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A peek into a 22‑year‑old’s strategy for virtual reality 

September 12, 2017

Digital Reporter

Cover art Samantha Gonzales

New technologies, in the form of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), are currently in the hype cycle and are foreseen to change the way people do business.

Tech giants, in fact, have embarked on this trend. In 2015, Microsoft introduced HoloLens, a VR headset that has transparent lenses for an AR experience. Apple has ARkit, a system that allows iPhone and iPad users to create AR experiences, while Google has introduced its AR computing platform called Tango. Facebook also expressed interest in these technologies when it acquired Oculus VR in 2014.

If you ask Charles Justin Lim, the 22‑year‑old CEO of tech startup Veer Immersive Technologies, Inc. (Veer), these technologies have a huge potential to grow in the Philippines.

“Virtual reality and augmented reality are both kinds of immersive technology. Virtual reality puts a person into a totally different world while augmented reality is the mix of virtual and real world,” he explained.

In his vision, people donning VR headgears will be a normal thing in the future. But he admits that introducing VR and AR can be a big challenge.

“It’s already a rising trend, but honestly I think the Philippines has a long way to go yet not just in virtual technology, but in adapting any kind of new technology,” he told SparkUp. “If you’re going to look at more developed countries like Singapore, people there are having difficulty adapting it, what more here in the Philippines?”

For these new technologies to penetrate the local market and become normal things for consumers like smartphones and tablets, VR and AR companies like Veer have to target established businesses first, he said.

Mr. Lim said using this technology costs “way too high” for a normal Filipino consumer, with a tag price of at least $700, not to mention the delivery expenses in transporting the device to the country. One also has to use a gaming computer that costs around ₱50,000.

“That’s a lot for a normal Filipino citizen, that’s why right now most of the applications for VR and AR focus more on the businesses that actually have money for this kind of thing,” he said.

His company, for example, currently focuses on developing a training system for the cabin crews of a local airline, which he refused to disclose. He said the company is about to close a deal to create a simulation of fire emergency that will be used to train the airline’s cabin crews on how to respond to such incidents as they may happen on‑board.

“An airline approached us and they wanted to figure out what we could do to collaborate with them. We saw that cabin crew training has a really great opportunity because airlines spend a lot of money for cabin crew training and they’re required by the civil aviation authority to do so,” he said.

“Right now we want to focus on the airline industry, to create a really good system that would revolutionize cabin crew training for any kind of airline, be it in the Philippines, Singapore, U.S. or Europe,” he added.

This product, according to him, allows the airline to not only save money but also enable users to capture real-time data for assessment. The product will cost the airline a maximum of $2,000 per person, way lower compared with $300,000 that is usually spent for a simulator fit for only one trainee.

“It benefits them because how do you create a situation where a plane is on fire for training? Virtual reality has the power to put you in another place, essentially putting you on a plane that is already on fire with people panicking,” he said.

Mr. Lim is thinking, in the future, of incorporating VR and AR in other industries like maritime, security, and healthcare.

“I personally would want to explore the medical industry, what we can do to innovate how medical students learn and do things. Some already have mixed reality in their curriculum,” he added.

Taking on the challenge

Many may scoff or raise their eyebrows, doubting how a kid who just went out of college can succeed in this ambitious venture. But Mr. Lim is ready to take on the challenge.

He is no stranger in the world of business, as he hails from a family of Chinese‑Filipino businessmen, with parents and siblings running different businesses like garments manufacturing, restaurants, and bakeshops.

“I grew up in a business‑oriented family, so the basics of doing business have been embedded to me since grade school,” Mr. Lim said.

Mr. Lim finished a degree in computer science at the Ateneo de Manila University in 2016. While many of his colleagues are busy with their corporate jobs or post‑graduate studies, he took the plunge to start his own tech company.

“Going out of college, I was trying to imagine myself in front of a computer my whole career, ‘cause that’s the usual career path for computer science graduates and I couldn’t imagine myself in that situation. That’s not the path that I want to take,” he said. “Instead I started a business because I was thinking it was the most logical thing for me to do.”

In May last year, Mr. Lim co‑founded Reality+, a VR and AR brand that provides companies with business‑to‑consumer experience platforms. It was later on merged into another tech group, forming Veer, a company that develops software content focused on VR and AR for different clients. Concurrently, he works at Microsoft Philippines, leading the company’s annual student program and promoting tech entrepreneurship and innovation to students.

“We started out with the ambition of putting up an arcade for virtual reality in the Philippines. The public saw it as a mere trend rather than something they could integrate into their daily lives,” he recalled.

According to him, Veer’s long‑term goal is to make VR and AR a part of Filipinos’ daily lives.

“It’s our hope as a company focusing on virtual reality for the hardware to become smaller and cheaper thereby becoming easier to swallow and purchase for normal consumers,” he said.