The Hive Five Podcast
5 Key Takeaways from Brent Wheelbarger
1. Be innovative
2. Care about other people
3. Solve problems
4. Think like a kid (VERY IMPORTANT)
5. Embrace the future
On this Hive Five episode, we were thrilled to have Brent Wheelbarger on to talk with us about his startup, Viribus VR Labs. Brent is a co-founder of Viribus VR, along with Bob Eskew. He also founded and is the current CEO of Trifecta Communications. Prior to these careers, he had a background in public relations, was a publicist in Los Angeles, and a broadcast television news reporter.
Viribus VR Labs is not only an interesting startup with an awesome mission, but it’s also something that the founders are emotionally invested in and which really isn’t being done anywhere else. Viribus aims to help kids with cerebral palsy overcome the challenges they face during at-home physical therapy. Bob Eschew, Brent’s co-founder, is actually a physical therapist himself who has cerebral palsy and specializes in treating patients with cerebral palsy. Using virtual reality, they hope to assist kids in their required physical therapy routines.
Brent’s company Trifecta Communications has done work in the past with virtual reality and is helping Viribus develop the technology and product to help the patients. However, Trifecta didn’t start as a VR company. Brent initially started it in the room next to his garage as a video company and then it became a full-fledged marketing and advertising company. They’ve done work for people all over the world including clients not only in the US, but Bangladesh, Turkey, and other countries.
Throughout this episode, Brent discusses the passion and emotion he feels and his team feels toward what they are working on and the problems they are trying to solve. He also talks about his struggles and how it feels to do something that isn’t really being done anywhere. In addition to all of this, there is a lot of talk about the capabilities of virtual and augmented reality and how they are currently utilized. Hopefully this episode is encouraging and inspiring as you listen and definitely make sure to leave a review to let us know what you thought!
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Everyone has a story and everyone has been there for business owners, to parents to young adults. The hive. Five aims to tell stories about overcoming the struggles and adult team while celebrating the little victories of life in each podcast. Our guests will give insight to five key takeaways from someone who’s been there and done that, leaving you better than when you started.
Thank you so much for listening. My name is Kagan with bright B and we also have Katherine Parker, marketing director of bright beyond as well. Hey guys, thanks for coming back to the hive. Five and today I am so excited to introduce our guest, Brent Wilbarger, and he is with trifacta communications and Airbus Vr. He has a wealth of knowledge for us today and a halo, a lot of experience. He has been the CEO of effective communications cofounder, variable Vr in Oklahoma City, but he also has had extensive background in public relations work and even started out as a television news reporter, which now that makes me extremely nervous. How in the world are we going to be able to do a great podcast with a news reporter? Um, so, well that was a long time ago. So. Well, we’ll see. We’ll see. We’ll see if your skills are still working. Well, Brent, first off, thank you so much again for being with us, but we want to talk a little bit about variable Vr, your, your new project.
Sure. Well Vera bits is a, is a really interesting project and it’s one that I’ve come to really have emotionally invested in. There is a challenge with children who have cerebral palsy and overcoming some of the physical limitations that condition brings on them. And so in partnering with a physical therapist who has cerebral palsy himself and specializes in pediatric care, uh, we have identified some ways to address some of those challenges through virtual reality. And there’s some incredible research that’s coming out now showing the power of virtual reality to actually accelerate the brain’s ability to rewire itself. A cerebral palsy is caused through damage in the brain and neural impulses, the electrical impulses that go to the brain that are supposed to go to certain places may not get there because of some damage. And so they just stop or they get veered off in the wrong direction and cause you to do things that you didn’t really want to do or legs or whatever.
And so the brain can wire around that, but it’s very difficult. And, uh, again, there’s this body of evidence showing that virtual reality can accelerate the brain’s ability to do that. And so working with this therapist, my background with Trifecta, we do a lot of ar, vr type work. And then partnering with this therapist who is also a very close friend of mine, we’ve developed are in the process of developing a product that can be used by children at home to do physical therapy type work through virtual reality. And, uh, and we’re very hopeful that it will create some significant impact for those kids and being able to improve their quality of life. Bruton. Why did you get started in virtual reality? Okay, well, that’s a great question. Are you ready? You’re comfortable that that’s not where you started? No, it’s not. It is not.
So, so trifecta actually started as a video company and then it went into publishing. We publish the more monthly magazine in Oklahoma. Uh, we started in more so did videos, became an advertising marketing type company that with a lot of heavy work in video and print, graphic design, that sort of thing. Um, and did that for many years and had clients all over. We did videos for people as far away as Bangladesh and Turkey and, and uh, and then folks here in Oklahoma as well. Um, and that had gone on for quite some time, but then I stumbled across this incredible thing called augmented reality and truth be told, one of our clients is the last frontier of council here in Oklahoma, which is a council of the boy scouts of America. And we do all their video production work and so, uh, there was a conference, and this was about five years ago, there was a conference in Dallas and it was a national marketing conference for the boy scouts and they said, well, you make all our videos, we want your team to go down and just go to this conference if you find anything interesting you can apply to what you’re doing here for us.
So I went to that conference and one of the speakers was a, uh, a guy talking about augmented reality and how, what a great way, you know, you could put augmented reality and the merit badge books and the stuff would pop out of the pages. And wouldn’t that be great for 11, 12, 13 year old boys trying to be engaged in that program? And most of the people at the conference, I don’t think quite got it. They were like, I don’t know what that is. When’s lunch? Kind of a deal. When I heard the guy talk, I mean I that that’s high. This was, like I say, five years ago, it was so new. I had never seen anything like it in my life. He’s still, I just thought it was the. It stole my heart. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen and so when he was done talking, I was like, where is that guy sitting at lunch, I want to sit next to him, and I did actually.
I tracked it down and set next, gotten traded and and wet so I can say it the table and it just peppered with questions and ended up connecting with that organization that he was a part of and got back to Oklahoma. Then one of our clients ended up wanting to do so ar after we shared with them that we thought maybe we could do this for them, and so we did and then that led us down this path of getting into augmented reality, which led us into virtual reality. They’re, they’re related. They’re not the same, but they are of the same bloodline I guess you could say. And so before you knew it, we were doing all sorts of things with ar and Vr. Later we created our own augmented reality APP that our company uses with clients and you know, as of late we’ve got coders and three d modelers and people that are doing all these incredible things with ar and Vr. Um, and so Vira vus has become an outcropping of all of that. And again, that was about five years ago. So over the past five years we’ve really been honing our ar vr division
so quickly. When you say Vr, AR, augmented reality, virtual reality, that’s about as far as I go, you know, I think about glasses that you put on and stuff and maybe things popping out. But could you just give us a visual really quick on what the differences are?
Sure. Well, yes. So virtual reality, you put on a, um, a pair, a headset of some sort. Um, Oculus is a common brand that people have heard of relating to virtual reality. Playstation has a virtual reality headset and you put this headset on and it completely separates you from the real world. So all you can see are these screens now that are right in front of your eyes and they’re linked to the way that your head moves. So if you look up physically move your head up. Then when you, when you’re wearing that headset, it looks like you’re looking up in that virtual space, wherever that might be, but there’s no connection to the real world. You’re completely at that point removed from reality and you’re in this virtual environment that’s all around you. And like I say, you can look into any direction and you’re, you’re in this space.
So that’s virtual reality. Augmented reality is similar but different in that you’re actually taking the physical environment, your real environment, that place where you’re, you are and where you’re looking at the moment and you’re adding to that digital elements. So you might be sitting in your living room and with augmented reality using either an ar headset or your phone or your ipad with the camera open, um, you aim at a certain direction and it looks like there’s a, you know, a large animal sitting on your coffee table or something, whatever they experiences. And it’s really not there, but it looks like it is. It’s a digital element that’s been added into the physical space through your device or whatever device it is you’re using. And so that’s really the big difference. Vr completely separates you from the real world. It’s an immersive threesixty experience. Ar keeps you in the real world and then it adds things to it that really aren’t there.
That is so crazy. It’s really hard to paint a picture for people who are not in that every day. The first time I saw augmented reality, uh, was so dumbfounded. I was
like, okay, you’re literally going to have to paint a picture for me because I don’t get it. But I think a good thing to relate it to, and correct me if I’m wrong, is snapchat filters, how they recognize your face and stuff.
Absolutely. Snapchat is a, is absolutely a consumer level augmented reality experience. You’re adding digital things to the physical space. So you’re looking at your face and you’re like, okay, now I’m going to make myself look like I’m in a fun House Mirror, or I’ve got a mustache or whatever the case may be, and it’s all digital stuff, but it’s getting put on a pokemon would be another example of a very simple, uh, augmented reality type experience where there are these little guys around that really aren’t there. But if you’re using the camera on your phone, it looks like they’re there.
That is a good example because everybody’s either from between the general audience, everybody’s at least familiar with pokemon or snapchat stormed the world.
Exactly. And again, a pokemon is a little bit more simplistic in the sense that the ar experiences it creates, really aren’t physically interacting with the real world. They’re just kind of floating around out there. Where ar really gets interesting is when your device is able to scan surfaces and surroundings and kind of have an understanding of the physical space that you’re in. And then it starts putting things in that space and they’re actually able to interact with it by knowing, oh, that’s a table. And it’s sitting on the table and then it can walk off the table onto the ground and it looks like a fluid thing that really happened, you know, versus just floating in the room. And so that’s kind of the direction that it’s going is really becoming more realistic and physically interacting with the space so that actually kind of knows what’s around you.
That’s crazy. I can’t imagine being on the design end of that. You know, obviously trifecta has grown and been really successful because you know, you all have been around for 14 years, right?
Give or take. Yeah.
Okay. You’ve got this business and you’re established and then you decide to basically start all over again. I know that there is probably a lot of useful knowledge from starting a business the first time, but probably a lot of struggle and challenge with going through that phase. Again. It’s like having a child and then 10 years later having another child
and, and it took you that long. It took you that long to forget how difficult the first child was done. Yeah, no, you’re right. It’s interesting though, so when I try effective first started, I was in my house. It was the proverbial, it wasn’t the proverbial garage, it was a room next to it. That’s how it all got started and it was a different experience than than it is now starting again starting something new because then I really didn’t have a lot of support. It was really just me and what I could think of is what I could think of and that was about the limitation of where I could is what I could think of doing the things that we’re doing now. Yes, we’re starting a new company with variables and over the past five years we’ve really shifted the focus of our trifecta itself, but it’s been different because there has been phenomenal people around me that I could work with and it wasn’t. I wasn’t limited by what I could think of. It was this wonderful ability to collaborate that just accidentally starting trifecta was a slow process. The things that we’re doing now are very fast and they’re moving very fast and in a lot of that is attributed to just having phenomenal people to work with versus being in this little room by myself.
That’s very true. If I understand correctly, you do have a lot of your trifecta people helping you with Veritas as well.
That’s correct. A lot of the core technology and the know how to use that technology is coming from the TRIFECTA team over time that may change as this grows and begins to be able to support its own staff, but for right now you could consider a trifecta to be the contractor, so to speak, on doing a lot of that back and work for and the collaboration that goes into that and so it’s nice to have a ready made team for a startup that you don’t have to run out and form. You know, it’s all there ready to go. It’s just juggling things because Trifecta, trifecta is work and pay the bills and all of that and trying to make that bandwidth spread out wide enough to do everything is really more of a challenge. Right.
What has the response been from your team and how have you motivated them to keep going and now two businesses that you guys are working on?
Well, the team is just great and I can’t say enough good things about our team and the the just the sheer joy of what they do. They I think, and I’m speaking for them, but I think they really do enjoy the kind of work that we’re doing and so that makes it nice because they, they’re doing what they love and that’s a big thing and they were just showing up at work, doing drudgery. I think it’d be a harder sell, but they really enjoy it. This is a unique project in the nature of what it’s trying to accomplish and so to give you an example of how that works, Bob Eskew, who’s my partner with therapists, who, who’s the the pediatric therapists. One of his initial ideas out of the gate was to allow our team to pair up with some of the kids that he works with who have cerebral palsy and actually go to their homes and go to their therapy sessions and meet their families and kind of gain an understanding of what are we doing and who is it for and what kind of difference can it make.
And I think that was huge. I think that that just being able to see this isn’t just an advertising campaign, it isn’t just something to go out to try to make money or something like that. It actually has this wonderful, um, real world impact for folks. That is a huge motivator. It makes it a lot easier to make extra time to do something when you can see really the impact that your work could have. It’s not just the game either. It’s not just a video game for entertainment, although it is going to be entertaining. It has such a deeper purpose that I think that goes a long way with the team.
One of the things that I’m curious about is how you came about this idea of focusing on children with cerebral palsy, you know, there, so there’s probably so many different kinds of things that you all could have geared this towards. Speak a little bit more to the fact of why you chose sleep, cerebral palsy, and even what the need is there.
Well, the real answer to that question is a book that’s Bob Specialty. That’s really what he does every day is work with those kinds of kids. When we started talking about this system and what it could do in the sort of conditions that could address it isn’t limited to cerebral palsy. It can be lots and lots of things that it could address. People who’ve had a stroke and need to rebuild, rewire their brain around that damaged area because of the stroke. There’s lots of medical conditions that it could address. We decided out of the gate to pick one, the one that we knew the best that we could focus on like a laser and really address specifically and find some success in that first and then if we are successful there, then grow it out to a larger demographic. And so because Bob works in that field because he has kids, lots of kids that he treats every single day that are in that area, um, he’s connected to all of the organizations that are involved with cerebral palsy and children. And so it just was a natural fit to go in that direction. There’s roughly 700,000 plus people in the United States who have cerebral palsy. There’s, there’s a, a need to improve their therapy outcomes and, and, and need to do everything you can to get those faults more capable of being in the workforce and being autonomous and all that sort of thing. And so there was definite need that we had through Bob, a clear understanding of that group. That really is what led us to focus there specifically.
Well, and I think that you bring up a really interesting point. This is probably the business owner in you and it’s good to point out for any entrepreneurs that are listening right now, finding that one thing for y’all, it was cerebral palsy for us it was insurance and really, you know, nurturing that and becoming the pro in that one thing before you expand yourself too far and you’re kind of good at this and kind of get at this and okay at this, but rather focus on that one thing and be the expert in something. So that’s a good note for any aspiring
out there. And it’s hard to do too because you have this knee jerk reaction that you want to just go tackle it all, you know, let’s, let’s solve all the problems, you know, and then so it takes a little bit of discipline that kind of narrowed down and be like, no, no, no, no. Let’s just focus on this to start with and then see what happens.
Brent, I like to ask this question sometimes, but I don’t ask it to everyone because it’s kind of a rough question, but I think you can handle it. The question is, what is your biggest fear in, in starting this, what is the thing that keeps you up at night or that you just can’t stop thinking about? Gosh, there’s so many.
I’m sure there are no different than the same ones that you guys have. They’re starting something new the way that you are, you know, at the end of the day. Gosh, that’s such a great question and I wish I had said I wish I had a good clear answer for you on that. I worry about the investment of our team into something and making sure that I’m doing my part for it to be successful. Um, and sometimes I put a little more of that burden on myself. Maybe then I should, but I feel like at this point in the game, you’re doing a startup and you’re, you’re rallying all these people to join onto this adventure and go into this uncharted territory and do these things that we’ve never really done before. We’ve never been trifecta a marketing company and now we’re making a medical device. Essentially what it comes down to you, which is very different.
It’s related because it’s virtual reality, but it’s a totally different application than anything we’ve done before and it’s, it’s, it’s kind of like, okay, here’s how I can describe it way back in the old days, hundreds of years ago when the new world had not been discovered yet, and the ocean was the barrier of all known existence and people would look at you, they would draw these maps of the world and it would show Europe and it would show maybe parts of Africa, and then when you started to go west, it would show this empty of this with these monstrous sea creatures that looked like they would eat you in a second. You know, if you got too close to them filling that void over there, you know, and it. Because it was just this huge unknown. And so when you don’t understand something or you don’t know it fully, you’re afraid of it and you fill it with all these monsters.
That was later to be found. Really. They were just. Humpback whales were really dragons and you know, like that. But that’s our inclination as human beings to do that. And so I think for me, and then it gets even worse when, you know, you’re decide, okay, we’re going to get on a ship and we’re going to sail into this area that all the mapmakers say are full of monsters. And by the way, I’m going to rally accrued to join me to do that and we’re all gonna go together. And it may be that it’s the end of the world and we fall off this waterfall into nowhere, or there’s majestic creatures or we don’t know. And in it turned out that it was just Virginia that they found, but when they finally came across, um, but that, that’s where we’re at. We’re at that place where we’re going into this uncharted world that it’s a little bit scary and a little bit different than what we’re accustomed to. And I’m bringing people with me. And so my fear is that a, I want to make sure we do the right things so that those folks have invested their time and energy well in where we’re going. And, and that’s, that’s a little bit concerning because I, you know, there’s a lot of things I can control doing whatever I can do to bring success to that is important for me and for what we’re trying to do, but also for the people that we’re bringing along on that adventure.
That is a great picture. I’m going to be using that multiple times when people, when people start talking to me about the fears and everything else, I’m just going to be like, yeah, that’s just a humpback whale guys. It’s just a humpback whale and they’re going to be like, what? Like gnats. It’s breadth. It’s Brent’s picture of what life looks like right now.
And there’s another, there’s a book that I read, it’s an old book, it’s called Pilgrim’s progress, but they have this thing in there called paper. Dragons are paper tigers and there are these tigers and they look so ferocious and turns out there made a paper later. They find out, you know, it’s like, okay, that’s, that’s a pretty good analogy of where things. Sometimes they are real, but oftentimes it’s just stuff we put in that space that really isn’t there.
Yeah, no, you’re, you’re exactly right. I think it’s great. So last question here for you, and this goes off of what you’ve, what you’ve just said and more so. I don’t know if it’s a question more so of just telling you, you know, I, I feel the same way sometimes and sometimes I think I do the same thing that you do and thinking that this is all on my shoulders and I know that we have an amazing team like just like you, you’re like, we have an amazing team and you know, just as well as I do that it’s not going to be the success. Success of the business is not going to be because of me, you know, it’s going to be because of all these people. So how do you continue to remind yourself of that? How do you stay grounded?
Well, there’s, there’s some real clear things. The, uh, financial statement for the company always keeps you grounded because they’re like, okay, here’s reality. Reality doesn’t always match up with the grandiose ideas that we have and so there’s that. I think it’s just the culture that, that we’ve tried to have hair trifecta and it for every way that I can see you guys were creating their bright v just from the little bit that I’ve seen is, is this culture of trust and communication and closeness with the staff in our staff here are very much feels like a family and once you really start to vest yourself and other people, then it becomes a little more of a natural thing. You know, that we’re all in this together and we’ve got to figure things out and it, and you rely on those people and so as that begins to happen, you can’t just put yourself there and you know, you can’t just be focused on yourself because there’s so many other people involved that you know and love and care about and want to be successful too. Great. But I think it comes out of corporate culture, I guess is my short answer. Having the kind of culture that fosters that versus any cold business, this is important. And the financial obviously very important, but I think it all has to come back to that culture of how you set your company up.
For those of you listening, we actually met Brent and the team at variable labs through the fender launchpad in Oklahoma City, sponsored by the Oklahoma City thunder and stitch crew and just love to point out to you guys that all of this tech development is happening in Oklahoma City, which I think it’s just really great and really interesting that y’all decided to do that here. Instead of going somewhere, I’m a little bit more startup oriented, so Kudos to you guys now. It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for drum roll on my microphone. Brent, what are your five key takeaways for everybody who’s listening today?
Okay, here they are and none of this is going to be surprising. Or now here they are a be innovative and I think that can be true whether you’re a company like ours or a company that does people’s taxes. You know, I mean look for ways to be innovative, look for ways to embrace imaginative, innovative thinking and what you do. I just think it’s just better to things that we care about. Other people would be number two. That’s self explanatory. Solve problems rather than looking at how can we make money at the beginning of something, rather look at how can we solve a problem and then that will lead hopefully to a income as you go, but figuring out first what is the problem with, how can we solve it? I’m the fourth one is think like a kid and this one to me is very important and it’s so counterintuitive to adults to do this and if you do, I have just a minute.
Can I share a story about this one? So my daughter and I, and this was an epiphany moment for me. We were looking at something and I was sharing with her this a competition that Google had created at some time ago called the google x prize and their whole deal was they were going to give this incredible amount of money, like millions of dollars to the first private company that could send a a lander to the moon and land and shoot back high definition footage or something like that from the moon and the first private company that could do that. Not Nasa, not just some individual company in first team would win this x prize from Google. And I was so interested in that. They had this cool video. So we were sitting there watching the video and talking about, wow, that’s so neat that all these companies, and they had all these teams from around the world that were these little bitty little startup kind of teams that were trying to put together the technology to send a rocket all the way to the moon.
You know, and land this land are there and do the things that we’re required to win the prize. And so we got done looking at all of that. And talking about it and then she kind of looked at me and she said, why don’t we enter Daddy, why don’t we do that? We can do that. You and I, we could make this, we can win all that money. And I’m like, okay, now, first of all, I don’t really about rockets, you know, this is this, we can’t do that, you know? And here’s the thing. I immediately shot it down right in front of her and I didn’t even realize it was what I was doing, but I, the first thing I did was start listing off all the reasons that this idea she had just suggested was crazy and ridiculous. And why would you ever even suggest again?
I didn’t say it that way, but that’s what I was insinuating was of course we’re not going to enter. This is not a science fair project, you know, this is a trip to the moon, you know, you can’t just throw that together. But the beautiful thing, after I had started going down that line, I caught myself and I realized what I was doing and I thought, oh my gosh, she’s thinking like a kid. She’s thinking in a way that she hasn’t been taught yet, that there are all of these limitations that the adult world puts on people. And, and she didn’t know that. And so she wasn’t afraid to even suggest that we, yeah, we can enter that contest and send the capsule to the moon. Why not? And, and it really was this eyeopening moment for me that I thought, what I’ve got to start thinking that way.
I’ve got to stop being this person that the first time something crazy like that comes up, I just start throwing roadblocks in the way I’m now. We did not build a rocket and we, we did not sit the capsule to the food. But the premise there is that, you know, I think there’s a lot of value and being able to take a step back and, and as adults we have to do it in a tempered sort of way. But giving yourself permission to think about things that way is important and I think that no matter what industry you’re in, it, it gives you the ability to think out of the box in ways that we often don’t because we just put ourselves in this adult sort of, you know, way of doing things. So there’s that. And then the last one is embraced the future.
Um, I think the future can be scary and I don’t mean just the future, like what are we going to do as a company? But the future in general I think for people can be very scary and it’s an unknown and kind of going back to we talked about earlier, but there’s all this crazy technology coming and all these changes happening on the planet and so much going on that there is that tendency to say, you know what? Let’s just go back to the way it used to be and just do that. And it’s not going to happen. No one’s going to go back to the way it used to be, whether you want to or not. And so rather than that embracing the future in St, okay, there’s the last new technologies coming that are uncertain and scary. There’s lots of trends happening that we don’t quite know where they’re going.
I’m going to be the guy that, that embraces those things for good. And I think if enough people decide rather than being afraid of the future, but we are going to embrace it and we’re going to embrace it for good, we’re going to do things good with it, then good will come from it. And if enough people flee from it and put their head in the sand and try to get away from it, then the people that want to do bad will be the ones that control it. And so yeah. So just embrace the future will be the last one
I think. That’s awesome. What great takeaways. So how in the world do people get ahold of you if they want to learn more about trifecta or if they want to learn more about Airbus, what? What are the best ways to reach out to you?
Well, Trifecta has a website, a trifecta comm with two m’s. So it’s Trifecta and then c o m, m.net effect, the [inaudible] dot net is trifectas website. Vira business is in the process of getting a website and I believe it is vir this vr.com
and we’ll definitely get those in the show notes as well. So everyone, everyone knows Brent, so thankful the five key takeaways for phenomenal and just hearing your experience is just so encouraging to me to myself and I know for many others just to hear how you have overcome some of the struggles. Also are dealing with some of the struggles and it’s just been. It’s been great. We don’t have any more time, but we do want to remind everyone to make sure to subscribe to us and also give us reviews. Please tell us how we’re doing. And the other thing is if you are looking for insurance quotes that don’t staying, which everyone should be, make sure to go to bing.com and click get a quote and then you’ll find qualified agents of your choice, your control, and you’ll get exactly what you want. Thanks again and hope everyone has a wonderful day.
Find Trifecta Communications Here: http://www.trifectacomm.net/
Find Viribus VR Labs Here: https://www.viribusvr.com/