Makers of The Metaverse: Christoph Fleischmann Of Arthur Technologies On The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

High uncertainty and optimism, as it is much easier to point out the problems in things than to see the good and the beautiful.

The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, we had the pleasure of interviewing Christoph Fleischmann.

Christoph Fleischmann is the CEO and Founder of Arthur Technologies, a pioneering large-scale virtual reality meeting, and collaboration platform. Arthur’s workspaces have been built to host high-value meetings among business owners and their team members, regardless of location in the physical world. Since its inception, Fleischmann has seen the platform adopted by renowned organizations around the world, such as the United Nations, Societe Generale, and ERGO.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?

I grew up in the south of Austria, close to the Italian border in the late 90s and early 2000s. The internet was not that prominent for everyone during this time, especially where I lived. But, I have always loved technology, software, and innovation. The internet was a fascinating place that could provide unique access to knowledge, incredible entertainment, and connections to people you could never meet. I found myself connecting with people all over the world via instant messengers and online forums.

Even with the internet at our hands, I still found the world to be a huge place. With my love for technology, I would work on software projects as a hobby; however, whenever I tried finding someone to work with, there were no people physically around me interested in these topics. I had to use the internet to connect with them — even though I love working with people in collaborative settings.

While the presence of games, computers, and the internet in my teens ignited my love for tech, technology’s limitations were why I founded Arthur. I wanted to live in a world where the internet was so strong that geography truly didn’t matter anymore. A world where I could connect and work with anyone globally as if I were in the same room with them.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I have always been a massive fan of Nintendo and its video games — first and foremost, Zelda. I think the beauty and passion that Nintendo put into their games inspired awe in me. You could find small details in the remotest spots of their virtual worlds where you know almost no one would look. But it was this amount of perfectionism that made their virtual world light up and become real.

The virtual world was expansive, and you could roam free in it with superpowers. Many of the concepts and principles explored by such video games are now reused and rediscovered in XR development, even for software heavily geared for professional enterprise use. At Arthur, we take a healthy dose of inspiration from these games for our virtual worlds.

Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the XR industry? We’d love to hear it.

The limitations of the early internet were the driving force behind why I wanted to work in XR and start Arthur. For me, it was recognizing that the internet was still in its infancy and the true paradigm shift was going to happen in the future on a new set of technologies.

I felt that all that the internet had to offer was just a prelude to a much more pervasive and powerful experience that would genuinely make geographical distance obsolete. That experience turned out to be XR.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?

One “aha” moment for us happened very early in our journey with Arthur. In 2018, we were working with a distributed IT team at a large German automotive manufacturer. They used Arthur as a project office where they could align on complex technological problems. This work was all still done on PC-based VR headsets that were clunky and difficult to use because Arthur was still incredibly early and limited in its functionality.

One day, they invited us to a VR meeting in their office. It was a two-hour meeting, and we decided to take a short break after the first hour. Our team was about to take off our headsets when they told us to wait and took us into their virtual office outside to a small terrace they built themselves in Arthur. This area was the spot for their breaks, where they would have coffee chats in between work. That was the moment we realized we were on to something.

Arthur was being used not only as a tool for their meetings but more as a space to connect and work. A lot about our product strategy is built on this. We enjoy witnessing people pioneering this new medium and shaping it to their behavior to adopt it as a new and enabling tool for work.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We made the huge mistake of putting comfortable virtual chairs too close to a place where someone would start in our VR meeting world. I had the glorious problem that more than one person tried to sit down immediately despite having no actual chair. Seeing their avatar fall to the floor while the mic picked up a “thump” is funny in hindsight, although we were pretty worried at the moment that someone got hurt. Thankfully, no one got hurt.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are many people towards whom I feel grateful. I would like to mention my parents, who realized quite early that their children needed access to a computer. Instead of being afraid of the new technology and overly controlling with how often we used it, they embraced it and let me and my brother explore the internet and computers ourselves.

I remember them being heavily criticized by other parents for their easygoing attitude towards the use of the internet. However, they responded that they didn’t want to deny their kids that education. This, of course, is not parenting advice; however, it did work out very well for my brother and me.

Some of the thanks should go to my older brother, who introduced me to video games, programming, and even little hacks at an early age. Much of the initial knowledge I had about computers and most of my excitement and interest in tech came from him.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

With Arthur, we want to create a platform that can be used to connect and work with people all over the world in the most powerful and immersive medium there is — XR. While we are still working on Arthur, I think we underestimate how big a role geography still plays in our lives. Where we grow up, go to school, and move to for our jobs are all factors that fundamentally affect our lives and our opportunities.

Arthur helps enterprises establish hybrid and remote work models without compromising their company culture, collaboration, or creativity. For employees in many parts of the world, Arthur will bring them the freedom to choose where and with whom they want to work, without any compromises being made in their personal lives.

However, the most impactful part is what this technology can do for people in less fortunate countries. A solution like Arthur can truly make the world fair, no matter where you were born. As long as one has an internet connection and access to an XR headset, most of the current disadvantages will not be crippling anymore.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The VR, AR and MR industries seem so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?

The three things that excite me about XR right now are the timing, the impact, and the exploratory nature of it all. We are at a point in time where most of our journey is ahead of us, but it is no longer a pipedream or sci-fi. Right now, enterprises are deploying XR to improve their collaboration and communication, and consumers worldwide are enjoying social, entertainment, and gaming experiences with other people around the globe.

The impact of XR cannot be understated. It is truly the next interface with which we will connect to the digital world. In this way, the industry will transform our lives to the same extent as computing on flat screens. And, there is still so much undefined and undecided. Every day we are confronted with a new challenge potentially no one has ever faced. It is an incredible privilege to play a role in this technical revolution. It is truly magical to see the technology evolve, grow and unfold, with every single contribution by every individual working on it.

What are the 3 things that concern you about the VR, AR and MR industries? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?

We need more people working on XR developments. While Meta has managed to push the technology somewhat into mainstream attention with their Quest series, we still need a lot more people working on the software side. Humanity will need to build a digital world that effectively and ethically connects to our real one — so I would love to see many more people working on it.

Additionally, people equate a technological paradigm shift with one company’s mission and objectives. In people’s minds, the technology currently is too associated with Meta itself — and all positive or negative emotions they may feel about the company itself. While meta is indisputably a major player pushing this technology forward on both software and hardware, the whole technology is a lot bigger, and its opportunity is a lot larger than Meta itself. Some people are skeptical of Meta, but there should be a way to be still super excited about XR.

Lastly, the confusion about what it is. There is a fair bit of misinformation floating around about what the metaverse is, what Web3 is, and what XR is. Part of this is normal, as a lot of it is unfolding, but part of it should be fixable by focusing less on concepts, principles, and architectures and more on what people are building right now and which problems they are solving. I think the whole industry is suffering from too much theoretical future talk and too little focus on what we have in front of us and what a logical extrapolation of the currently solved problems could show. This would make it more tangible for end-users and alleviate people’s concerns about this new technology.

I think the entertainment aspects of VR, AR and MR are apparent. Can you share with our readers how these industries can help us at work?

VR, AR, and MR can make hybrid and remote work easier in enterprises. One of the biggest challenges for large companies is how to offer hybrid and remote work to their employees without compromising on productivity and culture. It seems pretty clear that with webcams and 2D screens, we have maxed out the technological potential in these dimensions. We need a more powerful medium to enable geographically independent collaboration, which is XR truly. Companies with this technology will become more agile. They will be able to offer their employees an unparalleled work-life balance while simultaneously being able to tap into the entire world as a talent pool. The implications of making remote and hybrid truly work are vast — and XR is definitely the answer.

VR, AR, and MR will also become a new computing medium with an entirely new level of productivity and communication. The technology allows for much more than just “recreating” a physical office setting with zero travel needed. As a new three-dimensional computing medium, it will open opportunities for new forms of data visualization, information sharing, and analysis. We will work in 3D, and that will enable people to have even better communication and unshackled creativity and productivity.

Are there other ways that VR, AR and MR can improve our lives? Can you explain?

Ironically, XR will make the world flat. Geography will no longer play a constraining role in our work lives. That means people with access to this technology will have more freedom to work with whomever they want, and their background, skin color, and preferred location will completely cease to matter in this virtual world. It will be interesting to see what this could mean for immigration and the problem of “brain-drain” in poorer countries. The future might bring a much more balanced picture of where value (and income) gets created worldwide than what we currently see.

VR, AR, and MR will also reduce the carbon footprint. Reducing business travel is a significant aspect of curbing CO2 emissions worldwide — and VR/AR/MR can play a huge role in this.

Lastly, it will make digital communication “human” again. In 2D computing, we are flat videos and profile pictures, and we communicate in messages and emojis. Our communication is incredibly abstractive in this digital world. There is scope for much negativity with this abstract and non-personal way of communicating. Online arguments escalate quicker than if we were talking to each other in person, and we never attempt to know most other people we engage with on the internet. Add to this the fact that we watch this digital world through small screens on our laptops or mobile phones, pulling us away from the real world around us.

XR is inherently more human than 2D computing. You actually get to be at the same place as others, you feel like you are present with them, and with advances in avatars and face/eye tracking, it will be even more human and realistic. We will finally look up from our phones again, as digital content will neatly weave itself into our real world.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about working in your industry? Can you explain what you mean?

I am not aware of any “myths” that need to be dispelled.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR, or MR Industries?”

  1. A passion for the technology.
  2. A long breath as this journey will continue for a while.
  3. The ability to quickly learn and apply new knowledge.
  4. The ability to work with radically changing circumstances.
  5. High uncertainty and optimism, as it is much easier to point out the problems in things than to see the good and the beautiful.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We already work extensively with the United Nations on how XR can internally help their teams to collaborate and communicate more efficiently. I would love to see how we could use this technology even more globally for education and more egalitarian access to the labor market. Any movement that puts this technology at the core of a strategy to improve people’s lives globally will be worth its efforts a thousand times over.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to meet Tim Cook, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, or Sheryl Sandberg for lunch. All four for different reasons, though!

Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!

Makers of The Metaverse: Christoph Fleischmann Of Arthur Technologies On The VR, AR & Mixed Reality… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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