Featured FuseBox Resident: Tim Fleming, Future Visual
Collaboration is at the heart of the FuseBox. We understand that things are better (and more fun) when you problem solve and work together.
Resident and CoFounder of Future Visual Tim Fleming has made it his life work to enable collaborative work and play. Playing off his experience with visuals and hardware, Tim has made his passion of bringing people together a growing business.
This month, we sat down with Tim to find out more about his impressive journey into immersive, which turns out, was even more rock and roll than we were expecting…
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Hi, I’m Tim Fleming, the Founder of Future Visual and I’ve always worked in graphics and technology. I started as an animator and after creating a couple of videos and promos for Fatboy Slim, I got invited to create visuals for his first big show on the beach. It was my first production video show with about 60,000 people. Next year, we got another 1000 people, after that I became Show Director.
During this time, I remember in 2007 the first iPhone came out and I thought, wow, that’s amazing, video in everybody’s pockets, game changer. I didn’t know how but I knew it was going to be incredible.
The studio I was doing animation for Fat Boy Slim was called Plastic Reality and then we set up another production company called Plastic Pictures. Through that, we started doing lots of corporate production. So in the week, I’ll be making films for companies such as BP and Unilever and then on the weekend I would be still travelling to different countries and show directing. And that was life for about seven years.
And how and why did Future Visual form?
In 2013, Oculus Rift Development Kit 1 came out via Kickstarter. And because my passion has always been creating powerful visual environments that lots of people can take part in at the same time, I found this really interesting. I got one and started playing around with it.
Around that time, I did some 360 films with the very early days of Make Real for McDonald’s. And then in 2015, I incorporated Future Visual, which was a company I formed specifically just to work with VR and AR. In our first year, we won an Innovate UK award to partner with John Lewis, filming in VR for retail.
At the same time, I was talking to IATA: International Air Transport Association about using VR for their training purposes, in this kind of high risk, high value environments. So, that was our first use-case, the moment we really felt VR had value. We had enjoyed building virtual retail environments but by creating those immersive aviation environments, we were allowing people access to scenarios that were either too dangerous, physically impossible or not financially viable to create in real life.
Future Visual promotes “pushing hard whilst making sure you have fun during the process”. Is that an easy balance to achieve?
I think having fun is a state of mind and at the same time it’s really easy to get overwhelmed. Particularly in the startup world, we’ve got always got an insane long list of things to do and also things we want to do. As a founder, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed but it’s something you have to actively deal with, in the same way that you deal with customers and clients. You have to have tools and an awareness and a reaction to it.
Also as a founder, you’re there to look after and support your team to make sure that they understand the vision and to make sure everyone is happy. Tomorrow we are going quad biking and hovercrafting. We’re a small team of six so every morning, we will have a check in, so if there’s an event coming up, one of us will just suggest it and we’ll do it.
Immersive technology is rapidly and continuously evolving. As a company, how do you stay ahead of the curve?
It’s an interesting question because when you work in immersive technology, relative to the rest of the business world, you’re significantly ahead of the curve. And actually, there’s some value in trying not to be. And instead, really identify what you do and just get better at that.
It’s better not to jump on the latest thing that comes out, because the newest stuff that’s coming out is probably a bit prototype-y and not suitable for commercial deployments. And so, we live at the front of the curve but always aim to remain a few steps back.
Do you ever struggle getting other businesses, especially potential clients to understand the value in immersive?
Yes but we don’t frame it as a value in immersive. It takes a little while to learn but you don’t go in, selling shiny products. Immersive may or may not be the solution. First, you need to ask people, what are your problems? And then, could any of this help solve it?
How has the FuseBox helped you develop as a business?
We’ve been to a number of the VR meetups here. We have done talks here and we have demo some of our work here. It’s nice to meet some of the wider community and really useful in terms of growing our local network.
What is it like belonging to a community in Brighton?
There is a reason I’ve lived here for over 20 years. It’s a lovely city with so many lovely communities, and whether that’s the immersive community, the kids parade or the illegal raves at Black Rock. In Brighton, we pride ourselves in being open, open to each other and other people and also different ideas. And I think the immersive community reflects that.
Can you tell us more about your multi-user VR projects?
Our multi user products are built around our platform: Vision XR and it has two variants, you can either have Vision XR platform where you can buy licences, and set up your own groups, import your own data, import your own CAD, pretty much use it in the way that you might use something like Slack to communicate. And then we have Vision XR Core, which is where we offer the code base of Vision XR to companies for customers to use on their own bespoke projects.
What are the main challenges in creating multi user experiences?
Building good multi user experiences is sort of hard by nature. Particularly when you have got things like ownership of objects, issues with latency and ensuring that you’re always building for the lowest possible bandwidth or for the lowest hardware spec.
And those are all the difficult challenges we addressed in Vision XR. That’s why we built it. It was a big process of discovery, more customers were asking for that kind of tech and you’re seeing a general move to collaborative software in the industry. I like to think we got the other jump on that, by taking stuff that’s really hard and bundling out into the platform that makes it great.
Who and why should people contact you?
In terms of clients we’re looking for companies with 300-5000 employees in distributed offices, who do a lot of training on expensive high value equipment. We can we provide training environments that they currently have to reduce the burden of distance and travel.
In terms of collaboration. Anyone who’s got an interesting proposition, I’m always happy to hear that. And in terms of people or staff, anyone who shares a passion for immersive space and trying new things. People ready to prototype quickly and enjoy the process of continually refining the products and the way they work.
If you are interested in working as a developer or as a learning specialist in this area and collaboration and Vision XR is interesting to you, get in touch.
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