Makers of The Metaverse: Hans Hansen Of Brand3D On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Stay informed. Follow the ever-changing trends in this space. If you are to be successful, you need to be able to join the conversations and help evolve the technology approach of your company and/or your customers.
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 Hans Hansen.
Hans Hansen is the CEO of BRAND3D and has extensive knowledge in technology. Currently, his expertise is being applied to 3D technology and enhancing the online experience as the world prepares for the Metaverse. Over the past 20 years, he has developed products and new ventures in the areas of Artificial Intelligence, 3D technologies, M2M automation, Internet of Things, Mobile Marketing, Fitness and Health Monitoring and Social Web Services.
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?
Thank you, it’s an honor to be here. Well, long story short, I grew up in a rural setting in Jutland, Denmark in Europe, and as a kid, — at a time before online gaming and smartphones — I ended up working at a strawberry farm where I managed the estate during the off season.
I found out that I quite liked “being my own boss”, and my career has since moved in an entrepreneurial direction, even when I was working at Nokia the then number five brand in the world.
I was constantly looking for new technology and new business opportunities, and over time, this has given me the privilege to work on various emerging technologies:
In my early 20s, I did my M.Sc. thesis at DTU in Copenhagen using a new type of AI (RTRL neural networks) that eventually evolved into the “deep learning” AI as we know it today.
During my early 30s, I worked on two revolutionary new trends: real-time communication and mobile apps technologies: First by heading up the Architecture Committee of the OMA for Nokia, where we laid the foundation for the “app stores” that we know today, and later in cooperation with Oz Communication / Ericsson, we worked on a feature complete “Slack + Zoom” communication solution.
I then went on — with some of my peers from the OMA — to co-find a startup, Mobile Cohesion, taking in $25m in venture capital from Accel Europe to create the first “app stores” (the company later became part of Intel Services). I was also involved in early Internet-of-Things startups, one of which is still using cloud connected devices to reduce the power consumption of water damage control.
While it was a true privilege to get involved with all these technologies early on, it has also been frustrating to be too early to market. I am therefore really happy to be working on the Metaverse with my current company, Brand3D. The Metaverse is already taking off in various niches, such as VR based on Oculus/Facebook/Meta technology, in Augmented Reality where companies like IKEA have let their customers place virtual goods in their homes for many years and for regular ecommerce where Shopify has seen more than double conversion rates using 3D technologies.
This time, I feel that I have finally hit the right time to market.
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?
The movie Tron has always been an icon. Not only am I a great fan of Jeff Bridges (“Star Man”, “Fabulous Baker Boy”), but Tron represents a true landmark for 3D technology and one of the first Metaverses ever to be realized using computer animation.
The movie shows a complete alternative world where computers provide the “gateways” much like the Metaverses of today, and this vision has always fascinated me. Unlike more occult Metaverses, such as the Matrix movies, Tron was more about generating experiences with powerful software and hardware and hence much easier for me to identify with efforts to bring 3D to the Internet of today.
Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the X Reality industry? We’d love to hear it.
Yes, when I was working for Oz Communication I had the privilege of working with Gudjon Mar Gudjonsson who was behind one of the very first VRLM (Virtual Reality Markup Language) browsers that allowed browsing a 3D scene on the web. Gudjon and several others went on to create EVE Online a computer game that represented one of the very first 3D “worlds” about 25 years before the current hype wave.
The founders essentially set out to create the first Metaverse and meeting this inspiring team and to experience this interstellar Metaverse laid the foundation for my enthusiasm for the XR space. It was one of the reasons I decided to start Brand3D; with the aim to make 3D creation and publication on the web even easier and available to even more people outside of the gaming world.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?
My brother, Svend, worked at Jagex as a software developer, and at the time, they developed the world’s most popular massive multiplayer online (MMO) game in terms of number of users. It made the Guinness Book of World Records in 2018. While Gudjon and his team provided me with fascination for 3D technology, the stories I heard from my brother brought me fascination with the idea of a massive online virtual world where users communicate and cooperate from all over the globe.
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?
I was visiting one of the early GPU Conferences held by NVIDIA at a time when VR headsets were still a novelty, and the technology was still too costly for most people. HTC had just launched their first VIVE headset and I was standing in line for hours to try it on. When I finally got through the line, I was very eager to try all the (quite limited) software applications that were available, so I paid no attention to the warning plaques and the instructions that the staff provided. Instead, I jumped from application to application as the time with the headset was quite limited. When I got to the VR Drawing program developed by Google “Tilt Brush”, I was truly fascinated.
The program essentially allowed you to sculpt in 3D by spraying a thin ray of material — much in the same way a 3D printer prints shapes. I was so fascinated creating this sculpture in the middle of the Sahara Desert that I did not pay attention to the various buttons on the remote control. At some point I was virtually jumping around my sculpture (the VIVE headset was one of the first mainstream VR headsets that would track your exact position), when I accidentally pressed a button on the side of the controller. I am sure that the instructor had warned me, but I was too eager to try the gadget. From running around in the desert with nice cacti and terra cotta colored rocks, I was immediately, and I mean INSTANTLY hanging in deep space. My sculpture suddenly looked tiny, and I got a glimpse into why they say astronauts find looking into open space one of the most intimidating experiences. I immediately tore off the headset and it took a few months before I dared to wear one again 🙂
This somewhat shocking experience — and I would like to point out that I am usually not that easy to shock as I used to parachute in my teens — taught me that VR experiences may not be the answer to mass adoption of 3D technologies. Surely, it’s fascinating to experience, but it may just be a bit too far from reality for the mass market to adopt the VR technology at the scale needed — at least in the short term.
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?
Besides the people I have mentioned above, there is a long list of people who have helped me stay focused and not give up. Being an entrepreneur can be daunting and a mental marathon. It is therefore crucial to have mentors that can support you along the way. I once won a pitch competition at the leading Scandinavian startup program “Accelerace” (https://www.accelerace.io/) and the prize was access to personal coaching from two major entrepreneurship gurus from the UNC / Kenan Flagler business school in NC. One of the teachings of Professor Zoller is to seek out a mentor early on in your career — he calls this “Finding your Santa”. This principle has become one of the most important lessons in my later career and I have since had numerous mentors. In fact, I have recently joined the Growth Academy by Dan Martell, where successful entrepreneurs are providing coaching for up-and-coming software companies CEOs. Since I joined, Dan and his team have really helped me accelerate my business and make the right decisions in a competitive and ever-changing business landscape.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, we are currently working to make 3D content creation for the Metaverse even easier.
Today, you can download 3D assets from a long list of online sources, many of which are free or very low cost.
Using free online tools, you can then upload these into 3D mini-Metaverses and publish these on social media like Facebook, or your blog or website.
It has never been easier to get started with 3D on the web, but we are, at the moment, working on making that even easier.
Our new tools that will be launched in the coming months will allow you to use your smartphone to quickly create a new 3D object and publish it to your friends, customers or communities.
We hope this will make it even easier to share content, create engaging educational material and even create 3D NFTs that you can then put up for sale. Longer term these assets can then be embedded into your favorite online Metaverse as the technology becomes more accessible.
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 first thing that really excites me is that the “wait is over”. The technology is finally converging into something that is available on the web as we know it today. Users no longer have to wait for the perfect VR headset or smart glasses from Google or Microsoft. The technology is accessible and can be made available to both PC, mobile phones and AR by anyone who can copy & paste a link.
The second thing that is amazing about the current climate, is that there is real acceptance of doing things online and remotely. There is no longer the need to travel by car or plane to do simple business transactions. This makes the Metaverse and XR technologies much more relevant along with our mission to democratize the XR tools even more important.
Finally, I am intrigued by the gamification that is beginning to happen in the market. As mentioned previously, I think all brands who want to maintain their following must adapt to this new reality. It’s not enough to focus on physical products, but instead, start innovating in the production, marketing and tracking of digital goods. Not only does this provide new revenue streams that these brands and retailers cannot ignore, but more importantly, it creates a much stronger relationship with their customers. For example, if Nike sells custom shoes at a $150 price tag to teenagers today, they can either sell one shoe per season in a transactional fashion, or they can sell hundreds of digital items in between physical sales in much the same way as successful “free” online games like Fortnite and Pokémon are selling virtual items for billions. Not only does this increase their bottom line, but it creates a much stronger link to their customers who — eventually — will become their main customer segment in the future with much stronger buying power.
The Metaverse is thus not just about entertaining its users, but also a business opportunity that brands cannot afford to miss out on.
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?
The big players in the industry are involved in arms races to “own the value chain” for the Metaverse based marketplace for the future. Facebook/Meta is using its Oculus headsets to create a very closed and technically challenging platform for smaller businesses to tap into; this could continue to delay the adoption of the full potential of the industry.
Other tech giants, such as Epic Games has announced similar “closed worlds” being in the works with their partners. This is the most concerning development as 3D on the web provides an open, levelled playing field for all businesses to participate.
Another concerning fact is the related inequality that these closed and tech requiring Metaverse platforms create. It would be very difficult for users in developing countries and low-income regions to participate if access to the Metaverse remains behind a barrier of having to invest in expensive headsets and other closed technology.
Finally, there is the sheer realism posed by VR based Metaverses of the future. When the technology finally catches up with the ambition of the software companies creating these worlds, there may be very little need to ever enter the real world. Just as in the recent Ready Player One, the physical world may end up being much poorer and less attractive reality than that available behind the VR glasses. This could essentially create behavioral patterns of escapism; a condition known of people who take various drugs to get away from an unpleasant life. We are not anywhere near this being possible with the current technology, but in 5–10 years, I would expect the virtual worlds to be very realistic. I once had an employee — one of my best developers — who was calling in sick several times a week, and when he did show up, he looked like he had barely slept. It turned out that he was playing an online game called Everquest, where he had become one to the top-ranking officers in an army. This to him became a lot more attractive than his day job as a software programmer. I think we may see much more of this in the future as the Metaverses become increasingly immersive.
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?
AR has already proven invaluable in mapping 3D objects to real-world camera views. Doctors use this technology to provide information on help diagnose problems and virtual technologies are widely used in training and specialized education such as machine repair and simulations. Hazardous scenarios can be simulated and allow first responders to train their reactions without actually creating the underlying often dangerous events.
In higher education, AR and 3D technologies are already being used to create non-linear learning processes. For example, in online classes, a teacher can provide the students with a 3D model of a certain object — for example a human brain — and students can then study the deeper lying elements of the brain anatomy by clicking through the 3D model in real-time or offline as part of their homework.
Are there other ways that VR, AR and MR can improve our lives? Can you explain?
Virtual Learning is a key factor to drive equality across the globe, but recorded videos can only do so much compared to physical education as we have all learned during the pandemic.
VR, AR and MR can help bridge this gap by providing “hands-on” to remote students. This can suddenly allow remote students in poor countries to gain access to costly experiments in a virtual space.
Large universities, such as MIT, Oxford and Stanford, which are inaccessible to most students — even in their home countries — are running online programs via online learning platforms. Kaltura is a leading provider of such tools and we at Brand3D are working with them to improve remote learning and make “experiments” available in virtual contexts for students all over the world. This will hopefully over time erode the massive inequality in access to high-quality experimental learning in poor regions of the world
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about working in your industry? Can you explain what you mean?
You do not need a headset to use 3D technology. The massive investments by tech giants into both the technology and marketing of VR has driven the myth that the Metaverse requires high-end technology. Thankfully, the reality is that anyone can participate in this XR revolution with nothing but a web browser. The technology allows fully immersive experiences to be viewed and shared on any web page without the need for app downloads or VR glasses.
As discussed elsewhere, this will ultimately democratize access to the worlds of 3D and the industry will seek to deliver 3D where the users are and not wait for expensive VR headsets to become available to the masses. For example, on mobile devices.
What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?”
- Join the communities. The XR industries is a very connected industry with lots of key influencers from whom you can learn a lot and most of whom are very eager to share their expertise. Online communities on Facebook and Youtube are a key source of information and networking opportunities.
- Agility. The technology and the market move faster than any other industry, and you need to be able to quickly adapt and learn new things.
- Stay informed. Follow the ever-changing trends in this space. If you are to be successful, you need to be able to join the conversations and help evolve the technology approach of your company and/or your customers.
- Industry overview. It’s a great idea to make sure that you have a complete overview. Even if you are not a developer of technology, you need to know enough to be dangerous and help drive the strategy of your team. This may be true for any tech area, but the XR industry is known for new paradigms emerging constantly.
- Technology agnostic approach. You must keep an open mind and not lock in on a single technology strand. The XR industry is littered with standards and de facto standards and tools that are no longer and have become discontinued online environments such as Google Poly.
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. 🙂
I would love to help contribute to the gap between remote working and the technology boom that we see in hotspots in the USA, Europe and Asia. Many companies are working to solve this through freelancer platforms and virtual meeting experiences. However, our platform was designed form the ground up to be nimble and work well on any device and on slower network connections, whereas most of our competitors focus on higher end devices and broadband connections. We pride ourselves with having users from the most remote and low-income regions. We hope we can continue to let these users create virtual goods and experiences and reduce the in-equalities that are otherwise growing as availability of advanced tech tends to concentrate in privileged urban areas of rich countries.
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 really like to sit down with DAVID HELGASON . He co-founded Unity in my former hometown of Copenhagen, which is a leading game engine company behind games like Pokémon Go, and he was a true visionary in early adoption of Augmented Reality and other technologies that have laid the foundation for the XR technologies we know today. I believe he would have a lot of insights into this fascinating space and in successful entrepreneurship in general.
Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!
Makers of The Metaverse: Hans Hansen Of Brand3D On The Future Of 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.