Have a clear vision of where you want to go Have clear KPIs to know if you succeeded Surround yourself with good people Remember that it’s ok to make mistakes Don’t be afraid to change your mind
The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Dana Porter.
Dana Porter is a senior marketing and operations tech executive with experience in global companies such as Amdocs and Microsoft, and most recently as founder at Inception XR. Her expertise includes B2B and B2C product marketing and product management. Dana has been named a top entrepreneur by leading business publications such as Globes and Calcalist.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?
I was raised in a small town in the south of Israel in the desert with a close family and lots of friends.I was always fascinated by the intersection of technology and business, and studied industrial engineering along with a business degree. I worked for many years in large Corporates (Amdocs and Microsoft). When my kids reached school age, I became more interested in the intersection of technology and education and was specifically fascinated by the potential for AR and VR technologies to change people’s lives: It was then that I decided to found my own startup using XR to create amazing interactive experiences — now focused exclusively in the education space.
Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
A decade ago I read the book “Ready Player One” (much better than the movie). It tells the story of a dystopian society on the brink of collapse where people’s main entertainment is to escape into the world of virtual reality. This was the first time I truly understood the potential for XR to transform our daily lives. The story inspired me to work at the forefront of creating amazing immersive XR experiences and to co-found our company, Inception XR.
Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the X Reality industry? We’d love to hear it.
While Ready Player One portrayed XR as an escape, it also highlighted the complexity and richness of the world’s that could be created through XR. This sparked my imagination regarding XR’s immense potential as a force for good in the world.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?
Inception’s initial product was a VR app and we worked with some of the biggest brands in the arts, retail and entertainment to produce new kinds of VR experiences. Our app was highly rated but the market wasn’t big enough. We were “Top 5” in a category that didn’t have enough of an audience: VR was not mainstream and too few people had devices to be able to appreciate its value.
But one thing everyone did have was an AR powered mobile device. So that’s when we decided to pivot from VR to AR. We also realized that the education market was going through enormous changes, incorporating new kinds of technology into the traditional learning experience. So we decided to focus on using AR to offer more exciting and immersive experiences. Our flagship product is Bookful, a reading app for young kids using 3D and AR to bring stories to life.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When we began developing Bookful, we thought of creating an app that worked in conjunction with a physical book. We imagined kids holding a mobile on top of the book, making the characters on the static pages come to life. However, when we conducted our first beta tests, we discovered this concept didn’t work: Kids simply couldn’t hold the book, the phone, and manipulate an app at the same time because “kids don’t have three hands”. This became our trademark phrase when developing our current product, which incorporates books into the device itself, making the experience simpler and more seamless.
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?
I am the CMO and co-founder of Bookful and I have two Amazing co-founders — one is a successful high tech veteren, while the other is a pioneer in the field of animation. One of our seed investors is advisor and board member Gigi Levi. He’s quite well known in Israel and has invested in hundreds of startups. He is the one that brought me and my co-founders together: He knew each of us individually and thought we would make a great team. Every time we needed to make a difficult decision, from our pivot to partnership strategy, he’s been there for us along the way.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Our vision is to revolutionize reading with XR. We are starting with Bookful, our flagship app for kids ages 3–8 which brings books to life in 3D and Augmented reality. Bookful addresses the challenge that kids today are reading less and instead spending lots of time on screens. The rise of Corona only magnified this tendency, with the ever increasing use of screens for school, socializing, gaming and other daily activities.
Whether we like it or not, we believe that screens are here to stay. So rather than fighting unwinnable battles, we decided to make screen time more educational. Bookful encourages kids to read by combining the sophistication of apps and games kids are used to with the literary and developmental benefits parents want. We do this by enriching books with 3D graphics and augmented reality, technology that invites digital characters into kids’ own living rooms. In this way, even new and struggling readers are encouraged to read more.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The VR, AR and MR industries seem so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?
The AR revolution is already upon us. First of all, there is a perfect storm of technologies that make this possible: More powerful GPUs (graphic processing units), advances in computer vision and edge computing, and the ability to quickly process huge amounts of data — not to mention the advent of 5G — are contributing to popularize augmented reality as a technology we use in our daily lives.
I want to call out 5G technology especially: We think that 5G will do to XR what 4G has done for video streaming and 3G did for mobile apps. Because 3D and XR content is richer and “heavier” than traditional 2D video content, 5G enables consumption of higher quality content. Not only are download times nearly instantaneous — but the content is much more immersive.
Furthermore, all the large technology players from Apple to Facebook are working on smart glasses which we believe will be the real game changer in mainstreaming XR. We believe such glasses will have an impact as profound as the smartphone. In fact, according to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, within a decade we will no longer use smartphones. Instead, a suite of AR powered apps that we access through smart glasses will anticipate our every move. So we believe that mixed reality is the future that will revolutionize our day to day lives.
What are the 3 things that concern you about the VR, AR and MR industries? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?
To date, virtual and augmented reality has been used almost exclusively for the good — either for fun, educational and enrichment purposes, as well as to provide better consumer experiences. However, like any technology, it could be used in negative ways, for example violent video games, or there could be issues around date or privacy. So there needs to be more research around the effects of the technology, especially as it becomes more realistic.
We take safety seriously in our product. Kids interact with cute AR characters, where they can do fun things like dance and paint. The app is Kid safe listed, with no ads and no in app purchases.
I think the entertainment aspects of VR, AR and MR are apparent. Can you share with our readers how these industries can help us at work?
I believe XR will help us both at school and at work. That’s because the way we consume information is changing. We’ve moved from simply consulting books and printed texts to reading information digitally. And now we have a huge choice of how we get our information: Just like digital and audiobooks changed the way we consume the written word, we believe that augmented reality will be the next frontier in reading.
So imagine for a moment, a biology student not just reading a textbook, but being able to immerse him/herself or “travel” inside the human heart or brain. The same for finding information at work — rather than just searching on the internet, we will be able to access much more immersive experiences and to consume information in much richer, more meaningful ways.
Are there other ways that VR, AR and MR can improve our lives? Can you explain?
Whereas VR will become more mainstream with the introduction of Smart Glasses or headsets, AR already has huge consumer adoption across many industries. This is because AR can be used on devices we use everyday — our mobile phones!
Kids for example are using AR based filters on snapchat and instagram as well as playing AR games such as Pokeman Go. Retailers and clothing companies are using AR to help us see how a new piece of furniture will look in our living rooms or how a new outfit or accessory will look on us without the need to try it on. So we are already using AR in many parts of our lives, whether we think about it or not. And as the technology improves we think we will become as reliant upon it as we are on our mobile phones today.
Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in broader terms. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? If not, what specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
There is a strong need for women in STEM, as diverse teams simply create better products. However, as an employer I can tell you that there are simply not enough women pursuing technology careers.
In order to truly address this problem, we need to start young — in middle school for example — where we should be encouraging girls to learn STEM professions. We know for a fact that when we do have a more balanced working environment everyone benefits.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about working in your industry? Can you explain what you mean?
People associate AR primarily with things that are fun and “frivolous”, for example snapchat filters or Pokemon Go games. However, both AR and VR can be used for truly life changing purposes — for example sensitizing law enforcement officials, medical simulations used by doctors, or guided meditation and therapy used to improve mental health. Of course, there is a huge opportunity for XR to create exciting and interactive experiences in education and we are working to be the forerunners in this space.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in Tech” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Have a clear vision of where you want to go
- Have clear KPIs to know if you succeeded
- Surround yourself with good people
- Remember that it’s ok to make mistakes
- Don’t be afraid to change your mind
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. 🙂
I am actively involved as a board member in Elem, an organization that helps Youth in DIstress. I believe that helping young people get them back on track in this critical time of life can make a HUGE difference on the rest of their lives and to society at large.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Both Oprah Winfrey and Rees Witherspoon have amazing book clubs with great cultural influence. It would be amazing to meet with influencers who value books as much as we do and discuss the role AR can play in changing these industries. Who knows, maybe one day they will not only recommend books, but will become advocates for our mission — revolutionizing reading through mixed reality!
Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!