How AR/VR Is Transforming How We Solve Problems With Virtual X
Crunch Spotlight is a Crunch-driven initiative aiming to add value to and inspire both our community and industry leaders across the nation through interview-style articles. Join us as we discover more about the story behind different industry leaders’ lives and journeys towards where they are now, and how they have transformed into the people they are today. We hope you get inspired by these stories and realize that you are capable of achieving your goals, too.
Get your VR headsets ready, because we’ll be diving into an exciting interview experience with Virtual X, a local Malaysian startup that focuses on Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) solutions for heavy industries (B2B)! Jerome Kay, the co-founder of Virtual X, has his fingers in pretty much every pie from sales & marketing to product management & development. We managed to catch him in his element to talk more about the startup, their journey and their opinion on the future of AR/VR.
Lau (left) and Jerome (right), the founders of Virtual X
1. What was the catalyst that made you start Virtual X? Tell us more about your company.
Just like any startup from Malaysia (and maybe Singapore), our journey started from a “mamak” session. Lau (Lau Yoke Wee, co-founder of Virtual X) and I were discussing deep tech stuff like AI, drones, and other cool tech, and realised that we have the skills for AR/VR. So we figured, why not give it a shot?
At Virtual X, our mission is to help industrial front liners reduce occupational accidents and make their work easier, with the usage of AR/VR.
We have all heard of the hardships faced by medical front liners during this pandemic. However, there are also industrial front liners (sometimes referred to as industrial manual workers) who put in their sweat and tears to make sure we have steady electricity & water supplies, sufficient petrol to run our cars, and so many other aspects that are actually essential to our daily lives.
We may not always acknowledge this issue, but most industrial front liners actually face high-risk working conditions every day. Sometimes, accidents are inevitable.
Virtual X set out to solve this problem by creating solutions that help these front liners throughout their entire working processes. Specifically, we use:
- VR to digitise & automate Technical & Safety Training
- AR to provide real-time guidance during operational & maintenance work
2. What is Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) all about? How are they different from each other? Are there any easy examples of how our readers might have come across these things before?
To make it simple, VR is a full-virtual experience, while AR is a half-virtual experience.
Virtual Reality (VR)
To experience VR, you have to put on a headset and get fully “transferred” into a virtual world. In this world, you can literally walk about, throw things around, and interact with other virtual objects/beings. The simplest form of VR is for first-person gaming experiences. Imagine a shooting game like Counter-Strike or PUBG. Now, imagine you’re literally the player in the game. That’s VR.
At Virtual X, we offer Manual VR and provide an enterprise-level Virtual Reality platform for technical and safety training with a low risk of accidents. We use VR to simulate the entire training process, allowing industrial front liners to learn through experience while giving them ease of mind because simulations are risk-free!
Augmented Reality (AR)
AR is the experience of adding a layer of virtual information on top of our existing world. An example of this is the infamous Pokemon Go. There’s a feature that allows you to interact with your Pokemon through your phone camera. You can see the wild Pokemon through the camera as if they’re really there in real life! However, you’ll need an AR lens like a phone camera or smart glasses to see this AR information.
Virtual X also offers Manual AR, an enterprise-level Augmented Reality system used for assisting industrial front liners through operations & maintenance work. We help industrial front liners conduct their day-to-day work by adding digital information on top of the machines they work with so that they will be able to tell which specific machine has problems, and which don’t. Then, we display all the specific working instructions for the worker to fix it.
On top of that, we’ll collect all the working data so that their managers will be able to remotely manage them. In a way, we are gamifying and automating their work processes!
3. What is the most important, non-negotiable value that your brand holds?
Honesty & transparency. We’ve always looked at our clients like friends and will share full insights on alternative solutions, even if it means losing a paying client.
Many might think that we’re stupid to do so, but we believe that if we were to provide a solution that doesn’t fit their needs, it’s only a matter of time before they realize it and have a bad impression of us. Then, we’ll end up losing a more important thing – trust.
4. Are there any people or organizations you look up to that have inspired both you and your business? How exactly have they inspired you?
Unfortunately, we started out blank. We literally invested RM4000 in a gaming PC and just jumped into it. We were probably pretty naive about the business and startup world back then.
But throughout our journey, we had the privilege to work with great organisations such as Petronas, TNB (Tenaga Nasional), and Proficeo. Our clients and partners somehow became our collaborators and acted as our mentors moving forward.
Source: PETRONAS via SAYS
One of the really interesting experiences we had was when we were in the Petronas FutureTech Accelerator Programme and had first-hand experience being mentored by top management from Petronas Group. We’ve learned that what drives these top management individuals isn’t money or achievements. Almost everything they said was about giving back to the nation and helping others in need, which we found extremely inspiring.
This really changed our perspectives on delivering our products and solutions to our clients. Yes, money is important, but what’s more important is being honest and genuine in everything we do. This is how we settled on our brand’s non-negotiable value!
5. For most young Malaysians, starting a business is extremely scary. It’s a big risk to take and success is never guaranteed. What was your journey like starting your own business? What advice would you give to our readers who are looking to start their own?
Actually, it’s not that hard to start a business. Our initial investment was only about RM4000, which is not hard to save for any fresh graduate working in Klang Valley. A lot of people think it’s hard because they believe they have to start with a perfect product or service, or that they have to hire someone to do their job.
If you do so, then yes, you have to spend a lot of money and the risk will be high. But if you were to spend minimally as you start your business, use your blood, sweat and time to build it, then the risk is actually pretty low.
My advice to budding entrepreneurs would be to start small. Put in the work and effort even if you grow slowly, and never take shortcuts. Most importantly, never give up!
6. We often hear that the entrepreneurial journey is a lonely one; were there peers, mentors, coaches or programs that you joined that supported you as you grew the business?
At this age of time, I believe it’s impossible to run a business alone. You might be able to start alone, but throughout the journey, you’ll face chronic burnout, which might lead to depression. Unfortunately, this is quite a common occurrence for business owners.
We’ve been blessed that all our co-founders are friends (or mutual friends). Even though it might be super tiring, it’s definitely a battle worth fighting. So yep, never do it alone. It’s important to find a partner that you can work with and vice versa – either find someone you trust, or promote very good employees to partners, and you’ll have a journey that’s worth a story.
As for external help, I believe forging connections with other like-minded people would be pretty important. Many have asked us “how do you even start making connections?” Well the easy way is to start joining multiple startup events, programmes, and accelerators (there’s a bunch, Google it!)
For Malaysian startups, joining programmes like the Coach & Grow Programme (joint programme between Cradle & Proficeo) is a must. Both Renuka Sena & Dr Sivapalan, founders of Proficeo are very knowledgeable people and are some of the most important people in Malaysia’s tech industry. You’ll gain a lot of insights, learn from experienced coaches and most importantly get to connect with their vast alumni.
Once you achieve that, everything pretty much snowballs from there.
7. What skills have been most useful to you thus far? What would you say is the most important skill to have in the working world?
Designing skills have been the most useful to me so far. Learning Graphic Design actually helped me with better decision making and encouraged me to think out of the box. Plus, you can create your own logo!
As for the most important skill in the working world, I’d say Google-ing. It might sound simple, but sadly, a lot of people don’t know how to maximize this skill. Here are some simple tips on how you can get better at Google-ing!
8. What are your thoughts on the future of AR/VR? What is something you’re most excited about in your industry?
Facebook’s Oculus is leading the VR ecosystem, while Google and Microsoft are competing in the AR space. We have these well-known tech giants pushing these industries forward, so we can definitely expect to see vast improvements from today’s AR/VR technology.
As for the app/content side, a lot of people believe that AR/VR will revolutionize the gaming industry. For us, we believe that this technology will flourish better for business purposes. Due to the pandemic, literally everyone is talking about doing everything remotely, digitally, virtually. We genuinely believe that AR/VR is one of the bigger and better options for businesses moving forward.
Who knows? One day we might be able to wear contact lenses that come with AR/VR technology. When that happens, it’ll definitely be a norm.
9. Do you have a vision you want to share with our readers?
Instead of sharing what our business vision is, we’d like to share what we’ve been told by one of our mentors from Petronas:
“No matter what startup/business you do, which industry you’re in, always aim to go global, even from the start itself.”
We find it admirable that Virtual X takes honesty, transparency and bravery to a whole new level. They truly believe in what they do and the impact it brings to their clients. Seeing how far they’ve come from the start of an idea at a “mamak” session and their first investment in an RM4000 gaming PC to where they are today makes us all the more excited to see them flourish and grow in the field of AR/VR. Take it from them and bring the same genuine and courageous heart to whatever you do, be it in your first small business or in your day-to-day. You got this, Crunchies!
For more Crunch Spotlight articles, check out our previous article in collaboration with Joey Mattress on why we shouldn’t be afraid to be different and stand out among the crowd.
Virtual X is a Proficeo alumnus and part of Proficeo’s #KitaMall initiative. Proficeo puts together all the best local products and services for you to discover in one place. Join us in supporting homegrown Malaysian brands at KitaMall today!