Snobal Weekly

Five reasons mixed gender teams are critical to VR & AR development

It’s common knowledge that gender diversity is essential in technology. And if you’re a company like Snobal working in newer technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality (XR), not to mention spatial computing and artifical intelligence building gender diverse teams is critical.

Here’s our top five reasons why.

01. Ensures default design is not male

We know that gender diversity matters in product and technology design and development because women are 50% of the worlds population. Need we say more?

Not including their unique perspective, needs and requirements means you’re basically building something that only caters for 50% of your users i.e men.

Let’s look to the past and at car design as an example.

Female drivers are 47% more likely to be seriously injured in a car crash and 17 per cent more likely to die because seat belts were not designed with women in mind. Crash test dummies and by consequence car belts were designed with the average man in mind with no account taken of pregnancy or women’s anatomy.

End result? Car seats designed for men, by men.

You can read more about this topic and what happens when you don’t design with women in mind with Criado Perez fascinating book Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. 

02. Means better business performance

Gender diversity in technology has been shown to lead to better business performance.

Studies published in Science found that teams’ collective intelligence increased with the number of women in the group.

One explanation is that the presence of women “enhanced collective social sensitivity, leading to higher collective intelligence”.

On an unrelated but also to a certain extent related note, the above research did make us think of highly influential BlackRock Chair and CEO Laurence D. Fink annual letter to CEO’s released in January.

In the letter he outlined how climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects. That companies “cannot achieve long-term profits without embracing purpose and considering the needs of a broad range of stakeholders”.

Finks comments herald to business that increased social senstivity (consideration of others needs) is now needed to survive. And with the study above indicating that the presence of women in teams “enhanced collective social sensitivity” it does lead to an interesting question. Are businesses with more gender mixed team better placed for sucess in this evolving landscape where purpose will be valued just as much as profit by the investment community?

03.Means better sales and profits

Teams with an equal gender mix had better sales and profits than male-dominated teams found a field experiment published in Management Science. The research shows that teams with mixed gender teams tend to me more “generous and egalitarian” but not only that :

Business teams with an equal gender mix perform better than male-dominated teams in terms of sales and profits.

04.Means better products

We know that there appears to be significant differences between male and female “on all presence (i.e the sense of immersion or that something is “real”) subscales”.

The subscales include Spatial Presence, Realness, Sense of Being There.

Research has shown that men generally reported a higher sense of spatial presence, more perceived realism and higher levels of sense of actually being in an experience or environment than women. Although this research had a small sample size the findings has obvious implications for XR development especially for those working in health and gaming / entertainment applications.

If you want to design and develop better XR products and solutions you need to include and design for women.

05. Means more innovation

Research at the University of Granada in Spain have shown that product and process innovation is more positively influenced when the management team of a business is more balanced in number of men and women.  As the paper reported:

Gender diversity in the top management team thus seems to encourage a work climate that stimulates development of new ideas, exchange of knowledge, communication, and trust, while also favoring execution of more processes and routines, and use of resources that are more effective in achieving innovation in products and processes.

On a final note, we look to the words of Karen Sparck Jones, a pioneering British computer scientist who specialised in natural language processing and information retrieval. As Spӓrck Jones once said:


Want to work in a fast growing technology company?

Speaking of gender diversity in newer technologies, Snobal currently has a number of career opportunities open in its engineering, creative and delivery team.

If working in spatial computing, VR and AR are of interest to you or you know someone who might be interested – reach out.

Instructional Experience Designer (currently accepting applications)
XR Developer (Unity / Unreal) (currently accepting applications)
QA Engineer (coming soon – )
Backend Web Software Engineer (coming soon – )
Web Application Software Engineer (coming soon – )

More info –

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Snobal Weekly

How VR & AR is transforming training across engineering & construction

How is virtual reality and augmented reality (XR) disrupting  industries such as engineering and construction across the planning, design, delivery, operations and maintenance phase and more specifically in the the provision of high consequence and safety related training?

This morning at the BICSI annual expo in the Melbourne Convention + Exhibition Centre the conversation was all about the business applications and impact being created by leveraging newer technologies like XR for the building environment and safety related training. [BISCI is a professional association supporting the information and communications technology (ICT) industry, which covers the spectrum of voice, data, electronic safety & security, audio & video, and building automation technologies.]

Key takeaways from the panel and audience questions revolved around three areas.

  1. XR – all about enterprise: XR has moved beyond the narrow focus of consumers and gaming applications from a few years ago to enterprise applications. And when you look to enterprise applications it’s the engineering and construction sector, as well as high consequence training, where Snobal is seeing tremendous appetite in Australia and globally said Murray James, Co-founder & CEO, Snobal.
  2. Eye on the ROI: An organisation needs to be guided by its strategic vision and the required business impact when applying newer technologies like XR was an area touched on by both speakers Andrew Heinrichs,  Director Safety, Community Safety Building Authority; Dept of Justice and Community Safety and Damien Taylor,  ANZ Manager – Health, Safety, Environment & Quality, SMEC (Member of the Surbana Jurong Group).

    For moderator Paul Stathis, CEO BICSI South Pacific, the topic of organisations being open to embracing risk was acknowledged as an area important in digital transformation and innovation.
  3. The future is now. Leveraging newer technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality will in time become part of an organisations toolbox in delivering learning and development. For Shane Darwin, General Manager – Product and Delivery of registered training organisation JB Hunter, the move to launching a suite of XR training modules – through JBHXR – in 2020 across the telecommunications and safety related market was obvious. It was also inspired by the knowledge that XR holds the ability to enrich workplace training and make the accessible more cost efficient, engaging, measurable and convenient for its clients.

    JBHXR powered by Snobal, will launch a suite of XR training modules like Pole Top Rescue, CPR, First Aid in an ESI Environment and Low Voltage Rescue in Q1 2020 with more to follow. More information here.
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Snobal Weekly

Bold moves and swinging for fences.

This week some of team Snobal are in the City of Angels at a client kickoff event. The theme? Digital transformation.

It’s timely as this week global management consulting company McKinsey & Company’s annual Global Banking Reviews came out and it sounded a death knell for traditional banks.

According to McKinsey & Co. nearly 60% of the world’s banks may not be “economically viable” because their returns aren’t keeping pace with costs and that banks must innovate or risk “becoming footnotes to history”.

Innovation archetypes?

The report divides banks into four banking archetypes or categories and the responses they should take to these broader market forces:

  • Market leaders (reinvest capital in innovation and scale);
  • Resilients (focus on expanding customer base and product offerings and differentiating through innovation);
  • Followers (act quickly to achieve scale, cut costs and transform business models);and;
  • Challenged (merge with similar banks or find a buyer).

Lessons for construction industry

Banking like agriculture and construction is one of the oldest industries and has been around in one form or other since ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Babylon. And yet here it is, according to McKinsey & Co. an industry in turmoil. Changing consumer behaviours, digital disruption and a growing number of players and products all seen as playing a key role.

When we study disruption across industries, there are always clear stages to the lifecycle of a typical attack—from faint signals of experimentation to validated business models to critical mass or at-scale plays. And repeatedly, the reason many incumbents fail, irrespective of their strong ingoing balance sheet and market share, is because of their inability to acknowledge a trend.

According to the report, digital disruption is now occurring at pace, [pp11] and banks need a plan of response. And one of the biggest challenges for traditional banks is the need to invest in overhauling operating models in order to be able to compete with digital offerings. As the report says the amt traditional banks spend on research and development (R&D) is telling when compared to digital disruptors:

while fintechs devote more than 70 percent of their budget to launching and scaling up innovative solutions, banks end up spending just 35 percent of their budget on innovation with the rest spent on legacy architecture.

This finding is as reflected in the recent Benchmarking Innovation Impact 2020 report, sponsored by KPMG, which found companies are allocating more resources to developing and scaling more ambitious and transformational business models and services.

It is a challenging and volatile time for all industries and it shows no signs of abating. It requires as the report says nothing short of some bold moves.

You can read KPMG’s report here and McKinsey’s annual Global Banking Reviews here.

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Snobal Weekly

Australia’s infrastructure innovation imperative

Australia is in the midst of a population boom with its population projected to grow to 40.6 million in 2050. So reports McKinsey & Co in a recently published report on infrastructure in Australia outlining how Australia’s infrastructure sector needs to “innovate across six dimensions”.

the strengths that have propelled Australia to a leadership position in infrastructure planning, design, and delivery will not be sufficient to underpin its future success.

Our key takeaways from the paper on where innovation is needed?

Value through design

Urgent need to make the design phase faster and more collaborative. Key ways to do this outlines the report includes applying agile methodologies and increasing the use of technology solutions.

Technology as avenue to enhance productivity

There are several tools that stand-out for enhancing productivity and “are poised to make transformational changes to project delivery” describes the report.

First up – ‘digital twin as-built’ [p38].

At Snobal we call our digital twin products XR Twins (virtual reality and augmented reality or XR).

Similar to as outlined in the paper an XR Twin uses 3-D models generated by reality-capture technologies such as LiDAR point cloud to create an exact digital replica of a project’s physical environment, thereby enabling:

  • a single source of truth and reduced decision making cycle by ensuring everyone involved in the build is making decisions on the same data’; [XR review]
  • improved “safety by reducing physical presence on site”; [XR learn]
  • enhanced design collaboration with stakeholders and end users [XR review and XR engage].
  • enhanced understanding on built environment asset performance and maintenance for enhanced asset efficiency and sustainability. [XR manage].

You can read the full report here. [Subscription required for free download].

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Snobal Weekly

Keen on pioneering VR and AR art development?

Career pivot: Now is an incredibly exiting time to be a 3D artist who maybe feeling the itch for a career change. Why? It’s all got to do with virtual reality and augmented reality (XR). Many games artist might have originally decided to enter the field because they had the talent, passion and desire to tell stories and entertain in visually innovative and engaging ways. Perhaps their first work was in video games. Or maybe it was in mobile games as they grew in popularity.

Art pioneers: A burgeoning area is now emerging that requires 3D art and design skills. This new area is creating exciting career pathways and opportunities not available before to games artists. It’s also creating opportunities for those with an appetite and with a vision for being ‘pioneers’ in their field. That new field?

Virtual reality and augmented reality (XR) art.

The future of work and living: But we’re not talking about XR art as applied to games or entertainment. Of course there are increasing exciting career opportunities opening here (think Beat Saber). We’re talking about using XR art and design skills into creating amazing immersive AI assisted experiences that will help government decision makers and infrastructure developers design, communicate and understand where we live and work better and faster ensuring that what we build is sustainable and responds better to the needs and requirements of all citizens who live there.

So, if you’re a games artist who is a problem solver, is talented at your craft and keen to hear more about joining this exciting journey we’d love to hear from you. More info here.

More reading on the future of the built environment:

++ Cities of the Future
++ What happens next
++Future of cities

[Image source: Still from Bladerunner].

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Snobal Weekly

The World Is (Not) Male: How gender bias is impacting built environment design

Invisible Women by award-winning campaigner, broadcaster and writer Caroline Criado Perez, which exposes the gender data bias, has just taken out the Royal Society Science Book Prize. She is the fifth woman to win the science prize in five years reports The Guardian.

In the book Criado Perez draws on a range of case studies, stories and new research across government policy, medical research, technology, workplaces, urban planning and the media exposing the biased data and blind spots that excludes women:

Our world is largely built for and by men, in a system that can ignore half the population.

Gender data sexism in the built environment

Take snow clearing. Criado Perez explores how clearing major road arteries as a matter of priority over pavements has privileged men.

Criado Perez’s looked at a small town called Karlskoga in Sweden where the local council did a gender analysis of all their policies.

Women do 75 per cent of the world’s care work and do lots of short interconnected trips (‘trip chaining’ i.e dropping kids at school, picking up groceries, visiting older relatives etc ) as well as tending to use public transport and to walk. Meanwhile men tend to travel in a more simplified way (to and from work).

What Karlskoga council found was that their snow clearing policy was prioritising road clearing over pavement clearing. The council was doing this because women’s trip chaining wasn’t factored in as it wasn’t considered ‘work’. But when the council put a value on the unpaid work women did in terms of GDP it was found to rank the same as travel for ‘paid work’.

So Karlskoga council switched its policy. And found it saved them money.

“…they found that their accident and emergency costs fell dramatically, because pedestrians were dominating the numbers of people who were being admitted for having fallen and injured themselves in icy conditions and women were dominating the pedestrians.”

With the rapid pace of technology development artificial intelligence is going to have an increasing impact on our lives. It has the potential to readdress this gender balance but not if we continue to feed it biased data.

As Criado Perez argues the intervention and participation of women in AI, software development and technology development is critical to readdress the imbalance. This combined with collecting sex and gender dis-aggregation data is vital to ensure the default design is not defaulted to male.

Speaking of AI and technology development in the built environment did you know that Snobal is currently hiring for roles across its product development team? If you’re a software engineer or XR Artist with a passion for transforming how we design and build our cities we would love to hear from you!

More info on Gender Data Bias:
Invisible Women. 99% Invisible, 23 July 2019

+Book Review – Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Perez. Customer Think, 9 Sept 2019

+Humans are making biased algorithms that entrench discrimination — without even trying. ABC, 7 Sept 2019

+Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez – a world designed for men. The Guardian. 28 Feb 2019

+Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men – a review. The Conversation, 23 Mar 2019

+The Pitfalls of Data’s Gender Gap. Scientific American. 1 Apr 2019

+Statistical gender bias. European Institute for Gender Equality

+From Alexa to Siri and the GDPR: The Gendering of Virtual Personal Assistants and the Role of EU Data Protection Law. King’s College London Dickson Poon School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series. Dec 2018

+Too Human: The more “lifelike” simulations are, the less effective they risk becoming. Real Life Mag. 20 May 2019

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Snobal Weekly

Plan B? Helping combat climate change with AI

Starting today until the 27th thousands of students and workers across Australia and 150 other countries will part in the global School Strike for Climate inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.

The strike is about demanding an end to the age of fossil fuels and ensuring our political leaders take real and urgent action.

There is a ticking clock to all this as we know.

The science is undeniable.

But what is also starting to become clearer is the impact technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) can play in combating climate change through more efficient building design, maintenance and monitoring not to mention using data to achieve energy efficiency.

A recently published paper called “Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning” has brought researchers together from a host of research bodies including Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Colorado, Boulder, Universite de Montreal , MIT, Stanford University, Deep Mind, Microsoft, Google and ETH Zurich.

The paper aims to provide an overview of where machine learning (ML – a branch of AI ) can be applied with high impact in the fight against climate change.

Our key takeaways reading the paper?

  1. Enhanced understanding of data: Many areas of transportation lack data, and decision-makers often plan transport infrastructure and policy based on uncertain information. ML can provide information about mobility patterns thereby improving operational efficiency of transport methods that emit significant CO2.
  2. Alternative to meetings: Leveraging newer more immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR) we could potentially replace passenger trips with virtual meetings and help reduce transport per se.
  3. Designing for efficiency: ML can be applied to create more efficient vehicle engines, improved aerodynamics and reducing a vehicle’s weight or tire resistance. through failure detection or material design. [This same thinking can also be applied to built asset design ensuring the design of more sustainable buildings.].
  4. Optimising buildings: Applying technologies to reduce both the cost of build of and greenhouse gas emissions . [Snobal’s XR review springs to mind here which was created with the vision of reducing rework in the construction of complex built environments].

But our key takeaway is collaboration. And all of us taking responsibility to change our behaviour. As the paper highlights:

“…technology alone is not enough – technologies that would reduce climate change have been available for years, but have largely not been adopted at scale by society. While we hope that ML will be useful in reducing the costs associated with climate action, humanity also must decide to act…”

Read:. There is no plan B.

You can read the full research report here.

You might also like:

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Snobal Weekly

Want to push the frontiers of science & technology? Think small.

Punching well above our weight in terms of pushing the boundaries of virtual reality and augmented reality as applied to engineering and construction is what we do well at Snobal.

It’s what we’ve always done well.

It is literally baked into our DNA. Working in an incredibly agile way, always iteratively and collaboratively with clients and with a focus on cross collaboration across disciplines and ideas. It has enabled Snobal to produce as the article says “…markedly more disruptive work than large ones[teams]”. 

But in the world of science and technology it can mean small teams can be underestimated.

Looking at more than 65 million scientific papers, patents, and software projects from the past six decades James Evans, a sociologist at the Staša Milojević who studies the history of science, we can see some reasons why. Evans found that

small teams are far more likely to introduce fresh, disruptive ideas that take science and technology in radically new directions…small teams fuel the future, generating ideas that, if they succeed, will be the source of big-team development.

Evans isn’t alone in this finding.

As reported in this The Atlantic article Indiana University Bloomington researcher Staša Milojević analyzed the titles of 20 million scientific papers and found a similar pattern.

So why are small teams more disruptive?

It’s a question that does not have a clear cut answer.

But the key learning’s we take from the article is that firstly big does not always mean better – especially when you’re talking about groundbreaking ideas and innovation in technology and science.

And secondly, that necessity ( for e.g restricted resources and time?) can sometimes truly be the mother of bold inventions.

Read the full article here on why small teams fuel innovation.

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Snobal Weekly

Top rule when choosing a virtual reality headset for engineering & construction

At Snobal there is one question that we always get asked by clients in engineering, construction and infrastructure development.

In fact it might just be the biggest early client question asked by all enterprise clients at this moment in time.

The question?

What headset will we use?

[Of course this question is closely followed by a lot of other questions. Where do we get the headsets? Are they all tethered? Is enterprise support offered? What other hardware do we need etc etc.]

But back to the question. What headset will we use?

Our answer is nearly always the same.

It depends.

It depends on what are you using the VR environment or application for?

Is it for design collaboration and testing?

Maybe its for high consequence training and you need for workers to be able to self-serve the training experience themselves.

Or perhaps you are wanting to use VR for stakeholder or public engagement?

And of course what is your budget does rank as important with some enterprise-only headsets for eg Varjo costing $5995USD plus a yearly service fee of $995 and requiring a powerful PC and graphics card.

Regardless of what business application you are currently addressing using VR, the number one rule to remember is to work with your VR/AR technology development partner on their recommendation for the best VR headset solution for your business.

Your VR/AR technology development partner should take into account your VR application and what it needs to run effectively, your budget, business requirements, enterprise support needs, any requirement for desktop versus standalone, scale-ability requirements of the virtual environment across diverse geographical locations, geographical availability of headsets and any potential ‘hidden’ hardware costs ensuring you get a VR hardware solution that is the best fit for your business.

For those still curious

he best business VR headset 2019: top virtual reality for enterprise use

The 5 Best VR Headsets in This Reality

[Image courtesy: James DeColling]

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Snobal Weekly


Today we’re taking all things XR. The origins of the term ‘XR’ to be precise.

You’ve heard of the term ‘XR” right? It seems to have risen in popularity the last year. Mid last year to be precise. But what does the term mean and stand for?

Maybe you thought ‘XR’ is shorthand for ‘extended reality’ (i.e a term meaning both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)).

Turns out the term ‘XR” was apparently not created asa shorthand for ‘extended reality’. Instead it can be better described as a ‘unifying’ term. A ‘placeholder’ bringing both VR and AR together:

Want to know more on the origins of the term ‘XR? Listen to this interview of Nick Whiting, Technical Director, XR at Epic Games via Silicon Valley Nick Whiting .io explaining how the term came about and why it was felt the term was needed.

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