Box CEO ‘insanely excited’ about future of Vision Pro, work, and AI

Enterprise content cloud and collaboration service Box was fast out the gate with its own feature-filled take on support for Apple’s Vision Pro. I spoke with Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie, who described how the company sees spatial computing transforming the enterprise and elsewhere.

For Levie, the disruptive tech trends of the last 20 years have set the scene for yet another change wave. “I think we have the early semblance of a new set of trends that are only just starting to mature that may represent the next two decades of changing computing,” he said.

These transformative forces don’t replace what we already have, but build on them, adding “a couple of new pillars of disruption and transformation.”

An iPhone moment for spatial computing?

Levie believes Apple’s concept of spatial computing in the new Vision Pro, along with artificial intelligence, will usher in a whole era of new tech evolution. He’s seen such  evolutions before. Box began on BlackBerry just before the iPhone appeared.

“What’s interesting if you think about that period of technology, Blackberries were in the tens of millions, maximum,” he said. “So that was like the total population of professional workers that could email and access information and communicate effectively in a business context on their mobile device. You know, everybody else was basically doing text messages and phone calls.”

As Box predicted in a 2005 white paper, the evolution of smartphones accompanied by similar development in browsers, data centers, and the cloud conspired to create the digital infrastructure many businesses take for granted today.

But the extent of that evolution surprised Levie: “It played out on a much bigger scale than we imagined. We were not thinking that three or four billion people would have powerful smartphones. We knew that was the future, but we didn’t realize the full scale of that when iPhone shipped.”

Today almost every worker on the planet uses a mobile device.

Vision Pro, the first generation

Returning to the present, the Vision Pro is just a beginning.  

“Apple doesn’t talk about this too much, but you can kind of almost see it…,” Levie said. “They called [it] Vision ‘Pro.’ Apple doesn’t make mistakes, right? So, they call it pro because this is really a professional device or a power user device for right now, and it’s priced that way.”

Think about how smartphones not only unleashed concepts of employee choice and mobile business, but also ushered in the consumerization of IT. As a result, enterprise software is usually now designed to be as easy and slick to use as any consumer app.

“We are at the starting line of a multi-year, multi-decade journey,” said Levie. “I mean, like, think about the iPhone maybe 18 years ago and how that is still generating breakthrough after breakthrough. I think you have to extrapolate out a decade from now: How much faster does the device get, how much cheaper does it get?”

As the devices reach more people, how will their use be normalized? We may be using a MacBook to work, but then stepping into meetings within Vision Pro, potentially to work collaboratively with 3D images.

“I think that’s a totally plausible reality,” said Levie.

In terms of personal productivity, Levie cites a scenario in which someone needs a larger display for work while travelling, in which case they may slip into their Vision glasses to use a giant monitor in that place. “Those are the things I think that just instantly become useful and certainly as the price point comes down, I think you’ll see even more of those use cases emerge.”

Making enterprise data great again

The CEO had predicted some of what is coming.

“Box had a strong belief that there was going to be a new wave of content that would be three-dimensional, and you’d want to be able to work with this effectively on any device and then your browser and on the web and on mobile and, and eventually in virtual reality,” Levie said.

To prepare, Box purchased 3D company Veroid several years ago. That tech is now rolled within Box on Vision Pro. It lets you turn any 3D rendering into a fully rendered 3D object you can navigate using visionOS.

“Imagine you’re building any kind of consumer product and then instantly you can see what it’s going to look like,” he said. That’s a feature that may transform construction, product design, architecture, medical and education.

Box has some examples of how this might be used:

  • Construction companies can open blueprints and virtually visit sites to collaborate on designs and work in progress.
  • Manufacturers can view 3D product renderings inside of Box in an immersive, full-size environment.
  • Entertainment companies can experience pre-production video files stored in Box to check for edits and collaborate on better final product.

“What’s great for us is that all these usage cases deal with content,” he said. “Every single one of these things is, is going to be expressed as, you know, either an application or a file that you have to look at. We think there’s going to be a new wave of content that people are going to be working with.”

AI for your business data

Artificial intelligence (AiI) and enterprise content also raise new possibilities. Thinking about the documents, contracts, invoices, images, and everything else that accumulates within any business, Levie points out that much of this has data and value beyond just reading a document — it just needs to be unleashed.

“If you could interrogate your enterprise data and get answers based on the knowledge your business has accumulated over time, then your data becomes a lot more valuable than just, you know, when you open a file,” he said.

Box is building products, such as Box Hub, that will let businesses get more value out of the information and knowledge a business has accumulated over time.

“If you put your data into a Hub and then ask questions in that Hub, you’ll get answers back based on all of the documents in there. It really becomes this very powerful AI query system, where you can ask questions about anything that you want and we’ll return answers to you based on the knowledge in your enterprise,” Levie explained.

The other opportunity is to make all your enterprise’s documents contextually and intelligently searchable, to the extent of creating automated workflows for some tasks.

“We think AI is going to really unlock the full value of all of this information, all of this enterprise data that people have and it’s going to be, I think, a breakthrough in how people work in the future.

“We are just insanely excited about the future of computing right now and between Vision Pro and what’s happening with AI,… I think we’re going to look back on this period as probably the most transformative technology we’ve ever seen.”

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