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A truck driver by day and a creator by night, Marc Toews has a vision for the un-real. ?
Marc’s business, Gateway Web AR, creates augmented reality experiences like Scotty, the T. rex, Star Wars starfighters and bobble heads for local businesses. Tune in for a dash of inspiration, an ounce of creativity and a large helping of out-of-the-box, hard-to-imagine reality.
Are you ready to make the door swing, the phone ring and the tail ding in this episode are talking about one of the best kept secrets in any community. Its network of local businesses, businesses that rely on foot traffic, phone calls and website bookings. Those same businesses that support your kids sports teams, donate to fundraising efforts, and create amazing 2d to 3d objects from a printed object. Just using your cell phone camera, from the skinny lessons that will make you wins to the TMZ style tells these everyday people are doing extraordinary things in their business. Welcome to The Secret Life of local. I’m your host, Barb McGrath, Google girl and local business cheerleader. I’ve been helping businesses thrive for over 20 years, from online businesses to multilocation stores, you can turn browsers to buyers and thinkers to doers. Today, we’re going behind the scene going behind the scenes with Mark Taves from Gateway web, AR. He’s the founder and he’s the inspiration behind this company. So welcome, Mark, tell us a little bit about yourself and Gateway Web AR.
Hi, Barb. Thanks for having me today.
Well, a little bit about me. I’m actually a truck driver. I’ve been doing this for about 20 years. And I believe that the industry is going towards self driving trucks at some point. So I will be out of a job. You know, Tesla’s can drive themselves, I think trucks will start doing that eventually, too. And as technology goes faster, we know about artificial intelligence, right? I mean, just the stuff that’s been exploding in the news, I really think this transition is going to happen much faster than people expect. So thanks to YouTube, my downtime, I’ve been able to spend learning, teaching myself all about the fascinating world of augmented reality. Okay. And so basically what that is, a lot of people have heard about virtual reality. They’re not quite sure about augmented reality.
Exactly. And right now, of course, we hear so much about artificial intelligence. So let’s make that gap. Like what, what, what actually is augmented reality?
Yeah, so and with artificial intelligence, people are talking AI and VR and AR, and they are kind of different. But yeah, so augmented reality, is basically taking video game style type graphics, right? In a 3d world, like now you can play video games in a 3d world and stuff like that, well, we can take those objects and put them into the real world, which is really interesting.
So tell me a little bit about how you do that, or what kind of objects you can bring into the real world that are augmented?
Sure. Well, the first big project that I was able to do was for the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. They have a dinosaur. It’s the world’s largest dinosaur called Scotty. And you had an opportunity to play with
Swimming pool. Yep, yep.
And so I was able to create him in augmented reality. So basically, building a 3d model. And the power that we have in our cell phones now allows us to be able to put these objects in the real world, the camera can figure out where the ground is configure it, where walls are all sorts of stuff like that. And so it can position a 3d model rotated around as you walk around, it can figure out you know, where in space things are. And so, yeah, that was my first real big project that I was able to do. And they were quite, quite excited about it.
Now, yeah, okay, so how do you go from driving truck by day to augmented reality by night? Like there’s, there’s a really wide gap there is this I’m driving in my truck. I’m coming up with ideas like how did how did you make that transition? At this point,
Yeah, yeah, I’m doing both at the same time. I’m, I’m a very creative person. I’ve always been that way. I started off with Lego as a kid, right, and building anything. I’ve taught myself a lot of different things, including all renovate home renovations and stuff like that. I’ve had lots of different jobs, and I just love learning things, any chance that I can learn something? I do. So with trucking, there’s a finite of time that I’m allowed to drive and then I have to have certain hours off right for rest. During that time. My brains got to be doing something. Yeah. And so while I drive, I’ve actually been able to thank God for the internet. I’ve been able to learn how to do all of this AR stuff, this augmented reality stuff. I’ve learned web website programming, I’ve learned 3d modelling. So while I drive, I can listen to podcasts or listen to videos on how to do this. And then when I stop, I’m just ready to go for like two hours, I’m on my computer, oh, I got this to build this to build. And, and for me, it’s just super exciting because I can take something that isn’t there, make it look like it’s there. And you can actually interact with it like you can. You can press buttons and do different things inside of something that doesn’t exist.
Exactly. Okay. So I can totally relate to that. Because if I was driving for any period of time, learning something, by the time I stopped, I would literally be bursting Trump like wanting to try something. Right. So I can completely relate to that analogy. So do you take a laptop when you drive like because you’re not just doing day trips? Like you’ve got some long trips into the state some long haul, do you not?
Yeah, I drive from basically Regina to Alberta, and then straight down south to Los Angeles every week.
Do you ever stay down there? Or do you like basically get there drop off or load up and on your way back?
It’s basically kind of, yeah, just get the job done kind of thing. Although there are times when I have a day and a half or two days, sometimes if there’s a late load or if I request I can stay at different places. So I’ve been to San Diego, I went to the museums. I try and stop off in little places as I go along. So because I’m an I’m a huge explorer, I love to learn new things. And I like to experience new things. Yeah, I
Bet and you have a sleeper cap in your truck, right. So you just when you’re ready to go for a rescue.
It’s it’s fully decked out I’ve got a microwave with an air fryer in it, I’ve got my TV, I’ve got my laptop, I actually just recently bought a 3d scanner that I have to work on. So that I will be able to take any object that a customer might have from like a small objects, like the size of a shoe to the size of a vehicle. And I can use that scanner, it will allow me to create a 3d virtual model of that. There’s a lot of work that has to get done into it. Yes, but yeah, so the technology that I have is yeah, my cell phone with an insane amount of data plan that I do.
So you essentially have your living room on wheels. Off you go drive during the day, stop at night and start creating like that. Is that right? Yes. Living the dream there. Yep.
Yeah. Well, and unfortunately, I absolutely love driving. I’ve always since I got my licence, I’ve been a driver. And so that’s not work to me. Okay, even then, downtown LA traffic. You know, the biggest thing to have when you’re driving is patience. And I’ve got tonnes of it. So there’s that part. So that’s not work. And when I get to learn new things, that’s not work either. That’s just exceedingly Yeah. So for me, my days are generally I get about eight hours of sleep seven to eight hours of sleep a day. And the rest of the time is just having fun.
Yeah, exactly. loving what you do. Okay, so we Scotty the biggest, I’ll say model that you’ve ever built created.
Okay, so, Scotty is 12 feet tall, 14 and a half feet long cape, the largest structure that I’ve created. If you’re a Star Wars fan, I I’ve built a star destroyer game, the big triangle ship from Star Wars, right?
In a circle like that? Yeah. Okay. Yeah.
So the Star Destroyer is according to the Star Wars thing. It’s a 1.6 kilometres long, it’s a mile long. I actually, I built it. And in AR You do have to walk an entire mile mile in order to see end to end.
Oh, wow. Okay, so like, how, how do you actually build something that is like, you can’t just get a picture of it. Like how do you actually do that?
That’s a complicated question. But I can tell you that when you look at an a real life objects is it’s made out of atoms, and those and molecules, right? Those molecules connect and they build a solid object, right? And the same thing in the digital world. There are things called vertices which are Basically points in three dimensional space. And then there are lines that connect those vertices. And so when you connect a whole bunch of them, you make a bunch of them, you are basically telling the computer to draw a line between this point and this point. Okay? And then if you have four points, you can tell the computer, okay? Draw a line, a route to these points, plus fill all of this in so that you can’t see through it. Now it’s a solid, it’s a plane. Okay? Right. And then from there, you do the same thing. And now it becomes a cube. Ah, okay. Add more of these little vertices. And now, and everything has to do with math. So there’s a, an X, Y, and Zed coordinate for each of these vertices. Right? And then those all get connected with lines and planes.
Oh, man, okay. Yeah. Do you have to build all of that? Or do you start with, like a picture or something like that? Are you manually building the model? Before you put it in?
Yes. Oh, wow. There’s, there’s lots of models that people build, and you can buy. And as far as the size goes, Really, what you’re doing is just like a photograph, where you can’t really tell the scale of certain things. Right? The same idea. These are just mathematical points in space, and X Y, Zed coordinate, right? So if you want to have something bigger, you just put those points further apart. You want it to be a smaller model, you put them closer together. Okay? So with Scotty Scotty can be shrunk down into like a little mini figure, or he can be brought up to Godzilla sighs Well, and
that’s the first time I did Scotty in my backyard. You know, I was struggling to get him to work. Because he was he was like, way bigger than my camera. So I had to scale him down to create the video and take the picture. And my kids, I had told you this story, my daughter’s 15. My son is 14. So my son is very busy being cool. So a dinosaur in his backyard. It’s just like, whatever, mom. Seriously, we have a dinosaur in our backyard. And that’s like a whatever. But my daughter, she was like, Oh my God, that’s so cool. Right? So I’m like, okay, at least she can be honest. Right? But but here is his dinosaur. And literally, it was to scale. Because our dogs were standing beside it, we have these two little lap dogs. And so the dogs are these little tiny spots. And this, you know, Scotty was this huge thing. And I was like, This is amazing. Right? Um, what’s your favourite model that you’ve built?
I would have to say I’m a huge LEGO fan. And so I built a Lego Spaceman from the 1980s. Yeah, I have. I have him with my gateway logo on there. And I put him in all sorts of different places. He’s six feet tall. Yeah, he comes with me all over the place.
Yeah, exactly. And why not? Like talk about a great way to promote your business and on all of these different places. When you post them on social media? Do you tag the business where you had him? Yes. Yep. Perfect. Yep. Yeah, for sure. Exactly. Because that’s a you know, people see this stuff. And they just like, oh my god, like, this is so cool. Okay, so let’s put some business application into it. So Scotty is lots of fun. The Lego guys lots of fun. How are businesses using the technology?
Well, um, okay, so with Scotty the museum had a November they have died November event, okay. And so they’re able to present a real life sized dinosaur, which allows kids to take pictures and videos with this giant dinosaur that if you looked at the cost of actually building a replica, that size, I mean, you’re looking at a lot of material, you’re looking at the craftsmanship, all that stuff. It’s, it’s crazy expensive. It is. So this is a very affordable way to have a life size model available for people to interact with. Yeah, yeah. When you look at the other part of the augmented reality, which uses a tracking system, where we talked about using a 2d image to be able to convert that into 3d, like my business cards, right. As a business, you can have a 3d model. Let’s say it’s for a decking company, right. So if you hand somebody your business card, yeah, okay. Traditionally, they’ll look at your business card, they’ve got your information, they stick the card in the pocket, right? Yes. Okay. And now they go to the next company, and they’re looking at prices. stuff, right? But one of the mark, the keys of marketing is to be able to be memorable.
Yes, exactly. You have to differentiate yourself. Exactly.
And not just differentiate yourself in your services, but in that very first impression. And so with using augmented reality, I could take a business card, and somebody can have a QR code on there. That thanks to COVID, that’s one benefit of COVID is that we all know what to do with QR codes. Yes, they can take scan that QR code. And they can look at that business card with their camera on their phone. And they can see a 3d deck on top of that business card. And the 3d object actually tracks with the object or with the business card. I mean, yes. So as you rotate the business card, you’ll be able to see all aspects of this deck. So it showcases what you’re able to do. And you can have all sorts of different products that can do that, if it’s a unique artistic product or something like that, right. But the thing is what you’re doing that first connection with your customer with a potential customer is a memorable one. Not only are they going to remember you from anybody else that gave them a business card, but they’re also going to look at it and say to their neighbour or their friend, Hey, check this out. This is so cool. And then they’re going to show them Right, exactly.
So I have to tell you a funny story. Of course, you built those two QR codes for me one for Instagram, one for Facebook. And so I’ve started to use them a little bit, but because they exist on my phone, it’s actually hardest for me to test. So last week, I was interviewing summer students. And one of the things that’s really important in my business is I need my people to be pretty darn comfortable with technology, I can’t, can’t be teaching you tech and getting you to get the job done. So as part of the interview process, because we’re in person, I had both of the QR codes available. And I just kind of said to them, Hey, let me show you a sample of something, you know that another local business did. And I would show them the two QR codes. And I watched to see whether they were you know, comfortable figuring out, you know how to use them. And for most of them, they were using Instagram because nobody knows their Facebook password off the top of their hand anymore. So they would, you know, scan Instagram, and out of the students that I interviewed, probably a third of them were like, oh, cool scan, you know, got it to work right away. And I was getting the other two thirds weren’t as comfortable with technology, they still got the whole scan, click the link, and then you know, the one lady, she’s like, Oh, it’s not working. I’m like, yep, just keep it over the business card. And, you know, but as soon as I saw the two thirds, I was like, Okay, I need the tech confident folks. So you know, and that was like that was actually my introductory moment that icebreaker in the interview was that competency check. And I was like, Oh, this is just, it was it was amazing to watch. But I thought this is brilliant, because it’s newer technology. And you know, I know if I show it to a lot of my friends and colleagues, I know they’ll fumble, but that’s okay, I’m not interviewing them. So they turned into a great little test. And just for the audience’s sake, Mark created a business card QR code for me, and then it pops up to my doppelganger. So if you’re listening to this episode, you can head over to our social channels. And you’ll find that doppelganger just on my social channel and probably showing up in a few other places. So Mark, let’s talk a little bit about the variety of models that you’ve created. So we know about Star Wars. We know what the dinosaur we know what the Lego Man, what else have you created? I know there’s an aeroplane in there. Well,
Yep. Okay, so my first endeavour into getting businesses to join on with this augmented reality concept is to start working with museums. Right. And so the Royal Saskatchewan Museum is one I’m working with the Royal when it can’t remember exact royal Aviation Museum be changed their their name. Anyways, it’s an aircraft Museum in Manitoba. And so they have a one of a kind aircraft, that there’s only one of it and there are no other it’s a replication because there, it’s just gone. Right doesn’t exist anymore. And so I was able to build it in a car for them as a life size model and shrink it down for them, so that they’ll be able to give those out to customers or to kids, right on a little card. And they can interact with them,
right? Yep. Very cool. What about Well, okay, so my doppelganger What about animated versions of people and things like your Lego guy, like, you know, being able to move and walk around anybody else done that. So you’ve done the Lego, I’ve done the doppelganger, anything else like that there’s,
there’s a bunch of different animations and things that can be done. And I’m working work currently working with different businesses, you’ve seen some of the videos that I’ve posted. It’s a little more difficult, because it’s such a new concept. So what I’m finding is the most traction is happening when I actually go and show somebody got right. But basically, the, what you could do with it is turn any business card into a model there, right, and it can be interactive. So I’m working with the company. The I guess I should back up just a little bit, because augmented reality includes things like Instagram filters, and Snapchat faces. So those faces that you see where you’re wearing a mask, or you’ve got like, different eyelashes, or you’re a zombie, right, those kind of things. Those are all part of augmented reality. And so I’m creating those as well, which I’m currently developing a game for one of the local restaurants here, where there’s food objects that are falling down, and you have to move around and try and catch them with your mouth. Okay, yeah. And when you get a certain amount of them, then there’s a coupon that shows up. Got it? You pick a picture of that coupon, and now you’ve got like, a free entree or something.
Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Oh, that’s so super cool. And when you and I last talked, you were planning an event for this summer? Is that still happening? And how are plans coming?
Plans are still good. Okay. Originally, I was looking for sponsors. But I think what I’m going to do, because there isn’t enough engagement yet, in the whole augmented reality thing. It’s coming along pretty good. So basically, July 4 to 17th. In Wascana. Park, there will be life sized Cartoon Dinosaurs. And so kids to grandparents are going to be able to walk around with kind of park and check out these dinosaurs using their cell phone. Okay. Yeah.
So how, like, how will you build some momentum behind that? Like, how will people even know that it’s happening?
Yeah, that’s yeah, that’s a whole marketing thing. And I’m putting on different hats constantly. Learning all the marketing stuff, right now, I’m kind of focusing on Facebook and Instagram, to be able to show people what that is, right. And that’s kind of my main avenue right now. There’s other opportunities like with yourself, where you’re, you’re able to tell businesses what I can do. When it came to Scotty, being able to be presented CBC Radio was interviewing me asking me stuff, right? So I’m gonna let the media know as well that this is what’s going to happen. And I’m hoping that maybe I can do a video or something like that, get on the news or something and kind of show people because I think once they see it, you see me actually looking at it and everything in a camera there, then they’ll get the idea.
Exactly. I think as much as it’s technology, it’s still such a visual platform like people actually need to see it to understand like, how can Scotty have been in your backyard? Like, what do you mean? So when I post this, I will make sure that I include, you know, some of that footage that we had. Awesome. Okay, so Mark, how do businesses get a hold of you? If they would like to explore what this opportunity might look like?
Well, the best way to do it is just through my website, my website is super simple. It’s kind of designed just like I’m not doing online sales and stuff like that of this yet, right. So it’s just my contact information there. There is a model that you can see, if you’re fortunate enough to have one of my business cards. There’s information on there, plus a QR code that allows you to try a bunch of stuff, different things on on my card. And there’s also the model of Scotty to be for people to be able to try it in their backyards. I don’t recommend it in the kitchen.
And I tried to put him in the swimming pool you and I had that conversation and I couldn’t get him to go with the swimming pool. When I post this episode, I’ll post your QR code as well so people can scan right off the back of the card and the Lego guy come to life so perfect. All right. Well, we’re pretty much at a time for episode today. Thank you for joining me and even explaining to me a little bit better how some of this technology works because as much as I want like technology when it comes to, you know all the points and things like that, that was entirely new to me. So I do appreciate that. On that note, if you want to sell your story then you need to tell your story and there’s no better place to start than being a guest on The Secret Life show. If you’d like to be a guest, email me at barb at above the fool dot live or reach out on our Facebook and Instagram pages at above the fold. Ca. I’m your host Barb McGrath, Google girl and founder of the Get found for local programme. Remember, you are charged for your success. Don’t keep it a secret. Bye for now.