A Decision Pint Interview with Jennifer Lastra of 360 Immersive

Jennifer discusses the new technology of VR training and also how Women can excel in this new industry.  She  feels there is so much utility for this technology that many of us don’t fully understand yet. VR/AR/MR will always find their way in entertainment, gaming, concerts, etc. for those individuals that want to escape (real) reality. But the true power of all of this technology is the ability to share experiences, walk in someone else’s shoes, learn empathy, and truly begin to help alleviate/solve problems through immersive training. VR can help law enforcement personnel better understand mental illness by allowing them to experience an autistic or schizophrenic episode, rural hospitals can train in VR for low incidence, high risk scenarios that they only see in their facilities once every 6 months, football players can practice reps without fear of injury/concussions, and the list goes on in every industry. At the end of the day, people can save more lives by training with this technology – we just need more passionate entrepreneurs to create more content beyond the gaming/entertainment realm. The potential for this medium is endless!

Interview Transcription

Jason Dodd: Welcome back to another edition of Decision Pints where it’s stories about entrepreneurs, people making a difference and how they go about doing it. Today, we have a special guest, Jennifer Lastra, with 360 Immersive, and we’re toasting to the Crux Doublecross IPA. Thanks for being here, Jen.

Jennifer Lastra: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Jason Dodd: That’s pretty good.

Jennifer Lastra: That’s good, yeah.

Jason Dodd: So, you’re a cofounder at 360 Immersive.

Jennifer Lastra: I am.

Jason Dodd: You specialize in virtual reality, and now, specifically, training. How did you come into this situation, and why did you choose VR and training?

Jennifer Lastra: Well, I came into this scenario with my business partner about a year and half ago. I put on a virtual reality headset and my whole world changed. I mean, just the opportunity that the technology was going to bring was just mind-blowing, and that’s exactly how I felt. It was a no-brainer – seriously, a no-brainer for me.

Jason Dodd: That’s awesome. And so, you started out and you’re in virtual reality and you’re capturing content on their 360 video, and you’ve got computer-simulated stuff. What was the journey like to settle in on one specific area of focus?

Jennifer Lastra: So, we started with Boise State football. Go Broncos! And we saw the capability to use the technology for quarterbacks and play simulation and then from a recruiting standpoint… And, we actually put together some product for virtual reality experience for Boise State so that the coachers could go out and recruit using it. And so, it just kind of gets your mind going with all of the possibilities. Okay, so if this is effective for football players or quarterbacks and recruiting purposes, where is it that society needs a lot of help? And when you look at the training aspect and emergency response personnel and public safety personnel, again – I’m going to go back to the no-brainer concept – you can see a huge impact to be able to train not just two or ten people, but 1,000 or 2,000 or more people using Immersive technology and virtual reality training. So, we saw a direct opportunity of an underserved market that if we could provide a cost-effective and affordable solution, that training would be an absolute win for everybody in our immediate communities and world communities. So, it’s not just something that’s good for Idaho, which is what we’re most intrigued with, but it’s something that’s good across the United States and, honestly, internationally.

Jason Dodd: That really is awesome. So, when you’re in these diverse types of training scenarios, it sounds like being in a dangerous spot. Are you in there capturing the con – what’s the process like of kind of putting these training assets together?

Jennifer Lastra: So, we do the full spectrum from the creative development of the learning objectives. Now, really quickly, we are not training specialists, we are content type creators, and so, we understand the process of the creativity process. The company’s got 16 years of business doing this and the production side. What we do, though, is we pair with the subject matter experts in a specific field. And right now, those fields range from anything from law enforcement emergency response, like EMS folks, to medical training organizations as well. So, they’re the subject matter experts. We take the specific learning objectives that they’re trying to convey for their personnel and then, we basically create content around that. We use our creative expression, the technology itself to go out and basically capture all of this information. So, we are the production house and then, we also create the apps to distribute all of the content. So, it can either go out in an app base or directly into an existing learning management system.

Jason Dodd: Which is awesome. And what’s fascinating to me is in learning a little bit about what you’re up to. There have been some scenarios where you’re in training, it’s expensive, incredibly prohibitive to get people’s schedules lined up and get into a real spot and then they leave, and the retention’s not there. And, there may even be situations where they have to destroy property in trying to get something right. So, tell us a little bit about that and kind of what the landscape is like with VR Now stepping into the training infrastructure.

Jennifer Lastra: So, we create live experiences, but we also can create computer-generated simulation as well. And the beauty of that is if you have – let’s just use for an example a project that we’ve been working on, which is a scene assessment for a hazardous material spill. That would be very cost prohibitive to replicate. It would be difficult; so, time, money all of those things are issues. What we’re able to do using computer generated imagery, though, is we’re able to recreate those scenarios in a very cost-effective manner and get all of those training objectives included into the app, if you will, so that you create it once, and you can just reproduce it and have access to it as many times as you want. And it’s easy to go back and edit and recreate things if you need it to. So, low cost scenario all the way around.

Jason Dodd: It’s very cool, exciting stuff. And, it’s so new, it seems brave to step in and say, “Hey, this is our startup. We’re venturing into this space and dealing with these large organizations.” So, what is it like on the entrepreneurial side of “this is what we’re doing?”

Jennifer Lastra: Well, anybody who is an entrepreneur or at a startup understands that the future is so unknown, it’s exciting, it’s stressful, it’s high energy, there’s all the highs and lows of the unknown, and when you get somebody to pick up the phone on the other end and they say, “You know what? I do want to hear more about that,” I tell you; this is the easiest thing I’ve ever sold. You know, you get people’s excitement, you get people’s energy, and that kind of stuff, it’s very uplifting, if you will. Every day kind of feels like a win and, you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. So, it keeps us motivated and focused knowing that we can contribute directly to something much bigger than ourselves, and I think there’s a lot of entrepreneurs that would agree with me that that is really a key driver – oh, and the money. We’ve got to make money.

Jason Dodd: Seems like the landscape is ripe in a pretty exciting area and we look forward to learning more and doing more. On the last piece here, we look at startup companies and technology and there’s always a point being made about, “We need more women in STEM and more diversity across all groups and types of people.” In your experience, what has it been like in being in this pioneering space as a female-led company?

Jennifer Lastra: So, that’s a great question. I don’t have a technical background per se. I’m not an engineer, but I’ve worked in technology my whole career. I started out as an electrician in the Navy. So, I’ve sold night vision, I’ve helped, literally and figuratively, wire aircraft carriers. So, the point is is that, we do need more diversity in everything related to technology and STEM, and while somebody may not necessarily be trained as an engineer in one of those fields, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make an impact. I’ve taught an hour of code before at my daughter’s school, and I’ve be the first one to… mmm. Anyways, a bunch of third graders really appreciate it and they had a lot of fun, and that’s what this is all about is you don’t have to necessarily be trained in the field. I have a Master’s degree, but it’s in business. I know how to try to run a business and so, you get a lot of really smart people around you and it’s amazing what you can accomplish. And I’ve probably talked in circles, so I apologize for that.

Jason Dodd: No, I think Navy and Hazmat scenarios and police chases, you’re doing exciting things and we so appreciate you being on here today and look forward to the days ahead.

Jennifer Lastra: Absolutely.

Jason Dodd: Thank you very much and thank you to David Cleverdon, DTX 360 Immersive and everybody who joined. Until next time.

Jennifer Lastra: Cheers!