Interview with EXO Insights
New AREA member EXO Insights has carved a successful niche in the enterprise AR market as a source of biometric VR/AR solutions that transform and build on existing industrial safety and training standards to move organizations past traditional training methods. Based in Waterloo, Ontario, EXO Insights’ suite of sensors, integrated with VR/AR hardware, collects precise behavioral data generated during sector-specific designed simulations.
The EXO Analytics engine then consolidates trainees’ knowledge and behavioral data to provide organizations with actionable insights to improve industrial safety and productivity. We spoke to the company’s CEO, Fernando Muniz-Simas to learn more about EXO Insights and its unique AR-based solutions.
AREA: Welcome to the AREA, Fernando. Tell us how EXO Insights started and how you got to where you are today.
Muniz-Simas: The company started unofficially about 15 years ago, pre-Augmented Reality. We began in the Marketing area, doing research for big food conglomerates like Nestlé and Unilever. We were leveraging Virtual Reality as a way of capturing behavioral information for market research through eyetracking. We created simulated supermarket aisles and asked people to reenact their shopping trips. It was valuable information to our clients because it was unbiased; we simply measured behavior.
While the research was effective, it was very costly. So we began looking at applying our ideas to industrial training applications in the mining industry and our business took off. We established our company here in Canada in 2016 and started working in the energy and defense sectors, always in a mission-critical, high-risk environment.
AREA: Are most of your customers in Canada?
Muniz-Simas: Yes. We also have one customer in Europe and we are working to expand our business across North America.
AREA: Is your strategy to stay in the training space?
Muniz-Simas: Yes. We are also strongly focused on research. We’re very close to an important research university, the University of Waterloo, and this whole area is a great center of innovation and entrepreneurship. There are two components to our work: using sensors that measure behavior; and making that information meaningful. We could be measuring heart rate and stress, for example, but is that information meaningful to the task at hand? Research is fundamental for us.
AREA: Who’s a typical EXO Insights customer and what are they doing with your solutions?
Muniz-Simas: A good example is nuclear power generation. They are tremendously focused on safety, for a very good reason. It’s a very good match for our simulation capabilities, because we’re not really focused on training per se, but on the finer points of how behavior affects the outcomes of your training or how you perform your work. There are two ways to improve skills: classroom training and human performance – how you improve the way you do your work. It’s not necessarily related to specific skills. For example, the nuclear industry trains some of its operators in flight simulators. It’s as advanced as you get. It’s high-risk, mission-critical work.
EXO Insights helps them improve human performance by delivers training that is as close to reality as possible. Leveraging state-of-the-art VR, AR, and biometric technologies, we create a safe and hyper-real training experience that allows workers to rehearse critical tasks and put their learning to the test in a safe, simulated workplace. Simulation allows workers and organizations to safely fail, so they can learn from those failures and ensure they are not repeated in real life.
AREA: Tell us why you joined the AREA and what you hope to get out of your membership.
Muniz-Simas: Since coming to Canada four years ago, we’ve essentially become a startup again, so we’re looking for ways to learn how things are done here. I’ve always had the AREA close to my heart. The organization has always had open arms and has freely shared some really great information – for example, the ROI Calculator. There’s a lot of great thinking behind that. We saw a lot of value in the AREA and a lot of correctly-focused initiatives that will strengthen the AR ecosystem. It’s a very solid organization with some very important members. It’s something we felt we had to participate in and contribute to.