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Episode 55: Future gazing: Brett King on augmented reality

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All Xero Gravity episodes

Hosted by Elizabeth Ü

It’s about to get real. Meet Brett King, author, host of BREAKING BANK$, the world’s number one fintech podcast, and founder of mobile banking service, Moven. When it comes to augmented reality [AR], Brett’s ideas on how it could power businesses, medicine and beyond are brilliant.

Imagine augmented reality with VOIP, where on your command your phone books a flight to Italy, the hotel, restaurant reservations, a meeting room, transportation, and has everything ready in you and your client’s calendar, in minutes. No web clicks, credit card taps or emails written. All while you’re in the middle of Florence’s epic Piazza della Signoria, courtesy of a VR headset, 3D cinematic view — standing in your office.

So, how about a nice helping of augmented reality to turn your entrepreneurial vision into amazing customer experiences and company profits?

Small Business Resources:

Episode transcript

Host: Elizabeth Ü [EÜ]

Guest: Brett King [BK]

Intro: You’ve just tuned into Xero Gravity, a podcast for small business leaders and entrepreneurs across America. Now to your host, Elizabeth Ü.

EÜ: Hey everyone, I’m Elizabeth Ü, and you’re listening to Xero Gravity.

Guest soundbite:

“For smaller businesses: if you take something like augmented reality or you take, say, augmented reality with VOIP, so technology like Alexa, where you can augment commerce, then if you’re a small business and you want to have, you know, continued interaction with customers, then these are great platforms for you to extend your experiences to your customers in really innovative ways.”

EÜ: Meet Brett King. Brett’s an Amazon best-selling author, a well-known industry commentator, host of his own radio show, BREAKING BANK$, and the founder of mobile banking service, Moven. Brett shows us yet again that you don’t have to have a fancy degree to be a globally recognized entrepreneur. You just need to be passionate about what you’re doing.

Guest soundbite:

“It doesn’t matter how much you’re funded. The real secret to success is persistence and just working hard and not giving up. Just don’t take no for an answer.”

EÜ: So we’ll have all that and more coming up on Xero Gravity, right after this.

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EÜ: Brett King, thanks for joining us on Xero Gravity.

BK: It’s my pleasure to be here.

EÜ: So when you’re not out disrupting the finance industry and heading up your company, Moven, what would we find you doing?

BK: I’m always out disrupting. No, so I did 39 countries last year as a speaker. So there’s a fair bit of time doing that. I run a podcast of my own called BREAKING BANK$, which is the world’s number one fintech radio show. We go out to 72 countries, we have about a million and a half listeners, and in my spare time I’m a gamer. Right now I’m doing my conversion to an IFR rating for my pilot’s license. I’ve been a pilot for over 20 years and I’m converting to instrument rating.

EÜ: Wow! So soon you’ll be flying your own planes to your speaking gigs.

BK: Yeah, possibly. I think when I have an exit from Moven, maybe flying my own plane’s a possibility but for now I rent them.

EÜ: So I understand that you went to university in Hong Kong. How did that experience shape your understanding of global business?

BK: So I lived in Hong Kong for seven years and actually taught university in Hong Kong. I’m actually a college dropout, technically. I did my bachelor of commerce in Melbourne at Monash University and deferred that, and never went back, and then started a management program where I was with Deloitte in the late 90s, but then moved to Hong Kong in ’99. And then at the end of 2000 I actually started teaching an MBA in Hong Kong for the Australian Graduate School of Management— teaching their e-commerce and doing some marketing and business strategy stuff.

EÜ: So as a college dropout how did that impact your entrepreneurial passion?

BK: You know, I look more to skills of people around me and I look for capability and energy and passion more so than, you know, which school you went to. But I also, you know, having been in the academic world on the teaching side, I also understand the real practicalities of (a) where it adds value and (b) where it doesn’t necessarily. So, I think I’ve got a pretty good take on where it fits in the whole ecosystem.

EÜ: And as far as your company, Moven, were there any particular a-ha moments when you knew you just had to launch something in the banking space?

BK: Well how Moven started was definitely an a-ha moment, and it was an a-ha moment associated with my first book, Bank 2.0, which went on to be a best seller in the banking space. I was actually doing the book launch of Bank 2.0. I was in LA doing the last leg of my book tour, launching that book, and I was at a breakfast with these VCs and Hollywood producers and you know, actors and all these interesting people, and they were asking me, you know, “What’s the future of banking like?”

And as I was describing the fact that you download this bank account on your phone and you wouldn’t have any plastic and you wouldn’t sign any paper, and this would be intelligent enough to tell you about how you were spending your money and things like that. One of the VCs at this event said, “Yep, but banks won’t do that, they’re… .” And that was the epiphany. That was the moment when I knew I was going to do Moven.

So, actually literally about an hour after that event had occurred, I’d already gone back and registered the domain for ‘Move and Bank’ which was our, you know, Move and Bank was our first take at it. Later on we dropped the word ‘Bank’ just purely because the millennials we tested on the product felt that it was, you know, we weren’t a bank — we were cooler than bank.

EÜ: So in addition to that epiphany, were there any people other than those VCs around the table that have driven you to get Moven to where it is today.

BK: Oh for sure. You know, when I first started, people would say, “Yeah, it’s all very easy to talk about this, but it’s really hard to do this stuff.” Now, I knew it wasn’t that hard, and so I said, no it’s not, it’s not that hard. Let me show you. Let me go out and build it and show you what it is.

So there was a little bit of ego in that, saying that, you know, I don’t want to just be the guy who talks the talk. I want to be the guy who actually walks the talking and leads by example in the industry in terms of showing what’s possible. And by and large I think we’ve done that, you know, if you look in the fintech space and you look around, Moven is one of the most recognized brands in retail banking. Sort of reimagining a bank from a digital neo-banking perspective. So I feel like we’ve done what we set out to achieve.

EÜ: That’s great you really have. And when we look at re-imagining and innovation, what does innovation really mean to you?

BK: I think a lot of it today we focus on reimagining customer experience. I think that’s critical. The real objective here is saying well, “If we were to start from scratch today; if we didn’t have these preconceived ideas and these preconceived processes about what a bank should be or, you know, how we should do this, how would you reimagine it? How would you rebuild it?” And the fact is we wouldn’t do it the way we have sort of built the system today, over hundreds of years. We’d take a fresh look at it and say, “What’s the easiest way to solve these problems?”

So there’s a lot of modality changes that are occurring here, and a lot of the work that we’ve previously valued, which is sort of really around the humans in the process. We’re now learning with algorithmic approaches to this, you know, simple AI, and you know, experience design that sometimes humans make things more complicated, slower and, you know, less efficient. Redesigning those experiences built into the world around us is really the key, I think.

EÜ: I love that! And it makes me wonder also where humans are actually adding value still.

BK: So I guess maybe that’s a good question to ask. If you’re thinking about the future in AI and how it’s going to disrupt the way you do your business or how it’s going to disrupt your career, you have to start asking that very real question, “Where are humans going to add value?”

I think the challenge a lot of humans are going to have, you know, in the space of advice, whether it’s banking or whether it’s accounting or legal advice or even healthcare, machines will be able to synthesize so much more data and react based on just that phenomenal amount of data, that they’re able to analyze and synthesize that humans are very quickly moving into this place where we have the problem of information asymmetry. All we have to do then is worry about how to recode that stuff into the world so that that advice makes sense and is given context.

EÜ: Can you share with us some other insights from your book that would be relevant to our small business listeners?

BK: You know, the one interesting stat of course is that we’re seeing a huge emergence of gigging economy workers and people with multiple income streams. The new sense is, you know, sharing economy forums like Über and Airbnb and 99designs and TaskRabbit, and so forth, and just the ability to now have very low barriers of entry for you to start your own business in particular areas. This is presenting massive opportunities, but it’s going to change the makeup of the way we think about small businesses.

So, you’re going have a ton of small businesses doing all these really interesting things. Also, there’s an opportunity to reinvent not just our product or distribution, but can we rethink service layer interactions in a different way. So I’m very positive in respect to sort of creative competencies where you are starting to think about how a product or service can be placed in someone’s life.

A great example of that is a technology with emerging voice commerce. We see these ads all the time here in the US with Alec Baldwin, you know, talking to Alexa, and reordering socks, ordering our food, and these sort of things, using this technology. But if you extrapolate that to where we might be in 10 or 15 years, imagine your phone with this built-in, you know, voice commerce capability. A personal AI almost, if you like, and you’re in a meeting with a colleague or your own telephone, and you say, “Great well that’s fantastic. Let’s meet up next Thursday then; Thursday afternoon I’ll come over to London and meet with you, and let’s meet at your offices.”

So your phone has now made that booking. It’s in the calendar your colleague’s. And because you’re travelling in this case — I might be going from New York to London — it’s booked a flight for me. It’s booked me at my favorite hotel that I normally stay at, because this is behavior it’s learned and you know, I’ve allowed this agent in my phone, this personal AI to execute on those sort of things.

So there’s got to be a lot of the world that has to be reimagined and rebuilt from an experience layer perspective on this new architecture, no longer involving a point-of- sale terminal or even a web page or a plastic card. I’m also very hot on some practical stuff like solar. You know, in 10 years time, solar energy will be less than half of the cost of traditional generation of electricity, gas and so forth.

EÜ: That’s great Brett! Thank you. Now it’s time to dig a little deeper into this episode’s theme, which is all about how small businesses can use augmented reality to their advantage. Let’s start with the basics: what is augmented reality and how does it compare with virtual reality? A term that we hear a lot more than augmented reality.

BK: So this is what we call mixed reality spectrum. So we have the real world that’s the reality we have today, and then we have across that spectrum variations of that. So you have augmented reality, which is where I put data into your real world that augments your real world in terms of your perception or in terms of your ability to respond. So an example of that is I might wear some glasses with a head up display that, when you’re jogging, it’s telling you what your heart rate is, you know, and now we can do that with a smart watch today.But of course augmented reality may put that in our field of view.

Virtual reality, you know, gives this sort of visual capability but inserts you into a virtual world. So you are immersed in a virtual world. It’s no longer about you being in the world and having data, it’s now that you’re in a completely virtual world.

And at the far end of the spectrum we have what is called augmented virtuality which is where we might incorporate physical elements of the world into a virtual world. So this might be for example you have a room that’s set up to, you know, with certain obstacles, and when you put the VR headset on it changes that environment into a virtual environment. So when maybe you — in the VR world you’re walking across, past a waterfall on a bridge that goes over a waterfall — and in the physical world or the room that you’re in there may be a fan that sprays water on you, sort of in this environment to sort of simulate this. So you’re sort of merging those two worlds together.

EÜ: And why should we be intrigued by AR and paying attention to its developments?

BK: I think the possibilities for, you know, this, are very strong. If you think about the development of the personal head up display in aircraft for fighter pilots, I think that’s a good analogy. If pilots have to look down at their navigation equipment or look down at their, you know, threat display as they’re flying the aircraft, the act of doing that could in itself compromise the safety of the aircraft. Because if their concentration slipped then they’re no longer flying the aircraft. So by putting that in the field of view of the pilot with the head up display, it meant they could do both.

Now look, now you apply that to something like surgery. If I’m a surgeon and I’m operating on a patient with cancer and a tumor — if I was able to take an MRI and then use a 3D overlay using augmented reality I would know exactly where I have to make the incisions. So there’s all sorts of advantages where we can have this overlay piece. We really are going to have these applications sit on top of augmented reality that do augment our decision making and actions in the real world.

It’s not just going to be about whether there’s a deal at a shop that we’re walking past with a discount for iPhones or something like that or, you know, if someone’s re-tweeted me on Twitter. It’s definitely going to be more contextual.

EÜ: And what implications does all of this have for small businesses, entrepreneurs and startups?

BK: It’s a very good question. Well the startup’s the easy one, because you know, they could be building this stuff and obviously it’s greenfield right now in terms of those opportunities. For smaller businesses, if you take something like augmented reality or you take say augmented reality with VOIT — so technology like Alexa where you can augment commerce, then if you’re a small business and you want to have, you know, continued interaction with customers, then these are great platforms for you to extend your experiences to your customers in really innovative ways.

But if you’re not connected into this world; if you have a product or service and you’re not using these augmented facilities to enhance the value of your product or service, then just over time there’s going to be less synergy in terms of your product with your customers and users, because this becomes the new iPhone app. You know, it’s like you know, today there’s a lot of businesses that just won’t be able to survive unless they’ve got an app on a phone. The same thing will happen with AR and voice commerce.

EÜ: So Brett, what types of companies or businesses do you think would benefit from virtual reality or augmented reality in their marketing and various experiential applications?

BK: The real key for AR is the ability to provide your value proposition in real time in a different contextual manner. This whole messaging architecture we’ve built you know, over the last couple of centuries around this was, we will tell you our product is really cool, it’s the best product available, and if you remember that when you need that product you’ll come to us. Where AR and these other things are leading us is to a contextual world.

Which is, if I’ve got a pre-existing relationship with you, that’s an excellent way for me now to say, based on that relationship, that I understand your behavior, I understand your needs. So I can anticipate that much better and give you access to the service or product that you need right at the moment you need it to solve a problem. And if I don’t then I’ve got to figure out how do I get access to that data around your behavior, so now I can provide that context to my product or service that helps you solve a problem. And this is really, I think a pretty significant shift. It’s no longer about pointing customers to your brand and you know, saying hey we’re a great brand and we’ve got a great product within that and come and buy that when you need it. It’s now saying: the only way a brand or a product or service is relevant is whether at the time that you need it, that I’m there and I can provide that context that gives my brand or product an advantage.

So let’s say we walk into a store and you’ve got a product that is designed for wellness, health, and you pick up this product. You chose a mode on your glasses and it could tell you how you could lower your cholesterol or would decrease your weight over a period of time. Just by picking up the product and interacting with it in AR you could have all the sort of benefits, additional benefit information shown to you.

EÜ: So of all that you have learned about in your research about AR and watching its developments, what excites you most about the future of where augmented reality is going?

BK: If you’re listeners haven’t heard of this company, they should definitely check out Magic Leap. Magic Leap has raised almost one and a half billion dollars in funding for their product and they haven’t launched yet. So that sort of tells you how hot the product is. Google invested. It was part of a round and invested half a billion dollars in their tech. So they use this digital light field technology, which is essentially using mirrors to project into your field of view digital images. And the images are so good that they’re referred to as cinematic reality. So think about what you see in a cinema on a screen in terms of its quality of the image and now insert an image like that, a three dimensional image into your field of view.

Imagine doing a school project where you’re learning about, I don’t know, you’re learning about Mount Everest. So, suddenly you do a search on this and instead of looking at a picture on your laptop, now you can actually project in your field of view a three-dimensional image of Mount Everest and how it compares with other high peaks around the world, you know, or it could be teaching of a history lesson. And so I take you out on the streets of London and I say, you know, there was a great monument in London in 1666, I think. I can’t remember exactly, my history is a bit rusty. But you’re standing at this monument in London, which is the monument of the great fire and now I put my glasses on and I can see as if I was standing there in the 1600s. I mean if you think about that from an educational history perspective, the possibilities are just mind blowing.

EÜ: I love thinking about how augmented reality can contribute to the education world as well as the business world, and I’m also really excited about how you mentioned that small businesses, particularly retailers and consumer product brands, can use augmented commerce to interact with their customers in innovative ways, particularly in terms of getting product in front of people at the moment of need. I think that’s super exciting.

So we’re going to finish up with our question countdown, which is five quick questions and five quick answers. Are you ready?

BK: I am ready.

EÜ: What business, book or idea made the biggest impact on your life and why?

BK: Actually it was a book back during the dot com. It was called Blown to Bits. which sort of really got me excited about the whole disruption thing, and I decided that I was going to make a career in understanding disruption and understanding how to survive disruption with building new businesses.

EÜ: Well obviously you’re making that happen. So what’s the one thing you can’t live without?

BK: Probably my laptop. And Google Maps helps a lot when I’m visiting countries around the world.

EÜ: No doubt. What’s the most useful app on your phone right now?

BK: So probably Google Maps, but of course I have to say Moven, our banking app.

EÜ: In one sentence: what’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned throughout your small business journey?

BK: It doesn’t matter how much you’re funded, the real secret to success is persistence and just working hard and not giving up, just don’t take no for an answer.

EÜ: And finally what skill do you want to enhance this year?

BK: So I’m really interested in improving my health and using a whole ton of data to do that. And I guess we call this biohacking these days, but I’m looking at lots of different data points to try and figure out how I can be healthier and live longer.

EÜ: That’s all we have time for today Brett. Thanks so much for joining us on the show.

BK: No problem. Thanks for having me.

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EÜ: That was Brett King, author, commentator, and host of the radio show, BREAKING BANK$.

Thanks for listening to Xero Gravity. Make sure you join us next Wednesday because we have another awesome episode lined up for you all. Have a good one and see you then.

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