The Impact Of AI On Spatial Awareness, And The Effect On Sales Professionals With Charles Durham
Why should sales professionals care about the most recent developments that AI has achieved in spatial awareness? The concept itself is above the heads of most salespeople, but this development has surprising applications in sales that have the potential to radically change the industry as we know it. Chad Burmeister leans into this intriguing topic with Charles Durham, a long-time expert in the virtual reality and AI space. This conversation covers all bases from how AI impacts spatial awareness, how it drives solutions for autonomy, where that technology is headed and how it is going to impact salespeople. You are about to go deeper into AI territory than you would have gone before, so brace yourself and prepare your mind to be blown.
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The Impact Of AI On Spatial Awareness, And The Effect On Sales Professionals With Charles Durham
We are here to go down the AI rabbit hole, probably deeper than you've done in a while. I've got Charles Durham here. He's an early virtual reality guy from the ‘90s. He was the CTO at a couple of different organizations that were acquired and rolled up. He's been in this space for a long time. We're going to get quickly to how does AI impact spatial awareness in technology and drive solutions for autonomy, and all kinds of things around robotics, drones, security and surveillance. We're going to parlay that into knowing that it’s where the technology is headed, how's that going to impact us as salespeople? Before we get into that, I'd like to welcome Charles to the show. Thanks for joining.
Thanks for having me. I'm looking forward to this.
This is going to be exciting. Before we go into the technology aspect, tell us a bit about you. I’d like to have our readers understand how did you get to this point in life? If you put your raft in the river and the river starts to take you down, how do you end up on the river you're on? What do you study in school? If you go back to when you were younger, what was your passion that got you from there to here?
Early on, it was interesting, I was about twelve years old. Sears and Roebuck back at the time, the big model that we thought would be here forever and ever, they had a computer, a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A. I had gotten that for Christmas. I would be picking up these magazines called Byte Magazine, typing in these programs and solving these problems. From that point on, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to use technology to be able to calculate, analyze things, solve problems and expand what we can do normally with the power of computers. I stepped through the line, used a bunch of different computers and writing programs. I was always driving a lot of my teachers in high school nuts because by the time they were getting ready to teach me stuff, I was teaching them.
I ended up going to Lock Haven University to study Computer Science, and drove those professors nuts as well. I had a great experience there. I was well-versed in Computer Science, so I branched off and did a lot of leadership-based things, joining fraternity and student council, and started to engage. Computers and technology are great. You hear the geeky computer guys, and they have trouble talking with people. I started to realize that's one of the areas where I felt I was getting a good set of traction with being able to motivate and energize people. Translate reality into what we're going to do with these very step-by-step concepts of computer technology.
In 1993, I graduated, I did a couple of some basic jobs, translating code for some updates, some base level work at a bank doing some computer programming for a project there that I had a chance to work on with Anderson Consulting. At the end of that, I had accomplished so much there that I was a bit bored. One year into working, I branched off with a partner of mine who was an IT guy there. We started a web development business. Fun fact there, web was early. We did have a discussion. I almost got to do Michael Bell's first website. It was a neat conversation that we had, and he was talking to us and said, “We're a computer company, we should be able to figure it out. We're going to try this HTML stuff first.”
Early on in what web and connected tech was, we didn't realize how early on we were and how much this would turn into business. Being engaged in that and pushing the technology concept was quite a ride for us. That's where we made a huge impact was in web and connected technology. How are we disseminating this information and letting companies process remotely well before even some of the terms of internet and extranet were coined, we were building those. We called them non-public secured websites. It was neat because once somebody came up with a term, I'm like, “That's the term.” It was either in our marketing material and to describe to people.
I remembered the Apple IIe was my first in 1984. I was born in ‘73, so I would have been eleven and programming on the Apple IIe. It was 2,400 baud modem. It went to 48 and then it went to 96 or 12 something. I remember hearing that buzz when you turn it on, the two tones. My programming was Choose Your Own Adventure books. What I learned quickly is if you want to keep your creative mind intact, then you can't do 010 and 020, you have to do 100. I got up into the thousands and then you can add into the middle. I can still remember all that fun rabbit hole stuff. My son is an Engineering student at Colorado School of Mines and he's learning C++. He did a twenty-hour sprint. At first he's like, “Dad, this is going to be hard. It's the hardest class I've ever done.” Yet, he's super high on the SAT scale. He's got the mind of a mathematician. I talked to him and he said, “Dad, I get it. Now I can cruise through this.” It’s amazing that level of skillset. In just twenty hours, he'll probably go off and do 10,000 hours of programming and become an expert in it, and think in a way that most of the population doesn’t.
Spatial awareness moves us towards a space where virtual reality meets reality.
I have some new guys on that have gotten up to speed on stuff by challenging them and letting them work through it. Most people's apprehension with working with the computer is fear. You'll see kids playing video games and figure all this crazy stuff out. It's not that much different than programming.
Even running a Bitcoin routine, my son was like, “Dad, I discovered this one thing in a game that you can sell for $4,000.” I was like, “What are you talking about?” It's very similar. I hear things like spatial awareness, autonomy and robotics. Some people in the business sales world, it's right over their head. If you were to talk about it from a layman's term, think about the Thanksgiving Day Parade and you've got two people that are physically there at the Rose Bowl Parade, and then you've got one person who’s in Tokyo, Japan or something. Tell us about that vision and then we can parlay it into the sales.
The concept of the spatial awareness works around LIDAR. People have seen it on TV, the militaries flying a plane and it's analyzing, it's bouncing lasers off the ground and creating essentially a 3D model in memory. LIDAR, these big things that would be running on the biggest planes or big devices, they're getting smaller and smaller to the point where the next upcoming iPhone is going to have time of flight, essentially a way to scan 3D. The first use that people have is, “I can scan my room, look at it and add a chair. It knows the floor where they had the chair and how far away it is. I can use it to measure,” which is a lot of the great things. People look at Pokémon. The company that created Pokémon has bought one of these companies that's doing some more of the spatial because they used to figure it out where the floor or ground was and be able to put something on it.
Now, you’re going to be able to understand there's a room, a space, a corner and exactly what the dimensions are there. If you think about your phone can be giving information about where you're at and what is going on in the room. Using some of that technology, if we talk about the automation part, at some point with the high-speed networking with 5G and things that Musk is working on, we'll be able to send all of that massive data to a network. We'll have cars communicating with phones and with other devices such as streetlamps or stop signs, so that a car isn't using the computer and the vision to figure it out, but we'll know there's physically something here and here are the dimensions of it.
We’re fully interacting, where virtual reality meets reality.
We've seen a lot of these techniques and you've seen it even in Facebook. Did you ever see the 3D with Facebook? It's using a lot of computer vision, which is using AI to figure out and stitch what's there. What it doesn't have is the real spatial. A great example is let’s say you have dark hair and there's a black border on the back, and there's not enough contrast, it might distinguish it. When your head turns, you see this weird stretch on the black. It’s the same thing with highlighted surfaces, if you're using a computer vision and the AI around computer vision, you're missing some of the real data because the visual cues that the computer can use from the camera are lost.
Combine that with the depth information. We have actual spatial information the computer can work off of. We have a check and balance between what it sees and what it knows to be able to have a way more accurate representation of what is there and what it looks like. In terms of robots being able to interact and move things, pick up, all the things can happen in terms of work that the computer and automation can do is going to be more finite and precise. We'll be constantly feeding dynamic information about how our world changes. It's got a lot of interesting implications if you think about it in terms of sales and marketing, we will know if there's crowds. We may be able to utilize that to be able to direct people in the right location. In terms of security, it could be valuable for a large building and a security staff to be able to understand if a bad situation is going on. They'll know physically where the people are. You always see the fire department running in and saying, “Who's in the building?” With this network technology, they’ll know before they even show up.
Instead of a heat seeker, it's all built into the network.
There will be some new levels of privacy concerns as we look at the picture. I hate to say, but we'll know what your volume is. There will be a challenge of, “Somebody knows how chubby I am.” It's spatial data, you’re measured as part of that spatial data. There will be some responsibilities in terms of how we handle privacy and what we do with that. All the great technology we have usually comes a whole other side of that. It creates different jobs. Before we had a lot of this internet and connected technology, we didn't need a whole group of people that do cybersecurity.
Also cyber ethics, AI ethics, there will be a new CEO job and it will be called the Chief Ethics Officer for large companies, just like the CIO had its thing, and that came out of nowhere. The Chief Procurement Officer came. I talked to the CEO of Ariba, it's a friend of the family, Larry Mueller. He said, “We invented the whole Chief Procurement Officer concept by going out and talking to companies.” The same thing happens with Ethics Officers. I went to Utah and there's this park there called Evermore Park. It's exactly a virtual reality meets reality, where they've gotten offers from major companies and movie studios that have said, “We want that.” They've got these characters that come in, the storyline changes over time, they merge this other physical real community with this community. Somehow those actors and actresses have come into this park.
I was losing me, but my son who plays games online all the time would be probably, “This is exactly true.” They used AI algorithms, speaking of spatial. The park was closed and they didn't know it when they booked the CEO retreat that the park would be closed that particular day. One of the cofounders of the place walked us through the park and he goes, “Before we opened, we ran an AI test and we would see where the physical people would congregate, what they would talk about. We would know then of these 80 actors where to send them to instigate a certain type of conversation on the street corner. There's this ghoul that's sitting over here, there's this other room and castle over here.” They checked it all with AI and inserted and injected people into this. That's the stuff we're talking about.
We're already dealing a lot with this in being connected in social networks, “Am I being influenced?” The answer is always you've been influenced, whether it's by your family, friends, news, movies and shows you watch. We're always trying to tell a story to get an idea across, to influence people. We're always doing it. It's a natural thing. What's fearful for a lot of people is it's at this grander scale where it's harder to understand. You don't know all of the people and you're far away from them. That brings this level of fear and disconnectedness.
An interesting avenue is with some of the stuff with VR, using the spatial, my face can be in there and I could be talking to somebody and they see me and my gestures. Microsoft acquired this thing called Altspace, which is a VR chat. I got lost at some point in my mind because I was in depth with it. I was having the conversation with another person and it didn't even matter to me that there was a weird-looking avatar, their hand and head gestures and the voice back and forth. We had fairly deep conversations about stuff that were more engaging than even a Zoom call where you're moving around, and that spatial-ness adds another level of connection.
Was it Second Life? I assume that's still around.
They've been working on some more VR stuff, but there's a number of ones out there, AltspaceVR and some of those. It brings people some different connections. For the kids playing video games, it's a natural transition for them to be communicating in there. It's a weird way of socializing, but it does add some level to it. It is better than this message thread that's going on in Facebook. You get at least some feedback, head moving, a nod, things that you don't get when you're typing back and forth. When we're talking about spatial, we've been using a lot of avatars but now, you'll see this with the spatial tech if we can scan our face, then we can be the avatar. The danger and the concern, is that avatar an actual person or some well-done CGI? We won't know. What if we have a customer support agent that's not real, but it responds to us well and we feel satisfied about that customer service experience? Was it wrong that it wasn't a real person? I don't know. Was it great that we were able to have a better connection, even if it was a fake person but it solved the problem? We felt more connected to him. That emotional connection is a challenging scenario.
It’s Black Mirror-ish. The conversation we're having is full Black Mirror. I have a virtual assistant that's reaching out on my behalf, booking me on other people's podcasts. They booked me on a TV show and then they interact with the person and answer questions through email. You can see the level of confusion sometimes when I expose that to someone, usually I don't. Usually it's like, “You met with Alyssa. Alyssa was amazing. She helped you book a meeting with me, we're here.” They'll say something like, “Alyssa was helpful. She answered some questions. Very rarely do they ever ask the question, “Is Alyssa a real person?” because they don't care. They got what they needed from the interaction with Alyssa.
The accelerated rate at which technology lets us do things is also causing us grander problems.
Their engagement felt natural to them. There was nothing nefarious about it. It did what it needed to do. If we talk about sales, we talked about some of the marketing things in the brands. They're trying to look at ways to connect with people, whether that's pre-recorded stuff, spokespeople that might be modeled and set up in there. You still feel a better connection. It’s much more of an emotional world. If we can use this technology to make people feel more connected, they're a little less fearful. It may flip the gear and it may cause more fear if they realize it wasn't real and they were tricked.
What I view from the top of funnel, because that's where my company focuses, if I can use these kinds of approaches to get someone to the human-human conversation, that's valuable. What it does is it puts pressure on the third leg of the stool of being more of a human. When you're in that physical conversation, most of the time, or at least for me growing up, I was a surface level thinker. I wouldn't get under the cranial matter with another human being. I didn't have the skill and the muscle. It's interesting because generally, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, we're programmed in different ways. Women tend to have a higher level of EQ and will be in an interesting position to influence the types of bot communication that happened. The gender pay gap starts to close more rapidly because the skillset is more of a requirement than it was in the past.
Everybody is concerned about where this will go, fake news and everything. In my exposure with working with a number of different brands and some of the bigger companies that are working, using this data and trying to engage with you to give you delivery of something that's closer to what you may want. They're not wasting their time. They're also potentially giving you something that's closer. Are they influencing you? Everybody always is. They're also trying to figure out what attracts you, which makes what they do or what they present better. If they can make an emotional connection, then you'll remember them. People do like that. We go to a local restaurant and we make friends, we know the owner and they know about us.
If you go to Nordstrom and they know or a certain hotel and they're like, “Mr. Burmeister, you get this floor and this pillow.” That’s cool, it's customed to me and that's a good thing. You may have an opinion on this or you may not. It feels to me that in 2020, there's been a bit of demonization around technologists and they're trying to put it in a box and say, “This is evil and bad. That's where you're going with it.” What do you think the reason for that is?
I use a lot of information, I read a lot of stuff. The social media platforms are allowing everyone to influence everybody. Everybody is questioning, “There are these powerful millionaires and networks, what is their agenda?” They're fighting a battle of trying to limit the dangers of people and are demanding that they do. At the same time turning around and going, “Why are you censoring me? You're only showing what you want.” I'm like, “No. It’s what these people wanted.” There are many agendas that a lot of these tech companies are being put in a difficult position. The fact that they're using that to grow their business and do that, it seems like it's evil to build a business if it’s too big. I've got to think that a lot of this stuff is agenda-related to election year.
Some of it will go away in December 2020, and we'll have Christmas and everything will be okay. One story that I'll share with you, Nick Cavuoto is a pastor turned technologist/marketer that can use tools like Facebook to put the right message to the right person at the right time to cause them to do things, sign up for a webinar. There are a lot of powerful digital marketers that can do that. To your point, with spatial, it's going to get even more exponentially interesting to be able to influence people in those ways. What he was concerned about having grown up as his dad was a pastor and then he was a pastor, but he saw politics in religion and he didn't like that. He was like, “What? I'm going to church and this is going on?” He calls it pastoring entrepreneurs. What he wrestles with in his mind is if used for good, you could use this power to influence positive outcomes. I've got on my bookshelf, Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader and Luke, it's always that battle between good and evil. How do you monitor that and put ethical guidelines in place to make sure that the evil is kept in its box?
The accelerated rate at which technology lets us do things is also causing us grander problems in terms of being able to monitor. At one point way back in time before, people are communicating, cities, local newspaper, a lot of your information was fed by the local. Now, we're way connected in not only our nation but through the world. People underestimate how difficult it is for someone to try to do a good thing over this vast thing versus the guy that's trying to pull that bit of evil. It's needle in a haystack.
I'll use my experience from doing some security work. When you talked about White Wolf, one of the things that that was, was a company that was training CIA, Secret Service in terms of cybercrime. This was even way back before all of this stuff was more vast. There wasn't a lot of this home automation, which now we have to be concerned about. There are many communication points and we're open to communication points. There are hardware products that help try to protect you from that to anonymize things. We’re taking all these precautions. There's a huge industry in trying to protect ourselves from all the great things that we allow ourselves to do. Whatever percentage of that is used for nefarious versus good.
My opinion in working with a lot of things and watching in a lot of these different tech companies and tech solutions is I do feel in general, most of the utilization is for good and is for a reason that has good intentions. Especially now and people's sensitivity to it, it's a huge challenge. They're all backed against the wall with privacy and protecting. I don't know what the answer is. There's got to be some middle ground that will feel like it is okay to be tracked or provide us information because we understand the value proposition that we get. With all the things being free and we've become the product, it's hard for people to understand all the things that they get with what they're providing. Before that, to communicate long distance, you would call on the phone, you paid a lot for that. You don't pay to get on a lot of these platforms to communicate with. They have to have some monetary method or they wouldn't exist. It is a challenge. We're extra heightened in emotions. We had something go on early in 2020 that gave us no one to battle against. It was this hidden thing. It spiked up a lot of our fears with a lot of other things that we feel we could fight against and win.
A friend of the family, Robert White, he’s the CEO of a company called Extraordinary People. He teaches people how to go inside and go deep and figure out what's holding you back from being extraordinary. The answer book, it's be and follow your path that your passion puts you on. That's ultimately the answer. It's already written out, your future is going to occur and do it. That's what the answer is. He said based on what's going on, when he would go into companies like Chase, he gave an example of several years ago, and they bought a company. He would go in and they were having head bets and he called it the third thing. He goes, “We would go in and we'd say, you're far here and they're so far there like Republican and Democrat.” What’s the third thing? Sometimes you can manufacture the third thing. If I think of 9/11, that was the third thing. I used to think when I went to New York as a Midwesterner Colorado person, I was like, “How do these people even talk to each other? They're surfaced. They don't talk.” The third thing happened and it was like, “Now I could talk to a cab driver and they're going to give me their life story.”
What's funny is that COVID was the third thing but the wrong way. If you think about it, we had somebody to rally against 9/11. We had something physical, a group and an ideal.
“We’re going to chase you down to the ends of the Earth.”
We still don't even have all the answers. It is this unknown and fear is a crazy driver. As we talk about AI and how we bring that together effectively, we have to overcome a certain level of that fear to have logical conversations. People are worried. That Social Dilemma movie was an interesting one. I feel it like over-dramatized how crazy some of this is. We're not at Terminator level. As a matter of fact, I always try to tell people, truthfully the word “AI,” I don't like when people say that because we're not there. We have a lot of machine learning and a lot of algorithms.
It's early. To me, it’s recognizing that it’s not a 0 or 1.
We sensationalize it a lot in movies. People are drawing correlations between things like Terminator and machines learning stuff. We're all concerned. It's funny we're seeing what's going on with us arguing, what if we had something logical, no emotions, determine whether we should be on the planet or not? That's a scary thought when you talk about AI. If you look at it, the logic says the world would be better off without us there.
You think of the military and they're 10, 20 years ahead. They had drones way back when and that's what caused people to think there were a lot of aliens around. It's probably a floating drone in a lot of cases. I have to wonder if they're twenty years ahead of us in the military, then are they using AI to make some of these decisions around what to do with COVID and protests? There's information warfare that's going on a bit. To the other side, you're right, there are a lot of things that are forgotten, but I also believe there's a lot of information warfare going on. If I think of the debate and then you see the outtakes within minutes or hours or the next day and you're like, “Wait.” Now you can start to connect the dots, because if you were there and you saw the game film and you formulated your own opinions, you get to see the tweets and the Facebook posts and the recaps of it and you go, “I see how you're taking that one little thing on both sides making that be the thing.”
When it comes to AI, we have to overcome a certain level of fear before we can start to have logical conversations.
I do a lot of data analysis, which gets well before the AI. One of the challenges a lot of people have is like, “It's a computer. I’ll figure that out.” There's a human putting that information in a certain way. Sometimes you’ve got to look at how the data is collected. I call this the data detective work that happens before we can even engage with our clients to put together a concept for AI. Do we even have collected data? Did we have enough parameters? Do we even have things that we know are an impact on something? We'll find many times it is a hard pill for a lot of our clients sometimes to swallow is that they'll give us the data and we'll analyze the data. We'll say, “This is what your data is saying.” That's not how our business goes. I’m like, “Explain this. Let me go back to so-and-so asked.” They realized they're like, “We didn't know our business.” I always challenge. You talked to John before, and I challenge him to go like, “I know what I think we can sell, but I need you outside thinking not like me. You have a tendency to manipulate data or seeing the data what you want without some perspective of that.”
Give us an example of one of those. You go into a company, and you may or may not be able to share the brand but give us the general story so that our readers can decide, “This is something that I need to think about doing.”
Here's the great example that I use most of the time to describe why this data can detect the process before we engage in even AI or machine learning or even algorithms. I'll ask somebody, “Here's my business. We do things these five ways. Show me what your data is. I want to track back, here's the logging of all these five things you do.” They're like, “Here's our data back five years.” I go back and I go, “It's the thing in SQL. It’s easy and distinct. Let me see in this call, what are all the values in there?” “We have A, B, C, D and E.” I'm like, “I found Y, Z and Q in there. What happened?” They're like, “Sometimes.” I'm like, “If you're reporting on, are you missing some of the data? Are you not considering the things you've adjusted or humans have adapted?”
As you start to want to train the computer how to do that, those are exceptions that will come up. A lot of times people are like, “This is how we do it.” When you walk them through the data, they're like, “On Tuesday, we did this. Two years ago, we had to do this for a month.” Then it starts painting a picture. That's why a lot of them, when you look at stats and reporting, I'm always questioning that. Another area with data is, “It's always this.” I'm like, “What's this field?” “Somebody put extra characters on so they could identify it for this.” I'm like, “If you're doing a computer algorithm, it's going to not pick that up or not know that's the same.”
What I'm hearing you say is human is still required to a massive level. I think of Chris Beall that I worked with at ConnectAndSell, he's the CEO. He's been in computers and CTO. His view is there are many variables that you can't teach the computer. Your brain can fire on four million neurons at night while you go to bed. It will spit something out to you that a computer could, but you'd have to put in all the variables and it's going to be blind to many variables.
There are aspects of us with empathy or morality and instinct that we make decisions and we move past something even if the logic doesn't make sense or we've never seen it before. A lot of times, the computer can't do that. It's going to go, “The only thing I can do is group it into this.” As humans we would go, “That's ridiculous. We can obviously see it's this.” That's not obvious.
You've heard the trolley car dilemma. Have you heard of that one?
It’s been out for decades. The trolley car dilemma, you'll appreciate this with spatial and everything that you're doing. The trains are going down the tracks, it goes to the right or the left, and you need to decide, you're the conductor. If you're going to try to give that power over to an AI, it can't stop. In the right-hand side, there are five people on the tracks and on the left side, there's one. What do you choose? Simple, one. Let's put the five people in orange jumpsuits. They're chained up and they are chain gang. Let's make it even more difficult. The person on the left side has a cap and gown on, they graduated from school and they're eighteen years old. Then it's your son. If you're driving the train, you might say, “That's not true. There's not a right or a left. The other option is to derail the train.” Let’s go outside the box, the computer can only think inside the box.
Plus, it can't make a moral judgment. There's no good choice. There's what I would consider the one that I live the most with.
The lesser of two evils.
We talked about that with the automated car scenario. You're going down the street and there are two lanes and your car is going too fast, it cannot physically stop. You have no physics to be able to swerve enough to totally miss one or the other option. In one lane is a woman with a baby and another lane are school kids. One of the aspects that everybody brings up in the AI and the true AI thing is like, “What is a car view for that?” The car goes, “This is what I'm capable of doing.” A human may go, “Maybe if I whip the wheel as hard as I can, I'm going to spin the car. I’ll take the risk to me.”
I talked to an Uber driver once in Galveston, Texas. I went from Houston to Galveston, this guy drove me down across the bridge. I said, “What do you think of auto-driving cars? You're an Uber driver.” He said, “It's going to make it a lot safer for everyone involved in driving cars.” If you run the math and you say, “That situation happens 1 in 10 million rides. What about the other nine million-plus?” The automated car driving technology made way better decisions. You look at the accident rate, the death rate, all of it and it's better. Humans, we're too emotional and we're going to go, “That one situation, we need to shut it down completely. We're going to sue the car driving company.” It's like, “You saved eight million people.”
We're fearful of things outside our control. When we give up control, it’s difficult for us. The auto industry has done a great job. They started off with giving us blind spot indicators so we would get comfortable over time. That's been around for a long time. If you look at the progression of the things that they've given us that get better and better, now we have passive cruise control. We’ve got vehicles now that you can sit in the thing and it will change lanes. We're talking not the automated cars yet, but it's bits in all of these different ones.
Let me give you one. When I did the Utah trip, this is what happened while the matrix was being upgraded while we were all endorsed. I get a GMC truck, a 4X4. I have my backpack on the back seat of the truck. I go pull up to The Castle where the Brilliant Minds group was meeting. I opened the door. It didn't even have a shifter. It was just buttons on the panel by the way. You push the button, forward, reverse and park. It took me five minutes to figure out where all that stuff was. That was weird. I go park at The Castle, I get out and I'm on the phone. The interruption was, “You have something on your backseat. Do you need to take it out?” It prints that on the screen. It even said it to me, if I'm not mistaken. It saved me the time because I grabbed my backpack while I was on the phone. I grabbed it and I went in. My computer is in there and other stuff. Think of the safety effect and feature that does. If you live in Arizona, it's 120-degree heat and you have your cat in the back or worse yet your child, because you're frantic and you're late for an appointment. You go into the grocery store and you forgot that day you’re Mr. Mom, because your wife does that trip or vice versa. You saved people's lives because of that little thing that is in the back.
I'm biased because I'm looking for opportunities to utilize technology to improve things. I lived that model. I'm not fearful of tech, I'm excited about it and I'm engaged. It makes it easy for me to be comfortable with that because I also dig into how it works. It feels a lot safer to me. With where a lot of the things are going, I feel like there's so much that's great for us. There are a lot of things we're fighting over, there are sometimes smaller percentages when we realize. A lot of it is because we can hear about it easy, we don't necessarily know that.
It takes humans to think outside the box. AI can only think inside.
You’ve got to think of who's demonizing it and making it evil. It's people who have billions of dollars tied up in the old way of doing things is the bottom line.
Even with the sales idea, the whole point is we want to drive sales forward. We want to convince people that we have what they want, and they want to spend on this.
When would someone reach out to your company to bring you in and help them diagnose a problem? Is it a $100,000 problem that you fix, a $1 million problem or a $50 problem? Help us understand the size of the problems that you’re solving.
There's a decent range. We're not a big company here in Lancaster. We’re nimble enough in terms of we don't need the Fortune 100 and 500 clients. We like the fact that we're working with some of those and they're great. Even with them, sometimes we're doing maybe a small prototype. It could be a $20,000, $30,000 deal. Other times, it's multi-year deals and we're talking those are million-dollar contracts or multiple phases of a few hundred thousand dollars. What's nice and what I love about we're being in a solution space is the first step is to have that meeting and see if we can do enough information that we can propose what that is. We've also done initial engagements where we might charge for a week or two to come in and analyze it.
If there is a problem that can be solved or not.
We have once or twice run across a scenario where they were fine. We had one and it was one of those things where I tell my guys, I want everything that we do to be a moral good decision benefit for the client. I want a win-win. We have engagement like, “We want you guys to build this for us.” We’re like, “Show us your system that we're going to connect with.” “This is going to be free for you because I can't even bring myself to put together a proposal. I'm going to show you how to turn this option on, on the software that nobody told you but here we are, as we looked into it.” A couple of hours meeting and said, “Turn this on and there's that feature.” They’re like, “We don't need it?” “No, you don't need it.” Sometimes people will ask us for stuff and I want to be honest with them as if they don't need it. Don't do it for the sake of doing it. I always tell everybody, “Think of why are you bothering to do it? Why would you even need it?”
I don't know if you remember, we worked with you in 2018 when we came to market. Scott Sprouls is a representative that was on my team. He worked with you and you signed up for something. We realized partway in, not the right fit for both of us. We split in the middle. I've had salespeople who've come into our org that said, “We’ve got to sell this big $250,000 deal on a $3 million gain in sales.” My view of the world is, “No, I'd rather come in, maybe we align on a $3 million value proposition, but I don't need you to cut me a check for $250,000. Let's start small. Let's dip our toe in the water.”
The one-week engagement or a month in our case, let's figure out if the product is going to fit, make a few pivots along the way. In some cases, we worked with one mask company and help them sell $10 million in masks within eight weeks at the start of COVID. They spent about $8,000 to $12,000 with us, somewhere in there. She sent me a bottle of wine and she's excited. Another mass company that's local in Boulder, we've got them 29 meetings with heads of procurement, $0 in sales. How would you know as the technology provider that company A versus company B would be $10 million versus $0?
You don't know. We've seen small things grow into much more than we expected and we've seen bigger companies with like, “We want to do this little thing.” Going back to yours, I remember that too, we were working with John. I'll say it was a value proposition for us to realize that we needed that. When you guys started working with us, that helped us kicked off. That's part of the reason why I brought John on. We are good at doing the solutions. We're not good at doing our own sales of ourselves. What's neat, and I'm glad John's kept in touch with you, is we're putting new strategies together for growth in our sales. We had to figure some things out. Because we did many things so well, we didn't even know how to position what we did.
It's like you fast forward the tape. I look at it as, “We're going to get you to the end of the movie fast.” You go, “I had 200 conversations. I got this much feedback through social. We did this many emails.” It would normally take a human a year or two and $60,000 to $80,000. Instead, you might spend $10,000 and you say, “We're $3,000 into the $10,000, pieces of shares, we're out. We learned through all those activities.”
Going back to the power of AI, there's a client that we've been working with and we've done three initiatives. Two of them, 100% like, “Let's do this for a month with the data that we have and see what we get.” We go, “We learned a lot of stuff.” What we learned is, “We don't think this is the data we want to work with. What about this data?” We did another engagement and now we're building dashboards and KPIs based off of that. It wasn't anything like what they thought it was going to be at the beginning. We learned a lot with you is we have many branches, we had to figure out how to get our parameters down and what we're going to focus on. What was the AI to theory that we needed? We had too many theories, just not constructed enough. It's been a good learning experience for us to narrow things down. Sales is our most challenging thing because, how do you say enough without too much?
It seems like it's coming full circle because we're starting to poke our way into the customer success, client success departments. When we use AI to stitch a video together and when someone buys something and send out a personalized video to them, “Thanks for buying this. Have you thought about buying fries with that hamburger?” What's going to happen is once we start deploying that at scale across large data sets, then do you have the woman do the recording? Do you have the man do the recording? All of those kinds of A/B tests, it's a small enough dataset. When it's an outbound campaign, it's easy, “Here are 2,000 emails a month. We get a low reply rate, the social gets a 10% reply rate.”
Now, you start to add video and communications, upsell, cross-sell with a group that's doing one million emails in a quarter. That's where we'll be calling you back and saying, “It’s time to help us with the big data and analytics.” That will be fun. This has been a fun conversation. It's great to get back in touch with you after a few years here. Let's stay in touch. Everybody, if they want to get a hold of you and they have a big data problem, AI problem to solve, spatial or want to talk to Charles, how would they get ahold of you?
The best thing is to go to our website, which is www.Seisan.com. There are some information and some good case studies, so you can get a sense of what we do. We have some contact stuff in there that'll lead you into John and he'll follow up with me.
We're going to AI this video because we've talked a lot of cool topics. I did one and within the night, our video person spliced it up into six interesting moments. I'm sure he's using an AI on the back end too. We'll get that out to you. Everybody, we'll see you next time. I appreciate your time, Chad. Have an amazing week and we'll catch you on the flip side.