Mesmerise, a UK company that helps businesses integrate virtual reality into their operations, has opened its first US office in Santa Monica. Mesmerise said the new office will allow the company to deepen its support for American customers and allow for expansion.
Founded in 2016, the company’s team has grown sixfold in the last two years. According to Mesmerise, Santa Monica was selected so the company could tap into the city’s ever-expanding technology market and talent pool.
Companies like Morningstar, Wells Fargo and Allianz all use Mesmerise’s Gatherings software platform to host virtual meetings, conferences and training sessions.
According to the company, Gatherings will offer the benefits of co-presence and face-to-face collaboration while eliminating travel expenses and reducing the company’s carbon footprint.
“We got into the Metaverse game pretty early. It wasn’t called the Metaverse when the company was founded by our co-founders, but we saw the potential that immersive technologies like virtual reality or augmented reality would have for businesses,” said Sean West, Mesmerise Advisory Board Chair. said. “We wanted to ride the wave of adoption as companies began exploring this technology, although we knew it would take a number of years. And that future is now where Facebook is becoming meta. The time is now for these types of immersive technologies.”
The Metaverse is a virtual world similar to the physical world, created using virtual and augmented realities, artificial intelligence, and cryptocurrencies. With the help of VR headsets, users can blend into this world and play games, socialize, shop and do most things they can do in the real world.
As hybrid work and study environments become the status quo, so does the need for dynamic solutions that create co-presence, the feeling of being in the same room with someone, West said.
Into the Metaverse
Last June, West hosted a get-together for 90 graduates of Harvard Business School’s 2017 Advanced Management Program. Participants were able to listen to their former professor talk about his new book and then network. The venue? The Metaverse.
“All these students who couldn’t have gotten to a place if they wanted to due to visas, Covid, costs and conflicts, were able to meet up with their ex-professor (Ranjay Gulati) to learn about this person’s new book and are working together now,” West said.
While virtual reality in gaming has long been discussed, entrepreneurs are finding ways to improve their business operations.
Santa Monica-based venture capital firm Bold Capital Partners has partnered with Mesmerise, using their gathering platform to host meetings with entrepreneurs and investors.
“VR has been around as a concept for a while,” said Maxx Bricklin, a partner at Bold Capital. “The tools make it more effective in the company. We’re collaborating with (Mesmerise) to explore how VR can improve experiences in the financial services industry.”
Bricklin said he predicts there will be more education around virtual reality across multiple industries over the next five years, particularly education.
For example, earlier this month Microsoft announced its partnership with Meta to bring Microsoft 365 Apps and Mesh for Microsoft Teams to Meta Quest devices. Mesh was designed to help people gather virtually.
“I think as this becomes more integrated into typical enterprise tools and platforms like Microsoft, you’re going to naturally see more of it (elsewhere),” Bricklin said. “This is a hardware system that requires different power, processing power, bandwidth and Wi-Fi, and it’s not just going to be rolled out horizontally and mass-marketed immediately. It needs to take root and I think the biggest need is education.”
Bricklin explained that introducing virtual reality into traditional work environments isn’t as easy as putting goggles on people, but the collaboration opportunities are far more valuable than other conferencing platforms like Zoom.
“That means the value has to be worth the effort,” Bricklin said. “We saw during Covid that Zoom is not committed. It’s not easy to get a large group of people there. There are some challenges. I think that’s why it must be so important to have a very specific, high quality creation.”
West anticipates that the majority of companies must have a presence in the Metaverse, but will have trouble figuring this out.
“We continue to expand because more and more companies want to use these products. They want to experiment with VR first, and then when they see the benefits, they want to use it,” explained West.
The price of Mesmerise’s services depends on whether a company buys VR headsets through the company or from elsewhere, and how the customer customizes the product. Mesmerise works to connect its customers with different headset manufacturers but has no official partnerships with any brands. When onboarding a company, Mesmerise provides training resources and works with the company to customize their virtual world as appropriate for their brand.
During a meeting or conference, participants are in a virtual reality environment that mimics a physical environment. As in the real world, the sound adapts depending on where the speakers are placed. For example, West said if a group of three people were in a virtual meeting and the person in the middle turned to speak to the person on the right, the person on the left would hear a quieter voice because she is not facing person is speaking.
From a typical office environment to a conference room, the environment will also be customized to the type of location that the Mesmerise customer desires.
“So the company can say, ‘I don’t want to be in a futuristic conference room with a view of Hong Kong. I want to meet in an office that looks more like my office with a view of my view of downtown Los Angeles.” So we’re going to adjust that,” West said.
“A company will probably spend a bit of money to make sure that the feeling is also their brand and their culture in VR. We will then work with the company to bring as many people as they want into the space. If they’re running a one-off event or a series of events, they might pay us to run the events, but more likely they’re paying to keep their ecosystem alive in VR.”