I’m proud and humbled by the growth that Valence experienced in the last year, as businesses persevered through the COVID economy – while also recognizing the importance of technology in the current business environment, looking to the hope and potential unleashed by technology.
In many ways, the pandemic years have been a point of reflection and a time to envision a new path forward for our future-informed business. And in that spirit, we also re-evaluated our position, promise, and understanding of what comes next for us.
So, what is the first thing any digital-aged business needs to do when they have a new story to tell? Update the website! If you are reading this post, you are already on the site in our Insights & Innovation space. Thanks for visiting!
Next, please visit on our new Services page. I am excited to showcase our full range of services here, with Consulting & Digital Strategy delivered by our consultants, Design delivered by our Creative Studio, and Engineering & Development, delivered by our Engineering Studio. Check out what we can do for you – I promise that you will learn something new.
Valence’s end-to-end service offerings support our clients through every step of their digital journey.
Oh, and while I’ve got your attention, we’re hiring! If you want to be a part of this amazing and growing place to work, click through to Careers . I can personally attest to the remarkable strength, culture, and smarts of the Valence team. If you think you want to be part of what’s happening here, please apply.
What’s happening at Valence isn’t happening anywhere else, and I’m so happy to share our story with you.
The Future of Virtual Reality — Key Takeaways from the Oculus Connect Conference (OC6)
Last month, Oculus and Nestle Purina showcased our work at the Oculus Connect 6 Conference (aka: OC6) which we attended in San Jose CA. The conference looks at the future of virtual reality, and we want to share what we learned.
OC6 opened with a Keynote by Facebook Founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. In this opening, Mark shared why he believes Virtual Reality is the universal computing platform everyone will use in the future. Here are some important takeaways we noted from our time at OC6.
Empathy Training Using VR
Through the research and understanding of what makes a great connected human experience, Oculus is finding ways to apply the three dimensions on closeness in human relationships (Frequency of interaction, Diversity of Interactions, and Impact of the Experience) to Virtual Reality (VR). This leading research will enhance and improve not just social VR experiences but also business interactions. The enterprise world requires trust as a critical component of any business relationship.
Nothing showed this better than the prototype Oculus Labs displayed where they were able to reconstruct and demonstrate facial expressions in real-time. Of course, it will be a while before the hardware that makes this possible is available in a consumer-friendly form factor and price point, but it’s coming.
Empathy training is a natural use case for VR, especially in the hospitality industry. Hilton used VR to train their employees and help them understand what the guests are feeling under certain conditions. In their experience, the employee actually became the guest and was able to gain a lasting empathetic state for their guests.
Facebook, along with other major companies, is making a huge bet on the future of AR/VR
There’s no doubt that the AR/VR space is continuing to grow. It was apparent at OC6 that major technology companies like Facebook are making a large investment in the development and expansion of that industry, for both consumer and enterprise users. The result will be the sustained growth in adoption, accelerated innovation, and the creation of new types of solutions, hardware, and paradigms to support AR and VR.
AR/VR is about the world around you
A point made repeatedly at OC6 was that the long-term vision of AR is, in fact, to make us more present and aware of the non-digital world around us. Imagine a day where an AR system is accessible through a standard pair of glasses, or even a pair of contacts. At that point, we will work less with devices, and more with subtle, non-intrusive AR systems that allow us to keep more of our attention on our real surroundings. By doing so, AR can actually bring people closer together.
We’re still in the good old days
No one at OC6 was shy about the fact that we’re still in the early days of AR and VR. That means for consumers, developers, and anyone else in this space we are in an exciting time to be working on this technology. Foundational solutions and patterns are still being developed, and the space for innovation will continue to allow for new game changes to enter the arena of AR/VR.
Quest is a game changer
With that said, the Oculus Quest really is a game changer in terms of the VR experience offered, as well as ease of development on that platform. The Oculus is the best in class hardware solutionfor enterprise customers looking to use VR in their daily operations. Oculus announced that the Quest will also soon have hand tracking and therefore, controllers will become optional or only required for certain applications.
Augmented reality won’t just be about headsets
Eventually, augmented reality will be about far more than just VR headsets. With Facebook’s acquisition of CTRL-Labs, it is clear that while the Oculus Quest is the cutting edge for AR/VR today, future iterations of AR will be about how we fully augment our digital experience with the physical. While the idea of truly connecting our brains to a digital system is still far in the future, we’re fast approaching the time when these types of technologies are major parts of the AR/VR roadmap.
We are thrilled to announce today that we have achieved Microsoft Gold Partner Status! This is a huge milestone for the company and one we have been working very hard on across many teams at Valence.
We are big believers in what Microsoft is doing in the cloud with Azure and all the related Azure services. As a digital transformation solution provider, we know that each customer is unique — what “digital” means to them changes depending upon their industry, their company, and their culture. By focusing on a broad spectrum of service offerings spanning cloud-enablement on one end — simply “getting to the cloud” — to full-blown, cutting-edge innovation on the other end (i.e. blockchain, AR/VR, voice & chat, and more), we ensure customers we can meet them where they are in their digital transformation journey.
At Valence we know we can’t do it alone — we need great platform partners and great product and services partners. Being on the “front-line” with customers helping them solve their business challenges provides us unique insight into what products or services we need companies like Microsoft (or others) to build so everyone can achieve their goals. From partner councils to active participation in conferences like Microsoft Inspire, we aim to be one of the best digital solution partners available.
For us this is just the start. It ends our journey of working to become Gold certified, but now sets the foundation for the next phase of growth now that we are Gold certified. We are expanding our reach, our offerings, our team and our customer partners. We are glad you are all along for the ride!
Valence Takes Part in Seattle Interactive Conference
Visionary thinkers seeking disruptive technologies and innovative business models were brought together at the Seattle Interactive Conference(SIC) hosted in downtown Seattle on October 17th and 18th. During the course of two days, thousands of entrepreneurs, online business professionals, executives, and students attended SIC to share inspiration and learn about what is happening at the intersection of technology, creativity, and commerce. Valence was excited to participate in this annual event, and we had many great conversations with people across sectors wanting to learn more about the emerging technologies — and that’s what we do at Valence!
In Valence’s booth, we shared our visions and exhibited how we continuously innovate and help enterprise drive digital transformation through applying modern technologies including AR/VR, artificial intelligence, IoT, voice and chat, blockchain and more.
Valence was especially proud to showcase the fully immersive Space Needle Virtual Reality Tour that many SIC attendees raved about! Valence built this VR tour as part of Seattle’s Space Needle renovation marketing campaign rolled out in spring this year, which allowed local and national journalists to virtually see and feel what visitors would experience when the huge makeover to the Space Needle completed later in summer.
Putting on a VR headset (Samsung Odyessy: Windows Mixed Reality) and stepping onto a custom built haptic stage, within a minute the user would experience the elevator ride up to Space Needle’s observation deck and be looking down at the 500 feet between them and the ground, through a rotating glass floor.
During this virtual tour, those who have a fear of heights were often hesitant to put their foot forward onto the “glass floor” initially, as it felt too real to them, but in the end, they were very amazed by the experience of walking on a rotating glass floor and sitting back on a glass bench floating over the Seattle skyline.
We also brought in a pair of Magic Leap mixed reality glasses to demonstrate how users can interact with not only the 3D digital objects created in a virtual environment mapped to the current room they are in, but also the room and the physical objects inside it. For example, they can add a virtual animal on the coffee table that’s physically in the room; they can walk around and see the animal at different angles. The exhibition area immediately becomes the user’s playground once they put these glasses on, and people are excited about where the mixed reality technology will take them beyond gaming.
Among the visionaries at the conference was Valence’s very own Hannah Mintek, Head of Design, who was on a panel of XR (Mixed Reality) insiders, along with Vinay Narayan from HTC Vive, Andrew Mitrak from HaptX, and Theresa Moore from Pixability to share their insight about how we can make sure the future of XR tech is based on reality.
We had an epic time learning and networking at Seattle Interactive Conference and hope to see you next year!
PSBJ 2018 Washington’s Best Places to Work…we won!
We are so excited to have been named one of the PSBJ Best Places to Work!
What makes a company the “best place to work”? Is it a break room full of delicious food and drinks, catered lunches, unbeatable benefits, or amazing company events? Or, is it the type of work, the people and the management? At Valence, we believe all these things boil down to a company’s culture, and that each company’s culture is unique.
Valence takes pride in our company culture, and last week we won 2nd place in the Puget Sound Business Journals Washington’s 100 Best Places to Work contest for the small company category (10–50 employees)! We are extremely proud of this accomplishment, and it’s a testament to our employees, and the work Valence does every day for our customers. In an extremely competitive market for talent, we aim to set ourselves apart by defining our culture in three ways: career development, benefits, and leadership. By focusing on these three areas, we can effectively contribute to an employee’s journey at Valence.
The first, career development, can mean something different for everyone, however there is an underlying theme that employees want to understand where their career can take them. Therefore, Valence puts a lot of thought into a tailored approach based on individual employee’s needs. We encourage movement between roles and departments, seeking out resources to strengthen and develop skill sets. Through our Innovation Studio and diverse set of projects, we challenge our employees to explore new technologies and manage new business solutions. For example, our Innovation Studio consists of driven employees that meet monthly to create innovative projects focused on real-world problems. We take these ideas and create a platform where our employees can collectively bring these ideas to life. Allowing us to push the knowledge of technology, as well as providing a rewarding learning opportunity for our employees.
Benefits are often the bottom line when employees think about joining a company, and it’s where a company like Valence really differentiates itself. We understand that the total compensation package affects an employee’s family, quality of life and financial situation, so it must be rich and compelling. We offer 19 days of PTO (with no accrual), plus 8 paid Holidays each year. We also offer short-term and long-term disability and life insurance. We believe bringing a new child into a family is a gift, and families should have ample time to adjust and spend quality time, so we offer 12 weeks paid parental leave on top of PTO. For a company our size, this is unheard of. We also pay 100% of our employee and their family’s medical/dental/vision insurance.
It’s no secret we spend as much time in the office as we do at home, so shouldn’t the office be as comfortable as possible? Valence recently moved into a new office space that is outfitted with sit/stand desks, modern interior with plenty of windows for natural light and décor that encourages collaboration and free movement. Our kitchen is always stocked with healthy beverages and snacks, and plenty of coffee. We regularly bring in lunch and treats for our team, especially on hectic weeks. Since we spend so much time with our work family, we encourage our employees to interact with each other off-hours through happy hour’s, team sporting events, company picnics and parties. We believe in regular recognition for outstanding performance and regularly hand out awards at company meetings. We also encourage peer to peer recognition as it is extremely important in on-going facilitation of a cohesive team atmosphere.
Valence recognizes that employees want to work at a place that inspires them. Whether it’s the company direction, trust in the leadership, transparent communication, or ability to contribute to the company’s goals. We create opportunity for this through quarterly all company meetings where we share what is new with the company as well share each individual department progress and wins. We inspire a culture of collaboration, and a flat reporting org that encourages our employees to have easy access to senior leadership, and for leadership to listen to and embrace our employee’s ideas. As a result, we rely on our employees to help mold, shape, and form the company as it grows versus having a leadership team that operates behind closed doors. Valence is a human-centric working place. We understand our employees have lives outside of our work place, and that their ability to balance that life with their work will greatly impact their quality of living inside and outside of the office. Our focus on a human-centric workplace is about making sure our employees can reach their fullest potential in a supportive and connected environment. We are also committed to building an inclusive environment which includes diverse viewpoints, learning from our mistakes, and creating a place where everyone is heard and has a sense of belonging.
Does Valence have all the answers to what it takes to create the perfect company? Not even close. But we do know that it takes a vision about what matters to people and translating that into our company culture. Add in our employees, and their individual contributions and ideas, and the company becomes a great place to work. If we create an environment that encourages people to be open, harness their ideas, think outside the box and couple that with amazing projects and great benefits you get a recipe for success. Success for our employees, our clients and our partners. So, congratulations Valence employees, you earned it!
We are very excited today to share the news that Valence has acquired 8ninths, a leading augmented and virtual reality studio based in Seattle with an office in the wonderful South Lake Union neighborhood. For the last four years, 8ninths has been focused on helping businesses around the world harness the power of augmented and virtual reality. Moving forward they will form a cornerstone of the Valence digital transformation business, alongside other digital transformation technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, robotics, voice, and more.
8ninths was founded by Adam Sheppard and William Lai, both long time Microsoft veterans. About four years ago they decided to jump into the nascent AR/VR market and start to explore new and emerging platforms like Microsoft HoloLens, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and more. We first started partnering with 8ninths about a year ago and got to know Adam, William and the rest of their team and business. Since then our relationship has grown stronger and we found a shared passion for a growing dynamic around “Digital Transformation” in our collective customers. Specifically, 8ninths continued to see that AR/VR solutions would also contain elements of IoT technologies (sensor data), artificial intelligence (automatic image recognition), or voice and chat technologies (speaking to your headset).
All these technologies have entire ecosystems to explore — and require a new set of expertise. This is also exactly what Valence is focused on — bringing these technologies together for customers and creating value for anyone thinking about digital transformation — whether in the C-suite, marketing team, IT departments, lines-of-business, or, frankly, anyone that needs to understand the new and growing landscape of modern technologies. After a few conversations, we decided we would be better together: bring 8ninths expertise in AR/VR to Valence and bring Valence expertise in other technologies to 8ninths. And together we plan to continue to innovate and drive forward our businesses together. We couldn’t be more excited for what the future holds!
Augmented World Expo 2018— a recap through the eyes of Valence
Several of us engineers and developers from Valence spent the last few days of May at the 9th Annual Augmented World Expo (AWE) in Santa Clara, California. Since not everyone could attend, I thought I’d share some insights and impressions, since it was a pretty amazing (um, should I say awe-inspiring?) experience!
Valence was one of the few service providers there, possibly because AR hasn’t reached mass adoption yet. There’s been a ton of interest (remember Pokémon Go?) and some cool demo projects, but it hasn’t fully caught fire. At least not for the mass consumer market. Yet. (More on that below… keep reading!)
Here’s what I DID notice at the Augmented World Expo, though. It looks like wearable AR glasses are making a come-back. For a while, there was mainly just Microsoft’s HoloLens. Of course, that was after the Google Glass experiment, which turned out not to be such a great success. Perhaps it was simply before its time, or perhaps too consumer focused given the $1,500 price tag, or perhaps not focused enough on privacy. Whatever the reason, things went south for a time.
But it definitely looks like the technology is on the rise again, this time more aligned with enterprise and industrial uses. At AWE, there must have been over 30 manufacturers of various grades of mixed reality glasses, screens, etc. Companies like ODG are innovating and creating devices kind of like chunky sunglasses with a phenomenal amount of power and a visual experience that’s top of the line.
There’s a huge variety, too, with multiple kinds of products entering the marketplace. You have full-immersion 3D AR, like HoloLens and the ODG offerings (some of ODG’s products are made for gaming and offer theater-quality visuals).
Then there are industrial or enterprise options for the factory and warehouse. One company that caught our eye was RealWear, which manufactures tough, helmet-mounted AR goggles with voice activation for workers and technicians. These are not 3D or immersive, but they are a way to add data, value, and functionality to the experience — think tutorials on how to make a repair on-site, like while you’re looking at a broken carburetor or wind turbine.
They’re all great for a hands-free, heads-up work experience, say in hazardous environments. Or for adding to 3D development projects, like in real estate or city planning. There’s a lot of interest in the health care field and other commercial uses, as well.
Costs are coming down, but the devices are still expensive. That’s why there is a lot of experimentation all around, and we have yet to see mass adoption or any wide-scale use of this technology, especially in consumer markets. That’s actually a normal pattern for technology adoption, especially when it comes to hardware.
For now, the main energy in AR for consumers seems to be coming from the mobile handset universe. It has started to become widely adopted at this point, with movie premiers using AR to engage fans and grow audiences, IKEA and Home Depot joining the fray to help consumers visualize their purchases, and cosmetics retailer Sephora enabling consumers to try virtual makeup without leaving the house.
Surprisingly, there were very few mobile AR vendors or developers at AWE. I’m not sure why that it is. Maybe because mobile AR has moved from being cool to just being something everyone can do — especially with new tools like Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore. Or perhaps it’s not considered “real” AR, but simply a mobile experience.
At the Augmented World Expo, Tony Parisi, Head of AR/VR ads for Unity and an AWE speaker had a really interesting take on this duality, contrasting the high-end AR headset market for industrial use and the consumer market’s more entertainment-oriented approach to the technology.
At Valence, we add augmented reality or virtual reality experiences for our industrial and enterprise clients, so they can access the best of both worlds at once: the real world in front of them plus the virtual world of critical information, data, and context.
We were awestruck by our time at AWE, and we’re back home imagining the possibilities. Interested in hearing more? Contact us, and we’ll start you off with a demo, to show how remarkable this technology can be!