Vim: Hi it's Vimla and you are listening to the distributed future podcast. I'm here today with Robert.
Robert: Hello.
Vim: Would you like to introduce yourself? What you do?
Robert: My name is Robert Pierce I'm currently residing in Berlin, Germany. I'm managing director of time rip
tours as well as the Director of VR Wine and so it's basically we're a VR services company that looks to enhance different experiences using the virtual reality space.
Vim: That's amazing. It's so interesting to hear different applications of new technology and particularly when it comes to food and drink how in my mind it's kind of an untouched aspect of Technology.
By the way, we eat and consume Foods hasn't from a technological point of view for me changed that much in the last kind of 10 to 15 years. Whereas [00:01:00] technology is massively outrun it
Robert: Completely agree. We have to I think that there are many ways and. Societally we're finding that for The Human Experience has to be updated and redefined because of the ability for you know, sort of the technology that's being developed to enhance human's lives and it is definitely the case with with food and drink.
If not just in that like that the actual ability to understand more about the food and wine or food and beverage that you're that you're drinking but to add the other layers that technology can add things like the rules of gaming turning meals and and drinking your favorite beer or wine into some sort of collaborative group sort of gamified efforts.
There's a lot of interesting stuff going on.
Vim: Yeah, and what did the idea come from?
Robert: Well for for us [00:02:00] and for me is specifically with. The company VR wine what we're doing is my original. My original thought was when I first moved to Los Angeles one of my least my first job was working in the wine industry and I became a sommelier and I really enjoyed the idea of providing people with these kinds of wow moments where they're experiencing for the first time, you know, for instance if someone's describing a sauvignon blanc as having this wonderful like fresh grapefruit, You're like grapefruit skin, you know trying to be as particular as possible with the descriptors of these words and then having those people enjoy that wine then they actually have that experience like, oh my God, the tasting notes aren't just flowery language.
It's it is actually that you can taste so the idea is how do we continue to reinforce? And create those wow moments [00:03:00] across, you know, a wide range of different experiences by using science and using physiology and what we know about how people learn and sort of create a fun and engaging experience using the virtual space and you know course in the near future in an augmented reality space and in most parts of different ways, but ultimately, yeah, so if we can create.
A better way and an easier way for people to have wow moments, especially and wine. Wine is something that I find to be intimidating still for a lot of people. It is an X. It's it's kind of like an exclusive product in that people. You know, I think a lot of times people either feel like you either know about it or you don't are you interested in real life?
Vim: Yeah,
Robert: and I think that there's a great opportunity here for us, especially to. You know create an inclusive culture of hey, guess what? It's really [00:04:00] okay, if you don't know about wine, but you do know how to enjoy yourself but figure out how we can get some of the mystery away from wine for instance and you know, kind of give you a bit of like a push in the right direction positively reinforce your experience with you know, I mean, it's kind of like a really awesome cheat sheet, you know, you've got a Cabernet Sauvignon and in front of you
In the virtual space you'll be able to see the Aromas and flavors that are primary and secondary to the wine that you're drinking and you'll have and you know, what we do is having a wine professional guides you through tasting six or so different wines. And so we really want to produce manufacturer and share.
These aha moments and I can give people a great skill set that they can use in, you know, settings like business lunches or on a date or at home or doing food and wine or you just have a little bit more confidence in these sort of really neat. Sort of [00:05:00] skill sets that I would say are replacing some of the sort of old hat skill sets of you know, everybody needs to know how to golf for everybody needs to know how to whatever the thing is, you know to have this kind of edge in a business environment.
I think it's gone from a very sort of like male-dominated business, you know, sort of straight, you know hard-lined suit environment you like. Hey, guess what everybody is doing business now and wine is always a great conversation.
Vim: Yeah
Robert: Or it can be, and so that's kind of like well, hey, let's let's let's see if we can really use all of our available tools technology Etc to give people a little bit more confidence in create a little bit more fun and a little less, you know questioned reasoning behind like do I choose the bottle if it with the duck on the cover pretty the $40 or the one with the blue cat?
It's 35. It shaped better in man. I just you know, though we were [00:06:00] still doing it. Yeah, give the people the language behind that stuff. So it doesn't look like you know, I don't know. We're just throwing money at something. Yeah, that's what it tastes like or give us we want to $50 experience. So here's $50.
Oh my God that tasted like a $20 experience. I feel robbed.
Vim: And I'm so don't take me through the what what happens to someone as a using the kind of virtual reality space and what do you anticipate their experience of wine would be?
Robert: All right. If so, what's so important to note is how powerful immersion is a really of any kind when you're talking about.
You know limiting and changing your your sense of sight and in some cases our sense of sound in a virtual space. I mean people can have you know adverse reactions to this we're talking about the latency Zaroff a little bit people can become disoriented nauseous and have a very very [00:07:00] negative experience.
So what we want to do in situations like this especially ones that involve sort of experiential learning where you're dealing with a combination of the senses. Smell, touch, sight, your hearing your really it's a culmination of all of these things and it's an additive experience. We want to give them positive reinforcement and we want to make sure that in the virtual space things are static.
We don't need moving Parts here or if we do we want them very very gently moving or given the illusion of movement. So people aren't having, you know, sort of an adverse reaction or negative experience. So having said that. We for instance, we have like a glass of wine and let's just we'll use the same Sauvignon blanc example and Sauvignon blancs made and most of the wine producing regions in a lot of different flavors.
Vim: Yeah,
Robert: and everybody's pretty pretty familiar with, you know, it's a white wine, whatever. It's also like really really aromatic. So it's a good one to [00:08:00] use because it's kind of already pretty accessible for anybody to just want to like. Something that may smell pretty so we give them a glass of wine tasting sample size and then in the virtual space, there will be like a really bright and sort of comfortable clean kitchen and you know, of course it's were used the unreal development kit to just basically to build out these spaces.
So it is a. It's absolutely a 360-degree immersive environment and you're you're located, you know sitting at this this large table and it's not in any way sort of claustrophobic in that sense. And so then in front of you and instead of on top of floating on top of this white table you see these sort of plates that are arranged in on the plates, you'll see the physical representation are the for the digital representation of.
[00:09:00] What physically would be grapefruit or slate, you know, it's a mineral or any sort of flowers Peach Blossom nectarine, you know, all these kinds of different fruits and Aromas that are possible in this wine and so as the guests or the client whoever the whatever the case is drinking this wine and smelling this morning.
Future of try to pinpoint. Hey, so as your smelling and help you there's a bit of Education that comes with this as well. Like people need to understand that when you're tasting anything about 80% of your experience your sense of taste is going to come from what your smelling.
Vim: Yeah.
Robert: It's really it's easy to remind them.
Like hey, if you've ever had a cold and you've tried to eat food that you normally enjoy it's like the joy is taken out of it a little bit. It's you can't smell anything. Yeah. The principles at work here. So you do that and you get them to understand that not only are you [00:10:00] focused on the sense of smell, but in addition to that the science behind it your sense of smell is connecting.
Your olfactory nerve is connected directly with your limbic system, which is responsible for all of the emotions that happen sort of as a result of experience. And so what we're doing is we're kind of doing a bit of a brain hack here the we want to do. His people are smelling something and they're creating like an experience through X experiential learning.
They're tasting or smelling touching your steering and then we're going to visually reinforce them as well. So we want them to be able to see as kind of cheat sheet. In front of them. Hey, there is actually peach. There's peach present in this line. It's not your imagination. You do actually smell grapefruit you do actually what you could just drive is like a wet Limestone.
There's the language may not be there for a lot of people to sort of articulate what their experiences but if you give it to them in [00:11:00] this virtual space so that they can see taste smell and sort of be coached. The same time we are absolutely manufacturing those wow moments those moments and I you know the cause of this virtual space like that's really what ties all of this together and it's going pretty pretty simple not too aggressive and I think you know as a slight tangent almost everyone that I've spoken to you that has had an experience in virtual reality has made a point to talk about how almost overwhelming it is.
Vim: Yeah,
Robert: almost I mean these experiences. Yeah, they can be overwhelming in our Curry.
Vim: So that's the first time I used VR. So it was like, yeah, it was a headset and it was a virtual reality roller coaster. So you feel like you're on a roller coaster. I feel like I kind of was completely immersed that it when.
Like tilted on its side [00:12:00] and I just fell over I just expected you to keep be in the carriage and I just wasn't
Robert: No, no good. I'm not laughing at you. I'm absolutely laughing with you because it's I felt that I've done that and it is I mean, it's so hard to explain how ya like jarring that is like a second.
Yeah. It's it's you know, it's a very very powerful tool. Yeah for sure.
Vim: Yeah, and I think you know as well. I've had experiences when I been to like a rum tasting event and they go through all of the tastes that you should be tasting and when you're in a social setting like that. Without that kind of visual cues.
It's you just end up agreeing but you taste it or not. So oh, yeah, you taste rhubarb. Oh, yeah sure like it right you just agree and what because you don't want to be stupid or behind the class or whatever. It might be. So it sounds like that's kind of one of the things that you're trying to look at as well.
Robert: This is a [00:13:00] hundred percent true and I believe that you know, there's a couple of things that people don't I believe in my experience doing a good enough job of explaining about you know sort of human this kind of this visceral experience of tasting smelling and sediment especially in a social setting where these all these other, you know, different kinds of cues and communication that people deal with as a result of just, you know, their immediate environment.
So one of the things is that. You know when people talk about hey, you can smell this or how you can smell it. Look it's not a constant like this is here. Always this is here. Always this is your this the way that smell works when your. You know taking a line it evolves. It's like a smells over time.
So when you're looking at your you know, for instance, let's say, you know, we can use grapefruit will use, you know, sort of like white while like orange blossom and slate are like wet Stones almost like wet [00:14:00] concrete. These are things that you can find in wine. Now. The thing is if you tell somebody that they're like, well, I don't let that doesn't make any sense.
So you have to kind of explain to him. Well, you know smell happens over time. It's not like the answer is a and I see a and so I choose a it's not really that it's a bit of a tricky sort of, you know, Amorphous temporal things smell happens from 0 to 2 seconds in that time. You might be able to smell these things and then in the next five seconds, you might be able to smell more things or different things because you know just as.
You know just as you have potentially been in a situation where you're trying out different scents or something like that at a counter that you know pick a store. Like I know that after a while, you know, they give you coffee beans or they give you something else to refresh your olfactory because if you have diminishing returns there, you know, so for [00:15:00] me one of the things that I do if I'm smelly if I'm tasting a whole lot of wines or if I'm tasting.
They're smelling too many scents or something like that. You can actually smell your skin like kind of inconspicuously under your wrist or something like that. If you haven't put something of a scent on that part, you know wearing and that sort of does a good job to refresh your olfactory. If you don't have the odd Coffee Bean stash in your pocket that sort of refresh things.
So these are these are like there's a lot of science to it. And if you're in a situation at a rum tasting first of all, like. That's a whole different kind of understanding how to taste when you're talking about a spirit versus tasting a wine. Those are these are like, you know, you need more guidance there and to have a visual representation of you know, a cool wine, whereas you say rhubarb or like Cola or vanilla or these kinds of different influences that you can get in the like that would be phenomenal to be able to see that interact with whoever's, you know [00:16:00] guiding this this taste.
No, and kind of have a moment to yourself where you can talk with whoever's around you like the only God. Yeah, I do see that. I do taste that. Wow. Okay, and then you just rip the headset off and then you can continue with being sociable have the experience and so at that point in time it is. As you said and as I had experienced many times, I just kind of agreeing again.
Yeah, totally, you know when it's when it's not like a concrete like oh hey. Wow. I actually did experience that great and I think that's important. That's what this is about want to enjoy things more deeply
Vim: and there the whole aim is to make people better informed about the decisions they are making
Robert: 100% 100% It's about empowerment consumer empowerment and sort of empowerment in a way that.
Allows people to feel like they know there's there's some sense of accomplishment that comes with that as well and you can feel a little pride when you you know, I think that things like rum tastings wine tasting and other things when you actually go and do have a positive experience [00:17:00] and you do learn something you become a teacher the next time you pour that rum for a friend you're like, hey take your check this out and then think about this and then you know, and it's just the kind of thing that perpetuates and I think that people who have good experiences, they want to motivate other people.
Give them the same positive experience that they had and I love that, you know
Vim: Absolutely and working in the kind of alcohol industry and someone who's kind of promoting a way of. Drinking to enjoy the taste and like it's a social aspect as someone that's developing technology to further enhance that what kind of role do you have or like views ethics around that you have?
You know what Jim you cut out at the last bit is that would be so what's your kind of ethical stance on? Like the responsibility you take as a business owner to the people that [00:18:00] using this technology to drink and what where do you draw the boundaries for kind of social responsibility in that regard as well a
Robert: hundred percent.
I think that it's it's very interesting to me. And sort of my perspectives on on the ethical implications of all this stuff that you know, I would separate it a ethics in just you know, alcohol as a substance. That is a controlled substance. Technology and sort of the combination combination thereof.
I mean, there are a lot of ethical implications and I think that the most fascinating to me is the societal the Precision and sort of the the amount of responsibility that is sort of claimed by the different societies that I lived in and the United States growing up in the south in the US. There wasn't they kind of just said well, you can't drink until you're 21 and then everyone drinks [00:19:00] as much as possible before then and then when you hit 21, it's like oh my God, the roof has been completely lifted either.
The glass ceiling is no longer a thing just go out and get absolutely mashed everywhere and I would call that a very irresponsible law a very irresponsible. Yeah. It doesn't really give a lot of. Responsibility to whoever, you know parents Society whatever it is possibly. It's possibly the case that when moving when I moved to California and living in Los Angeles for quite a while, which is a little bit different there because the societal pressures are different and the it is a much more populated area.
There are many more police. There are you know, if somebody's going to go out and drink and drive it's going to be a problem. There are repercussions that come along with that whether it's you know, very, you know, very bad situation for someone's injured or worse. Or you you can't [00:20:00] get employment or you have you know, it's you can incur a phenomenal cost and expense when you're out breaking the law in that regard and so like and that's ethically that that is a bee's nest and it's in its own way here in Germany.
It's phenomenally better. We you know, I don't I don't experience the same kinds of excesses that I've seen in the US there's people I feel like responsibility is only recognized they help people understand that, you know things like beer things like wine things like harder booze. These are you know, they're part of living and you can accept earlier on and you are monitored it.
It's almost like there's there's just a better. Sort of societal sort of social responsibility is a thing, you know, it's not. Don't do anything, you know, [00:21:00] or it's against the law until you were that age and then you know, if you fall through the cracks and you're now a criminal because you drank booze before you were 21, and yeah, absolutely you have a criminal record is he so I feel like that there's a really fascinating dichotomy there but for us here, I would say that.
Part of the responsibility of understanding how to respect anything that is a controlled substance or has you know, sort of intrinsic ability to make things. I don't know exactly or in this case wine. I mean, it's a really important. It's a really important thing to realize that. Ethically speaking. You know as we you and I were kind of talking about sharing stories about how powerful VR can be. If you involve a controlled substance like alcohol with that it can sort of exponentially get worse. If you have things like moving parts and you know, all these other things and at that point in time, maybe people do get claustrophobic and whatever so the idea is we don't want people to sit in.
A VR environment for an extended period of time this is a learning tool, you know, yeah and and all of our VR Services we want to complement the human experience with these components of VR in the virtual space that enhance what they're doing and enhance their ability to enjoy. Whatever the experience is.
Yeah, and in doing that, you know, I think that ethically we want to make sure that the focus is on the experience. The focus is on the people their well-being and a very positive net result as opposed to you know, oh my god, did you freak out because of that roller coaster wasn't that great because it's kind of [00:25:00] not that great.
Sometimes think you know, and you just kind of your kind of like, what's the point? Yeah. Okay, we get it you you make you absolutely manipulated my senses to the point of. You know, yeah questioning whether I was so, you know, it's the kind of thing,
Vim: but that's your hand over your trust to someone in a virtual reality.
So you want to you know, I mean there's certain parts of decision-making that you take when you enter that virtual reality but you're still entrusting a safe exploration of whatever it might be.
Robert: Yep, and yes, especially with you when you start to do your depriving people of certain senses.
Vim: Yeah,
Robert: and you not only do you have to monitor things like, you know. What's going on that they are actually seeing and interacting within the virtual space, but they you know decide to throw their hand to the left and they knock over something or they fall out of a chair as I mean, these are more [00:26:00] things that you have to kind of manage people's.
Yeah, there's a lot of trust there for sure.
Vim: What do you see the future of VR and food and Technology looking like
Robert: so what's fascinating is that though? So one of the Partnerships that I have is with a company. Designed an experience that was in my opinion. It's going to be streamlined and made a little bit better eventually, but what they did was there's a restaurant in Ibiza and this place is sort of touted as the most expensive restaurant in the world and it's you know, there's plenty of Michelin stars and their Paco Rancaero is the guy that opened this place and runs this place and it's the kind of thing that people can go in.
You know Entertain think like maybe 10 Dinars at a time 12 10 eight something like that and they sit at a big rectangular table and they have not only the. It's more like an Oculus Rift thing. So they have the [00:27:00] VR headset and they also have the ability to track their hands and what they do is they have a proper seven or 12-course meal in VR.
So what they're doing is they're sitting in there and they're immersed in. Whatever environment, you know, for instance, they'll transfer be transported to a table in Central Park, you know, and that's where they're dining all of the sudden and it's and there's snow around and and then there's served like something that.
will, either complement or conflict with what their surroundings are. For instance. If you seeing that you're sitting in an environment and you can see everybody else at the table and there's snow around and you're given a you know, something like a cold Mochi sort of like mid course or dessert or something like that and you pop it in your mouth and you begin to feel cold and icy cold.
It's kind of a neat, you know amplification of the experience that you're having and I think that that's we'll see more [00:28:00] of that and there's about there's also a really great chef here in Berlin called Tim Rawa. And Tim is has also experimented a bit with these ideas of what can we do to enhance Human Experience by using technology and I'm going to say that when.
We talked about the future we're talking about like how is the form factor of these things going to change so that it's not so clunky. So that for instance. How do we improve on things like self contained like the power of self-contained VR units so that we can have more robust experiences for people that are.
You know, you're not dependent on a giant laptop in a backpack on the back of your chair. It's at a table sit to make sure that everything is running smoothly etcetera. And that's kind of where you know where things are right now, but moving forward. I think that they're like for instance with with my company VR wine we anticipate and [00:29:00] what I want to do is have the ability to have a headset of some kind on, you know available at a wine bar restaurant something like that so we can have a situation where people are able to look through for instance a wine list in a VR format.
And they'll be able to see things like, okay. Well, this is this and here are the flavors and Aromas and and perhaps be able to taste some of those things assisted by the sommelier with a bartender there and, you know create these this kind of like normalcy for interaction through this virtual sort of interface of people can understand a little bit better what it is that they're buying and I think that as you know, as we were talking about earlier, this is about consumer empowerment and and I think the tech will be used more and more to that end in the future for sure.
Vim: Yeah. Well you can imagine that I guess when it starts coming into Augmented Reality being able to [00:30:00] quickly see where and how the food was produced and it's organic or pesticides we use or how far it has had to travel and all of that kind of stuff and I think what you're doing is on the on the road map to getting getting there.
Robert: Yeah,
Vim: and there's a and parts of the experience giving people more information. But making it joyous at the same time. It's kind of doesn't have to be a chore and it doesn't have to be exclusive. It's for everyone to take part.
Robert: A hundred percent and I think that you know, I absolutely will make sure that we are always thinking of ethics and the human experience and to extend The Human Experience first before we do things like.
You know overcomplicate or add more sort of moving parts. So to speak to to the experience that we don't want to live in a world where and you know, even even in talking about being able to look through, you know in an AR. Sort of [00:31:00] environment being able to see where your food comes from. What's their what's not there?
I mean I immediately in my head. I'm going okay. Well was that data manipulated?
Vim: Yeah,
Robert: how do we ensure that that data is true, you know it what because I mean at this point in time. Sure, you have it at least in the United States. You can get like a it's a you know Bio it's biological or whatever.
They are for your organic certifications there and it means that certain things have happened but then there's this expose that just shows well people can just throw $500,000 at that get the certification and no one ever looks. No one checks. And it's like we're back to square one with money money means you can sort of jump through all the loopholes in the world and nobody really cares and you can make money hand over fist.
Vim: Yeah,
Robert: but you know, the consumer is not protected people state has not protecting. So that's yeah. So that's like AR all that stuff in a vacuum. It's a phenomenal tool. It will become even better. [00:32:00] But dang it, you know, we've got to make sure that the data is protected and genuine and verifiable and I'm hoping that you know things like Block Chain or hash graph or whatever system that another world ends up agreeing on using for data security.
It's like we need these kinds of things in order for a order to be able to be ubiquitous and reliable and you know ethical so that's that's what I have. I'm hoping for I'm hoping that people around the world. Less greedy and more ethical
Vim: I guess one of my final questions and this is going to come it's going to feel a bit left field but I was what you enjoy most about your job in your company.
Robert: Well, I think that because of my sort of futurist leanings. I really do believe that sort of understanding and experiencing how people interact with. [00:33:00] Technology and.
Communication and experience all these things. I think are their primary to The Human Experience The Human Condition even like how do we evaluate where we're going? Well, let's take a look at what's possible and how people are reacting to what's possible right now. And for me, it's almost like I'm able to work is doing research and for me that's phenomenal because I learn like a sponge and I enjoy so very much.
To help people have like sort of enjoy their lives better and that's a great thing. But ultimately long-range longer-term. I want to you know continue with these ideas of you know, how to enhance gastronomy and food and wine experiences their up, But I also want to enhance communication and I wanted I wanted to bring more of the sort of rules of gaming and gamification into this world, ethically as well.
And I think that [00:34:00] one of the goals I have is to use the experiences that I'm gaining from this to look at. How do we improve? The language that people can use to communicate together across cultural across National boundaries. And so, you know gamifying like the language learning process democratizing language learning processes in you know, in a way that gives people again like an inclusive more access and sort of updated.
Take on how people learn and especially specifically how people learn languages. That's that's part of the ultimate goal as well. And yeah, so it's just a question of you know, these are my my passion is with people. My passion is with seeing seeing humans, especially these days when I feel like there are so much.
Difficulty in negativity and so much sort of weaponized information that would rather see divisiveness among humans, then then it would [00:35:00] see cohesion and sort of, you know collaboration, but I think the humanities great my will always have faith in humanity and so being able to sort of manufacture some of these experiences that bring people together and enhanced experience and hopefully remind them that.
You know, we do all have these wonderful similarities and in the true Spirit of Anthony Bourdin, you know, go somewhere else find the food and wine share it get together. You know try to find a smile and be curious never stop being curious about an experience that you haven't had or an experience that someone else is having that you could possibly share part of you.
That's that's what motivates me and that's definitely where my passions rooted that's
Vim: amazing. And I think that's a perfect point to end on. So thank you so much for your time today.
Robert: Are Vim It was awesome to talk to you again, and I hope we do it again. Soon.
Vim: Yeah, me too, and if there's any links that you want me to include in this, please just send them over and we'll hopefully get it on my own if there are [00:36:00] any links that you want to include when this goes live just send them over and it should be nice probably mid February.
Okay. Awesome. Thank you so much. Great. Thank you.