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Ep. 59 - The Future of Ecommerce Through 3D, Virtual, and Augmented Reality with Sahil Gupta

Sahil Gupta is the founder and CEO of Spase. Spase turns flat photos of products into 3D models. 

Gupta has degrees in Computer Science and Economics from Yale University and has previously worked for SpaceX, Microsoft, and Tesla.

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • [1:07] What is Spase and what does it do for Ecommerce clients?
  • [3:48] The GLB universal type and how it will change Ecommerce and tech
  • [6:15] Do you have to digitize all your products for Ecommerce?
  • [7:22] The hardest part of shopping online
  • [8:23] A photo rendered on a computer is now better than a photo haphazardly taken
  • [9:08] How does having a 3D model help your online store?
  • [10:42] Sponsor: Gorgias gorgias.grsm.io/honest
  • [11:30] What’s next is the consumer use of AR glasses, particular Apple’s
  • [12:35] Sahil’s marketing prediction: Movie Logic


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Sahil Gupta  

If you don't have a model, then nobody will know what your products look like. So, back to your point, which is that it's really about how big can you imagine, where can you place your models inside scenes so that you get the most interesting photos and I think that's really the focus of it.


Chase Clymer  

Welcome to Honest Ecommerce, where we're dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. 


I'm your host Chase Clymer, and I believe running an online business does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. 


If you're struggling with scaling your sales, Electric Eye is here to help. To apply to work with us visit electriceye.io/connect to learn more. Now let's get on with the show.


Hey, everybody, welcome back to another episode of honest ecommerce. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. And today we welcome to the show Sahil Gupta, the CEO of Spase which turns photos of products into 3D models. Welcome to the show.


Sahil Gupta  

Hey, Chase. Thanks for talking with me today.


Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. We had little technical hiccups, but we made it work, right? 


Sahil Gupta  



Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Cool. So let's talk a bit about what does Spase does for clients? What is Spase? S-P-A-S-E?


Sahil Gupta  

Um, yeah. So what SpaSe does is we try to be a practical solution for augmented reality by making models. And the way we make models is we take in photos as input. 


And then with a little bit of 3D software and just human imagination, we make the models. And little timely at the moment because Shopify is turning on the 3D viewer for stores


And iPhones are getting better, androids are getting better, cameras are getting better, displays are getting better. 


And so the real missing piece is (the) digital models of your products. And to me, it's just the coolest thing ever. The technology is where the models are actually photorealistic. They're no longer cartoonish. I really don't have to exaggerate the technology. 

When I say it just is photorealistic. It understands the properties of light and space, and the models look real. So to recap, yeah, we make models out of photos. And it's really been made possible by the fact that now laptops, phones, and more powerful chips can make this happen. 


So, we got started in June making models and that was at Shopify’s conference. It was actually a really exciting conference where they made the announcement that they're going to support the viewer for 3D models. 


And the excitement's been building up and actually, it's been building up for a couple of years now. But the problem is, nothing's really ever materialized because there's been nothing to look at. 


There's been a lot of news about VR headsets, and Apple Glasses, and AR glasses, but at the end of the day, it's really about, is there something to look at? Is there content? 


So, I started Spase in order to create this kind of content that's interesting and not just totally out of imagination but trying to model things that already had meaning. So, real-world objects. 


And Shopify a little ahead of the curve here where they're enabling the 3D viewer for anything on any Shopify store. 


And not only that but the viewer that they're using supports the universal file type called GLB. And it will work anywhere across phones and into augmented reality. 


And I'm reminded of a quote where like, "The future is already here. It's just people aren't aware of it. It's not evenly distributed." 


But this is it. It's going to be this GLB file type, where you can model the surface of anything and it'll be photorealistic. 


So long story short, we turned photos into models. And for people who run Shopify businesses, I don't think it's really an exaggeration to say now, it actually works. Models can really make a shockingly visceral visual impact in your store.


Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. I have played around with some of the early adopters. You can put furniture in your house, you can put shoes on the floor, it's wild. Some of the use cases that I've seen out there thus far.


And it's really cool that Shopify was like "We're going to go all-in on this, we think that this is going to be the future of commerce, and it's going to change shopping." 

And I didn't know, but you mentioned that it was the universal file type. That's cool to me because they understand that this needs to be available for everybody and it's going to change the industry. 


Whereas not having a kind of proprietary platform or service. That's kind of what some other applications do. So that's really cool. It is not necessarily open-source, but a universal platform. It's super sweet.


Sahil Gupta  

Right. And then once you own the model, you can do anything with it in terms of photography. 


So, you can place the model in any scene and then render a photo inside the computer at the cost of the electricity it takes to run the computer, which means that your photography is going to get way better, too. 


And just as an example, if you happen to have a scene of a movie modeled as a scene inside the computer, like maybe a scene from even a Pixar movie, you could place your GLB inside that scene and then shoot the photo inside the computer. 


I think that's going to open up a new kind of skill, which is digital photo making. And like digital interior designers, I think it's going to be quite an interesting job that's going to be created as a result of what's now possible.


Chase Clymer  

Okay, so what you're telling me is... I'm gonna dumb this down for myself to see if this is possible. I've got a good looking photo like a lifestyle photo of a scene. Let's call it the interior of my own house. 


I got a good picture in maybe my iPhone 10. I've got a good picture here. Is it possible to take this picture that I've got on my phone, send it to myself and pull it up in some software and then place my 3D model in that Photo where I want it? 


Sahil Gupta  



Chase Clymer  

That easy? Well, I guess it's probably not that easy. But once you have the model, From there, the software allows it to be easy, I guess.


Sahil Gupta  

Right. It's kind of like movie magic, where once you have the model, you can do anything with it. 


Chase Clymer  

So, the hard part itself is getting the model because it's a lot of math behind the lights and the angles. And it's a 3D rendered object, which... I have a hard time wrapping my head around that technology myself, but the hard part is getting that done, right? And then from there, it's like, "Well, where do you want to put it?"


Sahil Gupta  

Exactly. There's also an open question, though, about "Do I have to digitize everything? Do I have to digitize all my SKUs?" And actually just to get started, the most important objects, the most important products, your best-sellers are something that you can scan to get a sense of how they look. 


It's really just a question of when, because Shopify is turning on the viewer. Amazon and Wayfair are also thinking about it. But the most difficult part is making sure your model doesn't look... That it doesn't have the opposite effect of turning people away because the model just doesn't look photorealistic. 


So, that's really where the level of difficulty is. And as an example, there are some models on the Spase homepage. It is photorealistic but it's also incredibly hard to get it right. But once you get it right, it just looks terrific.


Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I think that's the hardest part about shopping online is all you're seeing is a one-dimensional photo. And that's why I've preached on this show a bunch and a lot of guests have preached on this show. 


They're like, "You need to go overboard with explaining the unique properties of your product." So multiple photos; videos, when you can do it; how does it sound, if it's something that makes noise;  the dimensions of it. 


Even beyond that to some of the other senses. What does that smell like? What does it touch like? I don't think you need to taste half of these things unless they're food products, but you know, you need to get all that stuff in the description. 


And what this new technology is allowing is that whole visual element of it to come to life almost in your reality. It's so close. It's augmented reality. It's in the room with you. It allows people to really experience that object in --almost-- real life, which is as close as I think we're going to get.


Sahil Gupta  

Right. The one part that shocked me is that I think it's true to say that the photo rendered inside the computer can be more realistic than a poorly taken photograph. 


Because the way ray tracing works and the fact that the lighting is placed where you deliberately put it, I think that gets to the truth of the product more than some photo haphazardly taken. 


We already know this is the case because when we look at digitally rendered movies, they've already figured this out. And that's why people go to the movies. That's why. It's just like visually the most interesting thing ever. Movies are already The best virtual reality so now, it's just a matter of... This technology has now been opened up to anybody who runs a store.


Chase Clymer  

So with this technology, I think that if you're going to boil it down to... How is having this 3D model going to help my store? And just one sentence, I would say, it'll probably increase your conversion rate, just because people will be able to experience your product in that insanely realistic way.


Sahil Gupta  

Right. I think Shopify had a statistic that it just doubles the conversions


Chase Clymer  

That would be insane. 


Yeah, it just doubled conversions. (laughs)


Yeah. And then, if you use this technology... What would be exciting for me is to see this technology, expand beyond the product page.


If you could start doing this in marketing if Facebook and Instagram adopted this or any of these other platforms too where you could do some crazy stuff through Snapchat. 


Do you know what I've seen? I've seen some augmented reality stuff through Snapchat, I do believe, already in the marketing sense. I wonder how that campaign went?


Sahil Gupta  

Oh, yeah. I've seen those rainbows coming out of Mount Rushmore. I was like, Yeah, they also have augmented reality, but it's a little more artistic there.


Chase Clymer  

Yeah. Well, I mean, obviously, my favorite form of augmented reality was Pokemon Go. That's kind of what jump started it into everyone's mind. I was like, "Oh, this is how this technology works." And it was just a fun game. 


Sahil Gupta  



Chase Clymer  

But you know, taking it beyond little creatures, you can do products, the sky's the limit. 


Sahil Gupta  

Yeah, I think that's the case actually. 


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Sahil Gupta  

And the more I looked into what a GPU is --the graphics chip-- that is the case where your imagination is the limit. And whether you can organize it well enough. 


Say, you have a supercomputer in your pocket. And right now, it's being mostly used to enjoy movies, and YouTube, and Netflix But the next step is to just use that extra power for augmented reality. And then in 2 years, --I think we're in 3 years-- Apple made the announcement that they're going to release augmented reality glasses. 


And then, it's a no brainer that commerce is totally going to change where it's going to be. The digital models are actually going to be the most important thing because it'll just be rendered through the glasses onto your retina. And if you don't have a model, then nobody will know what your products look like. 


So back to your point, it's really about, how big can you imagine, where can you place your models inside scenes so that you get the most interesting photos? And I think that's really the focus of it. 


Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show today. Before I let you go, is there anything else that you want to share with our audience?


Sahil Gupta  

Yeah, I'd like to... I guess the real important thing is that for maximum visual impact, it's either going to be your photography that really matters or the models on your store. It's hard to boil down. 


A lot of things that are about to happen in a few words, but I think one thing that might help clarify thinking is that instead of using virtual reality and augmented reality to explain what's going on. I think that things are going to start operating by movie logic, which means that just the visual storyline is really what matters.


Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Thank you so much, Sahil. If people want to learn more from you, where can they find you online?


Sahil Gupta  

Hey yeah. So, we're at spase.io S-P-A-S-E


Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Thank you so much. 


Sahil Gupta  

All right. Thanks, Chase. 


Chase Clymer  

I cannot thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their journey and knowledge with us today. We've got a lot to think about and potentially add to our businesses. Links and more information will be available in the show notes as well. 


If anything in this podcast resonated with you and your business, feel free to reach out and learn more at electriceye.io/connect. Also, make sure you subscribe and leave an amazing review. Thank you!