Face to Face with Mat Chacon: The Bigger Picture of VR

Just recently, I came across an interesting social VR platform, rumii, that lets people collaborate and educate in a 3D virtual environment from anywhere around the world.

I reached out to the man behind the idea, Mat Chacon — CEO of Doghead Simulations, who is one of the industry’s leading VR executive working on creating a bigger picture of Virtual Reality. It’s been a pleasure to interview him and his illuminating insights are highly appreciated. Here he shares his thoughts about rumii and all things VR:

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself

Mat Chacon, CEO Doghead Simulations

Hello! Thank you so very much for asking me to be a part of this important series. I do sincerely appreciate the opportunity.

My name is Mat Chacon and I am the CEO of Doghead Simulations, makers of rumii, an immersive and social virtual reality software platform that is fundamentally improving how people around the world educate, train and collaborate. Growing up in poverty, I couldn’t afford college.

So, I helped start a website development company in 1994. At 25, I took part in the $63 million USWeb IPO. By 35, I was a successful software startup executive. By 45, I was named a top 20 VR executive. I eventually attended college when I could afford it and now teach online education for free. Virtual Reality is my passion, but education is my purpose. I co-founded Doghead Simulations to make education accessible & affordable to all. You can follow me on Twitter @TheVRCEO

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­2. What inspired you to work for the Doghead Simulations?

Simply put, it was the horrible experiences of web-based meeting and training tools.

Before co-founding Doghead Simulations and creating rumii, I owned a professional services firm that performed consulting and training around the world on a project management methodology known as Agile. Because we had a global client base, I would regularly conduct meetings and trainings using all of the common and expected web-based meeting tools. However, none of them provided an effective or engaging experience and all of them were contributing to an environment of friction in the meeting and collaboration process. I knew there had to be a better way. So, I consulted with two very good friends of mine to get their input on improving this experience.

Enter Elbert Perez and Chance Glasco. Elbert was already a well-respected game developer and an experienced VR engineer and VR patent holder who had reached out to me one two separate occasions about the new reality that is VR. Chance Glasco was a co-founder of Infinity Ward and co-creator of the multi-billion dollar gaming franchise, Call of Duty. Elbert contributed the VR technical skill, Chance contributed a keen understanding of 3D environments and I contributed the business knowledge. Together we co-founded Doghead Simulations and created rumii. Within a week we already had a large enterprise customer using rumii for training and after only a few months of business we were already recognized as a global leader in immersive VR education and training with our flagship product named rumii.  Three years later we have over 6,000 educational institutions, enterprise companies and government agencies around the world using rumii for education, corporate training and distributed collaboration and we’re growing fast every week.

3. How does Doghead Simulations contribute to the future of VR?

We’re on a mission to fundamentally improve the way people educate, train and collaborate using VR. But we’re not stopping there. Our blockbuster goal is to make rumii your first experience upon awakening, your primary experience throughout your day and your final experience before sleep. By now, it’s no secret that VR is the world’s next computing platform and Doghead Simulations has made rumii an important part of that reality. In fact, our latest version of rumii is already enjoying a rapidly expanding global market presence and our forthcoming API will make it easier for VR content creators to develop their tools and experiences directly in rumii and reach our ever-expanding global customer base.

4. What do you think is standing in the way of VR mass adoption?

I think the cost of VR head mounted displays (HMDs) are still an expensive proposition, relatively speaking. With the advent of stand-alone HMDs that are no longer tethered to an expensive computer, but that still provide the same experience, the cost has come down while the capability has gone up, effectively created an economy of scale. However, in regions outside of North America, the cost of an HMD is still out of reach for most people. Consumers are price sensitive and even relatively price-friendly, technically capable HMDs present a barrier to entry in the global markets for truly immersive VR experiences.

So, building VR experiences that are device agnostic will help with mass adoption and offer consumers a so called “crawl-walk-run” approach to VR where they can step into a VR experience using devices they already own. Giving a person the ability to interact with a single- or multi-user VR experience, albeit a limited one, from their cell phone and computer will enable them to partially immerse themselves into valuable VR experiences as they wait for the prices of HMDs to come down to a point where they are comfortable making a purchase for a truly immersive VR experience.

5. Which latest development or idea has blown you away with its possibilities?

Well, of course I need to say that rumii is the best VR experience I’ve ever been a part of in the education and enterprise spaces. But, in the consumer space I truly love playing Beat Saber. I like their approach to building a simple business that solves a simple problem while making a truly fun VR experience. That being said, I’m excited about the Oculus Quest and HTC Vive Focus. The capability that both HMDs bring to the untethered, 6 degrees of freedom experience is simply unparalleled. But, the one development that I’m most excited about is digital light field technology. The depth and detail that this provides to the VR experience will make the Star Trek holodeck a distinct reality. It’ll be hard to distinguish a simulated reality from actual reality.

6. Are you noticing any increased interest from companies regarding VR?

Absolutely! In fact, our company has enjoyed phenomenal growth in the enterprise space over the last 3 years. We’ve already achieved a solid presence in many of the Fortune 500 companies around the world and our analytics show us that our enterprise customers use rumii at least twice a day for an average of 30-minutes or more. In fact, global enterprise adoption has always been a key driver of our mission at Doghead Simulations and rumii provides the capability to already replace the in-office experience. With more and more companies doing business with a distributed workforce, having a solid XR (VR, AR and MR) strategy is a required part of doing business in the 21st Century.

The fact is that the world is not moving away from an already profound digital transformation. No one is craving a return to the physical office. Quite the opposite. We’re craving freedom and autonomy. We’ve already leaned into a digital revolution that has, in fact, actually inspired and promulgated revolution around the world. This has created a demand for the integration of the digital world with the physical world, and made it an expectation of our daily lives.

Decision makers in companies around the world are already focused on digital transformation and should now be focusing on digital functionality. Making XR technologies a key component of that functionality will enable them to realize benefits in the way their organization educates, collaborates and reduces budget while gaining operational and tactical efficiencies.

7. If there were no limitations, what are the 3 things you would want to create in VR?

That’s easy:

  1. I want to create a reality where anyone on earth can attend school and valuably educate themselves in VR using rumii for the price of a monthly subscription service. There is absolutely no reason why people need to upend their lives and go hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt just to get a degree to better their own lives and the lives of their families.
  2. I want to create an ecosystem in VR where companies conduct business and where employees no longer need to fight through long commutes, but can simply attend work and school by slipping on an HMD and be truly productive.
  3. I also want to create a world where people can be themselves and live without bias or prejudice and enjoy this one gift of life we’ve all been given. This goal may seem naive, but it’s an important goal we should all be striving for.

8. What do you think is still missing in VR?

Great question! I think VR is missing that one thing that you can *only* do in VR and nowhere else and that one thing will come from the content creators.

9. What would you suggest the up and coming VR developers need to do to make their own journeys worthwhile?

Focus on education and not a degree. More specifically, what I mean is that our industry is growing so fast that VR developers must take a skills-first approach rather than a credentials-first approach. Gain the skills required to develop meaningful VR experiences and then get those experiences to market fast. Align yourself with a good business leader and work together to make meaningful contributions to our space.

That being stated, I will say that one thing VR developers can do is to focus on feeding consumers with dopamine. If you build an experience that floods our limbic system with dopamine, then you will get people hooked on your experience. Beat Saber has done exactly this through their immersive game of achievement and entertainment and rumii is doing this through our proprietary immersive monotasking technology that leverages our natural human desires for achievement, self-expression and connection.

10. What topics would you like to read more about VR?

The business of VR. Hands down!