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  • Writer's pictureEric Doades

Looking into the Mixed Reality Mirror with Lee Kebler

Happy Holidays from the Music Tectonics Podcast! Join the podcast team as we look back to one of our favorite interviews from the past year with Lee Kebler, a visionary at the crossroads of music, spatial computing, and the metaverse.

He takes us on a journey from his days as a touring DJ to his current role as a tech trailblazer. In our latest episode, we dance through the virtual landscape discussing the impact of the Apple Vision Pro headset and dissect the notion that the metaverse, far from being a buzzword, is shaping into a realm of boundless connectivity for artists and tech enthusiasts alike. 

Then, we turn into the digital domain where virtual reality (VR) and gaming intertwine. Lee narrates his experience of bringing the Olympics to VR and the challenges met along the way, including a global pandemic. We also examine the potential of skeletal tracking and AI in sports broadcasting. 

Our conversation with Lee doesn't shy away from the tough questions, like whether the metaverse is merely undergoing a rebrand or truly evolving. We address Meta's strategic moves in VR, including the pivotal shift from PC to mobile VR and the industry's initial hesitance to embrace such change. The beat goes on with a chat about the influence of Meta's Vision Pro headset on the music scene and the broader implications for the technology's acceptance.

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Episode Transcript

Machine transcribed

0:00:06 - Tristra

Oh, oh, hi, Hello. How did you find me? I thought I was all alone at the Music Tectonic Ski Lodge, my little retreat during the winter holidays. But here you are. I bet you want a podcast episode for the holidays, don't you? Well, you know, it's the perfect time to look back over the year, so why don't we pull up one of our favorite episodes this one's from August 2023, looking into the mixed reality mirror with Lee Kebler? In the past year's hype cycle, ai became the big buzzword du jour and the metaverse took a back seat. But our guest, lee Kebler, knows what's been going on beneath the surface and why the tables may be about to turn again. Lee, also known as Kebs, has been working with music in immersive experiences and extended realities AR, br, xr, mr all the Rs since before those terms existed. 

So let's return to Dmitri's conversation with Lee on what's next for music in the metaverse, why spatial computing is a big deal and why the Apple Vision Pro headset is an important next step. Enjoy this rebroadcast from the Music Tectonics Vaults and we'll be back in the new year with more Music Tech interviews and information. Cheers, You're listening to Music Tectonics. 

0:01:33 - 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 VR 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. 

Hey, thanks, 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. I'm just excited about your depth of knowledge of both the music side and the 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? 

0:03:31 - Lee

That's a tricky question because that's actually how I got started into tech, prior to, I would say, 2010,. 2011,. I was just in the music industry. I worked in radio. 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 a musician. But what happened was I bought an Xbox 360 back in like 2011 and it had this new piece of hardware in it called a Kinect. 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 it 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 the technology in the future can do, which at the time, everything was like post-apocalyptic. 

0:04:33 - Dmitri

Even today, it's still post-apocalyptic. 

0:04:34 - Lee

That movie was just like 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 like Terminator future that I kept being shown and I had what I called my like 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 Cafe 80s of this movie, where Marty McFly plays wild gunman, the old arcade machine, and he looks at him and he's like you have to use your hands, that's like a baby's toy. That stuck with me. So when I set up that Kinect, I had this like a-ha 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 on the game and I quickly realized like this is the worst way to control a video game. But the technology got me really interested in it. So I took my Kinect 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, like, what was going inside of this thing. There's blogs online because there's no like 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. I was like, oh, I can control sound. 

I haven't hooked up them. It's no longer connected to my Xbox, it's now connected to my laptop and I'm controlling sound and like. At the time, me and this like group of like 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 tri-color LEDs, and he was like 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, like 2012, was like a magical time. What he worked on ended up becoming a company called Glow Motion, which is now responsible for like, when you watch like the Superbowl or the Olympics and they do they have like the wristbands that have LED lights and they like bitmap of like the Pepsi logo on the side of the audience. That started. That started in 2012 in the Attica 12th and Porter with me and. 

Daniel Slesinger Like and full of like people. 

0:07:40 - Dmitri

Now what and what happened to you? What were you doing with that technology? 

0:07:43 - 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 like we back lined it with like artists we knew people were going to like show up for. So we did like the first 30 minutes we had a friend of ours who was really into videography come in and like kind of film it so we could have 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 because, like, the human brain doesn't understand music. Right, you just get this like weird tonality, ethereal crap going on. That kind of sounds like. 

0:08:32 - Dmitri

I like the theremin, but okay, I do too. But but you were using it for facts. 

0:08:39 - Lee

But I was using it for effects so like I could grab the sound in the air and I could like squeeze the low pass filter and like kind of 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 it doesn't know what he's doing. But what annoyed me about the DJ market at the time was like this was when the DJs would like turn it on, 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 like 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 like YouTube and it doesn't go like 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, like, 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. He's like no dude, like this is actually who you're talking to. He's only in town for a couple of days. Can you go to LA? Okay, yeah, sure, I tell my boss I was an engineer at a radio station, for anyone who's listening like 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, goes 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 like you're fired if you don't go do this, and so I was like okay, 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 like office that he knew it was real but he had like. 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. 

Nice student in the world. He's, you know he's just one of the most kind hearted 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 you know, 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 the 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 like experimental tech and in 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 like 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 like three places and people could go up at any time and like 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 like remix the Black Eyed Peas music or whatever was on, you know, playing in the speakers. That was a really cool art installation. That was like my introduction to spatial computing and it really kind of helped me, just out of the curiosity of it, and having that creative freedom helped me understand, like how a computer sees through a lens, and not just a lens but utilizing, you know, lidar and depth and like where the pitfalls are and all of that. So that was like how I got into spatial computing. It was not a usual you know method but it worked for me. 

0:13:01 - Dmitri

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

0:13:20 - Lee

Yeah. So you know 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 like manufacturing and pre-visualization and like the dawn of like the 2015, 2016 era for steel, and I was super boring but it was like 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 like staffing up to get the VR application out for the Olympics. You want to be a part of that and 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 then I was 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 figured that out so when, in 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 like stereoscopic virtual reality live video back to the VR headset, which at the time was in the transition of the Oculus to the Oculus too. So we had to like overcome that and it's a global thing, right. So now I'm working with multiple broadcast holders who now have to have like 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 like 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 you know we were hitting a deadline for 2020. Nothing moves the Olympics, right? That's true. 

0:15:32 - Dmitri

You can't. Just we're a little late, guys, can you? 

0:15:36 - Lee

Until it did, because COVID hit and the actual impossible happens and so that application actually just 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 then 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, you know, 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, you know, we were just looking at it as like intelligent skeletal tracking. But now, yeah, like that, that's really was a really cool thing and that actually got used in the broadcast where they were able to break down, like 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, you know, I spent a lot of time. I've known Kathy Hackles 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 like 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 like the gaming space yet. I had been doing a lot of like 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, I've wanted to work with her for a long time anyways, and she was, you know, really awesome to like set up and we built a team and we we actually ended up working on a Roblox game for Walmart and that might not make a whole lot of sense to like this podcast, but one of the things that we did and now it's 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 young blood and a bunch of like 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 like my touring DJ days with like fairly sizable, well-named artists and seeing like this new group of artists that they would do well in a festival but at the at the time maybe they wouldn't like pack out their own stadium by themselves. They probably would now, but not like you know. That was really interesting because I watched like these three artists that were really gaining momentum do 40,000 people in a show because it's the power of having like global internet access and getting their new music out there. And like building the digital merchandise that would normally be in a merch truck but now like your Roblox avatar could wear, and kind of 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 like 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. That's cool. 

0:19:24 - Dmitri

It's like another kind of another application of what you were doing when you were tinkering with your it's so strange how it all like it doesn't. 

0:19:33 - Lee

It's not like this linear line, right 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, 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. It just tells its own story. 

0:19:57 - Dmitri

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 look at the next one. We have to take a quick break and we will come back. I want to get to our headline about the Apple Pro and what it means for where things are going. 

We'll be right back. 

0:20:13 - Dmitri

The news cycle of the music industry, and innovation in particular, is accelerating at such a fast pace it can be hard to keep up. That's why I launched Rock Paper Scanner, a free newsletter you can get in your inbox every Friday morning. Check out bitlyrpscanner. That's B-I-T dot L-Y slash R-P scanner. I scan hundreds of outlets for you, from the music trades to the tech blogs, from the music gear mags to lifestyle outlets. So that you don't have to. I handpick everything music tech, including industry revenue numbers, ai, cool new user tools, the live music and recording landscapes, partnerships and acquisitions and everything else. A music tectonics podcast listener would want to know. Open a browser right now and punch in bitly slash R-P scanner to sign up right now. Go ahead, hit pause and go to bitly slash R-P scanner, or find the episodes blog post on musictectonicscom and find that link. 

Happy scanning but for now happy listening. Alright, we're back and, as I mentioned before the break, great to hear your career trajectory, starting with breaking stuff and then getting spontaneous introductions to people, that kind of-. 

0:21:27 - Lee

I still break stuff. Don't ever stop breaking stuff. If you stop breaking stuff, you're not doing anything. 

0:21:35 - Dmitri

Did I see on your LinkedIn page it talks about or maybe it was on your website, I'm not sure talks about not losing the playfulness of childhood, or something like that. 

0:21:43 - Lee

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. That is it Don't grow up. 

0:22:19 - Speaker 2

Why is it? 

0:22:19 - Dmitri

a trap you don't have to. 

0:22:20 - Lee

It's a completely unnecessary process. Nice. 

0:22:23 - Dmitri

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 broadcastings. You've got some great perspective to help us really understand this. Yeah, how do you see it? 

0:22:43 - Lee

It's validation. Apple there's a couple of things to understand about the history of Apple and I think a lot of people need to take a step back and 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. 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 like fledgling start up off a Kickstarter called Oculus pop up, I was like, oh, now we're getting somewhere and a lot of people don't realize like the first Oculus, like proof of concepts, were actually two iPhone 4s taped together. So it's not like Apple didn't know they were involved from the start, but you were in a way kind of involved from the beginning of all of this when you know Palmer Lucky's out there taping iPhones together, putting them behind lenses, trying to figure out how to like reposition the gyroscopes and breaking stuff. 

And so you know, I was a little surprised that it took this long to get there, and I will admit that there was moments where I was like maybe I'm wrong, but I pushed through it because the technology is interesting and I think it's a part of human nature to want to like, interact in a different way, seeing it come out and how they're producing it. I think gives a lot of validation to all of the like 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, that's the press. Industry 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 in 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 to too early to exploit, 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. All of that and now you're actually starting to get to know person based on like 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? 

0:26:59 - Dmitri

So like removing the friction of all the societal yeah, forms of oppression and prejudice and preconception and all that stuff and and see the actual soul of somebody through through this avatar experience. Mm-hmm interesting. 

0:27:16 - Lee

I mean it's not perfect and the in the world still broken, right, and look, I'm not on this. Vr is the empathy machine thing like. 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 impet, like, a naturally empathetic person, I think you will find more empathy through this hardware. If you are 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 it you know, exaggerate, I think who you are. Hopefully it also gives you an opportunity to like, reflect on that and change like 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 like VR is an empathy machine. I think it's like a really interesting mirror. 

Interesting if that makes sense. 

0:28:20 - Dmitri

Yeah, it reminds me of. Jim Collins has a book called good to great. That's about the best like the most successful Businesses and he says technology is an accelerator. 

And so if you're doing, if you're not doing very well, technology will will speed up how bad you're bad you're doing, but I guess it works on the emotional level too. You know, I have friends, maybe outside of music and tech, who reacted to vision pro the way they've been reacting conneta to meta Facebook, thinking that the metaverse that meta promoted is dead. Um, and it's kind of interesting to watch the hype cycles around. You know 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? 

0:29:20 - Lee

Metaverse is a term derived from snow crash. You know a book, from what was it? Late late 80s, early 90s? Great book, fantastic. You know, early vision of the future? Um, but it's, it was coined as a buzzword. It was coined as this sci-fi word, um, 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. Um, 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, um, because I don't think it should ever have been. 

Uh, years ago, um, 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 like, piece anything they could against the wall to Get you to pay attention to whatever it is that they were selling you, right, um, and I just pissed off like a bunch of people come at me, yo, like, this is what was, this is what happened. Um, and in spatial computing is very much an acceptance of of like 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 um. 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 fortnight? That's got its own drama. Um does that mean in fds? Does that mean Um? You know the crypto winter does right. What does that mean? And it's a catcher, I thought. 

0:31:27 - Dmitri

I thought the when, when the metaverse got kind of Combined with nfts and web 3, I thought that that to me felt like it was a different thing, that that the thing that I like about the term because you've been paying attention. 

But if you weren't paying attention, it was intentional to confuse you, yeah, maybe, or or to co-opt, kind of a kind of a hype cycle. But the thing that I like about the term metaverse and and um, I'm not wedded to any terms at all Is that it it implies a place, a space, you know, 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 least, so it makes sense for for 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're, you come from that creator. You know the, the designer, the creator, the inventor of those, 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 the oculus To 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 that that implies but, um, but I guess you're talking a bit about the, the, the Semantics a little bit, and I'm curious about will there be these virtual spaces? You know that's where. 

I think the the the, 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, um is that people associate that metaverse with the metaverse, and I'm like no, I think we're gonna need a new. 

0:33:14 - Lee

We're gonna need a new term eventually and one will crop up. I think that that term just got burnt and it didn't have to and like. Let me, let me be really clear the the reason why. Because I 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 like, bring new people and usher them into, like, 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. Um, because the metaverse is not roblox and it's not even vr chat, which is probably the closest thing that like. A lot of like vr enthusiasts think of the metaverse. But those are all still walled gardens. Those are just like video game engines that are processing a video game like. 

If you want to take the term of like metaverse and break it down to the, the real, you know points of what those meta and verse, right, it is a universe within a universe. 

Um, 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 what I I 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 is 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 want to be seen as the metaverse, but right now we're just using the metaverse to define a bunch of like 3d vr video games. We should just be calling them vr gaming, you know, or what have you, because it's not honest to the term I got you, yeah. 

0:35:08 - Dmitri

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 developers? 

0:35:34 - Lee

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 that crap, 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 that's 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 don'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 when 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, 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. Right, yeah, so it is a luxury item, but not this version. 

I don't expect anyone in this version to get it Gotcha. 

0:39:06 - 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. 

0:39:17 - Eleanor

You've heard Demetri and Tristra on the podcast, now coming out with them. I'm talking about seismic activity Music tectonics free online event series. About once a month, we convene the music tech community for networking, discussions and demos by innovators and inventors. Join us and tune into the tremors that are about to become major shake-ups in the industry. See upcoming topics on our schedule and register for our next event at music These aren't your usual sleepy webinars. Seismic activity is fun, fast-paced and interactive. Everyone who works for music and tech meet is welcome. See you soon. 

0:39:59 - Dmitri

All right, we're back, and as someone who uses an Oculus Quest 2, I'm not like a super deep into mixed reality or VR anything it 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, well, I, um, I respect you deeply. 

0:40:31 - Lee

I think you know that. So when I disagree with you, uh, it's nothing personal. Um, we can find it. I don't know. I don't know if I would say that meta had a hard time getting Uh applications out. I think that the applications were probably a little bit misguided like. They got some good games out, they had a weird era where they had to transfer to the next level. So they had a weird era where they had to transfer Um from pc to a mobile device and this is what squeezed the store market right. There is a ton of amazing stuff. I mean, is it as robust as like the nintendo switch store? No, absolutely not. Um, and it will never. It should never be as robust as like the google play store because, like, 98% of the google play store is garbage. But if there's a lot of it, so like it it's. It's kind of a weird numbers game. I think apple or an apple. 

I think meta made a really good Um attempt in the early days and I've seen this waning, so I'll I'll ding them for that. But in the early days they were really picky about what they put out. As someone who like, had to To release um, the vr application for olympics on the quest I went through like their process and at least back then um, the store was more curated because they didn't want shovelware to To overflow the market um, which did kind of make it look sparse for a little bit, but the stuff that came out was really good. You know, beat saber was a hit Uh, population one is a hit. Vr chat I'm still surprised that can run on a mobile device. Um, rec room is going to launch on, you know, the, the vision pro, because they're on top of it Um, so I just think it was more limited. 

Uh, what I didn't see and this was a business decision, I think I'm at his part, you'd have to ask them if I'm right is I didn't see a lot of industrial enterprise solutions. Uh, they didn't even talk about that until about the quest pro about a year ago. Um, and I think that was Probably a miscalculation because there's plenty of vr Uh enterprise solutions that have come about. Um, that I think would have put those headsets in more industrial applications. You know, the wild got recently a couple. I think a couple years ago the wild here in portland which did like a pre-visualization for architecture, got acquired by um auto desk. 

Uh, there's a company that does bim design, um called argile, that is now working really closely with Uh, magically, um, these things are out there, these solutions are out there and they're being used, but for whatever reason, apple or um I keep thinking about apple now, uh, meta hasn't added them to the store, giving them up, that, that placement. 

But a big part of that is because, like, look these, these headsets, even like the quest 2, it's running on a very taxed Google device, basically, um, not google, but android, and and so it can only be pushed so far. So that's what interests me about the, the vision pro is it's got the same processor as they're in, like all of their like hardware, like 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. So 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. Uh, it's not an iphone shoved into a headset, right, it's, it's a, it's a apple studio shoved into a headset, which also explains, like, that $3,500 price tag if you break it down you know? 

0:44:10 - Dmitri

yeah, all right, we're gonna have to wrap up soon, but I want to ask you two more questions. One is what do you think the impact of the vision pro is going to be on music making, music listening and music engagement? 

0:44:20 - Lee

It's up to the industry um, the industry, slow dude like they. It's the one industry that they 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. So you're talking about recording. 

Recording and publishing industry is what you're talking about the whole music then, yeah, music industry as a whole, because a lot of that industry is they've, they've built their Fifthums and they protect it, and change disrupts that, and anyone who knows me like the term disruption is like my least favorite word, but in this particular case it's accurate. Um, as you look at how the music industry has always been held like, look at what's going on with we we talk about like concerts in in the virtual space and 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 right now from. It's gonna be very hard to convince them, but they do have the live event industry with like live nation really locked down. What do what do they do in that moment? Hopefully adopt, but they're probably gonna go kicking and screaming the same thing with like PROs and record labels and like 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. 

You know the the thing that I'm actually really passionate about now and you and I are gonna have coffee about this later Because I'm not gonna talk too much about it, but this is what I will say is I am on. The soapbox of. Video games are a performance. They're not a one-off Like cartridge anymore and we are not treating video games as the same as like any other area where performances happen. That has to change and it's gonna be hard, but it's an inevitability. Just people have to like wake up to it. 

0:46:25 - Dmitri

You heard it here first on the music tectonics podcast, lee Keevler. This has been awesome. Hey, one last thing. We like to expand our networks at music tectonics. In 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 top of mind? It could be with immersive experience and spatial computing. It could be music related. What do you got? 

0:46:47 - Lee

Well, anything like, follow Kathy Hackel. 

I knew 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 by Oculus During the the George Floyd protests amazing content there. He's really pushing the boundaries. I got some stuff that I can't talk about right now, but you know, keeps calm, that's where you can find me. A, k, e, e, b, z, yeah, like there's. Just Find me on the 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're they got some stuff cooking in this space that I think is going to be pretty amazing as well. But, yeah, that that's my like short list of people you probably aren't following, but you should be Perfect, yeah, excellent. 

0:47:46 - Dmitri

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 the music tectonics conference, but thank you so much for letting us dive into your your 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. Thank you, thanks for listening to music tectonics. If you like what you hear, please subscribe on your favorite podcast app. We have new episodes for you every week. 

Did you know we do free monthly online events that you are lovely podcast listeners can join? Find out more at music and, while you're there, look for the latest about our annual conference and sign up for our newsletter to get updates. Everything we do explores the seismic shifts that shake up music and technology the way the earth's tectonic plates cause quakes and make mountains. Connect with music tectonics on Twitter, instagram and LinkedIn. That's my favorite platform. Connect with me. Dmitri Vietze, if you can spell it, we'll be back again next week, if not sooner.

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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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