Greg Hough - GlaxoSmithKline

12 min read
Blog Author

Greg Hough - GlaxoSmithKline

Blog Author
12 min read
Join Martin Stahel & Greg Hough as they unpack how GSK is using XR to add commercial value, the key factors for scaling XR within larger companies and the exciting developments that are on the horizon for the XR industry.

For this 10x10 Session, Zappar Sales Director, Martin Stahel is joined by Greg Hough, Digital Project Manager for GSK's Shopper Science Lab. In his role, Greg utilises AR/VR in innovative ways for Shopper Marketing Research and supporting collaboration sessions.

They chat about: 

  1. How can XR be used to add commercial value
  2. The key factors for scaling XR with larger companies
  3. What exciting developments are on the horizon for the XR industry


The Conversation:


Martin Stahel: Hello everybody. We are inviting the great and the good from the XR community to help us review the last decade in XR and share their learnings of what they've gathered over that time and where we are going as an industry.

I'm delighted to be joined by Greg from GSK. Greg has really spent almost 15 years in the XR industry, from university and then in GSK, but I'll hand it over to Greg and let him do the introductions of how you got into this industry and your role within GSK.

Greg Hough: Okay. Thank you very much. So yes, I've been involved for 15 years, which seems rather incredible when you say it like that, because it seems like such a new field, but I guess in reality, it's been around for quite a long time. I mean, when you think the Genesis of it was, you know, in the 1960s, then Hiro Kato and so on were developing mixed reality technology in 2001. Then I kind of came into it about 2005, 2006 when I was doing a master's degree. It was a research based master's in engineering, a masters of philosophy and I was looking at projected or mixed reality systems. So in the end, what I built was this system where it's a projector with this kind of survey guided mirror in front of it.

And you'd stand in this room and there would be cameras that would track your head. And as you were looking around, the server would move the projection to whichever wall you were looking at. It would kind of warp that image so that it always appeared kind of consistently straight. So like you want us to have a TV projected in front of you, wherever you looked and that was pretty cool for the time , it was like a real embedded, augmented reality system. And then. We took that later on to a PhD level. So the PhD was actually focused around free hand interactions, and using augmented reality. So yeah, this was around 2008, 2009, that period. And basically we built a system where you could kind of reach out and pick up an augmented reality object with just your bare hands and obviously at the time, I guess technology was a, it was quite primitive compared to today.

Now I would do all of that on just the mobile phone and it would be great. But back then it was a case of almost strapping a laptop to your back, having it in a backpack, almost holding the monitor in front of you with a webcam strapped to the back you know, it'd be the only thing powerful enough to do it.

And depth cameras were extremely limited back then. So, you know, even then, I guess mobile phones now are pretty much an advance of that. And so that was really my start  in augmented reality. In terms of academia, I lectured at a university for a while as well. And then I went to GSK. So I work at GSK shopper science lab.

We are basically a research facility and we use a range of XR techniques to conduct shopper  research. So we could be looking at augmented reality to show people different types of stimulus, kind of assess their feedback on that, or could use virtual reality in order to take people through shops to kind of show them what their concepts, their marketing concepts might look like, so they can make decisions about it.

And then also kind of communicating with retailers. So, yeah, we've been using augmented reality in a very interesting way at the shopper science lab for the last few years. We've recently started a knowledge transfer partnership with Birmingham City University who have a large augmented reality research group.

And we're looking at embedding technology because I think we're at the point now where things like augmented headsets have become more practical for use for those particular applications.

Martin Stahel: And your role at GSK sounds quite a wide and varied role. Are you using AR as well as VR?

Greg Hough: Yes. We use both, VR, we're quite well-developed in that area. We will use that for everything. We have lots of different VR platforms that we can use to do a multitude of tasks. For augmented reality we’re still quite early on in that stage. Yeah. So it's very much a discovery at the moment, we've had some success, and we're still exploring.

Martin Stahel: And in your time at GSK and rolling this out, this technology out in a commercial setting or an enterprise level personally, is your main audience internal or are you doing consumer facing activation?

Greg Hough: It's all internal at the moment. What we do. There have obviously been some external projects.

So things like using augmented reality to promote our products. I'm sure. If you went to Google, you could probably find those, but in the shopper science lab we don't really get involved with that. It's actually mostly internal functions within GSK.

Martin Stahel: And one of the, I suppose, one of the challenges that the industry faces is just how big companies scale this technology and educate their best stakeholders to invest and to use it.

Have you, have you found that experience within GSK and tackled that problem?

Greg Hough: Yeah, I think scaling is probably one of the most monumental features in this. So I think there's got to be a moment where people accept the technology as a tool that can help them. I think everything's sort of 20% wow and then 80% function after that and augmented reality. It definitely has that wow. So it's about finding those use cases that people will say, well, actually now I've seen it. I can see that it's useful and I'm gonna use it again in the future. So you need that audience there. First of all, to kind of grow into, they need to be convinced of the value of that. And then I would say next thing, you probably need a platform to do that with. So when you have that platform where people can engage with augmented reality, they've got ideas, that they want to look at things in augmented reality, then it's all of a sudden that's when the scaling starts to occur because they know that they can do this.

They've got the means to do it. So, yeah, I suppose education and giving people the means would be my two elements where I'd say scaling is going to occur.

Martin Stahel: You mentioned at the beginning there it's trying to find people with a knee and without giving away any trade secrets there, are there any sort of generic areas that you've found XR really adding commercial value to a visit either within GSK or elsewhere?

Greg Hough: I mean, I could probably talk broadly about this, but I think that there are lots of use cases within XR for design functions. So I think, sometimes there's a mindset to kind of design things on a very flashy Mac against a white background. And it looks really cool.

And it's not really true to reality when it's true to reality is when you can kind of take that content out into the real world and start seeing it there. And I think from a commercial perspective, that's actually very powerful for AR because it gives people that kind of rounded response.

They understand exactly what they're designing will look like when it's kind of used in anger as it were. And I think that's a huge commercial value there, I think in terms of education as well. I mean, it's not necessarily something that I'm involved with, but I know I've seen it across many different conferences and many different factories that are seen with their own eyes, but using augmented reality to teach people generally about how to use a particular piece of machinery where something should go in a warehouse, et cetera. There's real commercial value there as well. And I think that, that, you know, there are pitfalls to you know, you don't want your AR glasses steaming up, you don't want people to, you know, take them off for any reason because they're uncomfortable because they prefer using another device or just because they don't like wearing them.

So there are commercial factors there as well, where you can tell people things, you can teach people things. You can show people things that can give them knowledge that they might not be able to get in an easy way using another format.

Martin Stahel: Conscious we have a couple of minutes left and I would love to pick your brain about where you think we are going as an industry. Are there any factors coming up or events coming up that you're really excited about?

Greg Hough: Yeah as I mentioned earlier, processing power is a big thing. I mentioned that I had a laptop in my backpack and I was holding the screen. Now you can do that with a phone. And I think the miniaturization of certain pieces of hardware, the ability to get them into such a small convenient form factor is a big thing and we've already made a lot of achievements, but there's so much more on the horizon as well. I think just in terms of the processors available snapdragon triple eight and the bionic chipsets are going to be revolutionary because all of a sudden we're going to be able to show high detail augmented reality experiences, just using a mobile device, we're going to be able to achieve better tracking of your environment so that everything appears more stable against to be able to, you know, create the correct occlusions because now we can process a depth camera that's on the device as well. And so all those things are going to create really authentic, really realistic augmented reality experiences that I think are really going to open up the technology. It's no longer going to be kind of a flat pre-rendered or simple 3D model overlaid on top of the video, it's going to be content that exists within the real world. And that to me really excites me. Yeah. I think 5G as well is going to be another big one. When we look at the potential with WebXR right now, apps have been a big barrier for augmented reality, but the fact that we can now use it in Chrome and we can use it in Safari that it's becoming very commonplace and people can now load that content onto their phone using 5G very quickly.

Also going to be a big game-changer because that barrier is going to be removed and people can just use augmented reality as freely as they look at a website.

Martin Stahel: Fantastic. Well, Greg, I could sit here for hours and pick your brains but we've come to the end of the 10 minutes. I would like to thank you for taking the time to join us and maybe we can continue this conversation at another time.

Greg Hough: Yeah. Sounds good. Thank you very much for having me Martin.