Antony Vitillo of ‘New Technology Walkers’: “Your network is one of the biggest assets that you have”

Virtual and augmented realities will probably be the next technological platform after the smartphones, so they have the potential to revolutionize the lives of us all. Virtual Reality can make people “teleport” to virtual universes, and for instance, living magic adventures with their friends. Augmented Reality instead can improve the experience that people have in […]

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Virtual and augmented realities will probably be the next technological platform after the smartphones, so they have the potential to revolutionize the lives of us all. Virtual Reality can make people “teleport” to virtual universes, and for instance, living magic adventures with their friends. Augmented Reality instead can improve the experience that people have in the real world, for instance with a 3D digital assistant that helps the user in every moment of his/her life. The potential is enormous.

Talking about things I’m personally working on, the virtual concerts, exhibitions, and festivals are what has the most potential of helping people. You can wear a virtual reality headset and from the comfort of your home, you can see yourself in a digital venue where there is some performance happening. And together with you, there can be other people from all over the world, that are there to attend the same event and have fun with you.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Antony Vitillo (aka “Skarredghost”), an AR/VR consultant and blogger. His blog The Ghost Howls has been awarded many times as one of the “Top 50 virtual reality websites” and he has held talks in important conferences like AWE, View Conference, and WCVRI. His works include innovative projects like a system to provide full-body virtual reality without wearing sensors; a mixed reality fitness game called HitMotion: Reloaded, developed with his team New Technology Walkers and the support of HTC; a concert of the electronic-music legend Jean-Michel Jarre held completely in virtual reality and followed in streaming by more than 600,000 people.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My pleasure to be here talking with you! My story began in 2014, when a previous classmate of mine, Gianni Rosa Gallina, asked me if I wanted to join him in his entrepreneurial adventure. He wanted to start a business using some cool new technology and he knew that I was nerdy and crazy enough to start this adventure with him.

It was 2014, and we two had seen those amazing videos about the Google Glasses, that promised a device that you could wear on your face and enter the future of technology. In the spot, they promised you could have a device always on your face to help you in your daily tasks, like staying in touch with your friends or finding the best way to reach a restaurant, in a completely natural way. We paid 1500 dollars to buy a pair of Google Glass, to then discover that they were terrible and unusable. They were just a tech prototype, far distant from the futuristic gadget that had been promised us in the videos.

We were disappointed, but my buddy was a smart man, and he had a plan B: the Oculus Rift DK 2. This was a devkit (that is, something more than a prototype) of a virtual reality headset. I remember when I tried it the first time in the office: the graphics were mediocre, I could see the pixels on the screen, the interactions were clunky, and in few minutes I wanted to vomit (My stomach said: “You choose, either VR or me!”). But, WOW, I had these goggles on my face and I was teleported in a villa in Tuscany, it was like magic. I can’t describe the feeling to who has never tried VR, and videos on Youtube don’t give justice to how it is amazing. That moment I decided I wanted to fully dedicate my life to virtual reality. And I have never regretted that decision.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There are many stories I can tell. The VR field is so new and so full of opportunities that unexpected things happen to me continuously. For instance, in my blog I have been able to interview high caliber people like the president of HTC China Alvin Wang Graylin; the inventor of the bullet-time in “The Matrix” John Gaeta; the inventor of “The Lion King” Charlie Fink. And for every one of these fantastic people, there is an interesting story to tell about how I met them and what I have learned from them. Curiously, many of these connections have born on Twitter or Linkedin. The piece of advice that I give to people is to always show up inside your communities and provide value to people. In the end, you will get connections that you couldn’t even imagine were possible.

But if I had to share a single story, well, I would probably pick the concert “Alone Together” organized by VrrOOm, where the living legend of electronic music Jean-Michel Jarre performed completely in virtual reality. I was the lead Unity developer in the team, and it was a crazy but very rewarding adventure.

VRrOOm CEO Louis Cacciuttolo contacted us at the end of May 2020 saying that the French Ministry of Culture was looking for new ways to organize its Fete De La Musique (Music Fest), that couldn’t be performed because of the coronavirus. He proposed them to do a full concert in virtual reality, and the Minister agreed. We were all excited by the idea, but then Louis told us that we had only 3 weeks to organize everything. 3 Weeks. From having no idea of the experience, and not even the artist that should have performed, to have a full concert in virtual reality. It was a crazy plan, so of course, I accepted it.

The next three weeks have been a long rush towards the delivery of the concert, and in the end, I can say that we nailed it. Jean-Michel performed on June, 21st in VRChat (a social VR world, think about it like an enhanced Second Life), with live streaming on Youtube and Facebook. More than 2,500 people attended the concert in VRChat and more than 600,000 watched the live stream.

We got many compliments, many people told us that we were innovators because we performed one of the first truly live concerts in virtual reality (many of the other ones are prerecorded). The technologist Robert Scoble told us that it was like going to Coachella while staying at home. But we also got our big share of critics and complaints, because in some of the VRChat worlds the concert experience was not working well.

Here the lesson is: no matter the effort, if you work with cutting edge technologies, you are going to have many problems. You have to find many compromises to make things work from a technical standpoint, and in the end, probably you obtain a much simpler result than you hoped for, and there will be unexpected bugs and problems. But it is very satisfying, it is stimulating, and in the end, you feel like you have helped the whole world in pushing the technology forward.

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Virtual and augmented realities will probably be the next technological platform after the smartphones, so they have the potential to revolutionize the lives of us all. Virtual Reality can make people “teleport” to virtual universes, and for instance, living magic adventures with their friends. Augmented Reality instead can improve the experience that people have in the real world, for instance with a 3D digital assistant that helps the user in every moment of his/her life. The potential is enormous.

Talking about things I’m personally working on, the virtual concerts, exhibitions, and festivals are what has the most potential of helping people. You can wear a virtual reality headset and from the comfort of your home, you can see yourself in a digital venue where there is some performance happening. And together with you, there can be other people from all over the world, that are there to attend the same event and have fun with you.

This is important in a time like the one that we are living now when people can not meet anymore, can’t travel, can’t even hug. And artists are forbidden from giving concerts because of the pandemic. Thanks to these virtual events, artists have a new way to express themselves and can offer concerts in virtual reality. And people can follow them even at home, from the lockdown, and enjoy a nice moment where they can also meet new people without having to move. I remember when during the lockdown I virtually hugged a friend of mine from the United States: it was a while I couldn’t hug people, and I was there at 3 am at home, moving my arms with the controllers in my hands… probably looking like an idiot seen from the outside… but feeling so good in VR because I was finally physically hugging another human being again. It has been a heart-warming experience.

How do you think this might change the world?

Immersive realities are already changing the world: companies are using them to prototype 3D elements faster because people can meet in a virtual space to model 3D objects together; psychologists are using it to improve the treatment for syndromes like PTSD; training in VR has been proven to be much more effective than standard training; and so on.

If I think of the next 20 years, I imagine a world where we all live with AR/VR glasses always in front of our eyes, that guide us in every aspect of our lives, suggesting new places to eat, motivating in exercising, helping us in working, etc… AR glasses have cameras that can always see what we are seeing, and thanks to the progress of AI, 5G and cloud computing, it is possible that these glasses will be able to understand what we have around us and help us in coping with every task, providing visual feedback in front of our eyes. They will also help us in “augmenting” our spaces: now we have to spend 200 dollars to buy a physical TV for our home, but if we have a system that augments our vision, we can spend just 1 dollars for a TV augmented reality app that puts a virtual giant screen in front of our eyes and let us see our TV without the need to buy a home appliance. We won’t need other displays, we won’t need real decorations, because the world we will live in will be a natural mix of real and virtual elements.

In 100 years, thanks to the development of Brain-Computer Interfaces and Artificial Intelligence, we could all live in a virtual world like The Matrix. The real world is a limit, and it has many rules (like the laws of physics) that we can’t break. So why can’t we live all the time in a virtual world where we can fly for instance? It is a fascinating research field and something that may actually happen: Elon Musk is working on a system to connect your brain to an artificial intelligence right now.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

“With great power comes great responsibility”: AR and VR can change the world for the better, and empower our lives, or they can become the ultimate surveillance system. If you have some cameras always installed on your face, the company that runs the operating system of that device can discover everything about your life. There are enormous privacy concerns, and the debates on this topic have just started, considering that one of the companies that is more successful in the field is Facebook, which owns Oculus.

Will there be privacy in a future where we will always be connected? And what about totalitarian regimes that will have the ultimate control machine being able to see the lives of all people? It could become very dystopian, even much worse than what Orwell imagined for 1984.

We need clear user data management rules in AR/VR to avoid these problems. We must define the privacy regulation now that the technology is still not widespread. Most data should be processed on the device and only the necessary ones should be transmitted to the cloud.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

My tipping point with AR and VR has happened almost immediately, the first day that I tried the Oculus DK 2 and I decided I never wanted to come back again.

As for the virtual festivals and concerts I talked about before, it has been the meeting with Louis Cacciuttolo, which happened inside a WeChat community about VR (The “XR Story” group). We both love VR and we both love China, so we were both inside these virtual communities in WeChat. He was thinking about doing some virtual festivals, and he needed a tech guy to help him, so I decided to join his quest. As soon as I saw the first people joining the virtual festivals from all over the world, and having fun there by admiring artistic experience, I understood the amazing potential of this technology in connecting people and in spreading art and culture. With the first festival, “Break Down Those Walls”, I already understood that I wanted to keep working on it.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Here it is not a matter of what “I” need, but more of what AR and VR in general need. The technology must evolve, and become more user friendly, offer better performances, and better content at a cheaper price. And we’re getting there: the recent success of the Oculus Quest is proving that with the right combination of good content and affordable price, virtual reality can become popular.

The more VR headsets are around, the more people can join these virtual festivals and enjoy some art in VR. Widespread adoption will come, probably in 2–3 years, according to analysts.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

I have not made any innovative marketing stunts. For all the things I’ve done, like the “Alone Together” concert, or the mixed reality fitness game “HitMotion: Reloaded”, I just used the standard marketing tools. Being a blogger, I also use my blog and my social media accounts to talk about what I’m doing, and this has proven to be very effective to generate awareness on my work.

Since the VR field is a niche, we more or less all know each other, so it was nice that when I asked all the most popular AR/VR influencers to help me in spreading the voice about our fitness game, many of them accepted helping me and shared my story with their communities. It was very good for the marketing of the game, and it was especially heartwarming to see that in my community there were so many people willing to help.

This hasn’t happened by chance, but because I’m the first person willing to help others in succeeding. Remember, if you provide value to others, many people will be grateful to you and will be willing to help you.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Many people helped me in getting here. I can’t exactly choose one, so let me at least take two: Gianni Rosa Gallina and Massimiliano Ariani.

I’ve already explained to you how Gianni was important to draw me into immersive realities in 2014, but what most people don’t know is that he was also the one that let me become an “influencer” (even if I don’t like this word).

In 2015, he suggested me to use Twitter to help to spread the word about the work we were doing at our startup Immotionar. I had no willingness to waste my time on social media and I was too lazy to open an account there, so he advised me to recover an old account of mine that I created when I wanted to become an indie game developer with him. I asked him “What? The one of the ‘Skarredghost’? Really? That one has never worked and I abandoned it two years ago”. He insisted, so in the end, I recovered the account. For the first weeks, he also sent me the news to share on my feed, because I was too lazy to read the online magazines about VR. The result was that I started gaining followers very fast, much more than him that was sharing the same links. Maybe it was luck, maybe it was because I used the right hashtags, or maybe because I also put my personality in my tweets. Whatever was the reason, this suggestion of his led me to my current role of “evangelist” (another word I don’t like).

Massimiliano (Max), instead, was the guy with which I founded the consultancy agency New Technology Walkers when the startup Immotionar failed. He has been and still is very important for me because he comes from an artistic background, so he taught me a lot about creativity, art, UX, and also about communication.

He has helped me in learning how to properly do a Youtube video. I still remember the travels we did together so that I could attend VR events and make Youtube videos and articles about them. At Gamescom, in 2018, he almost didn’t sleep because every night, after a terrible dinner bought next to the Airbnb we rent, he had to edit the videos of the interviews that we did during the day and upload them on Youtube… I think in the end he wanted to kill me! Gamescom was the first big event I attended, and while I was a bit shy and confused in front of the camera, he was there confidently guiding me all the time.

He’s very good at mixing art and technology, and he did the humble cameraman for me when he’s actually a great UX and game designer. I’m very thankful because he has helped me to level-up my communication skills.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

On my blog and social media channels, I like to give visibility to whoever I can. I tweet about indie games, VR startups, immersive projects, and so on. It is my way to support the people in my community, also the ones that have a low marketing budget and get no attention from the big VR magazines.

There are some nice stories about that: for instance, one day a guy sent me an e-mail pitch about his project on Kickstarter. The e-mail was not written enough well to get the attention of a journalist, but I decided to give him an opportunity the same, and I listened to his story. This man, called Jason Moore, was trying to bring improvisational theater to virtual reality with a project called “MetaMovie”. It was an amazing idea, so I wrote an article about it on my blog, 2 days before the end of his Kickstarter campaign. Thanks to my post, he had a little spike in traffic on Kickstarter, and he reached his goal of 10,000€. He is now performing those shows on NeosVR (another social VR space) and The MetaMovie is getting some attention. I’m very proud of it.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

  1. “A startup is all about money”. I made my first startup Immotionar always thinking about doing something technologically perfect and never thinking about the product-market fit, that is building something that people would pay for. The startup of course died. No matter the passion, the product, the team, the technology, if your startup doesn’t make money, it is doomed to fail. Think about money first, all the rest comes in second place.
  2. “Marketing is as important as development”. As a techie, I thought that if you make a good product, it will sell itself, thanks to the magical “word of mouth”. Well, it is not going to happen: shipping a product without marketing is like winking at a woman in a dark room… she is not going to see you. My blog is helping me in giving visibility to my projects, and it requires me a lot of time that I have to remove from development, but it is paying off;
  3. “Succeeding is hard”. I mean, I knew it even before starting, but I couldn’t realize how much it is hard. It requires a lot of time and effort, and you risk losing relationships with your friends and relatives because of that. Once my father said that I should give him a photo of mine so that he remembers how is my face since he doesn’t see me anymore. Before embarking into an entrepreneurial adventure think if you are willing to sacrifice a big part of your life for work;
  4. “Doing business with your friends is not a good idea”. Startup life puts you under big pressure, and usually, in these conditions, it is easy to argue with other people. If you are doing business with your wife or with your friends, you risk ruining your relationships with them. If instead they are not your peers, but they work for you, it is even worse, because you usually don’t dare to tell them what they are doing wrong. In any case, the best is working with people that you esteem, but that are not close friends. I have ruined some good personal relationships because of work-related problems;
  5. “Your network is one of the biggest assets that you have”. This is one sentence that I tell everyone: if you have a network full of interesting people, that create lots of opportunities, it will be much easier to succeed. For instance, thanks to my blogging gig I got to know HTC China president Alvin Wang Graylin and sometimes we exchange some opinions on social media. When HTC was looking for games for its new upcoming Vive Focus Plus headset, it was very easy to get in contact with the company and discuss a collaboration, that in the end lead to the release of HitMotion. Without this connection, getting in touch with a big corporate like HTC would have been very difficult. The connections you have can open possibilities that you still don’t know about. But remember that they should be true friends to you, you shouldn’t go around connecting to people so that you can exploit them later on. You should give value and then obtain value back.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Oh, that’s a very good question, and honestly, I don’t know what to say. If I had to create a movement, it would be about helping others in creating a better world.

I’m not talking about great goals like ending world hunger (well, that would be great, though), but in being ready to provide value to the people around us in their daily struggles. A network of people that help each other when they are in need, depending on their capabilities, even in little actions, like giving life lessons, helping in spreading the word about nice projects and giving moral support.

I know that there are already many places on the web where people can connect and help each other, but I still think that the web is too much about “me” and not about “us”. Social media are places where people showcase their lives, where the “selfie” is the leading type of photo, and where there is still too much hate towards who has a different opinion than ours.

I would like that we all become more a community. I know, it’s a utopia, but I try to lead by example.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room”.

Some people think that I’m an expert, but actually, I’ve just learned a lot from the people around me. In the VR communities, I am surrounded by very smart people that just by talking with me give me many insights, that then I elaborate in my mind. I have learned how to design a computer program, how to write a blog article, how to shoot a Youtube video, and many other things by the people that were around me in real life and that knew about the topic.

I felt dumb a lot of times, and it is not a pleasant sensation, but by suffering this way, I have learned many new concepts, and I’ve become a person that now knows about development, business, marketing, writing. I’ve learned all these skills from the smart people around me. I wouldn’t be here writing this article if I hadn’t been the dumbest person in the room many times.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Oh, VCs don’t have 60 seconds, they have much less time because they are very busy!

I would tell them that immersive realities are the future of technology, and they are going to disrupt our perception of technology as we know it. So either they’re going to jump on the train, or they’re going to be hit by it.

Being a blogger, a developer, and an entrepreneur, I have three different points of view on every topic, and many connections with different expertises, so I’m the right person to invest in when it comes to an innovative idea in the AR/VR landscape.

And I have some virtual reality projects I’m working on that can become profitable for an investor, in fitness (HitMotion), online festivals and concerts (VrrOOm), and scalable entertainment (this one is still in stealth mode, so I can’t tell you the name). All of them can disrupt a traditional model with a VR one that enhances their functionalities and their profitability, and that can so make any investor happy.

That would be my pitch of 40 seconds. In the last 20 seconds, I would recreate that scene of Jerry Maguire when Cuba Gooding Jr. dances and sings “Show me the money”.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Here you are some links through which you can follow me!

– Blog:

– Twitter:

– Linkedin:

– Youtube:

Of course, I wouldn’t like people to just follow me, but also interact with me! And if you want a piece of advice or I can help you somehow, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Thanks to you! It was great to have this chat with you 🙂

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