Why I quit Google for augmented reality before the metaverse made it cool

In our latest exclusive interview, Business Leader chatted with David Ripert, Co-Founder and CEO of Poplar Studio, about his journey from Netflix in California to the CEO of his own company in London, along with wider trends in the world of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

What is your background and what were you doing before you founded Poplar Studio?

I started my career in film and TV in Los Angeles 20 years ago, and then joined Netflix’s original content division, where I spent two years. By 30, I was the VP of content at Dailymotion and was lucky enough to spend the next four years of my life in that role across New York and Paris.

More recently, I oversaw for six years the EMEA arm of Google’s global YouTube division, YouTube Spaces, which is dedicated to working with creators, media companies and brands, identifying new and rising talent, driving innovation and building creator spaces for them to collaborate, learn and grow.

Why did you swap California for London? What made you quit Google?

At YouTube, I would wear AR/VR headsets just for fun at parties and reflect on how we needed more augmented content. This interest linked back to my passion for storytelling and content creation, and that’s how I ended up throwing ideas to Brent Hoberman, the British Co-founder of MADE.com.

AR certainly was a tough proposition back then, as only big brands would spend small experimental budgets on buying AR filters to launch on Snapchat. However, given my time working with vloggers and creators at YouTube Spaces who wanted to go beyond this, I had expertise in building creator communities and saw a clear potential.

How does working for Google differ from what you’re doing now?

The level of dependence is substantially different. The truth is that if I had left an ongoing project I was coordinating at Google, the company would still churn out billions.

Things work differently in the early days of a startup, but that’s exactly what I wanted to learn beyond Google. I wanted to create a company where every person has their own place and all fit together. If I didn’t do something in a startup, the company would feel the effects of that far more keenly and likely be at a disadvantage, and that included every activity in the business, from branding to hiring.

Are there any major differences or similarities between working in the US and in the UK?

Working for an American company whilst being based in London can set you apart at times, as the company will take a lot of decisions from the US HQ, which can be slightly frustrating at times. On the other hand, if you’re based in the US, you’ll be closer to the decision-makers and strategy.

What trends are you currently seeing in the world of augmented reality and 3D modelling?

David Ripert, Poplar Studio

David Ripert

Augmented reality and 3D modelling are slowly but steadily becoming more mainstream within the eCommerce industry, as use cases go beyond the early adopters.

When you look at the statistics, it’s not surprising why more brands are looking to utilise AR technology for their online platforms. According to Shopify, merchants who add 3D content to their stores see a 94% conversion lift on average, and 3D models in augmented reality can increase conversion rates by up to 250%.

It’s no wonder that the brands that are implementing these are gaining an enormous advantage over the businesses that are still sold on images and video.

Has the emergence of the metaverse led to more interest in your industry, and has this made it more difficult for already-established companies to progress?

It certainly has led to more interest in AR, both from a customer and investor perspective. It’s the word of the moment and is an incredibly exciting time as we see how that unfolds and develops.

3D modelling, AR and the metaverse are all intrinsically linked with 3D modelling being the basis for many brands’ entry into the metaverse, forming the building blocks for virtual products. This has meant understandably that the versatility of our offering has been valued more and more by these brands.

What future trends are you predicting for the sector?

I believe that the metaverse will continue to expand its capabilities and opportunities for brands. This will naturally lead to AR and 3D modelling playing an even bigger role in the future, as photorealistic representations of real items will be the driving force of these virtual worlds. Similarly, as more NFTs are introduced in the metaverse in the forms of art or property, I expect forward-thinking brands to go beyond and explore the advantages of producing AR NFTs.

AR technology usage in the retail and eCommerce space will also become increasingly common and popular. AR live streaming is one of those new areas that will take off imminently, with brands able to combine video and live content, social media and eCommerce opportunities as they promote and sell on social platforms. Another key area for eCommerce is a growing appetite for AR and 3D modelling for smaller businesses through self-service eCommerce platforms.

As for brick-and-mortar, I expect to see the forward-thinking physical retailers making a push to amalgamate physical and digital experiences, like adding magic mirrors or virtual rooms in-store. Otherwise, they’ll be at risk of becoming a relic of the past.

How is 2022 shaping up for you and Poplar Studio?

The rise in popularity of 3D modelling and augmented reality, especially in online shopping, has been a testament to our vision pre-pandemic. The augmented reality market is now valued at $30.7 billion, with around 810 million active mobile users, and we believe to be sitting at the centre of this as we help all brands seamlessly produce and launch 3D models and AR experiences.

3D modelling and AR no longer need validation in eCommerce – the benefits are crystal clear by now. Therefore, we believe 2022 is the year we establish Poplar Studio as the ultimate go-to stop for all AR and 3D campaigns and solutions.

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