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  • Writer's pictureGrace Elmer

Looking into the Mixed Reality Mirror with Lee Kebler

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

This week, Dmitri Vietze sits down with Lee Kebler to explore the frontier of immersive tech and spatial computing.

Learn more about Lee’s unique journey from being a touring DJ to building immersive experiences that are redefining the tech landscape. Dive into the world of music production and examine how the merging of physical and digital spaces can make music more globally accessible. Dissect the controversy surrounding the term 'Metaverse' and its implications for spatial computing. Is it just another buzzword or something more? With the recently announced Apple Vision Pro causing a stir in the tech community, dive into its potential to revolutionize spatial computing. Could this be the first step towards creating a real Metaverse, a universe within a universe? Find out on this week’s episode.

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Listen to the full episode here on this page, or wherever you pod your favorite casts.

Read the transcript from Dmitri and Lee's conversation:


Dmitri: Welcome back to Music Tectonics, where we go beneath the surface of music and tech. I'm your host, Dmitri Vietze. I'm also the CEO and founder of Rock Paper Scissors, the PR firm, and of the Music Tectonics conference that's coming up this October 24th through 26th in Santa Monica.

So back in June, Apple announced the launch of their new spatial computing device, Apple Vision Pro, and the reaction was, well, it was kind of all over the place. Cinex declared that VR or the metaverse was dead, but the announcement pumped new life into the XR community, the mixed reality community, where veterans of the field were excited to have the right manufacturer in place to carry out the sci-fi visions that have been in process for the last several years. And to get to the bottom of the debate, I'm joined by Lee Kebler.

Lee holds over 10 years of experience in building innovative and immersive technology experiences in spatial computing, robotics and all things virtual and augmented realities, starting as a touring DJ I might have to hear about that. Credited songwriter and music producer, Lee has been building immersive experiences, which informs his views on the Apple Vision Pro. At Intel, he worked to make the Olympics accessible via VR and to develop AI-based skeletal tracking software to measure an athlete's performance. Pretty cool. Lee's the perfect person to help us interpret where things are going with spatial computing through the Music Tectonics lens. Lee, welcome to the show.

Lee: Hey, thanks.


Dmitri: All right, we're going to dive in. I'm really excited to talk to you.

We've met up at conferences and stayed in touch online, and I'm just excited about your depth of knowledge of both the music side and spatial computing or mixed reality, whatever you want to call it. It's a little weird, yeah, I mean the names have been changing, but that combination is cool for our Music Tectonics audience. What types of immersive mixed reality and spatial computing projects have you been a part of and what's your role been?

Lee: That's a tricky question because that's actually how I got started into tech. So prior to, I would say, 2010, 2011, I was just in the music industry. I worked in radio, so I always had this techie background where I was really into the early adoption of IP audio for radio stations, things like that. But I was touring as a DJ for a lot of artists and musicians. But what happened was I bought an Xbox 360 back in 2011. And it had this new piece of hardware in it called a Connect. Nobody really knew what it was. It was this weird thing that came in the box. I wanted to play Call of Duty. This thing came with a free game. I set it up and I'm a big nerd when it comes to like… My favorite movie is Back to the Future 2, specifically Back to the Future 2, because that movie portrays a positive look at what technology and the future can do, which at the time, everything was post-apocalyptic. Even today, it's all post-apocalyptic that movie was just so positive about what 2015 was going to look like and as a kid I really latched onto that because that was the future I wanted to have, not this terminator future that I kept being shown and I had what I called my little wild gunman moment. There's a scene in Back to the Future where Elijah Wood yes, little Elijah Wood, he's a kid, he's the kid in the Cafe 80s of this movie where Marty McFly plays a wild gunman, the old arcade machine, and he looks at him. He's like you have to use your hands, that's like a baby's toy. And it stuck with me. So when I set up that Connect, I had this like aha moment of oh, you have to use your hands, that's like a baby's toy. All of a sudden I could use movement to control what was happening in the game and I quickly realized this is the worst way to control a video game. But the technology got me really interested in it. So I took my Connect apart and I broke it and thankfully they still sold them. So I went out and bought another one and I broke that and I think I went through like three or four before I could figure out what was going on inside of this thing. There's blogs online, because there's no Reddit or anything at this point, and I'm just trying to figure out like I don't do tech, but I'm handy with a soldering iron and I understand wiring and cameras and stuff and I start getting into this thing and realizing, oh wait, I can use this system and use a language, because I wasn't really a developer from a company called Cycling74 that allowed me to connect it into Ableton Live, which was relatively new at the time, and I was like, oh, I can control sound. I hooked them up.

It's no longer connected to my Xbox, it's now connected to my laptop and I'm controlling sound, and at the time, me and this group of five dorks scattered around the world are calling it gesture recognition, because we don't have another term for it we didn't realize it's computer vision early computer vision at this time, but we're all finding different things that we can do with this piece of hardware, and that's kind of where my start started.

I was in Nashville, Tennessee, and I was working with another brilliant mind, Daniel Slesinger, who was playing with RFID chips and tricolor LEDs, and he was the bar manager or something, at a dive club called Colton Porter it's not there anymore and we had access to his attic of this location because I was renting an apartment in an attic over in South Nashville, so I had no space and we started just tinkering with this technology and in doing so, we started our careers. At that moment, 2012 was a magical time. What he worked on ended up becoming a company called Glowmotion, which is now responsible for when you watch the Superbowl or the Olympics, and they have the wristbands that have LED lights and they bitmap the Pepsi logo on the side of the audience. That started in 2012 in the attic of 12th and Porter, with me and Daniel. Slesinger, like a handful of people who were like that's cool.


Dmitri: And what happened to you? What were you doing with that technology?

Lee: So I am taking this hardware that I'm now controlling my DJ setup with and Daniel and I are like we should do a show showcasing this technology. So we do and we throw it out there and we do a show one night at 12th and Porter and we back lined it with artists we knew people were going to show up for. So we did like for the first 30 minutes we had a friend of ours who was really in the videography come in and like kind of film it so we could have a show. So he's demoing the wristbands and I'm demoing this gesture recognition system that was controlling the effects. There were other people who were trying to control sound and it kept coming out like a theremin and there's a reason. Theremin is not a popular instrument. Like the human brain doesn't understand music If it's off of a grid, right, you just get this weird tonality, ethereal crap going on.

That kind of sounds like.

Dmitri: I like the theremin, but OK, keep going.

Lee: But I was using it for facts so I could grab the sound in the air and I could squeeze the low pass filter and get that pumping sound. That was really big in EDM at the time. Edm was like right at that precipice. Skrillex and Deadmau5 are super famous and I'm just like this kid in Nashville who doesn't know what he's doing. But what annoyed me about the DJ market at the time was when the DJs would like to turn it off, throw their hands in the air and like the crowd would go nuts and I'm like that doesn't do, that doesn't mean anything.

I was, I was a vinyl DJ, I was a scratch DJ. I wasn't necessarily listening to the EDM artists. I was a DJ Kubert fan Right, I was a Mixmaster Mike fan because they were doing something with the technology in front of them. I was like I can do this in a different way. So I started doing this and that video gets produced and someone uploads it to YouTube and it doesn't go viral like six people saw it. But one of those six people happened to be Will I Am from the Black Eyed Peas and so like I do the show. I kid you not, they upload the video. I go to bed the next morning, 6 am. I have an email from Will, and I don't know who. It is right, Because his email address is not willamatblackappiescom. So I don't know who this William Adams guy is. We go back and forth. He's trying to convince me. He's like no, this is dope, I want to see you.

I want to see this in person. Can you get to LA? So I finally talked with his management and he's like no dude, this is actually who you're talking to. He's only in town for a couple of days. Can you go to LA? Ok, yeah, sure, I tell my boss. I was an engineer at a radio station, For anyone who's listening, who will eventually have something like this happen to them. This is how you know you have a good manager, my boss. I tell him the story of what happened and he looks at me and go, or you're fired. And I was like what? And he's like you have a job when you get back if nothing happens, but you have to go do this, so you're temporarily fired. You have to go chase this. He's like I'm going to still pay you, but you're fired if you don't go do this, and so I was like OK, dude, I'm going. It was the best moment that I ever like best interaction you ever had with a manager right.

So I go and meet Will and we hit it off instantly. He had a running bet inside his office that he knew it was real, but he had technical. People were like no, this is all stages, this is all choreographed, because it was like now, looking back at it, we all know this technology exists, but in 2011, no, this is pretty minor to report level sci-fi. So he offered me a job on the spot. He's just one of the most kindhearted nerds you'll ever meet. He's really into tech. He actually knows his tech. He lives it. He's like you need to keep pursuing this, but I want to see what you can do with the budget. So I moved to Los Angeles and I became like his tech guy. I helped design what's now the Black Eyed Peas Studio the future in North Hollywood and got that off the ground and we did a lot in experimental tech and art installations. We did a really awesome art installation in Australia with Intel and him, where you actually for an event they call Vivid Sydney. We don't know about it here, but it's kind of like this ongoing yearly event during their winter, which is our summer, where all of the buildings are projection mapped. It looks like something out of a sci-fi film and he wanted to do something different.

So we took the Museum of Contemporary Art, we projection mapped it with art and then we set up my gesture recognition systems in three places and people could go up at any time and just grab in the air and grab a shape and move it around on this art grid and, as they did, it remix the music that was playing. So you had three people working in tandem that could remix the Black Eyed Peas music, whatever was playing in the speakers. That was a really cool art installation. That was my introduction to spatial computing and it really kind of helped me, just out of the curiosity of it and having that creative freedom help me understand how a computer sees through a lens and not just a lens but utilizing LiDAR in depth, and where the pitfalls are and all of that. So that was how I got into spatial computing.

It was not a usual method, but it worked for me.


Dmitri: I mean, I love it. Man, you were just pursuing your curiosity. You broke some stuff, like literally broke some stuff. And then played with some stuff, kind of invented some stuff, and then let your curiosity open doors, which is super awesome, real. Briefly, can you just talk about some of the more recent projects and the work you do?

Lee: Yeah. So the big one that I was really really happy with the Olympics in VR. There was this whole stint in Nashville, where I then went and started a VR development team that did a lot in manufacturing and pre-visualization in the dawn of the 2015-2016 era for steel and that was super boring, but it was really good. And that just kind of led me back to this conversation with Intel, which I was introduced to many years ago because of the thing in Australia with Will, and they were like hey, we've got this position, we're looking at staffing up to get the VR application out for the Olympics. You want to be a part of that? I was like yeah. Because I had a background in broadcast already. So it was just in a unique position of, like I've been doing VR. I knew the company and I'm still a big fan of Intel and people there and I knew the VR space. The only thing I didn't know was the Olympics, right. So I was like I can figure that out. So went and kind of was just a big part of what was at the time called Intel Sports and they were doing a lot in volumetric, which I've always been very interested in. But our division was looking at stereoscopic virtual reality live video back to the VR headset, which at the time, was in the transition of the Oculus to the Oculus 2. So we had to overcome that and it's a global thing, right. So now I'm working with multiple broadcast holders who now have to have localization for their languages and releasing multiple apps. So it was like really learning how to put together an application. That I understood. But how do you globally distribute something that is now a live broadcast, but global, right, like it's not just in the US, obviously, that was like our main focus, but we had to serve us a bunch of different countries, so that was cool, and then we were hitting a deadline for 2020. Nothing moves the Olympics Right.

Until it did, because COVID hit and the actual impossible happened and so that application actually just was kind of like done in 2020. And it kind of sat on a shelf as COVID hit because we were now relocating the Olympics. So I got an opportunity to work on a system called 3Dat, which harkened even further back to this old skeletal tracking days, because that's effectively what I was using with the Kinect, and we started using cameras to leverage AI to track the human form without LiDAR and points of light and things like that, and they couldn't be special cameras, it's just like 4K cameras, like 100 yards away in a stadium and getting AI to recognize the human form of the fastest people in the world. So 30 frames per second ain't going to cut it, and that was a really good introduction to what we would realize is AI. But we were just looking at it as intelligent skeletal tracking. But now, yeah, that really was a really cool thing and that actually got used in the broadcast where they were able to break down these performance athletes' steps in a way that you couldn't see with the naked eye, but the computers could do it, so that was really cool.

Most recently, I spent a lot of time… I've known Kathy Hackle since, I think, 2016. She's well known in the VR metaverse whatever name we want to give it this month space and I love her to death. She's part of my tech family and so she was starting to work with a new agency and she's like hey, I'm building up like this development team and we're doing some cool stuff, and I think you'd like to get into it and I hadn't really been in the gaming space yet. I had been doing a lot of live tech, spatial computing stuff like that, not really feeling like the gaming area yet, which has always been something I wanted to do. So I was like yeah, and I've wanted to work with her for a long time anyways, and she was really awesome to set up and we built a team and we actually ended up working on a Roblox game for Walmart and that might not make a whole lot of sense to this podcast, but one of the things that we did and now has really got my mind spinning in different directions is we held a concert in that Roblox world called Electric Fest. That was sponsored by Walmart and it had Youngblood and a bunch of other new artists. Kane Brown was one of them, Madison Beer was the other one and we did a full concert in the system. And coming from my touring DJ days with fairly sizable, well-named artists and seeing this new group of artists that they would do well in a festival but at the time maybe they wouldn't pack out their own stadium by themselves. They probably would now, but that was really interesting because I watched these three artists that were really gaining momentum to do 40,000 people in a show, because it's the power of having global internet access and getting their new music out there and building the digital merchandise that would normally be in a merch truck but now, like your Roblox avatar could wear, and seeing this new approach to how we're going to have to hybrid the live music production scene, the concert scene, the text that we've been using all along, into making it accessible to everybody else, and so I was the director on that project and it was surprisingly fulfilling to see that come together.


Yeah, it's cool. It's like another application of what you were doing when you were tinkering with your Xbox.

Lee: It's so strange how it all like it doesn't. It's not like this linear line. It's a constellation and there's a lot of stars that don't connect to the picture that I've done. But you start seeing the points of light where you're like, oh, I can do this now because I do this and it might hit like 10 years later. But all of a sudden you're like, wow, this is so similar to this and I never thought I'd ever use this moment here. It's so crazy.


Dmitri: It just tells its own story. Super cool. I'd love to hear all these touch points along your career that led to where you're going next. We have to take a quick break and when we come back I want to get to our headline topic, which is about the Apple Vision Pro and what it means for where things are going. We'll be right back.


Eleanor: Hey, do you have your ticket for the Music Tectonics conference yet? Now is the perfect time to grab one before early bird tickets fly away for good. If you go to right now, you can get a conference ticket for just $249. On August 15th, the price goes up to $350. That ticket gets you into three days of connecting with the music innovators you need to meet to grow your business and your network. On October 24th, 25th and 26th 2023, we're planning a seismic keynote with Meng Ru Kuok, bandlab CEO, a Music Tech Carnival with innovative demos, high energy panels with MusicTex movers and shakers and lots of opportunities for networking and getting business done. It all goes down by the beach at unexpected venues in Santa Monica, california. Don't miss those early bird tickets to the music tech event of the year. Get yours at While you're there, check out our growing speaker roster to see who you'll meet at MusicTectonics. See you there!


Dmitri: All right, we're back. And Lee, as I mentioned right before the break, great to hear your career trajectory starting with breaking stuff and then getting spontaneous introductions to people, that kind of -

Lee: I still break stuff.

Dmitri: Don't ever stop breaking stuff.

Lee: If you stop breaking stuff, you're not doing anything.

Dmitri: Did I see on your LinkedIn page it talks about was it your LinkedIn page? Or maybe it was on your website, I'm not sure.

Lee: It talks about like not losing the playfulness of childhood, or something like that. Oh yeah, my catchphrase is never grow up.

There was a barcade in Nashville that had this neon sign and I was in a really down point at this. I was like I got to get a better job, I'm going to go sit in a cubicle, or something like that. So I go to this barcade and I'm just bumped and there's this neon sign I hope it's still there and it says don't grow up, it's a trap. Oh that's good, I love it and that it will forever be. I've worked for teams and companies that are like we want you to change your banner for LinkedIn. No, never going to happen. You can't do that. That's my banner.

Dmitri: That is it, don't grow up, it's a trap.

Lee: You don't have to. It's a completely unnecessary process.


Dmitri: Nice, okay. So, Lee, what does the launch of the Apple Vision Pro mean for spatial computing? You've got this technical knowledge, you've got music, you've done these experiential things and these big global broadcast things. You've got some great perspective to help us really understand this. Yeah, how do you see it?

Lee: It's validation. There's a couple of things to understand about the history of Apple and I think a lot of people need to like take a step back and like not look at the hardware that's presented, because it's never been about the hardware that's initially presented ever in the history of the company, like they do their flagships, but their flagship flagship is never what's actually important. So I've been in this space for a long time. When I say long time, let me really qualify that I don't mean 2015. When I was like 12, I was the kid who saved up all of his birthday money and went and bought a Nintendo virtual boy instead of an N64. Like the thing that everyone's forgotten. I believed in the dream of VR when the 90s was lying to everybody right, and I totally got caught up in that as a kid and that never went away. I just understood, like we're just not there yet. And so when 2015 hit and all of a sudden you had this fledgling start up off a Kickstarter called Oculus pop up, I was like, oh, now, now we're getting somewhere. A lot of people don't realize the first Oculus, like proof of concepts, were actually two iPhone fours taped together. So it's not like, like I've, Apple didn't know they were involved from the start, but in a way kind of involved from the beginning of all of this.

Seeing it come out and how they're producing it I think gives a lot of validation to all of the negative Forbes articles who you know and I'm not just calling out Forbes like all of these like industry publications that will release a Wow, vr is happening. And then, like another author within the exact same publication, 30 seconds later releases the VR is dead article because they're just trying to get people to click depending on what they believe in, right, like that's the, that's the press industry. Yeah, technology is one of those things where people see, I think they see themselves in it and, quite honestly, if you're a boring person and you look at a VR headset, you're going to see nothing. Like, you're just going to see yeah, it's two LED screens that are strapped to your eyes and like, okay, whatever. But if you're, if you're like that creative mind, who can still look at a cardboard box and see a castle. You're going to look at a VR headset and see a completely different planet.

One of the things that I say often, and I don't know if I coined this or not. I don't know if I heard this or if this came to me in a dream, like decades ago, but I firmly believe I was born too early to explore the universe, too late to explore the world, but I'm here just in time to explore humanity. And this is how that happens, right in this connective technology. And I don't mean explore humanity and like get in flame wars on Reddit. I mean explore humanity of like be in a digital landscape where I'm interacting with my colleagues and strangers and people that I would never have a moment, and like removing all of the preconceived notions through an avatar of like gender, race, financial background, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. All of that and now you're actually starting to get to know a person based on how they want to be presented is such a unique experience that we could not experience that level of connection to another person until this decade in the humanity of man. And if we're not taking that advantage, like, what are we doing?


Dmitri: So like removing the friction of all the societal forms of oppression and prejudice and preconception and all that stuff and seeing the actual soul of somebody through this avatar.

Lee: I mean it's not perfect and the world's still broken right. And look, I'm not on this VR as the empathy machine thing. There's plenty of podcasts and other conversations I've had where I rail against that idea. Vr is not an empathy machine. It's a stinking tool and what that means is it will highlight who you are. If you are an naturally empathetic person, I think you will find more empathy through this hardware. If you are a Troll Troll you're going to be able to troll better in this hardware. If you are a violent person, you're going to find violence through the video games in this hardware. It's just going to highlight and exaggerate, I think, who you are. Hopefully it also gives you an opportunity to reflect on that and change who you are, because you're meeting with other people who are not like you for the first time. So I think there's positive there, but I'm not on this VR as the empathy machine. I think it's like a really interesting mirror, interesting.


Dmitri: Yeah, it reminds me of Jim Collins who has a book called Good to Great. That's about the best like the most successful businesses, and he says technology's an accelerator and so if you're not doing very well, technology will speed up how bad you're doing. But I guess it works on the emotional level too. I have friends, maybe outside of music and tech, who reacted to Vision Pro the way they've been reacting Kana to Meta Facebook, thinking that the Meta versus that Meta promoted is dead. And it's kind of interesting to watch the hype cycles around Metaverse and NFTs and now AI. But what's your perspective of this idea that the Metaverse is dead? It's interesting that Apple didn't use the term Metaverse. They talked about spatial computing, which is a slightly different angle, but maybe they also just wanted to distance themselves from the Metaverse version that came from Meta. Just how do you think about Metaverse? Or whether that's just a semantic thing or whether something is different or changing.

Lee: Metaverse is a term derived from Snow Crash, a book. From what was it? Late 80s, early 90s, Great book, fantastic, early vision of the future. But it was coined as a buzzword. It was coined as this sci-fi word and I actually think that it was probably a miscalculation on Facebook's part to convert to Meta and really try to capitalize on that. It probably did more damage than good. But in a way I'm kind of glad that it's out of the vernacular at this time because I don't think it should ever have been. Years ago I was referring to this all as spatial computing and what that does is it gets you out of the NFT conversation. It gets you out of this, like the reason Metaverse took is because, frankly, it was a bunch of charlatans who were trying to piece anything they could against the wall to get you to pay attention to whatever it is that they were selling you. Right, and I just pissed off. A bunch of people come at me, yo. This is what happened, and spatial computing is very much an acceptance of this. Is what the hardware is actually doing. It is computing the spatial awareness of your surroundings. It is taking the computer, like I said earlier in the last segment, and seeing how the computer sees the world and then giving you that access. That's important. I love the term virtual reality and augmented reality. I actually will always use those terms, even if Apple chooses not to, but I think Apple, utilizing spatial computing, dodges a lot of negative press, because you start talking about Metaverse. And does that mean Roblox? Because that's got its own drama. Does that mean Fortnite?That's got its own drama. Does that mean NFTs? Does that mean the crypto winter? What does that mean? And it's a catch-all.


Dmitri: I thought when the Metaverse got kind of combined with NFTs and Web3, I thought that to me felt like it was a different thing. The thing that I like about the term.

Lee: Metaverse because you've been paying attention.

Dmitri: If you weren't paying attention, it was intentional to confuse you, yeah, maybe, or to co-opt, kind of a hype cycle.

But the thing that I like about the term Metaverse and I'm not wedded to any terms at all is that it implies a place, a space, like universe, metaverse, whereas spatial computing seems like it's a tool, it's a technology, and when I'm experiencing it now, you're a creator, you're using these tools, lee, so it makes sense for you to be, especially with your origins, of busting something open so you can do this. Gestural recognition, control features that then became a tool for creativity, makes sense that you come from that creator. You know the designer, the creator, the inventor of those experiences. But as the user of those experiences, one of my most favorite things about the types of quote Metaverse experiences I had during the pandemic mostly, and a little bit with Oculus 2, the Quest 2, is I feel like I'm going somewhere, I feel like I am someplace else, and that's what's interesting, that implies. But I guess you're talking a bit about the semantics a little bit and I'm curious about will there be these virtual spaces? I think the hard part about Meta's choosing of that and then it not coming to reality, about putting out avatars with no legs and just not getting the kind of network effect that I think they were hoping for, is that people associate that Metaverse with the Metaverse and I'm like no, the company's called for it and I think we're gonna need a new term eventually and one will crop up.

Lee: I think that that term just got burnt and it didn't have to and like, let me be really clear the reason why. Because actually my mom was an English teacher. She was like words matter, right, describing things matter, and keeping consistency matters, especially when you're trying to bring new people and usher them into an era of something that is completely foreign. And the problem that I have with the term Metaverse is that it does not exist anywhere, cause the Metaverse is not Roblox and it's not even VR chat, which is probably the closest thing that a lot of VR enthusiasts think of the Metaverse. But those are all still walled gardens. Those are just video game engines that are processing a video game. If you wanna take the term of Metaverse and break it down to the real points of what those Meta and Verse, right, it is a universe within a universe. That means that all of those locations need to somehow be seamlessly integrated to each other, and we do not have that right we do what we don't currently have and I actually like to circle back to the Apple question I think this is what Apple will actually fix, but what we do not have is that seamless point where my created identity follows me into VR chat, but also follows me into Rec Room and also follows me into whatever my virtual work environment's going to be, where I'm meeting people. That doesn't exist. That consistency is where I think we'll have something that is akin to what we all wanna be seen as the Metaverse, but right now, we're just using the Metaverse to define a bunch of 3D VR video games. We should just be calling them VR gaming or what have you, because it's not honest to the term.


Dmitri: I got you, yeah. So I want to take this a little bit more specific and direct in one sense. You know the Apple vision pro launched, is it? I guess it's gonna be available in 2024 at a price point of about $3,500 and I and I have a question for you, because some of the criticism that came up on the launch was the price point. So is this for wealthy people? Is it for early adopters? Is this, who is this for?

Lee: Developers, like it's that simple, like okay, so you learn from the past, right. And so if we look at Apple and we look at when they released, the last time Apple released something that was like considered backcrab crazy, was the iPhone, right, they had no business being in the phone industry at that time, right, that there was no history of it. It was weird that they even considered it. And the first iPhone Was wildly expensive. It had one carrier, it had a two megapixel camera on it and you could only launch one app at a time. It was not a good phone. Even at its launching standard, it was not a great phone. What it did was it introduced things like multi-touch and it put a keyboardless phone into people's hands, which was very foreign at that time. Right, and no one bought it. When the iPhone launched, it did not create the pictures of People wrapped around the Apple store like we all have in our heads. This is part of that like Mandela effect that I think we've Adopted to the history and like legacy of the iPhone. The I, the original iPhone, was, had the exact same articles written about them, almost word-for-word, that we're seeing from the vision probe. Like who is this for? And it only does this and it is wildly expensive. Like this doesn't make sense. And then they, within a year, followed it up with the iPhone 3g and everyone bought it. And it was the 3g that caused everyone to like line up around the the block Because you could run multiple applications, you had options for carriers, it was two hundred dollars as opposed to whatever the like the last one was it was obtainable. And what I think Apple's doing with this is you're gonna see developers needed to get a head start because there's nothing in the store. So who's buying it? People who are going to make money off of the thirty five hundred dollar investment. So you got that. That's a market.

They've already said that they're cutting down their initial production projections because and you had to read between the lines but they said because they're Operating on building the next, more affordable version of it. So what you're gonna have is you have a stent where developers have it and you will have a couple of the Apple, the Wealthy Apple fanboys that are going to do exactly what Apple told them to do, and that is wear it on an airplane in first class, and they're gonna be seen with it. And you know there's gonna be CEOs who are playing, because I saw this happen with the iPad. They didn't know what to do with it when it launched but, like every CEO kind of had one, doctors were playing with it. So you saw people that you wanted to aspire to their success level for a very brief period of time, but you couldn't afford it, so that when the version that came out afterwards Was still expensive but it was more obtainable you had Motivation to buy it and it did what it needed to do, and now you had things in the App Store, you know. So, like that's what I think is happening. Right, it's a brilliant play. It's still gonna be more expensive than the MetaQuest Pro probably not by much, but you will be convinced that you're gonna get more from it because of where you saw this occur, where you saw it for the first time, got it, yeah. So it is a luxury item, but not this version. I don't expect anyone in this version to get it.


Dmitri: Okay, we got to take another quick break and when we come back I want to talk a little bit about what the App Store might look like, what the Development might be there. We'll be right back.


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Dmitri: All right, we're back. As someone who uses an Oculus Quest 2, I'm not like a super deep into mixed reality or VR or anything, but it appears that the biggest failure sorry Meta has been getting enough developers to build cool new stuff. If anyone can build a scalable app store, though, it's got to be Apple, but it seems like VR and AR experiences are just so expensive to build and then sell to the masses. Will Apple face the same challenge, Lee?

Lee: Well, I respect you deeply. I think you know that when I disagree with you, it's nothing personal. We can find this way. I don't know if I would say that Meta had a hard time getting applications out. I think that the applications were probably a little bit misguided. They got some good games out. They had a weird era where they had to transfer from PC to a mobile device. This is what squeezed the store market. There is a ton of amazing stuff. Is it as robust as the Nintendo Switch store? No, absolutely not. It should never be as robust as the Google Play Store, because 98% of the Google Play Store is garbage, but there's a lot of it. It's kind of a weird numbers game. I think Apple or Meta made a really good attempt in the early days. I've seen this waning, so I'll ding them for that. In the early days they were really picky about what they put out. As someone who had to release the VR application for Olympics on the Quest, I went through their process. At least back then the store was more curated because they didn't want shovelware to overflow the market, which did kind of make it look sparse for a little bit. The stuff that came out was really good. Beat Saber was a hit. Population 1 is a hit. VRchat I'm still surprised that it can run on a mobile device Backroom is going to launch on the Vision Pro because they're on top of it. I just think it was more limited. What I didn't see and this was a business decision I think I'm at as part, you'd have to ask them if I'm right is I didn't see a lot of industrial enterprise solutions. They didn't even talk about that until about the Quest Pro about a year ago. I think that was probably a miscalculation, because there's plenty of VR enterprise solutions that have come about that I think would have put those headsets in more industrial applications. The Wild got recently, I think a couple of years ago. The Wild here in Portland, which did a pre-visualization for architecture, got acquired by Autodesk. There's a company that does BIM design called Argyle that is now working really closely with Magickleap. These solutions are out there and they're being used but for whatever reason, apple or I keep thinking about Apple now Meta hasn't added them to the store, given them that placement. But a big part of that is because, look, these headsets, even like the Quest 2, it's running on a very taxed Google device basically Not Google but Android so it can only be pushed so far. That's what interests me about the Vision Pro is it's got the same processor as all of their hardware. It's got an M2 processor, but they offload it with a second mystery processor called the R1, which is doing all the spatial computing. You're not being restricted to what a basic Android phone could process, even like the most expensive one. You're being restricted to what an actual Apple device can process. It's not an iPhone shoved into a headset, it's an Apple Studio shoved into a headset, which also explains that $3,500 price tag, if you break it down.


Dmitri: All right, we're going to have to wrap up soon, but I want to ask you two more questions. What do you think the impact of the Vision Pro is going to be on music making, music listening and music engagement?

Lee: It's up to the industry, the industry's slow dude. It's the one industry that can have all the answers written in black and white right in front of them, and they will take a decade to jump into it.

Dmitri: So you're talking about the recording and publishing industry. Is this what we're talking about?

Lee: The whole music industry as a whole, because a lot of that industry is. They've built their fiefdoms and they protect it, and change disrupts that Anyone who knows me. The term disruption is my least favorite word, but in this particular case it's accurate. As you look at how the music industry has always been held, look at what's going on. We talk about concerts in the virtual space. We were watching this weird dumpster fire at Ticketmaster right now. Over the last year, you think that company knows what to do with a virtual concert? No, they don't know. They can have the whole plan written out from it. It's going to be very hard to convince them, but they do have the live event industry with Live Nation really locked down. What do they do in that moment? Hopefully adapt, but they're probably going to go kicking and screaming the same thing with, like, pros and record labels and they want to maintain all of that, but they don't really know what that means as soon as it's in a virtual environment. The thing that I'm actually really passionate about now and you and I are going to have coffee about this later because I'm not going to talk too much about it, but this is what I will say is I am on, the soapbox of video games are a performance. We're not a one off like cartridge anymore and we're not treating video games as the same as like any other area where performances happen. That has to change and it's going to be hard, but it's an inevitability. Just people have to wake up to it.


Dmitri: You heard it here first on the Music Tech Tonics podcast, Lee Keebler.

This has been awesome. One last thing we like to expand our networks at Music Tech Tonics and one way we build communities by getting guests like you to shout out some companies or people our listeners should follow. Who do you have in mind? It could be with immersive experience and spatial computing. It could be music related.

Lee: Well, if anything follow Kathy Hackel.

Dmitri: I do, she's great.

Lee: She's doing some amazing stuff. There's an amazing videographer producer who's been in the VR space, Adam Davis McGee. Follow what he's doing. He was the director for in protest, which was released by Oculus during the George Floyd protest. Amazing content there. He's really pushing the boundaries.

I got some stuff that I can't talk about right now, but you know that's where you can find me at KEEBZ yeah, like there's, just find me on LinkedIn and you'll see everything that I'm talking about.

A company here in Portland that is doing some cool stuff called Invisible Thread. They got some stuff cooking in this space that I think is going to be pretty amazing as well. But, yeah, that's my short list of people you probably aren't following, but you should be Perfect.


Dmitri: Yeah, excellent Lee. This has been an absolute blast. Looking forward to spending some time with you as I make my way to the Pacific Northwest. Maybe I'll get to meet some of these folks, maybe we'll get you down in Santa Monica at the Music Tech Tonics conference. But thank you so much for letting us dive into your brain, where you're breaking stuff and not falling into the growing up trap, but really sharing some great knowledge.

Thanks so much, lee.

Lee: Thank you

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The Music Tectonics podcast goes beneath the surface of the music industry to explore how technology is changing the way business gets done. Weekly episodes include interviews with music tech movers & shakers, deep dives into seismic shifts, and more.


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