The ConTechCrew 234: People Want Results, Not Hype! with Anthony Corrado from Spectar
Geek of the Week
Construction Tech News
Construction is the world’s oldest industry but spent the least amount of money on innovation. We realized people outside and inside the industry, did not typically associated with technology like virtual reality apps and robotics. We started the ConTechCrew. Each week we bring our listeners the latest in ConTech news and interviews the minds behind the technological innovations changing the way we built. So, strap in, enjoy the ride and geek out. It is ConTechCrew time!
JAMES: All right, all right, all right. Happy Friday, everybody. Good to see you. As always, a busy and exciting week in this wacky year we call 2020. Call it a highly dynamic environment. Bring together all the… Let us call it the gumbo of a year. Cause you kind of get everything. Does anyone still remember the killer horn? Whatever happened to them? Are they still around? I do not know.
JEFF: They kill less than the flu. Do not worry about it.
JAMES: Yeah, I am like, what happened to the killer hornets? Cause that was kind of a big thing for a while. And now we do not hear about the killer hornets. We had a double hurricane situation and then one of them went away. And then the other, I mean, it was… It is currently Friday, September 4th, and I have got with me today, the illustrious Jeff Sample. Jeff, good to see you.
JEFF: It is great to see you, James. Yeah, this 2020 is testing my patience for sure. But it is going to show us we are resilient, I guess. We got fires in California. We got fires here, which by the way, ours are out. So, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But in 2020, I am not going to believe it until I am sure it is not a train that runs me over. But I am stoked, man. We have got a holiday weekend coming up, which I did not realize was a holiday weekend until yesterday, so, that tells you, it is to Blursday, so who knows what day it is? But I got to hang out at MEP Force this week. Got to see a bunch of people virtually in a weird world, and it is kind of the kickoff to that season where we would normally be rubbing shoulders, James. Like you and I, would be seeing each other at events everywhere. It is kind of weird, man. I am not sure how I feel about this right now.
JAMES: Yeah and it usually would wrap up with AU, which is going to be all free and all virtual. Do not forget, it is an entirely free conference this year. And so, it is an interesting finish to the year. Of course, I am frankly really enjoying all the hangout time here with the kiddos. They have been a blast to hang out with. With us today, Mr. Anthony Corrado from Spectar. Anthony, it is good to have you on the show.
ANTHONY: Thanks, James. Thanks, Jeff. Yeah.
JAMES: So, Anthony, where are you joining us from today?
ANTHONY: I am based in Minneapolis.
JAMES: Oh, okay. Nice place to be in the summertime. Gets a little cold in the winter up there.
ANTHONY: That is right. I will say though, I got a defendant it. We have had about nine weeks of perfect 70°, 80°. Almost no rain. Sunshine.
ANTHONY: Not bad. I think that is a record.
JEFF: That says something about 2020. When they are getting the good stuff in Colorado, God’s country, and Texas, and everywhere else is getting fires... I think I have a problem. I want a redo James. I want to just hit the reset button and let us start to sucker over.
JAMES: Yeah. I think you and everybody else on the planet wants a redo on this year. It is funny. The interesting thing is like, COVID has helped me hit all my personal one-year goals that I had. And I know that sounds nutty, but I always do my 1 year, 3year, 10-year goals personally, and then for my business. So, my one-year goals for this year, I have been on a war path because I have had so much time, that I was able to hit my weight goal, I was able to hit my workout goal. I am getting the flying rating. I just passed my commercial written exam yesterday for flying, and I am moving on to my commercial practical tests coming up. Like I was able to do all of those things and I will be honest, if I were traveling as much as I always, I probably would not have hit those. My goal this year was to learn to play guitar and learn two songs. And I am at 52 songs in my guitar tab list now, because I have like all this time to sit down and play. So, I will be honest. There are some nice benefits to all this.
Before we keep chatting about this, I just want to remind everybody out there that you never have to miss an episode by having every single one of them sent straight to your email inbox, when you text ConTech to 66866. It is not just the audio. You are getting the weekly email, the links to the show notes, the articles we discussed. Again, text ConTech to 66866. You can also text me questions, comments. You can call me and leave a voicemail and if it is cool, I will play it on the air. I get regular texts on this. Every week I get a few of these from different listeners who are reaching out and contacting me. I had two this week, both of which were pretty just quick questions for me off the air. And they were asking about some of the stuff we have talked about on the show. So, make sure you text 979 473 9040 with any questions or comments or you just want to chat. It is my Google voice line. You can of course call and leave a voicemail. We can play it on the air.
I want to remind you that the cause our show, according to the CDC, construction occupations have the highest rate of suicide, as well as the highest number of suicides across all occupational groups. To combat these statistics, contractors, unions, associations, and industry service providers, and project owners, have to work together to stand up for suicide prevention. The Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP) is raising awareness about the risk of suicide, within the construction industry and providing suicide prevention resources and tools, to create a zero-suicide industry. Visit PreventSuicideConstruction.com for more information.
Before we get started with our guest interview, I spoke with Brad Tabone, Co-Founder of HammerTech, about how they are keeping the job site safe in 2020. Please listen in for part one of our discussion with today’s sponsor of the show, HammerTech.
JAMES: And I am here today with the Australian wonder Brad Tabone, Co-Founder and EVP of HammerTech. Let us talk about HammerTech right now. What is HammerTech and what was the origin story? What does it do now?
BRAD: Hey, James. HammerTech is a safety field collaboration platform built out of hills truly, Melbourne Australia. Over the last five years, we have expanded across Asia Pacific and North America. And currently work with a few hundred GCs across $50 billion worth of work. The platform was built with a worker at the heart of it. And that it really is a big differentiation of the tool. And so, we start off the tour with online enrollments and orientations and capture all that work of data, and then pass it along the journey throughout all the digitized processes. And when is mean processes, I mean processes. Not documents that have been digitized. So, we understand the nuances of the processes. And so, by understanding the nuances, you get much bigger, higher worker take up all of the software. Because it actually wraps around the existing processes. So, if you have the worker information and you have the process information, you then get a full view of your job site in real time. And that is really what we are aiming to do. We believe ourselves to be a hedgehog. And so, we do one thing and one thing well.
JAMES: And we are back to our special guest. I am so excited about this conversation cause yours truly, if you do not know me out there in listerner–land, I am an augmented reality fanatic. Before I jump into Anthony’s story, I got obsessed with augmented reality in 2012. And it was because I saw this ad coming out of Paris. The French have a brilliant technology scene in Paris, and they built an app that did some really cool stuff. And then I saw another app in London that was called Nearest Tube, and it allowed you to turn your camera on and then it overlaid arrows on the streets in London. And London’s like, for me, London’s the center of the world. Paris is a close second or third, but London is my favorite city on the planet. And the streets are not in a grid, so it is really confusing to walk around London, cause you can get lost fast. And so Nearest Tube would put green arrows on the streets, and it would point you to the nearest tube entrance, subway entrance. And so, you could easily find your way to a subway. And that was in 2011, 2012.
The iPhone was only like three years old and AR was in its baby, baby stages. And so, then I spent a couple summers on the beach at Lake Michigan, kind of contemplating this whole thing and then built an app called SmartReality that was a fun beta app we did in our research division and got to spend a lot of time writing code, working with my team, building AR. And when I saw Spectar, I was like, I have got to have this guy on the show because they are executing a vision that really was not possible several years ago. It is starting to be possible now. And so, Anthony, I am excited about this because I am an AR geek. I love HoloLens. I have gotten to hang out with Kitman, the guy who directs the HoloLens program. He is a brilliant, brilliant guy. I think this is a really exciting space. It is dynamic. It is also crazy early. Even with as much development that has taken place. It is crazy early. But before we get into talking about all of that bag of tricks, because that is a hefty conversation. I want to talk about you for a minute, and your background. I want to tell me, where were you born and raised? What would you dream of doing when you grew up and what landed you in AR and construction tech?
ANTHONY: Alright, so you set the stage incredibly there. I am excited to talk about AR after that intro. I was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware. So as Jeff and I found out we had common areas in that neck of the woods. So, Wilmington, Delaware, born and raised, really grown up. I was not a good student, so I always struggled with most of your classes, but the one I was decent with was math and art. I guess art was the class. So, I kind of always liked that creative mind. I would love to invent stuff. I love to get my hands dirty and build stuff. So, my passionate, like growing up, I either wanted to be an NFL quarterback or I wanted to do something where I got to build or invent or create things. And I was fortunate enough.
I had a grandmother who lived in Orlando, Florida, so we would go to visit her, and I get to go to Disney world. To me that was one of those things when you go to it, it is all magical. Cause you get to see how emotions can be created by just stories that could be told, the things that humans can build that just kind of are magical. So that kind of always led me into thinking I want to do something that either tells a story, something that’s creative outlet, but that actually produces something that people want or inspires people. I think in a way my whole life has kind of veered at many different paths to achieve that.
JAMES: And you are into music. I mean, degree in music production.
ANTHONY: I would say so. I attended music school. I did not get the degree. There is going to be a common theme there. This is why I moved out to Minnesota from Wilmington, to go to a music school when I was 21 years old. I always kind of had a passion for just creating beats, hanging out with friends and we would spend long nights, sneaking beers and freestyling over custom beats that we would make. It kind of followed that. I thought maybe I would get into film scoring or beat making production. But once I started doing it, I was doing some jobs where I was working in a studio recording bands, and it almost got to a point where bands had so much conflict between each other, that it almost felt like it was babysitting, and kind of like what you and I talked about with music. Once you started doing something for living and all of a sudden you lose the passion for it, it is time to get out. If it feels like work and it was a passion, it is not worth doing anymore.
JAMES: Yeah, it is funny. I get questions about my… I am super into flying. I love flying airplanes. I have got three ratings so far. Single engine, multi-engine instrument, and I ’m getting commercial rating. A couple of my friends ask like, you are getting a commercial rating, you got to be like a commercial pilot? I ’m like no, no, man. I just want to keep learning. If I start like doing this is a profession, it will completely be stopped being fun for me. And the same thing with guitar. I play guitar for an hour a day, but if I have to like go play a gig, it is stressful at that point. I do not want to do that. It is funny how your hobby can turn into your profession, can turn into an anchor quickly. Super quickly.
It is funny though. Technology for me Anthony, was my hobby when I was 11. I started writing GW-BASIC and then QBasic and Fortran, Assembly. It was my hobby. That is what I did after hours was write code. And it never stopped being fun. That is the wild thing is that this is the one case where something was my hobby and it turned into my professional. I started JBKnowledge 19½ half years ago. And it is still a boatload of fun. And so, it is interesting to see how that goes. And AR is kind of, I kind of feel that way. You almost feel like you are getting to play, at the same time as getting to work. Walk me through the origin story for Spectar, and where you saw the problem or the need to start a new company.
ANTHONY: Sure. It did start with my first introduction to augmented reality. And like the first real introduction to augmented reality, I was working with a software company. I had gotten into software, had been doing it for several years. I was with a company in Culver city, California, who ended up getting invited to Microsoft for their HoloLens augmented reality, or their mixed reality program to work with Hologram readiness program. So, we got a chance to go up to Redmond, work with the Microsoft team once a month for six months. And I remember the first time it kind of leads into Spectar, was the first time I used AR, like HoloLens 1, I got it, but I did not quite get it. The second time I had it on my head, I had it on for about an hour and I was doing a few different things in there like testing out what it could do, hand interactions, how it recognizes the room. And I remember taking off the device and I went back to working on my laptop and there was a moment, I am not kidding.
I literally went to resize my screen by pinching and dragging my hand up to resize my physical laptop screen. And to me, that was like that aha moment, like whoa! I looked around the room, there were seven of us in this room, we had 16 different displays to do our job, and that is when it dawned on me. Like AR is going to change everything. With AR you do not need all of those displays. The single use display would be a thing of the past. When one set of glasses could be your displays at home for TV, laptops, tablets, mobile devices, that was the aha moment where I said AR is going to change everything. And that is when I knew I had to get into AR. I knew that is where I was heading. So, I put everything behind it and started learning about AR, went full immersive with Unity, Mixed Reality Toolkit from HoloLens.
And Spectar happened because I was doing contract work. Consultant work as well for Augmented Reality. Had a couple of different clients doing unique stuff. I worked with a DJ who was doing augmented reality. A company that used ultrasonic sounds to fuel holograms without haptics or without gloves, you could feel the holograms just from the sound it created. And I was YouTube–ING one day, like useful practical uses for HoloLens, and a construction company in Los Angeles came up as they built a bathroom pod, just using HoloLens, and I looked and I am like, well, they are right in my neighborhood. I was living at Los Angeles at the time. I reached out as Cody, actually you guys both know Cody, reached out to Cody, got a conversation, we met for coffee.
And at that point, things really took off with construction. It is not only a great use case, but I learned the problems that construction faces with productivity with the labor shortage and some of the bigger challenges. And to me, it dawned on me like this is an industry with enormous spending power and enormous problems. And I believe that HoloLens, and AR hands-free AR could solve a lot of these. So that’s kind of the start of this.
With Spectar, in the early days, this is where a lot of companies and a lot of people went out and said, let us build a proof of concept. Let us see if this thing can work. At the end of the day like, can you bring this device? There was that leap of faith you had to take in saying, will people wear the device in the field? Is it safe? Is it going to work at all? And we went all out. We started testing. We were in the field with the journeymen in mostly framing and tried everything. We loaded up big models, the BIM models. We tried doing very precise alignment. We tried doing layout with it. We tried everything and we found a bunch of things that just would not work right now. But we also found things that did work. And we went back to the drawing board and said well let us figure out how we can build a platform that works today. Using the understanding that we have learned of what is working in the field.
JAMES: Yeah. It is important to understand. There is a lot of things that do not work with AR right now. This is a really-really complex technology. And I remember the first time I built, I wanted the HoloLens experience on my iPad and of course, at the time there was no LIDAR on the iPad but now there is. But we built an iPhone, an iPad at first. And then we built an Android app and then eventually we built a VR app in Oculus, and VR had a long way to go. Of course, now, this is the best VR device I have ever had used for its portability and its size. The Oculus Quest is really just awesome for… All the combination price point, size, et cetera.
And now the new iPad, you know here is my new iPad with that magical sensor array, right there in that top corner where you got LIDAR. LIDAR is changing the game. Portable small LIDARs are changing the game because it is really, hHHolo–graphics is all about two things, I guess. The light field, what you are projecting – and then placement, where you are putting it. I am assuming you have had the same challenges everybody has with accuracy and placement.
ANTHONY: Absolutely. We have gotten so many bloody noses to show for it. And I think it is refreshing and to be honest about what… And you know AR, there is a lot of cannot do right now. But there is certainly some very important things it can do. And so, with Spectar, what we do, is we bring hands free, augmented reality to the job site. And we are bringing BIM models, contextual data to the construction process to make better, safer, and faster work. We are working with specialty contractors, mechanical electrical, wall and ceiling, and within that, our goal is to really focus on empowering the journeymen. So, most of our time has been spent working with the journeymen to discover what works.
And you are right. Accuracy is the biggest thing that people want. They want it because they want to do tolerances 1/8–inch, 0.25” They want to do layout with it. And frankly, like the technology is not there. You cannot consistently get that accuracy right now. And I think for a lot of people, that is where the bloody nose happens, cause you get into, well boy, if he cannot do that, is it useful in construction? Can I use this, or should I wait five years and hope things are better? So, we approach it as saying there are things that can do, and that is what we help our customers understand. Is what it can do today.
JEFF: Well, and you hit a good point. You get your bloody noses and you figure out what it cannot do, but it is what it can do. And if it can do things, which we know it can, we have to reach for the sky. We want layout. We want all those things. We want that tolerance. We want that accuracy, but it is going to take time. It is going to take time and investment. So where is it working now? What problems are you solving for the journeymen and where are they going? Oh, yeah, I need this right now. Like, I got to have it.
ANTHONY: So, there is two major areas that we are seeing success. The first is quality control. So, QC because journeymen can see models at one to one scale on location. They can see exactly the design overlaid onto what is built. So, they can check for clashes with either other trades. A lot of them are using it to ensure for ADA compliance. We are also seeing that, while you may not be able to get pinpoint accuracy, you can still ensure that things exist. And I think like a good example of that is concrete penetrations with castings. You might not be able to say, I can get this within a ¼”, but I can tell you what, before the concrete gets poured, you have AR on, you are using Spectar, you can see where your castings should be. So, if you see one in the design and the model, and it is not there in space, save that. You are going to save a hell of a lot of money besides pouring the concrete, overhead drilling. The expense, the safety, of all of that, eliminate that.
JEFF: Well, yeah, I mean, this goes to James, like James used to throw up the slide with all these three buckets various, we could save money and then he’d throw another slide at them and go, wait, now let’s look at this. And the rework would be the biggest hugest bucket. Because it is that. It is the expensive thing. And so, QA/QC can really get ahead of things. When you are talking pouring concrete, it is one thing to have to move a little duct around or a couple of runs here and there. Well, we can argue over that and people can bend things and et cetera, but you are not bending concrete man.
JEFF: So, you catch that sucker and it was funny. Because for me, that is where it really made sense. I saw Travis Voss put something up a long time ago and it was like, Travis, are you trying to install that? Or what are you doing? He goes, no, I am walking the guys through for QA/QC. And he is said, well, did it work? And he is like, oh yeah, off camera. They went back, and they were like, this is wrong. And we are missing something. And he was like, this has a lot of use. And, I think that is too, not to bring Cody back up, but we all have to take a bloody nose every once in a while. And you are right. Cody had this idea that every worker, everywhere, everybody’, and I love his passion.
JAMES: You are saying, by the way, wait, pause, pause. Tell everybody which Cody you are talking about. So just for our listeners.
JEFF: Oh. Cody Nowak.
JAMES: There you go.
JEFF: If you guys do not remember, Cody Nowak, when the Martin, when the bathroom pod came out, it was him and it was him online and he showed it all, and he was working for Martin brothers at the time and they went through the whole thing. And Cody was a visionary. Is a visionary. And he was just five years ahead of his time. And so that person always has to take the biggest bloody nose, because if you do not have that passion, if you do not have someone that is pushing that way, and then a lot of people jumping on and pulling that rope in the right direction, that is what is going to happen. So, yeah, he was just ahead of his time. Not everybody was going to put that HoloLens on their head five years ago now.
You know you really think about that. We are just figuring out now where it is going to apply, and I think that’s kind of software in and of itself. Somebody has the giant idea and there is this belief that the first to the prize wins. It is not the case. It is usually the ones who watch them take their bloody noses and get beat up and figure out how to go around the trees instead of hitting the trees. We talk about that and skiing. Do not look at the tree, look for the holes and you guys are still hitting the trees, but somebody is looking for the holes and you are finding them. So, layout QA/QC, where do you think next is really realistic for this to go?
ANTHONY: We have started a little bit with installation. There are certain specific installations that can be done today. Some of our customers are using it for flat stock backing and notch backing where you know where the studs are going to be, so you can put the bracing in. And if you are in like a bathroom where you are in a congested space, where you’re going to put in 8 to 10 of those, it helps to be able to see exactly where it goes without having to look at your plans. Mentally make that decision of, okay. And then your mind has to do all of the work, whereas in AR, you see where the panels go, you see where the backing goes, you install them. It is also useful for unique stud layouts. And we’ve also, one of our, like one of my favorite projects that we have done was with PUBG. It is a game. They are a game company based out of… there were like the original Fortnite. So, before Fortnite, like PUBG created that battleground.
ANTHONY: They have an office in Santa Monica, and they wanted to create a unique structure inside. It sounds funny, but it is like a sleep pod for their developers to go in and take a nap midday. And this thing is like a golf ball. If you hammer it on a golf ball and it dented it in many shapes, it is this big structure that it is not… The only right angles are the doorway into it and there is no other right angles on it. And it is a metal frame with wood cover. So, the coolest use case for that was, one of the journeymen laid down the 3D model, welded triangles to make the basic triangles. Color-coded the triangles. Then in the model, those triangles were color coded to match with labels of where they went.
And he was able to go in there, hold up the triangles where they belong, looking at the 3D model at the same time, and now screw them into place and assemble the structure, that had the crazy like 23.5° angles and all kinds of random angles. And he was able to build this. And this is a journeyman who has been doing it for quite a few years, and he was like, without it, honestly, we do not know how we would have done it conventionally. So, hallelujah.
JEFF: There was a video of that.
ANTHONY: Yeah. I saw that. You are describing it and I am going like I have seen that happen before. So, if you have not checked it out, guys, that stuff is like ridiculously cool to see. And the tech, I mean, James, go ahead.
JAMES: Now. I want to wind back cause I feel like we are jumping ahead just a little bit. I want to wind back just one step. Tell everybody what it is that you do here. You are an augmented reality app for construction, you work exclusively with the HoloLens, so they have to buy a HoloLens to use your application, they put the HoloLens on, they load their 3D content from Revit or from, well my account for different file formats can be loaded into this. But Revit, it is probably one of them or common ones. And then they take that model content, so either Revit, AutoCAD, IFC or Open BIM, they load it into the application and then they render it on the job site. Are you putting a QR code somewhere, so it has a point of reference, or are they selecting from a menu what room they are in?
ANTHONY: So, I will get to that point. You got it all exactly correct. And then when they are placing it, we originally started with QR codes. This was back when we were doing proof of concepts. We went with the QR codes and we were finding that even with QR codes, you had two problems there. One, it located it pretty good, but you still had to do some level of fine tuning to get the model to match perfectly. And it also required you to have QR codes everywhere you wanted to place a model. And they either had to be unique for each area of the building, or you had to manually select what model you wanted to load, and then the QR code could be the same everywhere, but that would just be used for the placing mechanism.
We found through user testing, being out in the field that our customers in the journeymen actually preferred... Let me just load up the model and let me place it by hand. So, they just do a two-point tap on a known line. So, something that is in the BIM, a reference point, they just do a two-point tap that sets the position and rotation, and then they can fine tune it. And we found for them, it is quicker. It does not require the camera from HoloLens to kick in and kill the performance. So, for now that is the way we went with it.
JAMES: And certainly, the HoloLens 1, if you have not used it, it had some performance issues because of the CPU GPU combos on board. HoloLens 2, I noticed had a pretty significant upgrade. Tell me about your opinions between 1 & 2.
ANTHONY: Sure. 2 is significantly more comfortable. It is easier to get people up and running. I am sure you have had so many people try on HoloLens 1 where you were like, oh, hold still, let me get the headset on you properly. Let us get that. Let us line your eyes up just perfectly. It was a nightmare to get somebody in that thing where they can feel comfortable. HoloLens 2 really took care of a lot of it though. The calibrate for each person’s eyes incredibly fast and it works well. The hands, you can now use hand gestures that did not exist in the first one. So, it is much easier to work with. It is more, it feels more natural to work with HoloLens 2. I will say the one thing that is improved slightly, but I guess a lot of people were banking on it, to just rally make it so much more accurate when you play some model, and there are improvements, but it certainly has not solved everything. So, we know that it is one of those, it is still another bloody nose that you get, but you also build with that understanding. So, we love to, and we know that things are only going to get better.
JAMES: Awesome. Jeff?
JEFF: So, what do you think about fab shops with this thing? I am dying to see cause like you are right. The job site is so crazy, but there is so much repetitive, but we are not where the world of Amy Marks wants us with industrialized construction where we are productized, and everything is what it is, and we are rolling it off the manufacturing floor. We still make a unicorn or a snowflake with every building. So, all of our mechanical systems, everything is fresh and new and our walls, et cetera. But it seems to me like that would be a cool spot where you are in a controlled environment. And I could see the stigma of them walking around on the construction site versus they are all in a fab shop, so, it is all of their people. So, what do you think about that? And to me it is a future of the trades anyway.
ANTHONY: I love that one because… I guess we looked at it, it says, hmm, what is the hardest thing we can possibly try to do right now? Let us have random environments with zero control. Let us have models that are absolutely massive, the size of 50 story buildings, complex stadiums. Let us also make sure the user has to move. The wearer has to move throughout an entire building where nothing is standard, nothing is repetitive. It is all unique to each area they go, and we said, oh yeah, let us do that, instead of a controlled environment where you have one model that builds a thousand or a million items from that one model.
So, no, no. Kidding aside though. That fab is certainly the future and it is something that we are looking, and we are working towards. Our roots were completely in vertical construction in the field and that is where our expertise and domain lied, so we wanted to get out there and understand that side of it. And now with our understandings, we are starting to venture more into the fab side of it because you are right. We know the benefits of fab versus doing everything onsite. So, we want to get, we are getting into that spot.
JEFF: And I think that will be cool too, because once you do that in fab, and then it comes out into the model itself and onto the site because you are never going to get away. You still have to put the Legos together to build the building in the end, no matter what the Lego’s look like. So, I think there is a natural progression, so yeah, you just went the hard way and then you can work your way back to the easier way in the end. It will be great.
ANTHONY: That is right.
JEFF: And I love to see you guys out there breaking some of these barriers and for it to finally come around because while I do not think it will be anytime soon, still that everybody has one. I think it will be in the next six months to a year that you do not even look twice when you see it go by you on a site. It will be sort of another thing, like a crane swinging things over people’s heads and moving things around or drones. James, we remember when drones were cool. We do not even talk about drones anymore. They are just like; you do not do drones. Like that’s old school, man.
JAMES: Yeah. You do not do drones, bro. What is the deal? It is hilarious. Seriously. I mean, construction companies, they do not own a drone. I am like, why? What are you doing? Like this is so useful. It is useful for just sales and marketing alone it is useful. Much less all your scanning benefits and you can do… We actually did aerial augmented reality, Anthony. My very first experiment with AR, I 3D printed a bracket for an iPhone mounted, cause no one had these at the time. I had a 3D printer. I had a DGI Phantom 1. The very first Phantom drone and it had no camera ray on it. There was no iPhone brackets for drones. So, I mounted an iPhone under the Phantom 1, installed Unity, and the augmented reality framework we were using at the time from Qualcomm, and I printed a giant target, put it in the middle of a parking lot and I am AR’d, a life size to scale building from a drone.
ANTHONY: That is awesome. This is amazing.
JAMES: This was seven years ago.
ANTHONY: That is pretty cool.
JAMES: Yeah, you can do crazy stuff with all of these tools. You can do crazy stuff with all these tools. The real question is doing useful stuff with all of them. And that’s where augmented reality has gotten caught up is, people look at it as a toy, not a tool. They do not really; I think understand the benefit, until you go to people who really do, and they use it all the time. And I think QA/QC was not like my top use case list for AR when it came out in construction. It just was not. I was not thinking about verification. I was thinking about before you build, do virtual clash detection, not after you build, do verify. But it is such a useful use case. There is so many problems with installation in construction. People, things go in the wrong place all the time. And I am experiencing it today.
I am getting my third round of countertops installed in my kitchen, in my house. I had to personally experienced this. They have installed it wrong twice now. We are about to go a third time to see if they can get all these countertops correct. It is probably one of the most common things that they put the wrong thing in the wrong place, and it is a nightmare. AR is a such an exciting place. Where do you think you can take your feature set and turn it into a full fed platform? How does Spectar turn into a full platform rather than just the viewing layer?
ANTHONY: Yup. So, our long-term vision is to become the eyes. We want to build a platform that becomes the eyes into a smart job site. We know the data that is being created on a job site is exponentially increasing. IOT, smart sensors, wearables, robotics, drones. We have all of these things, creating data on the job site that can be acted on. AR is going to become the platform that enables you to see all of that data when you need to see it. In certain safety evacuation situations, if there is an accident and I am in charge of safety, I am going to be able to see where that person is at the very moment and the quickest way to get to them safely. I can see sensor data that I need to act on where it is located.
So, there is the platform from itself right now is focused on just the BIM model that is created in the office and shown in the job site, but AR is opening up. And Spectar wants to be this platform that allows you to access all of the data that is being generated on the job site, all the content being created at the job site, we want to be that. So, you can make smarter decisions, you can do your job more effectively. So that is where I see us heading. And I think the biggest challenge to get there, is not going to be technical. I think it is the adoption. It is the getting the buy in from the people in the field. Without a doubt, that is the biggest challenge we face in AR now is getting buy in.
JEFF: Now you hit on quite a few things there that we all struggle with. I mean, this is one of my favorites. This is where you were sitting here talking about the HoloLens. We are talking about AR and MR and sourcing all of that information and putting it in one place. And people still do paper timecards. People still use Excel for everything. You are like… How do we get over that barrier? What do we do? Where have you found, especially cause you, I mean, journeyman, I think is a good spot to be honest. To start because, I do not believe that necessarily age drives your ability to adopt technology, but I think there is far more mindset in younger to adopt because of familiarity, not because of ability.
How do you see that happening and occurring so that we can get it going? Are you guys reaching back and being like, hey, like app people, just get them going because we got to get the snowball rolling. I struggled with this. I spoke at MEP Force this week and we had a lot of talks around this and there is a lot of struggle to get the ball rolling. How do you guys approach that and what do you think about that personally? I mean, even outside of Spectar.
ANTHONY: Sure. I see a big part of it is just repetition. Getting people acclimated to seeing AR on a job site. At first, when years ago when HoloLens 1 just came out, people will look at it like a toy because people do not go out on the field. We would baby it. We had put it in its case. We would Polish it off. People are not going to look at that as a tool that you are going to do real work with. So, a part of it is just getting them familiar with seeing these devices on the field. It takes away that unknown. It also helps them see it as, okay, this thing, it is here to stay. It is here to help me do my job better.
And one of the things that, and we have seen a pattern with where we have had the most success on a project, the projects that we have had the most success, there has been a key ingredient, and it is the buy in from the foreman. When the foreman understands it, buys into it, they are open minded about it. They now encourage their journeymen and set them up for success. Cause they are more understanding they say, hey listen, I know what the deviation is from what we are typically doing, we are going to spend a little more time getting this thing up and the training for it, so, we understand it. But when they are open minded like that and the journeymen start to pick it up and they use it, the cool thing is they are using it for specific tasks that we help them identify, based on a lot of questioning.
And as they start to get comfortable with one or two tasks that it can do, all of a sudden, they start to think, wait, if we can do it for A and B, why cannot we do it for C and D. And that is when they start trying it in other areas. And now you have buy in from the foreman. Cause they are saying I am getting more productivity.
I am getting my newer generation who is quicker to say, yeah, I grew up in a digital age. I understand this. They are getting them to even upskill their game, so they can produce even faster than somebody typically at their skill level. So, it is kind of a snowball effect and it is just slowly, but surely you chip away at that resistance to this new technology. And we are seeing it. We do see it. It is not on every job site. We have failed on many job sites and that’s part of the learning. But from each as one to have understood where we went wrong, and we start to say okay, how can we make that right for the next time? And it is starting to get that snowball of people buying in.
JEFF: And you are overcoming one other thing, and so that is all working there, but you got to those form and you got to those journeymen. It is not an expensive device when you talk about it. But when I say it is 3,500 plus, whatever it is you guys are spending on, you know, I am just going to give it an average there of 3,500 for the device itself, and people bark at it. They bark laptops, they bark i–Phones, and you are like, wait, you buy cranes, you buy backhoes, you buy impact drills, all this stuff that is expensive. How do you get ownership management to buy in, to even let you get there? There’s just a handful of progressive companies, which is basically what we have seen, or you got some sort of secret sauce. And if you have got the secret sauce and do not want to tell us, I get it, but we would love to hear it.
ANTHONY: Yes. Just plenty of charm. No, no.
JEFF: Oh, we got that from you man. We got that from you.
ANTHONY: So yeah, I think it is just a matter of again, at the end of the day, people just want to know that there’s productivity at the end of this. There is a lot of hype, there is a huge hype cycle. They are like, they do not want to hear all of that. They just want to say, is this going to add dollars at the end of the day? Is this going to improve my bottom line? And once we get that conversation going, we are very honest, we are open with people. We set the stage for them to understand, and you are right. It takes a very specific company now. We are looking at forward-thinking, early adopters.
So, ones that understand that innovation with innovation comes at a price, but also leads to great success when done properly. So, we typically look for companies in NR600, specialty contractors. And with that, we identify the people in that, that are already open-minded, and we get the ball rolling with them and it usually trickles down or trickles up. And then you figure out, okay, who do we have to win over now, and who do we have to prove this to in each step of the way to get to the next level of adoption?
JEFF: It is a great technique and you did not use some of my favorites, like James are always saying ROI et cetera. ROI are tough in that space. But I imagine that one detection in QA/QC that sees where you miss something in concrete, pretty much paid for the whole program there. You can be like, alright boss. Chuck it up. You want productivity? There you go. That is, it. For this whole one. So, and that is the beauty of construction. We have a lot of those, and the low hanging fruit is expensive. So, James?
JAMES: Well, it has been a great conversation to talk about. I am excited about the current of AR and that you are solving real world problems. It is not a toy anymore. It is a tool. I have a side note, Anthony. You described the nightmare scenario for AR development, dynamic environment vertical and horizontal environment. Positioning’s a nightmare. The environment constantly changes. Overlays are nightmare. The conditions are harsh you know, temperature, dust. You literally described a hardware and software engineers nightmare.
We have talked a lot about gaming technologies coming into construction, but do not you think now that construction could actually lead the way for the next generation of augmented reality gaming? Because gamers want a fully immersive experience that can work in any environment at any level. They want to go to an abandoned warehouse and have an alien shoot them up game. Don’t you think there is a commercial, as I know this sounds crazy, but is there a commercialization opportunity to take all the things you are learning in construction and apply them outside of construction and gaming?
ANTHONY: You know what? I do not think that is crazy at all. And I love that mindset. I absolutely love that thought. Because we all know like construction. It is kind of in the tagline of your show, like construction is considered the least innovative industry out there. And funny thing is with augmented reality and especially like hands-free augmented reality, there were other industry pushing it as hard and driving what it is going to look like in the future. Construction is leading the charge of what AR will look like in every industry now. Health care, gaming, entertainment. It is amazing to see that cause there, instead of being late to adopt, they are creating what everybody else’s will look like.
JEFF: Yeah, I think you nailed it.
JAMES: I feel like we leveraged a lot of gaming tech. I mean, Unity was not a construction modeling engine. It was not. And by the way, I missed one of the factors. Gigantic models. And we ran up against large model viewing all the time. It was bloody on their heads on the altar of large model viewers, because these construction models are just way bigger than anybody in Unity I think had ever conceived before they started hitting the shelves there. And so, it has been interesting to see gaming tech come into construction and revolutionize both virtual reality and augmented reality and desktop viewing of models and web doing a models. All of those. You are using OpenGL, Unity. You are using UE4, all of those originated in the gaming area, so there is a lot of gaming tech.
I feel like there is going to be a cross pollination back to gaming. I think the two are symbolic at this point. The entire digital twin concept is so important. Alright. Let us wrap our discussion then we are going to move on to the news. Tell me, Jeff already asked you the what’s next question, but literally like roadmap. The roadmap you can talk about for your product. What should we look to expect from you?
ANTHONY: Sure. We are just in the process of wrapping up our V2, our version 2 for HoloLens 2, and one of the big things it addresses, like you said, how to handle huge, humongous models. Cause the HoloLens is a standalone tool which would have to do all of the calculations on the fly by itself. We created an engine that allows the VDC team, the BIM to upload into our portal, the entire layer, or an entire building, without having to cut it into little chunks. And on the HoloLens side, we are actually tiling that in real time. So, it is like grand theft auto or a video game when you are walking around a map and it is filling out the world as you move. And this is how we are able to overcome a lot of the limitations of how much the HoloLens can render the polygon count. So that has been our big thing.
Is now we used to each zone that somebody would use for HoloLens would be on an Island with no understanding of the data around it, but now it is an entire job site. Connected. So to us, that’s the big thing because that’s part of our platform play, where now, other companies that might not even be directly in construction, specialty contract, or GCs even, other companies outside of that, we’re looking for them to be able to plug in whatever they want, whatever their software is into our platform, to be able to leverage that. So that is the big play that I see us really starting to grab now is to open this up, so other companies can leverage what Spectar is building.
JAMES: Awesome. Thank you so much for the conversation today. Appreciate it. We are going to jump in the news. Before we get to the news, of course, we want you to stay around for news because we have some, I think that you are going to find really interesting and some that I think will directly impact AR in the field. So of course, I want to talk about that. We are going to remind everybody out there that this is the JBKnowledge podcast network. And remember, we do have one other show. That is the InsureTech Geek. If you are involved in risk management, your construction company, please tune into the InsureTech Geek. This is the second part of my discussion with Brad Tabone, Co-Founder of HammerTech, about how they are approaching construction technology. Please listen in here
JAMES: And I am back here with Brad Tabone, Co-Founder and EVP of HammerTech. What would you say the killer features are from HammerTech that people jump at?
BRAD: I would say the thing that is become really, really apparent is the worker at the heart of the platform. There is a whole bunch of safety tools out there that might do risk assessments or inspections or incident management. But because we start with the worker enrollment, the worker orientation, Demographic questions around that work or what license or certification that worker have, or previous training and meetings have been to. We really, the worker at the heart of having tech, would be, I’ll say the number one, because it allows us to do a whole lot of stuff like contact tracing, connecting in devices to the individual and knowing what individuals are doing.
And then the last point is probably process, not document. So, you have a permit, it can be replicated digitally across a myriad of different electronic platforms today. Just like an editable PDF, but breaking that down into each of the stages and only presenting to the user what they need to see, or need to read, are probably the two key features of differentiating AMETEK from other field platforms.
JAMES: I have heard, you are not afraid to say no. Explain what that means to you.
BRAD: I really believe in kind of the principle of being a hedgehog. Being really, really good at one thing like Jim Collins, obviously from the hedgehog side of things, and because we are focused on doing one thing really, really well, we don’t let ourselves getting distracted into the other kind of areas of construction technology. We just want to kind of focus on one and be really, really good at it and let other people be really, really good at the other areas of their app. And that is what we mean by no. I would say 90% of the functionality that comes out of HammerTech, and this release comes from our clients and engagement from our clients.
JAMES: Now Brad, I have got a little surprise since you brought this up. This is Wrigley. This is my is my African pygmy hedgehog. And if you want to be like a hedgehog, like Brad was talking about, you want to do something really, really well, check out HammerTech. So, Wrigley the hedgehog, says give HammerTech a try! That is HammerTechGlobal.com, and with Brad Tabone, Co-Founder and EVP can definitely help you out there. Brad. Thanks for joining us on the podcast.
BRAD: Thank you for making my afternoon James! That was a good one!
And we are back to our news, Jeff. I know you have got some good news stories today. What have you got brother?
JEFF: Well, we are going to start with a funny one because I just had a whole lot of fun with this. So, I went to CNN – Unhackable. Apple’s new iPhone ad puts privacy front and center again. So, to James’s point earlier, you guys got to get this news and the ConTechCrew delivered to your inbox. Cause you will get a link to this thing. If you have not done it, you can just go ahead out and search for, oversharing on Apple’s official YouTube channel, but it is basically their play at going after Android and others again, saying it is got a whole bunch of people walking around, screaming out their private, personal information. I searched, I think it starts with, I searched seven divorce attorneys this morning and it says it to everybody and the other woman’s whispering things. But I think this is an interesting play James, because for me it is about all of a sudden, the thing we have always wanted, that a lot of us have felt we have given up right, like you have said this before, like I get it. My privacy is pretty much gone.
This is putting privacy at the forefront as an economic advantage. Like a commercial advantage to your privacy. Does this start the privacy wars that push us into a unique new world? And you know it is about Apple and their platform being very walled off and controlled, so things do not get randomly shared, they help protect you from that. Apple’s not with their own black eyes on this too, by the way. So just so you know, they have had to apologize for allowing contractors to listen in to things on their phones before, but at least they are policing it in some way, shape or form. I know my good friend Nick Espinosa who I had a whiskey tasting with this week and had the pleasure of sitting down with him again said they are not without their own black eyes. They are not without their own issues, but I think it is important. What do you think James? You are an I platform person. You have spread out too, of course, but what do you think?
JAMES: Well I have been a maybe militant privacy advocate, would be the best way to put it. In particular, I built my entire construction bidding platform SmartBid on the premise that you should own your data. And all your competitors should not get access to it. And that was the whole foundational premise behind SmartBid was that contractor’s sub data was their gold. And I love Tim Cook’s quote. What did he say? He said if your product is free, they are not customers.
JEFF: Then you are the product.
JAMES: Yeah, if you are not paying for your technology, then you are not the customer. You are the product. Tim Cook said that, and he was speaking about Google specifically. And certainly, I agree with that. For all the companies out there, that give away free product. I mean, you are harvesting data, and then you are not the customer if you are using those, you are you are the product. Moo, I always moo like a cow cause it is like, lineup cattle, you are the product. Soylent Green is made of people. That was a good Charlton Heston. I think the direct quote is Soylent Green is people, but I re–watched that the other day just to remind myself of that. So, I like that the approach Apple takes, I liked that they were drawing a line in the sand on privacy.
Certainly, I live inside the Apple ecosystem, very happily, because they have done in my opinion of far better job than others, Google, of respecting their users’ privacy and then still providing a platform that allows us to leverage things. Now, their maps products sucks. I mean, Apple maps is just a giant turd pile. And I do not understand why, and Google crowd sources all their maps data, and so they end up with an awesome maps product. And I do not understand why Apple with all their cash cannot figure out maps, but maybe that is a consequence of them not sharing data like Google does, is that they cannot produce the most accurate maps.
JEFF: I think you are right. And for me, this kind of step back as a bigger piece, like we have needed to, to Anthony’s earlier, like people early on took the bloody noses over the HoloLens. So, the actual inventor of the internet, Sir Tim Bernard’s Lee, not that other guy, Al Gore. He had this idea that he actually hated what he created in the end. Like his own creation got out of control and it did not do what he wanted it to do. And so, he has been working with MIT for a while on this idea of having pods of your own information that you control. So, imagine, for lack of a better term, you are your own database. All your information is your own database and anybody, whether it is Facebook, Google, Apple, that wants to access that information, you have visibility over what they can access, when they can access it, and how. And even other applications and browsers, et cetera.
And so, you have the ability to cut it off. Only share what you want to share. Like he had this utopian view and he took a bunch of beating over it because like it went against the commercial way of doing things in the way things were monetized on the internet, and I think this might be Apple saying, hey, maybe this is not a bad idea. And then in that, James, I might be okay, then having Apple consume what I am learning about driving around using their maps and maybe crowdsource it better because I know that is all they are accessing. They are not accessing what I am buying or whatever it might be. So, I think it is interesting. I think privacy has to be back on the table. I think we allowed it to get taken off the table. And we are fighting, we are dealing with the ramifications of that.
I will admit I got hit this week. So I’m going to not curse, so Jim doesn’t have to do extra work, but there’s the first letter of Facebook could be that to Facebook for me, because I got hit with an ad there I’ve been looking for something and I bought it. But thanks to Chase for blocking the charge and knowing they were fraudulent. And, but yeah, even someone as seasoned as me got caught in it. So, I think privacy is a huge game and I think we ought to start using our purchasing power to drive that. So, off the soap box and onto the next one, cause this one is a lot fun.
I had so much fun playing with this for the last like 3 days. And Anthony, you talked about this with, get it in their hands, get them using it and then hack it together. And I am a big fan of that. So, this is Microsoft Word on the web gets a voice to text transcribe feature to counter Google docs, Otter AI. So basically, what this is, if you guys look up the article and you are using Office 365, you have got to do it in Office 365 right now. You either are going to add it into Word for your local later. But it is there right now, and you can go to the dictate button, hit the dropdown and from the dropdown, you can upload any recorded file, and it will attempt to use its AI to translate it to text. I will let that I do lots and lots and lots of zoom calls doing demonstrations, listening to customers, doing all those things.
And I am always just trying to get a snippet out of it so that I can get a question or two in. Well, I loaded up over the last 3 days, over six hours of zoom calls, which by the way, you have to be pay for zoom to do that for you, the transcribes feature, they have it, but you got to pay. I am already paying for Office 365. Better accuracy and the processing time took a bit, but I just put it in. It is just in a browser in the back long for the file to upload, but I just had to leave it there, I came back and there it was. And I could cut out what I want her to cut out, send it off to my engineers to ask the questions. This is awesome. Anthony, what do you think about this type of hack together?
ANTHONY: I do have a question on that first. How well does it do, does it recognize each user independently? It recognizes each voice and separates it in the transcript?
JEFF: It does. It says, speaker one, speaker two, speaker three. And they match. So, you have voice...
ANTHONY: And is it accurate?
JEFF: Yeah. You have a voice print and it works really well. In fact, because of what I do, we talk about some proprietary products like Sage 300, Viewpoint Vista, other applications that I do not know that Microsoft painted, it got them right. Like that! It knew it. It knew who they were. It knew the speakers in the room. It struggled a little bit, because one of the groups I was working with had, like a Polycom style, so, there is like 10 people in their boardroom talking back to us. It is struggled with that a little bit, but I would imagine anything would struggle with that. But it picked me up.
JAMES: This should be a warning to all software company entrepreneurs. There are entire companies dedicated to this and Microsoft released for free in a feature, what his entire companies and tens of millions of dollars of funding that go into voice transcription of meetings and people. And Microsoft’s rolled it out inside of Azure cognitive services, which we use pretty heavily. And then, rolled out a free feature in Word that literally spiked over a dozen companies, business models. There is some people that literally had to throw up when this got released. It should show you the power of cognitive services first off. Azure is getting really good at speech to text and text to speech. They are getting really good at deep fakes as well, using their text to speech. But speech to text is absolutely amazing. The ability to identify people and they are using this everywhere.
They are using it in Skype, they are using it in PowerPoint. When I make PowerPoint presentations on webinars now, if I know people who might be hearing impaired, I turn on captioning and PowerPoint does that. PowerPoint does caption with this, for my employees and Argentina, I have some that do not speak English. The vast majority do, but a small percentage do not so I will turn on translation and it transcribes and translates my English. Even though I speak Spanish to do the presentations in English, it translates it into Spanish, and I will read the translation and it is pretty darn good. I mean, pretty darn good. We are at the point of the universal translator; we are almost there. All they have to do is give me a Bluetooth headset, which third-party manufacturers have made, but Microsoft has not yet. Where I can just plug the dot into my ear and then I can hear in English what other languages they are speaking. I mean, we are at Star Trek level stuff now. Anthony, I know you had something to say.
ANTHONY: Yeah, to echo what you said there, it is kind of funny. I am actually a paying customer for Otter AI on my app, on my mobile app. And I use it frequently when I am in the car, I will just set it to play. And if I am listening to audio book or a podcast, a lot of times I like to take vocal notes. to the best of my knowledge, it does not separate by the speakers. So, a lot of times it is all jumbled together. If I do not pause it properly. So, I am going to look at this cause I am like, okay, well, if this service is not provided for free and I could just open the doc on my cell phone when I am driving, perfect. I love this technology. I am a huge fan of user interface and conversational AI. I think that is going to be, that is to me is one of the most exciting things in the future.
James, I know you are a big Star Trek guy. I cannot wait until we get to Geordi talking to the ship computer, and that is a part of it as cognitive services. And then voice to text or dictation. I think we are getting there. You are ahead though Anthony, they have not pushed it to the Word for iPhone yet or for their mobile, but it is coming in the next set of features. They wanted to do a little bit more testing on it. Here is what the article had to say and what my research had to say, but it is common. Next releases says you will get it on the iPhone first, or in the mobile app, let us say, so it will be Android as well. And then then you will get it in your Word on your desktop. But James, I remember this.
When you put the HoloLens on your head, not to like wrap this in some bigass bow here, but it is that you said keyboards are going to be a thing of the past. We are just going to talk to this thing, and I will tell you, I was like, oh, you are farfetched. Sometimes you are just out there. Like, where are we really? And now I am like, wait a minute. If I can just click the dictate button and talk to it and it gets it right, like keyboards might be a thing of the past. These things might become tools we do not need so much. So awesome. If you are not Office 365 user, get out there and try it, let me know how it goes. Let us all know how it goes. Cause we are all into this. Plus, the more you do. The more they learn, the more they learn, the better this whole thing gets.
And we win, and you are right James, they are just tackling... If you are not watching Microsoft, by the way, if you are a software company and you are not watching what Microsoft is doing, and you are looking at just your competitors, then you are missing the fly or the mosquito that is going to come along and bite you. It is not the elephant that runs you over, it is the mosquito that bites you and infects you and then ruins your business. So y’all better pay attention.
And I am going to skirt this one into a little bit of fun here. And so, this is for the students who are working from home. I thought this was a blunder, but fun to talk about. These students figured out their tests were graded by AI and the easy way to cheat. He is getting all 100’s. So, I think this actually came, it started out as a negative when this person Dana Simmons, his son. Lazare, I think it is, was in tears after he got a 500/100 on his first test. And his mom who is a professor and a teacher came in and said, well, how did this happen? How quickly did it happen? And all of a sudden, she realized that this thing was being graded by AI. And from that, once she figured that out, her son figured out how to beat it. So, I think it is kind of funny because I am going to go back to Amy Marks here again.
She started off MEP Force with Word Soup, or something of that nature. And that is what it is. So basically, what he figured out is the engine is looking for a particular amount of words. So, he wrote sentences, and then he put in all key words associated that the AI was looking for. So, it is created a score. This is not it is not at the human level yet. So, this word salad answered the questions and he is getting a 100 on every test. So, I am going to leave it there because there is not a lot more explanation. This is more of a discussion. James, what do you think the kid crushing the AI teacher?
JAMES: Well, I do not know whether to get upset that he is a deviant, or to get excited that he is this creative.
JEFF: Well listen, I am going to go to a personal story here so that you can make a judgment on me. So, yours truly, passed organic chemistry for everybody knows, I have a chemistry degree, a biology, chemistry, psychology, and I passed organic chemistry because I was looking for tests, like I had for every other class I have ever taken, and my fraternity had every test that this particular organic chemistry teacher gave. So, I would go through and I was looking, and I was reading them, and I was reading them as reading them. And I was learning, and I was researching everything after for the first test. And I walked in and I have a pretty darn good memory when it comes to that. It is not photographic, but it is quick. He was just using a computer program to pick out of a set of questions. And that was it. They were exact, he never changed them.
So, what I did was I took all of the tests we had, figured out all of the possible questions, cut them out and just memorize them all for the rest of the year. On the final, the second to final test, I unfortunately left that under my seat, and he found it. So, on the final test, he changed the answers and I got a zero. And they attempted to throw me out of school for cheating. Now, my biology professor came to my rescue and said, wait, wait. This is not his fault. This is a fault of you not being a good teacher. And Jeff knows that he can go to the library and I do this, I did this for her. She put all of her old tests in the library for us to go get so that we could understand the way in which she asked questions and the way in which she was looking for answers. And she innovated and changed her test questions all the time. Did she hit on topics that were in there? Of course, they were core topics, so it helped us, but she is like, I think that teachers just being lazy, she went to my, well, I do not want to call it a trial, but whatever they call those things. And I was exonerated.
JAMES: It is called an honor board hearing. Academic discussions with Jeff Sample. Confession time!
ANTHONY: I love this one.
JEFF: I believe is a failure of, I think the kid is right for doing it. I think he is learned the technology. He is learned something, and it is good to go.
ANTHONY: Can I jump in here?
JAMES: Yeah. I would love to hear your thoughts.
ANTHONY: This is why I love this one because it does resonate with me a ton. Kind of hinted on it earlier in this when we were talking about my background. So, I attempted college 3 different times and it never worked out. And a lot of it was, I just was not motivated by what I was doing, and I was not good at a lot of like learning and memorizing and doing a lot of that type of work. So, I have always been a self-learner, my whole life. I like Barnes and Noble University. That is where I joke, I graduated from, and to me when I read this and I am like, brilliant, brilliant! Like at the end of the day, the student’s job is to pass the class. Is it going to provide value that he memorized something about a dynasty that faded out 500 years ago? Or is it, he found the shortest cleverest way from point A to B, which was getting a 100%.
I love that creativity. And it was just, and I am cracking up because in that article I was reading the mom tweeted, like, he got an A, word salad and he went, and he got an A+ without learning a thing. And I read that, and I am like, I disagree with her that he learned everything. He learned how to create a problem solved. You learn how computers work. He learned how you can beat the system, so to speak and get to a result quicker with less effort. And I have celebrated for them. I was like, that is awesome. So, I love that part of it.
JEFF: I fully agree, man. That is the way I feel about it. And I think it is fundamentally that our education system has to change because we are not educating them. We are educating them to be factory workers and we do not build in factories anymore. We need problem solvers that can think in an ever changing, ever evolving world. And this kid did it. He figured out the matrix behind it. He saw through it. And that is a skill that I am going to tell his mom, we will hire him when he gets out to problem solve in our world, man. So, if it turns to cash, I do not care about the degree. So yeah, James, that was my take. Are you in line or do you want to fight with me on this one?
JAMES: Is do not know. I do not want to fight. I mean, I got a degree in accounting at A&M. I had four majors. I switched majors three times. Cause I was just trying to find the thing that I loved. I started out in computer science and computer engineering. Did two years of that and really, I had been writing software for like seven years by that point. And I just, I had to learn something new. So, I went over to accounting and it kicked my butt. I guess I am kind of old school. I just study and study and I am a pretty good test taker in general. I do a lot of practice exams and so I guess I am a little old school, academic learner. My commercial exam, I just took yesterday. I read this entire book and did the practice tests six times, I think. And my score, you know you have to practice a test in general. And this applies for construction in a lot of ways. Like the way you learn in construction, you have to practice. You have to get certified on all kinds of things in the construction. And so, my first score on this test was a 70% than it was a 73% than a 77% than an 83%. And I got an 89% on my test yesterday and passing 70%. So, I did great. I was super happy with it.
And it just repetition matters. And so, I do get, I mean, I am excited at his ingenuity. I love anybody who is a hacker and is willing to hack through solutions at the same time, I am most disappointed that the teachers are using AI to grade their paperwork. So, my feelings on this, as a five-year teacher in construction science at A&M is, who the hell are you that you can’t read your students’ responses because you’re not teaching if you’re not coaching them through what they’re responding with. And that was actually Jeff, my biggest complaint, and my biggest challenge with this was not even with the student, because it borders on academic fraud. It is hard. You can argue both sides of it. The teacher to me is the biggest letdown.
JEFF: I would agree with you there. It is not letting AI, or a machine look for that you have clicked the bubbles. That should be done.
JAMES: It is ridiculous.
JEFF: When you are talking about free writing and understanding what a child, what a person is saying, and you have to take the time reviewing it.
JAMES: Yeah. Here is the deal. I am putting everybody on notice. If you are in academia and you listen to my show. If you are just posting videos on YouTube and using AI to grade papers, then you need to give your students an 80% discount. And in this whole situation right now, the garbage I am seeing some professors pull with online learning, where they just go record a YouTube video and throw it up and then give a test and let AI grade it. That is not education. And your kids can get that education for free on Khan Academy. You need to recognize that you are literally rendering yourself irrelevant when you commoditize what you offer like that. I have to move on. We are we have time. Let us talk about blockchain, blockchain, blockchain, blockchain.
So, Construction Dive. Blockchain’s benefits for construction. I just wanted to bring this up because we had a lot of talk around blockchain in the last three years, we got excited about it. We had some cool solutions that came out that use blockchain, and then an interesting thing happened. We stopped talking about blockchain as much because the solutions realized that construction companies did not care how it was getting done behind the scenes. They just cared about the value proposition to them. And so, I think you are going to see less discussion around blockchain, but it continued usage of it, if that makes any sense whatsoever. Because what you have ended up with here, is a situation where there is… The other construction companies I have talked to, they love the idea of an audit ledger that cannot, and in particular accountants, love the idea of an audit ledger that cannot be edited. They love it. They do not care how you deliver it to them. They just like the… And so that is something is interesting that I have seen and even a great company that was called Brickschain is now called BRIQ.
Their entire concept of the company started out with blockchain. They had this brilliant, brilliant closeout feature functionality that would write everything to a blockchain, and then you could generate close out documents and minutes at the end of the job. Love it. And the reality is when they went to market and you look at their website now, they have done cool stuff. They are one of the more progressive… We are going to have Bassem Hamdy on the show coming up, just to do a recap because he is using robotic process automation using RPA, he is using blockchain, he is using machine learning. He is doing search; he is doing crazy stuff.
You talk about high tech; it is getting combo–ed into brick. The crazy thing is, you go to their website, they are just not talking about all the technologies underneath it. They are just talking about the solution. And I think this is what you are seeing is, blockchain has a ton of benefits for construction. Namely, this is a very low trust industry, and any technology that allows everyone to know that there is a mathematical impossibility or... Not impossibility, because of quantum computers, quantum computers scroll this up, but there is a mathematical improbability that anyone will ever be able to edit that encrypted ledger. Cause they encrypt the type of encryption that is used. You write it, you cannot edit it. It has great benefits for a super low trust industry. Like construction. Of course, like shipping too.
We have seen a lot of blockchain applications in shipping. Immutable project close out. This article speaks specifically about Briq and the medieval project close out. They are speaking specifically about single point of truth, provenance of materials, and the article mentions Briq a few times. And I just want to point out, that you go to Briq website, you are not going to see a big discussion about blockchain. You are just going to see the discussion about the value that they add to their clients, because that is all that construction companies care about the end of the day. Anthony, they could care less what AR framework you use, they could care less, even if it is AR, they just want to install things in the place, right?
JEFF: Is this like a company trying to sell you on, you should send your packets through a wire it is… oh yeah, we call that the internet. You do not care. It just goes hey, you want to know about the IP protocol. Yeah, we stop talking about that too. I think you are right, James, but we cannot take away the blockchain dance.
JAMES: No, we cannot, and we are going to keep talking about it because, just like Anthony, we are going to keep talking about AR. We will mention it, but it is not specked AR anymore, it is Spectar for a reason. People buy value, not features.
ANTHONY: Bingo. Yes exactly.
JAMES: So, for all of you out there and Anthony, we have a lot of other construction tech companies that listen to this show, a bunch, remember this. People do not buy features; they buy the value that you have add to them. And so just from that, when you are looking at this and you can see how some other folks have pivoted and, in this regard, let me move on.
Next story. And I thought it was pretty interesting and this is from Construction Pro’s. 10 Technologies improving all aspects of construction. They are talking about; I like to post these articles regularly because they are talking about the raw technologies behind it. Like BIM easing project planning, viewing progress through augmented reality, and they talk about a few different technologies in here for AR. The power of simulation for training. The fact that training SIMS, and we have seen some good VR based training SIMS, and then robotic training SIMS. Upgrading grade positioning to increase pro… Trade positioning is a big deal. And there is some awesome, awesome tech for grade positioning. Drones being used for visualization, as well as verification. Anthony, you talked a lot about verification being one of your top use cases, right?
ANTHONY: That is right. Yeah. And I think, yeah, all of these technology and I think you kind of hit on it in the last article about, it comes down to the benefit. It is like in sales. You want to talk about the benefits. If they do not need to see the specs, if you are buying a TV, the specs affect some people, but at the end of the day, they want to know what the benefit is. Why is this TV better than the other one? I think it goes for this technology. There’s so much complexity in all of these innovative technologies, blockchain, IoT, 3D printing, photogrammetry, all of those things can be extremely complex if you get the into them. But at the end of the day, the people using it just want to know, what does it do for me? How can they play together? Can they play together?
And at the end of the day, when I go home, what did it do differently than when I went home without using it as technology? So, I think it helps for the industry as a whole, to continue thinking the benefits and then working backwards. Think of how you can make a difference at the job site. Not from a technical standpoint, but the end user. What is important to them, make it for them on them. Focus on them. Look at their picture when you are making your product, so you know who you are making it for. And I think all of these technologies benefit from that.
JEFF: Well, and this is to your point earlier, James, that I wanted to drive home, and I totally agree with you. You are talking about Spectar possibly an augmented mixed reality, influencing the gaming industry. Look at all of these technologies. And these are all things that we see scattered through our lives as consumers that are impacting in some way, shape or form the job site. And I said this in a talk recently at AGC, like the fourth industrial revolution is being televised at a job site near you. And what we are learning through IoT, through autonomous vehicles, through that grading, through the drones with photo… Through all of this, it is going to impact the way I think commercialization of a lot of these products are going to happen and work. Where else can you have an ever changing, more dangerous, scary environment to test this stuff out with, and make sure it is not crashing into people or doing things it should not do, et cetera. That when you go into the regular world, it is a little less tame, even in 2020.
JAMES: Yeah, exactly. So, go check this article out. You can read all about 3D printing, about ruggedized devices, about remote control of robotics, exoskeletons, they have all the stuff we like to talk about, they kind of give a very nice high-level overview and it is posted on our social feed. The last one is just kind of the weekly construction technology and software rundown September 4th, from our good friend, Marla McIntyre, over at Construction Executive.
Before I talk about her updates, I have one that I feel like should have been included in this, it is big, it is satellites. It is Elon Musk. This guy just does not stop. He does not stop. He is doing some incredible stuff with Tesla. I mean, the cars that are coming off the line are abs… I got to drive a Model 3 a couple of weeks ago. I loved it. And the Model 3, the base model is amazing. But he is absolutely slaying it in space. He is just launching rocket after rocket, after rocket and keeps landing them on drone ships and recovering all the castles. He is like launching them six, seven times doing this more profitably than anybody, but he just completely upped his game because hello…
Space Lasers! I am not kidding. Space lasers. All I asked for were sharks with freaking lasers on their forehead. And Elon Musk is doing space lasers. They have now in their most recent launch, they now have over 400 Starlink satellites they have launched from their rockets. I mean SpaceX is about, I am sorry, there is 700 satellites that SpaceX has launched, but there is 400 out there for Starlink. I mean a 300, I am sorry. Really amazing. Now he is saying it for it to be economically viable, he has to have a thousand satellites in space. His ultimate goal is to have 42,000 satellites in orbit for Starlink. I kid you not. Now, this feels a lot like Skynet from Terminator. I am just saying, because now, with space lasers, they have established a peer to peer satellite to satellite laser-based communication network, where the satellites can transfer data to each other. Cause right now they simply bounce it back and forth around the planet between the satellites and the earth. Now you can transmit to a Starlink satellite.
It will then use a laser to do an optical connection with the next satellite in the chain, and it will relay all of your data through laser communication between the satellites. There are ground tests being done on Starlink that are saying they are getting a hundred megs down from a satellite connection. And latency that is low enough to play multiplayer video games on which that is the most latency intensive thing you can do pretty much on the internet, is massive role player games. Holy crap. Space lasers. Okay. His goal is a gigabit a second down. Right now, they are at a hundred megs a second in their early trials. They now have a peer to peer network where they can pass tons of data at the speed of light between all their satellites and not go back to earth. So, it is going to be a literal blanket of data covering the planet. I am speechless, Anthony, I am speechless.
ANTHONY: I think Jeff and I are too.
JAMES: But just think about this. For all of those out there, Anthony, we are sitting here like iterating on mobile apps and on websites and Elon’s reusable rockets going to Mars, space lasers, satellite network, and autonomous electric vehicles. He is a fronting all of Silicon Valley and I am reading his biography now. That is so good. He basically said, why are we wasting our time trying to get people to click on ads when we could get people off the planet. Anthony, please tell me your thoughts on Starlink and space lasers.
ANTHONY: Well, I love that quote that he has. I think it is so important. Like some of the smartest minds, it is just, how do we get somebody to click on an ad? I mean, there’s Elon Musk is such an interesting guy. The fact that he is not just like one world changing technology or a company like he is doing it again, and again and again, so he obviously knows a pattern. He has the pattern that helps you be successful in those situations. But the space lasers is amazing. I do have questions about what happens like internationally when other companies are like, no, we want to get stuff in space, but here is a company now, is it American company that has all these satellites and space? Is it internationally? Are there going to be battle in space that, this is our territory? It is physical above our land. So, get your satellites out here. Like I think the questions on that are amazing. You can start to answer the questions.
JAMES: Yeah. It is unreasonable on any order to vertically extend the boundaries of a country beyond 60,000 feet. I think, I mean, you get in and you get into a hundred thousand feet or it just does not make any sense to extend the… Maybe 60,000 is too low. But when you get to the outer boundaries of space, which is what up in a hundred thousand plus foot, above the ground, I just do not think it is reasonable for this giant beam to irradiate from Russia that goes to Saturn and say, wherever this beam moves, we own that space. That does not make any sense. And there are treaties and there is going to be a land grab on the moon . We are going to have discussions around this. There is going to be arguments. I mean the best model for how to deal with space and the moon and Mars is Antarctica. Because we have a treaty around Antarctica where we basically said it is nobody’s, but still people claim a whole bunch of stuff in Antarctica.
I mean, inevitably I think the big race will be around companies. I think companies will claim territory. They will say we own this asteroid and then they will have to possession is nine tenths of the law. It is probably ten tenths of the law in space. If you are there and you can defend it and you will probably own it. And so eventually you will get into people with defense lasers, that will shoot things down that are over their country without authorization. But anyway, it is a wild world. Jeff, quick comments on this. And I got to move to the rest.
JEFF: I got to challenge you. Is it the beginning of Skynet or is it the beginning of Wally?
JAMES: Yeah probably Wally.
JEFF: Everybody is shooting everything into space, to the point where we could not see through it. And that is your own quote, that life will probably look more like Wally, then the terminators. Right back at you. That is all I could think of on that one. I am going to leave it right there.
JAMES: Yeah. From the rest of Marla’s updates DSI ConTech proof of delivery, mobile app features GPS and photo capture and remote approvals providing real time inventory traceability. And proof of delivery information. This is good for getting all your materials on the job site. The Zyter COVID-19 Suite is a digital self-assessment health surveys on mobile devices, thermal mass temperature scanning. So basically, we are using thermal cameras to screen people in mass on a job site. That is the Zyter COVID-19 Suite. The Safe Site check-in now features ConTech tracing, customized questionnaires, health surveys. So, if you are a Safe Site user, they have a check-in feature to help with COVID tracking. OnLogic is partnering with Thinglogix to monitor health of people in the office and retail spaces. So, a lot of COVID-19 tech coming out.
Bluebeam do not forget about those guys. Revu 20, was released and improves user and content management capabilities, streamlines communication, et cetera. So, go check out Bluebeam Revu 20. FARO’s Trek autonomous 3d mobile scanning integration built in collaboration with Boston Dynamics Spot robot. That is going to be your new robotic overlord that we will communicate over Starlink. They have combined scanning speed and accuracy with Spot, the quadrupedal robot that is the things of Jim Greenlee’s nightmares, cause it has a snake head. So, they can now repeat the route autonomously. So, you guide it through a route once. Now it can repeat that route autonomously without a remote control. Can make minor adjustments to complete the job, so that your robot dog can walk on its own, and eventually take over your job site. No, I am just kidding. It is not going to take over the job site, but anyway. There is all kinds of news. Go check out the Construction Executive. A weekly tech brought down; they have an email newsletter you can sign up for as well. It is always worth doing.
That is our show. We are a little bit over, but I mean, we have to geek out on things, construction tech and just tech in general. Anthony Corrado, it has been a pleasure talking to you about Spectar. You can go to Spectar. What is the website?
JAMES: Yep. Awesome.
ANTHONY: Check out the PUBG video! The PUBG video, I think that is one. We all love that one. So, check that one out.
JAMES: Awesome. So, thanks for being on the show, Anthony. Appreciate it.
ANTHONY: Guys, Jeff, James, I appreciate this. And just a quick shout out. My dad, my father, he spent his whole life in construction, and here I have circled back to start working in construction tech. And I think there is something magical there. Big shout out to my dad. I know he is going to listen to this and get a big smile on his face. So, I love the man.
JAMES: Awesome. Yeah. I love my dad too. Talk to him twice a day. And I appreciate that. So, thanks for the shout out to, Mr. Corrado. If you are listening, ah, thank you for raising your son to be such an upstanding guy and going in and teaching him to get out in the world and work hard and earn what he gets. And Jeff Sample, thanks for being on as always brother.
JEFF: It is great to be here, guys. Anthony, thanks for the fun. This was an awesome show today, guys. Supreme geek out headed into the weekend. I am going to head in with some energy. Thanks guys.
JAMES: Absolutely. And thank you in listener–land for tuning in to geek out episode 234, our interview with Anthony Corrado from Spectar. Please join us next week, episode 235. Jeremy Searock from Advanced Construction Robotics. Going to talk about robotics. To read all of our new stories, learn more about apps, workflows, and hardware, subscribe to our newsletter jbknowledge.com or text ConTech to 66866. Big thanks to Jim Greenlee, our Podcast Producer, Kara Dalton–Arro, our Creative Producer, Tish Thelen, our Ad Coordinator, and our Transcriptionist Adéle Waldeck. To listen to this show, go to the show website TheConTechCrew.com. This is the ConTechCrew signing out until next time, enjoy the ride.