As part of the New Generation Technologies team at Nestlé's Global Digital Hub in Barcelona, Richard focuses on industrializing and scaling XR technologies to Nestlé's global brands and markets.
Caspar Thykier: Well, it's a pleasure to be joined today by Richard Hess, the immersive experience lead for AR and VR within Nestlé's IT Innovation Hub based out of Barcelona. Now we've been fortunate enough to have worked with you and the team for a number of years. And it is really fair to say that when you do really look at big corporates adopting XR around the world, you've really led the charge really in the approach to, to deliver that at scale across the entire global organization. So it'd be great to almost hear your journey, how you got into XR and, and how that story unfolded.
Richard Hess: Thank you for that Casper. Yeah, I really appreciate it with that introduction. So for me, I've been with Nestlé for about 11, 12 years, first seven years in the US and then the past few years in Barcelona.
And when in 2016, I had the opportunity of taking a mission or work assignment within our company to our innovation outpost in San Francisco, which really the purpose of this outpost was to kind of scout new and disruptive emerging technologies. Look at new business models, look on how startups and bigger players can.
Help us be a bit faster to market in, in our journey for digital transformation or building new products and within the space. And this is really where I had the opportunity to kind of deep dive into AR VR technologies and really immerse myself into that. And really look at it from a perspective of, you know, how can AR/ VR across the spectrum provide value to Nestle.
Now that's not to say for our company, that was the first time he ever looked into these technologies. We are a very big company, operate in over 170 countries, have 300,000 employees. So obviously along that timeline, you know, people were looking into AR VR, experimenting with it. Even going back as far as 2010, 2011 do we even have some brands doing some innovative campaigns at the time?
Looking into AR as a way to kind of communicate that to a consumer and it was really a kind of way in Barcelona. Where we kind of discovered, okay, there’s a potential that we can scale these types of technologies within the company. And we first tackled more on the marketing or e-business side.
Just say, how can we use AR as a vehicle for storytelling, for being more transparent about sustainability in our supply chain, how we can provide more information about the product as well as, you know, be something that's a bit more engaging and insightful than like a traditional. You know, 2D material or just the packaging itself, or even something like trying to engage a consumer online through a digital banner ad or something like this.
So from that kind of understanding, I moved to Barcelona in 2017 to help start up the team here, looking at industrializing AR VR across the spectrum, turning it into innovative small proof of concepts into something that could be scaled out to the rest of the organization.
So my team in Barcelona is part of a bigger group, which we call our new generation technologies group. And that entire group focuses on essentially industrializing these capabilities into it, products that then can be consumed by all of the markets and Nestlé businesses across the world.
Caspar Thykier: I mean, it, it's brilliant, and you've made that sound so easy. And I love what you described there about how holistic. You know, that viewpoint was of thinking about XR and especially the ALP as a sort of broad camera strategy that could work across lots of different parts of the organization. So, once you've kind of got that group, how do you sort of stay within an organization, and then how do you that to market if you like?
Richard Hess: Yeah, I guess there's a lot of internal pitching and education that has to go on and you can look at that in a number of different ways.
First off, I think typically for big brands like Nestlé has the first time they hear of things In this type of spectrum is through a big media or agency partner to do that. So this can come of course, with some great, some great ideas in maybe quicker time to market. But often what we see is if there's no underlying strategy for the organization, these types of campaigns, as successful as they could be, are kind of kept within a silo of that understanding of how successful it was or wasn't the lessons learned as it passed across the board.
And you can't kind of share those learnings with the rest of the organization. It doesn't happen organically. I think part of putting a team together to look at this at a scale of like how to, you know, with lack of a better term standardized. And I hate to say standardized, cause that term really comes with this compensation that, you know standardization means there's not flexibility.
That's, that's not what I'm saying. I say more to put together a framework for it. Allow people to activate these in a way where. Not only can we take the knowledge from one brand, that's rolling it out for say 10 markets. We could take another brand that's showing up for one market and then we can combine those learnings to even a third brand that can roll it out to 50 markets.
And that's I think where the scalability came into play is not just these. Essentially scaling up or industrializing the technology capabilities across the board, a working part with partners like you guys to do that. It's also from the education in kind of insights as well, and demystify a little bit on what exactly augmented reality is, where it could play a role in the greater kind of a digital strategy for a brand and how it can be scaled.
Not only just for one brand one campaign, but something akin to, how do we make it as part of the normal tools that we use in engaging consumers out there. Now that's, that's very much kind of a consumer marketing focus and perspective. I think as part of our journey, we probably started there because we felt where we were in our journey.
We were a bit more mature in our understanding in how to execute that on the marketing side. What has happened since? In the past couple of years, especially now moving into this kind of world post-COVID or post-pandemic is really on the operation side as well. And looking at how AR VR can be scaled across the enterprise whether it's through things like remote assistance in the factories, where to get that expert support because people can't travel.
Certainly the catalyst of nobody was allowed to travel. Definitely helps with the adoption of that. You don't really have another option. Or even looking at virtual reality or even augmented reality as a training tool to train employees, whether that's kind of hard skills like safety training and the factories, or that's more soft skills, like trying to educate people of, you know, how to interact within the facility that they're in maybe build training material to help accompany different standards within the workplace, or even soft skills training, like emotional bias.
I think people are starting to really understand how AR VR can play a kind of normal role in their day-to-day lives. And I think that, which a lot of people I'm sure you're interviewing will, will kind of aspire to, is having AR VR or XR is like the next type of computing platform. At least for, for my team, we totally buy into that.
We try to evangelize that as much as we can in our organization. There are some challenges, of course, there's a lot of pitching. There's a lot of internal sales that you have to do for that. A lot of demos. I could probably give the same demo now, blindfolded you know, without looking at it. On what AR is and everything along that and on that scale.
But certainly I think, as you mentioned that hard work did pay off too, in a way that now I think it is being recognized as, as a true kind of value-added.
Caspar Thykier: Definitely. I think those two concepts of almost having that central brain trust of understanding what these technologies are capable of and building that framework and the framework being the central principle of how you scale, as opposed to, as you say that sort of standardization or sort of trying to productize or create sort of very strict templates that are very hard to be malleable enough.
But if you do have a framework for thinking and sort of insight generation and then delivery, that's hugely powerful. So that's super interesting when you look at sort of where we are now in, in kind of the XR journey and you sort of look a little bit forward. Are there any things that kind of particularly excite you and that you think are particularly relevant to the work you're doing?
Richard Hess: Yeah, I think this concept that we've had now almost from the beginning but it is still slowly tricking along until towards full realization is looking at augmented reality and packaging as part of like the whole strategy and integrations into other parts of digital strategy. So I think there is really kind of low-hanging fruit and easy wins.
We've been able to implement such as linking. Packaging with augmented reality, driving them towards some type of call action, whether it's a loyalty or towards another digital property, or even a chance to, you know, influence a purchase. However, I think the possibility of. Combining that into kind of an integrated strategy which is more of a technical challenge on the backend of how you're able to kind of connect these things, but more moving of that as part of a strategy moving forward. I think that's something that really excites me. We've done a lot of work to get there. I think I would be the first to admit we're not quite there yet, but I think that's something when I look to the next 12, 18 months I see a lot of change and a lot of more adoption and acceptance of moving that way.
If I look more towards, I guess the enterprise, I think there's these whole concepts of now you see a lot of organizations seeing the real opportunity on things like head-mounted devices, especially with the advent of device standalone devices, like the Oculus quest or some of these more smart glasses devices that the prices are coming down.
They're becoming much more attainable or something that, or a big organization can justify the investment. And this will, I think, impact the kind of future of work and then how people will interact within the workplace. Something like a VR headset for now at the moment, I think like a standalone one is now at least the way we position internally is that this is like truly a platform.
This is not just a tool for the means to the single purpose content, which it could have been used in the past for like training. I think now you can look at a device like that and say, this is maybe training is the first where to start, but this could be a collaboration tool. This could be a tool for a future workplace or workspace could be a tool for different products or our product designs and reviews.
I think that truly excites me as well as using those type of foreign factors as a medium. And of course, I think even the role of the, the, the smartphone and the camera on that, we'll still continue to play our role. And you know, again, It just so happens that the, the pandemic gave the opportunity for something like a QR code to become much more relevant again, and provide a medium that people are much more willing to interact with that type of content, which I think, you know, as we tried to serve through something like web VR or like the quick look functions on the phone is becoming more accepting with the people we're trying to reach.
Caspar Thykier: Absolutely. Well, so much to unpack in all of that. It's always a pleasure speaking to you. That's just fascinating, just the breadth and depth of stuff that you're touching in the space. So, so thank you so much, really appreciate you joining us.
Richard Hess: Absolutely. Thanks for having me Casper, take care.