Thursday, Oct 8- Mike Christian with From the Future joins Jim and James this week to talk about the impact VR has on training and other initiatives they are working on.
[0:00] background music]
Jim Schauer: [0:10] Good morning, LinkedIn community. Welcome to the best episode of “Coffee with Jim & James” all this week.
[0:17] All right virtual reality in my mind dilithium crystals, holodecks, transport, beam me up, Scotty, think of those things. then I think are those in the future already? Wait. James wait or is it from the future?
[0:00] [Mike Christian: [0:33] laughs]
James Cross: [0:34] Wow.
Jim: [0:34] Huh? If I don’t get James to roll as eyes at me at least once I haven’t done my job James. How are you? This fine morning?
James: [0:43] I’m just waiting for the first time one one guest hears that intro and just belts they’re like nah, I’m good.
Jim: [0:50] laughs]
James: [0:50] I’m good. I’ll just make my own podcast or whatever. I’m good Jim excited for today.
Jim: [0:57] Me too.
James: [0:58] We have Mr. Mike Christian joining us today from From the Future that’s hard to say from From the Future and Mike Mike and I have got to do a lot of things together. Right Mike. We we spoke together on a panel before we we have worked closely together on a partnership that EWN and From the Future had in the past.
[1:20] But super pumped to have Mike here today Mike. How you doing, brother?
Mike: [1:25] I’m doing great. Great. Thank you. And I love the intro Jim. You know what you have in your head is is perfect. That’s exactly how things, right, it’s amazing. It’s uncanny.
Jim: [1:36] That’s sometimes scary Mike, but that’s a whole other story.
[0:00] [Mike: [1:39] laughs]
Jim: : [1:39] But it’s great to have you on today. We really appreciate it. Let’s dive in Mike. We’ve known each other for a while and I know you guys encompass so much and done so many things. Can you share with our viewers? Just some of the highlights where you guys began some of the history? Bring it bring us into your world if you would.
Mike: : [1:59] Absolutely. I’m gonna I’ll even go back further probably further than you want but I’ll bring it up bring it up quickly.
James: [2:06] From the past.
Mike: [2:08] That’s right. We’re gonna go go from the future to the past. Anyway, I was I was born on a dairy farm in Oklahoma. I mean out in the middle of nowhere and farm life’s boring. So I lived in my head a lot and I created these virtual worlds in my head.
[2:27] I read a lot. I read “The Hobbit,” you know “Lord of the Rings,” everything I could get my hands on and I think that’s kind of where all of this stuff started.
[2:34] So as I got older the the way to create virtual worlds was video games. So I got into I got in a video gaming and worked for Atari.
[2:44] And yeah work for Atari and THQ and learned how to program these these virtual worlds, you know how to do the 3D in real‑time starting on the Nintendo all the way up to, you know Playstation Xbox. You know big games franchises Terminator Mission Impossible Stuntman, even Daffy Duck.
[3:06] So I did a lot of the artificial intelligence and eventually I was a tech lead one of my one of the founders is also a tech lead and we had some art leads. So there’s four of us two artists two programmers. We all started the From the Future after we got tired of doing games for other people.
[3:26] So we did games for ourselves and then we also had to pay the bills because gaming is a very, you know, winner‑take‑all kind of endeavor. So we’re competing with some big companies.
[3:36] So while we lived out our passion we worked on worked on mobile apps and became known as you know heavy hitters in the in the area for technology.
[3:48] And so that’s that’s where our name came from From the Future. We felt like we were just always on the bleeding edge of technology and you know, we did we did bleed a lot, but…
Mike: [3:58] It paid off. Because we were one of the early adapters for virtual reality and we started talking to Energy Worldnet who’s one of our very first, you know real customers when it came to virtual reality training.
[4:13] And it’s virtual reality training where I realized that along with some of the some of the other stuff. We’re going to talk about later in the medical field. These are the things I feel like are the most impactful…
Jim: [4:25] Sure.
Mike: [4:26] …things that we can do. So, you know we went from from believing, you know gaming was weared out when we realized these virtual worlds could be used to change people’s lives building on, you know Energy Worldnet’s been doing this for many years. Now.
[4:41] I feel like this is just the next evolutionary step into what you guys have already been doing.
[4:47] It’s building on top of that and being able to just really reach people at a in learning at a level that’s never been done before with this immersive technology where you’re learning by doing and exits in existential learning they call it, learning 3.0 we call it.
[5:07] So that’s that’s where we’re at. And we’ve been we’ve been just exploring virtual reality and then honing in on the training and some of the some of the medical applications because we really wanted to make lives better. And I think it’s a very similar go goal with what Energy Worldnet has.
[5:24] And that’s why we have always valued the partnership that we’ve had with you guys and some of the work that we’ve done with you.
[5:31] So hopefully that’s kind of it. I brought it brought it back to the present. Hopefully. [laughs]
James: [5:36] From a small child at a dairy farm.
Mike: [5:40] That’s right, you know…
James: [5:41] laughs] I love it.
[0:00] …Mike: [5:45] dirt. [laughs]
James: [5:45] Yep, yep. Well Mike you mentioned it, you know, we at EWN we have a passion for training obviously and and innovation, that’s really two of our big focal points. And that was how From the Future and Energy Worldnet really aligned.
[6:05] So, you know, I could I could tell you to talk about this training and how it’s going to change the world and how great it is and how immersive it is, but I don’t I don’t know that it really does VR justice when you start talking about the VR and AR.
[6:21] You try to get people there. But honestly until someone puts on a headset or is able to really look at it for the first time and see the impact. I don’t think it does it the justice that it deserves.
[6:34] So, you know on pregame to this Mike said no, I could just show people. So you probably noticed we have another guest Mike’s PC wherever whichever corner of the box.
Jim: [6:45] Below me, below me.
James: [6:45] It’s not a it’s not some creepy uncle.
[0:00] [Mike: [6:50] laughs]
James: [6:51] It’s actually Mike’s computer. So Mike’s going to share a screen and Mike will give you the floor and you can show off some of the awesome stuff you guys are doing over there.
Mike: [7:02] Absolutely. You’re so you’re so right James, you know until you actually get inside a headset. You just you just don’t know.
[7:10] It’s only once you’re there and your brain is tricking you and believe you could even be in the you could be in like I mentioned Daffy Duck earlier you could be in Daffy Duck cartoon. And If you’re in VR, you’re going to believe that you’re really there.
[7:23] So that’s one of the lessons we learn. You don’t have to have these perfect photorealistic worlds to actually engage with them.
James: [7:30] Sure.
Mike: [7:31] That being said, so what you’re going to see is a filtered version of that. So it’s going to be lower frame rate because we are on a we are on a Zoom virtual call. So this is still not going to be the same as actually having your head in a headset.
[7:46] But I’m going to do my best to bridge the gap by describing it. So I’m going to let you see my VR here here…
James: [7:52] Whoa.
Mike: [7:53] …sculpted by Quest, Oculus Quest.
James: [7:56] Behind the scenes we got.
Mike: [7:59] [laughs] A lot of our stuff is on the Oculus Quest and some of the mobile headsets. But since I’m broadcasting I’m using an Oculus Rift, which is connected to my PC.
[8:09] So the software that we created you know supports all the popular VR platforms. And so I’m going to first show you what we do to get VR content in VR quickly.
[8:23] We can take traditional learning material whether it’s PowerPoint slides or computer‑based training and display it on a large screen right in front of you. And then down below. We have what we call the VR workbench.
[8:39] So what we do is once we get the traditional material in in the form of slides and audio which a lot of us are familiar with in the…
James: [8:49] Yep.
[0:00] …Mike: [8:50] computer‑based training world. We start adding activities on the workbench desk and I’ll show you an example of that.
[8:59] Here’s where we’re learning PPE as well. As you know, how to how to operate the VR and we have these slides over here. You can pick up one of the past slides and it shows you what that is while you’re looking at it throw that back and go back to where we are.
[9:16] Let me take you to one of the one of my more favorite parts going to just skip ahead.
Jim: [9:23] Mike while you’re while you’re doing that this just rings a bell to me that you know, I’m so used to the idea of training safety training gas grids electric grids, whatever the case may be. But you can actually do a lot of soft skills training potentially in something like this.
Mike: [9:37] Oh, absolutely we support like 360 videos. So, you know, sometimes where you need a complex environment or you need to film live people interaction, you know, the soft trails the soft skills training is is invaluable.
[9:52] I mean Walmart does it and they actually credit some saving some lives? I believe it was where they had an active shooter situation. I think it was San Antonio somewhere around that area. But but yeah, they had had soft skills training through VR and it was a much simpler setup.
[10:13] And so this will support that kind of interaction as well. As you can see my hands here. You know, I’ve got I’ve got hand grip interactions, I can pick up objects here. We’re teaching people just how to interact and grab and you know, we’re showing them the basics at this point, all right?
[10:30] You know, you can progress, you know, to the next slide or the previous slide here. I show how to use you know, PPE. I’ve got a mirror here right now. I’m just a I guess a half‑naked all‑blue guy.
James: [10:45] Maybe this might be the most racy episode we’ve had.
[0:00] [Mike: [10:48] laughs]
James: [10:49] Let’s see if we can get through it.
Mike: [10:52] I’ll try to get quickly dressed here. Now. I’m just the blue bald guy with a safety vest on…
James: [10:56] Perfect.
Mike: [10:57] …and gloves and then we talk about hard hats. There’s bricks falling from the sky right now. So this shows you a little bit of what you can start to do. You know now I’m learning about eye and head protection.
[11:08] I’ve got bricks falling on my head. Obviously, I need a hard hat. I put that on so the hard hat put my cool glove my safety glasses and I’m looking now. I’m looking really good so I can move on.
[11:25] So a lot of that let me so this this this to back up this is a construction training module that teaches about mobile elevated work platforms, MEWPs specifically boom lift training and there’s five modules.
[11:42] So after we show them how to you know, talk a little bit about PPE and a little bit about how to do VR we take them to modules where they learn, you know, some familiarization and delivery within it. And…
James: [11:55] Very cool.
Mike: [11:56] Here’s a good example, we show all the different types of MEWPs, you know, on top of the work workbench while we’re you know listed up on the slide.
[12:04] So they can they can pick these up they can they can inspect them these right now. These are Genie and JLG branded…
James: [12:13] Nice.
[0:00] …Mike: [12:14] type stuff. They can pick them up and look. At them so, you know we teach about familiarization.
[12:20] And you know, and then a lot most of the rest of training is going to take place on a straight arm boom lift. So it’s just this guy right here kind of a generic, you know, a lot of what you learn in this model in these modules applies to this guy, applies to a lot of them.
[12:34] I’m going to skip ahead real quick. We do safety training. I’m going to give you another good example of what you can do with the desktop.
[12:44] So now I’ve got you know VR training superpowers or I’ve got a God’s eye view of a work site that shows, you know, the different hazards.
[12:53] You know with overhead construction. You got to be worried about crushed by of course, you know fall in a ditch that’s you know, that’s not good. It doesn’t take much intuition figure that out. Curbs slopes and other things.
[13:05] And I can actually operate the boom lift the little boom lift from a desk.
James: [13:10] Oh, very cool.
Mike: [13:12] And so we use that mechanism a lot just to do different, you know safety scenarios. And then you know, there’s all the different kinds and you can you can actually drive and see the results of your actions.
[13:23] So that here’s a here’s a high wind condition because these things actually can blow over, you know if the wind if they’re up high and the wind’s blowing strong enough.
[13:32] So as we know in Texas and you know, a lot of states, you know, Oklahoma Texas the winds the winds get pretty strong. So let me skip ahead.
[13:43] This is the boom lift inspection module and I’m going to show you how you can then go to a full‑blown boom lift inspection.
[13:53] So what we have what you see out here is what we call the infinity room and the focus is on the inspection not on any, you know, we don’t worry about rocks and bushes and trying to make it too realistic the fact that we’re here and looking at a life‑size boom lift is all we really need.
[14:09] So this is all, you know functional you can see my hands interacting with switches. And you know different parts of it. I can start it. I can move the platform up and down but the most important thing is I’m looking for inspection problems.
[14:25] Right now. I see that there’s a problem with the stickers.
James: [14:29] Yep.
Mike: [14:29] I’ve got an actual construction form for doing inspections and I can I can interact with it. We’ve got a an AI‑assisted virtual reality forms process to pull forms in the VR. And so we’ll pull…
James: [14:44] Very nice.
[0:00] …Mike: [14:44] inspection form directly in and I can say OK safety decals are in place and readable, fail. So we know that’s not correct. At any point in time. I can drop this, it goes back to platform. I can pop over here. I can look at this.
[15:01] OK, I can see that’s not cool. Somebody’s are real litterbug. There’s probably something about that on here are manuals in place. I can check that work. OK clear debris. That’s a fail. So when I’m done, I can hit finished. I can say finished inspection go back to the desk. And now I’ve got my inspection results.
[15:22] I’ve got three screens every item on the form here. It shows what action I took whether I answered it or not, or if I answer it failed or correct, and then the result incorrect, correct, you know in some cases not applicable. So I can see all the results.
[15:39] There’s a Report button right here. That’s more for me right now in development, but when we hook up to our our classroom app, it will pull the reports and I can see how it did. So there’s one more thing. I want to show you guys before jumping out. So we’ll skip ahead.
[15:56] We also in addition to inspection we teach you how to operate and so what we do is every slide will go through every single control as well as foot controls.
[16:06] Even though I don’t have feet we still teach you how to do feet by hitting the Engage button and your virtual foot goes in because one of the things in operating a boom lift is you have to have your foot on the switch.
[16:18] Any time your foots off that switched then all operations cease. So we train people on that and then we’ll put them on a construction site.
[16:29] So now we’re getting into a little bit more bigger simulation. So this is an actual construction site in the Dallas Fort Worth area at least the exterior the rest of it we made up and what I mean by made up is you see these buildings here. There’s three of them.
[16:44] We randomize the heights and then we randomize flags so that you can then operate the boom lift and go it’s basically a capture the flag exercise. So you got to avoid the, you know, hitting your construction dummies. You got to avoid, you know, hitting your truck. You’ve got to avoid hitting these other obstacles.
[17:05] And I have to actually start it. I’m not going to do this right now, but I have to actually start it get on it clip in my safety harness, which I should be wearing, but I don’t see it at the moment and then I can drive any if I wrech, it’s an instant fail.
[17:19] But at the end it scores me on how well I looked around. You know how well I operated the controls and you know how fast, you know, not not how fast how efficient I was at grabbing flags.
James: [17:30] Very cool.
Mike: [17:31] And so one quick note also as we use construction dummies instead of real people because you know, I mean you got to take safety serious, right? You can’t you got to realize that this is not a video game in the sense that you can just, you know treat treat life. Cavalier.
[17:56] So you don’t want realistic people getting run over by a boom lift, you know, so we use…
James: [18:02] No doubt.
[0:00] …Mike: [18:02] these crash dummies to to get the point across but not traumatize because they’re you know, you never know who’s taking the training. They may have had a someone that they know that was was injured or killed at a construction site. So you want to be respectful of that.
[18:18] Here at this paint at the same point at the same time. You want to communicate the seriousness of it for maybe the people that are new to it. So the the crash dummy was our was our middle of the road trying to hit those goals.
James: [18:33] Mike, if you don’t…
Mike: [18:34] Well, I’m going to stop sharing now.
James: [18:37] Yeah, there you go. There you go. Man, that’s awesome. It’s been it’s been a minute since I’ve seen behind the curtain on this project, you know, and this project and many others but it looks awesome.
[18:50] I remember when this was kind of a sketch on a on a notepad kind of idea, so seeing it come to life if it’s amazing. So kudos on that.
Mike: [19:01] Thank you.
Jim: [19:01] Yep.
Mike: [19:02] Thank you.
Jim: [19:01] Just sort of feedback from the industry. I think Mike you and I might have talked about it before COVID. But I’ve had many high‑ranking members of natural gas utilities across the United States say that this is a great environment because it gives newer people or people re‑going through training or certification the freedom to fail.
[19:23] And if you fail in that setting it’s a lot better than failing out in the real world and you know, the more that they can become accustomed to it the better so freedom to fail. I thought that was a kind of an interesting and very very important phrase.
Mike: [19:40] Yeah. Absolutely. It’s, it’s hard if falls under the umbrella of learning by doing which is something we’re very fond of saying, you know in the VR world, especially when it comes to a training and education.
[19:54] And I believe in that so strongly. I actually spent a good part of my summer writing in my spare time writing a book about the subject.
Jim: [20:03] Yes, yeah.
Mike: [20:04] I felt so strongly about it that I made a bold statement which was you know, how VR will revolutionize training and education and I don’t believe it’s a matter of of if it will happen. It’s really more a matter of when.
[20:20] And I think companies like EWN and companies like mine and various innovative, you know forward‑thinking thought leaders and clients, you know, it’s going to take everybody. It’s a it’s a it’s a complicated process but in the end it’s well worth it because it’s going to have a tremendous impact.
Jim: [20:41] Yep.
Mike: [20:42] And it’s where things are going and if we want it to happen sooner rather than later. It’s going to take all hands on deck, you know from educators to you know, subject matter experts, etc.
Jim: [20:51] Yep. Got two things. Where can we find your book in the marketplace? Where can we find that?
Mike: [20:57] Well? I it’s super easy and it’s fun. So all you get if you’re on Facebook and you join the From the Future Facebook group, you will get a free copy.
Jim: [21:10] OK.
Mike: [21:12] If you’re on if you don’t if you don’t want to be on Facebook, which you know, that’s very understanding these days if you want to be on if you’re on LinkedIn. You can join the From the Future group there. If you just hate the Internet, but still have email. Just just email me or you know, what? Well, I’ll send you a copy of the book.
[21:32] It’s more. It’s more important that I get the get the hands. Yeah, I want to connect with people which is why I asked people to join our groups, but it’s important to get the message out.
James: : [21:41] Is that a real dog or a virtual dog?
[0:00] [Mike: [21:45] laughs] That is that is the Chihuahua I think it was before we went live. But this is the Chihuahua that rules my life now.
James: [21:55] Amen.
Mike: [21:55] And she is both inspiration and perspiration.
Mike: [22:00] The she’s a she’s completely deaf and mostly blind so she’s disabled and she’s a young dog. It’s not from age. She was born that way, but she is just she’s like a little Napoleon. You know, she definitely got that little little dog syndrome.
Jim: [22:18] If if she comes in by make sure you hold. Up, come on got to get a little…
Mike: [22:22] Well, she must have despite being deaf I think she heard us.
James: : [22:28] Aw.
[0:00] [Mike: [22:29] laughs]
James: [22:29] Love it.
Jim: : [22:30] Mike, we’re getting close to time. But that hits on a subject. I definitely wanted to touch base with because I know you do a lot in the medical field and not for animals, I would say but for the…
James: [22:39] Not, not…
Jim: [22:40] …medical field.
James: [22:41] yet, not yet.
Jim: [22:42] It’s coming.
[0:00] [Mike: [22:44] laughs]
Jim: [22:44] Especially autism with children. I’ve you know, I’ve I just want to touch base on that because I think that’s very interesting. Can you can you give us a glimpse of that please?
Mike: : [22:53] I would love to you know, we all of our businesses is built around, you know, serving industrial markets and you know energy and construction and so forth, but our give back is autism therapy.
[23:08] And so we’ve been actually in the background working off and on for a couple of years on virtual reality treatment for kids that exhibit autism and in fact, we recently won a contest with the Dallas Business Journal and they awarded $10,000 is the prize.
[23:28] And I was I was kind of blown away. I didn’t expect to win. There’s too many, you know, awesome awesome people in the contest, but but we won so I’m going to use that money to go towards, you know development.
[23:39] Its it when it comes to VR development. I’m sad to say $10,000 is not a lot of money, but it is enough to really push what we have forward when you combine that with our enthusiasm.
Jim: [23:51] Yeah.
Mike: [23:52] And and so what it is is people and I don’t want to just say kids but people with autism have trouble making sense of the real world. It’s complex or sensory overload, you know facial expression, you know, the whole thing. There’s a whole gamut a whole spectrum.
[24:08] What you can do in VR is create a simpler world even a cartoon world because a lot of these kids they’ll watch Disney over and over and over it’ll be in the anime. And the reason they do that is because it helps them make sense of the real world so why not take them and put them in these worlds?
[24:25] And then while they are in these worlds give them the ability to interact with each other to learn social skills and cooperate give them the ability to shop for groceries.
[24:37] Give them the ability to do applied behavior analysis therapy is you know, and be able to you know, everything from just identifying objects at one level to actually, you know, being a job function at another level.
[24:52] And so these are all things that we have a lot of fun doing it really and it really goes back to our gaming roots too because you know, we can we can turn these into games for these kids.
[25:01] These kids can hey your passionate about dinosaurs, well, then your avatar can be a T‑Rex, you know, or you’re passionate about lobsters. Well you can be a lobster, you know, and then you guys can talk to each other. [laughs] So yeah, that’s that’s it in a nutshell.
Jim: [25:18] Kudos.
James: [25:18] That’s so cool.
Mike: [25:19] Thank you.
James: [25:20] Cool.
Jim: [25:20] Yeah.
James: [25:21] And congratulations on I saw that y’all won.
Mike: [25:24] Well, thank you.
James: [25:25] That’s so that’s fantastic to see Mike. I already know this answer but it’s kind of a bit at this point. So I’m going to do it anyway.
[25:35] But Mike, we’re proud to have you here today. One thing I’ve been asking a lot of our guests is one question is very simple. You won’t even have to train for it you won’t have to do VR nothing, and that’s do you love what you do? Mike?
Mike: [25:51] Oh, absolutely and I yeah, I think you guys could tell just from the way I’m talking about it…
Jim: [25:56] laughs]
Mike: [25:55] …that I do. I’m very I’m almost too passionate about it. I have to tone it down a little bit when I’m talking to people. Otherwise, I’ll just seem like a crazy person.
James: [26:04] Like a nerd. [laughs]
Mike: : [26:05] Yeah, I do.
James: [26:07] It’s nice, you know, I got to spend some time with with your crew over there and I don’t even know if you know this, you know my background before I got or before I was at EWN was actually in technology, so I was a developer for 15 years before.
Mike: [26:24] Oh wow. Cool.
James: [26:25] And now I didn’t do video games or anything cool like that. But so being around your folks was always fun for me just to kind of feel back in that space again and you’ve got a great team over there and y’all are doing awesome stuff.
Mike: [26:39] Thank you. I’m very lucky they’re, they’re all very dedicated to what they’re doing, you know everybody from from you know business development down to production to QA to programming art everybody loves what they do and they’re very, you know, I never have to you know, yell at anybody to work hard or, you know.
[26:58] It’s like at most times said hey take some time off, you know, relax relax a second.
Jim: [27:03] Sharpen the saw. Sharpen the saw.
[0:00] [Mike: [27:05] laughs]
James: [27:05] Well.
Jim: [27:09] Well, I on behalf of James and I we can’t thank you enough for spending the time with us today. It’s been absolutely fun. It’s been invigorating learn something even more and more each and every time That I get a glimpse into your world.
[27:22] I will encourage our viewers to please connect with Mike follow From the Future. Maybe get a maybe get a book by doing so so learn something I can’t again. Thank you enough for all the effort you put in today Mike and it really means a lot to us and thank you for being on the show.
James: [27:43] Thanks for letting us see behind the curtain too.
Mike: [27:46] Oh, absolutely. It was my pleasure. And thank you guys any excuse to hang with Jim and James, you know, I mean, I would just if you guys do that reality TV show where you locked in a mansion in Florida. I want to be the guest.
Jim: [27:58] Shh, wait, that’s going to be…
James: [28:01] That’s 2020. Well, we’ll see how the rest of 2020 goes.
Mike: [28:04] Yeah we…
James: [28:06] That maybe 2021. It may be next week. [0:00] [Mike: [28:08] laughs]
Jim: [28:09] Who knows? All right, I’m gonna wrap it up. Again. Thank you for joining us today. I hope you got a little bit of new information out of this. Please connect with Mike follow From the Future.
[28:21] Until next time we wish everybody to stay safe. Have a great day. God bless you and God bless our industry. Take care, and we will see you in the future.
Mike: [28:29] Bye, y’all.
James: [28:30] Take care, everyone.
Mike: [28:31] Bye, y’all.
James: [28:32] Thanks, Mike.
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