especially in Lagos, there are people in the diaspora having the issue of trust, believe AR/VR will help push the industry in that area. So I don’t believe that it doesn’t have used cases here, I think it does but it can’t be a synergy between us in the industry and the tech guys who have the skills, I believe that it’s important.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Thank you, I think you did justice to the thought. I don’t know if any Speaker wants to say anything about this.
Hammed Arowosegbe (Speaker): When I say use case, I mean something that’s already proven in this particular technology. We’ve seen Mariot project their hotel in AR which I worked on, so there is really nice stuff that has been done. I mean the actual value derived from it, the cost and labour reduction, so when I mean used cases, I mean are the Real Estate people willing to do it, are your clients willing to pay for that service, the values, I mean the values there are currently dogmatic in that particular space.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): That sounds like something we need to know, to know the market survey as an individual. Thank you for bringing that up, we have another request.
Extend Africa (Listener) : Hello, good evening, my name is Gospel Ononwi. I’ve listened to all the speakers and they have been so wonderful, thanks to the last speaker before Hammed who said the use cases for AR/VR in the Real Estate sector. Personally, I think they don’t have much awareness of what this technology can do for their business. This technology that the Westerners are using to drive sales presence can catapult from where it is to the height that they don’t expect. I’m a big advocate for AR/VR education, we all went to school in Nigeria that had blackboards where some of us were not privileged to see the science labs, so having the AR for our education will change the dynamics in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Imagine being able to augment the 3D model of the skeleton right before you and even show them different parts of the 3D skeleton, and you can put them together again. That is a game change in the educational factor in Nigeria. So the use cases are enormous, we need to create awareness that is going to change their business, that is my thought. Thank you.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Thank you so much Gospel. We also need to be realistic, some schools are trying to work with them but the accessibility is also tough. This is something that is new and we’re trying to convince them to see the use, we’re not going to stop but if you want to do these, you have to be actually ready to do it. Chuba over to you.
Chuba Ezekwesili (Speaker): I’ll just throw more light on the educational sector, I really do think that it’s a function of affordability, one of the major things we say at Akanka is “use what you have” because it’s important. A lot of time people don’t realise what they have and focus on what they don’t have. Everyone has a mobile phone which was not the case before. So the one use case is the AR use case rather than the VR use case but the question for us is how do we want to use that in terms of education? These are the kind of questions I would be asking because what I see is that we have the opportunity to build an entire platform on mobile phones that currently exist in the hands of millions of people across the continent, it is a case of showing people what actually exists. Educating these people in the AR is a lot easier than VR.
Extend Africa (Listener) : I totally agree with Chuba, AR is the easiest of all in the XR technology, the Mobile phones manufacturers already embedded the AR functionalities into their devices. People with good phones can actually have AR/ VR experience. Virtual reality is really expensive and how many people can buy that? So if you can build products on AR, it’s really going to help. I have a product in the pipeline for education that is coming up. Thank you.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Does anyone have any question or suggestion?
Hammed Arowosegbe (Speaker): I think I might just add something to what Gospel said about affordability of VR sets, personally for me, the cost of some phones are expensive, but it’s a question of value to people, not the cost, would I rather buy VR set than a smartphone? I think when we get to that point where VR has more value that people will want to buy so I don’t think price point is the issue.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Thank you very much Hammed. We have another request.
Yeni (Listener): Good evening everyone, I just wanted to buttress Hammed’s point. We always see that the cost to purchase VR headset is not that expensive but it’s a barrier and a Startup course that people have to purchase other than smartphones that will need maintenance. We just need the trust that is not yet there, so having to buy the device newly is one of the limiting factors. Thank you.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Thank you for that. Another factor I would like to add is that new VR headsets keep coming out. I know that it’s the evolution of technology but for someone that wants to keep having the experience, are there any means for these problems to be solved?
Derrick (Speaker): There’s this popular quote that “people who are serious about software should build there own hardware”. If you start thinking about building low cost or mixed reality headset or tools, we won’t be able to achieve that because we would have the biggest companies designing the best products for a very tiny fraction of the market of the use case. It will just be limited to different people in certain places. I think it is important for us to build our own hardware, I know a couple of people experimenting in space and there’re also a couple of projects coming up that are very cheap. I think we should set up more funds and projects to create light versions that are very easy.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): I think that was caught on. Chuba, do you have anything to add to this?
Chuba Ezekwesili (Speaker): I think Derrick has done a wonderful job of talking about the fundamentals that are there, what’s really key on the layer is to figure how to use the platform. The synchronicity of the hardware and software on this device makes it easier for the platforms to exist, also making a price point which people can afford.
VR/AR Association – Nigeria (Host): Thank you very much, that made a lot of sense. An average Nigerian can relate to these especially the price part where you talked about how we can have a better price system where we can make payments and all of that. We’re rounding up now, so just anyone have any question or anything to add?
Chuba Ezekwesili (Speaker): Sorry, I just want to add we didn’t mention anything about gaming and gaming is huge space for opportunity, if you think about the AR space what are the other ways that exist in gamification around these tools and software and I think that’s a space where if we have the mind thinking about it now, we have a whole new use case. It’s such an important space which as an experience, we really need to be thinking about.
Derrick (Speaker): I agree with that, one of the best way to agree with these technologies is to have an application for it, you would see much more interesting games that are shareable at the same time and people can also experience.
Thank you everybody and I hope you have a wonderful night rest!