Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your background? Is it your first business?
I am Dr. Kristopher J Blom. My background is in Computer Engineering focusing on Virtual Reality. My first exposure to VR was in 1998, and I’ve been involved ever since. In my last Post-Doc position we were using VR to investigate aspects of the self from a psychological and neurological standpoint. When I saw that VR technologies were poised to enter the mainstream market, I decided to leave academia to found Virtual Human Technologies. I was motivated the thought of finally bring the benefits of VR to the masses. We’ve known of the effectiveness of VR for both training and as part of phobia treatment for some time, but the technology involved before made it prohibitive. With new mainstream technologies we have the opportunity to bring these benefits to a much wider audience.
Write 2-3 sentences about your business. What problem is your business trying to solve?
Virtual Human Technologies aims to help avatars help people. Our flagship product is Virtual Orator (https://publicspeaking.tech), a VR platform for training public speaking skills. Whether overcoming a fear of speaking in front of people or perfecting your talk before an audience of 150 disgruntled people, Virtual Orator provides the right audience for every training need.
What are your business growth plans?
As the PC based VR devices we require are just coming market, our near term growth plans are simply to start establishing a market. Particularly the corporate market needs development across the board. A few companies use VR in specific areas, e.g. Engineering, but adoption of VR in more general business units will take time and effort from the community. The push Oculus and Steam/HTC focused exclusively on entertainment has propagated a misconception that VR is only for entertainment, which will be hard to initially overcome.
What excites you the most about the possibilities of VR? In terms of transformative technologies where do you see VR on the spectrum? Fire, the wheel, the automobile, phones, airplanes etc.
VR has the power to not only transport us to another place or time, but recent research has shown it has the power to change our views and even change some of our internal concepts of self, though possibly only for the period of time we are in world. VR has great potentials to help people, which is what our company is focused on.
I see similarities to the television in terms of the transformative technology spectrum. Like the television, VR will be a paradigm shift. Right now the new commercial VR community is largely dedicated to adapting existing paradigms to fit VR, just as happened with television. We also have a similar issues with adoption. Televisions were initially very expensive and programming was very limited. Televisions were a novelty to start with, but as it grew into its own, it became so much more. Prices dropped and programming matured and expanded. The same will happen with VR. The one advantage with VR is that we actually have 30 years of VR research which can inform and accelerate that process.
What industry do you think will be most impacted by VR? Education, HealthCare?
VR will impact many if not most areas over time. It is a paradigm shift, so the impact will exist but may be more incremental than radical. However, I think that the field of Psychology, both clinical and research areas, will probably experience the most radical impact from VR. VR will completely revolutionize many of the therapies clinicians use today. We already have seen successes with VR Exposure Therapies, a clinical tool for helping people deal with traumas and phobias, but the extreme costs have made it prohibitive up to now. Research aimed at understanding people is poised to undergo a revolution also, as VR provides a new way to realistically and safely put people into any situation and provides controlled experimental setups. As a company, we are excited to be involved in both aspects of this revolution, with Virtual Orator and our other more specific products. Virtual Orator is already being adopted for treatment of the fear of public speaking by clinicians, and we are involved in a number of research projects using our software.
Will VR unite or divide the world?
I’m not sure that VR will directly impact that. I think the more important question is how will it impact humanity, which indirectly impacts your query. Many years ago, when I was a grad student, I seriously considered moving away from VR. Even then, with more primitive technologies, I feared VRs potential impact on humanity. The television has isolated us, but VR has the potential to worsen the situation. The question here is if people will escape to the virtual reality and not want to be involved with real reality. That is one concern, but there is another potentially more directly harmful concern. As with any powerful technology, VR has the potential for good and evil. Virtual Human Technologies is specifically focused on helping people using these technologies. I’ve hinted at the power VR has in the psychological realm, but that sword cuts both ways. We can use it to help people, but it could also be used to hurt people. This is a great concern for me.
What will your children be able to experience with VR that is currently not possible?
I think there are two main things yet to come with VR. One is the revolution to content. Right now most things are adaptions of existing paradigms. Just like radio shows shown on TV, it kind of works, but I think new paradigms will develop that more fully use VR’s potentials. The second is that technologies will continue to improve and be better adjusted to the person. This means we’ll be able to be immersed in VR for longer periods of time and with less negative side-effects.