Episode 002

St Pete X features business and civic leaders in St. Petersburg Florida who share their insight, expertise and love of our special city. An initiative of the St. Petersburg Group, St Pete X strives to connect and elevate the city by sharing the voices of its citizens, and to bring awareness to the opportunities offered by the great St. Petersburg renaissance.


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06/22/2017 | Episode 002 | 29:06

Kevin Hohl of HD Interactive

Episode 002: Virtual Reality & Technology with Kevin Hohl

Twenty years ago, Kevin Hohl never thought he’d be playing video games for a living. Now, as the Chief Strategy Officer at HD Interactive, the long-time St. Pete resident is doing just that. Hohl sits down with host, Joe Hamilton to talk virtual reality and advancing technology; with a good bit of St. Pete business sprinkled in. They’ll discuss how HD Interactive’s radical and innovative solutions have caught the attention of one of the biggest names in technology today, and how they may be changing the world as we know it.

Key Insights

  • Take a walk on “Richie’s Plank,” HD Interactive’s favorite virtual reality experience. From tech leaders to college deans, and every the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Kevin loves getting leaders to face their fears in virtual reality.
  • HD Interactive is creating tools for data visualization. “In some ways we really do feel like pioneers in this because somebody had to figure out pie charts and graph charts and they're really important to understand data. Well, now you can walk through the data. You can be immersed in it.”
  • We may soon be seeing much more virtual reality technology at the tip of our fingers. Apple has recently taken big interest in virtual reality technology, and has shared its tools with developers in the VR realm. HD Interactive’s CEO recently returned from the Apple Developer’s Conference, where VR was the hot topic.
  • Have you experienced augmented reality? If you’ve ever watched a football game on television, or played Pokemon Go, the answer is yes.
  • Kevin has seen the evolution of St. Pete from many viewpoints. Starting out here 26 years ago, he worked at the St. Pete Times (now Tampa Bay Times) and then moved on to a little company called Templeton, now the mutual fund giant, Franklin Templeton
  • The Pier: “The design that we have today, you either have form or function. Although, tourists aren't going to come and take pictures of it. I'm going to take my kid there a lot. We're going to spend a lot of time there. People in Seattle don't go to the Needle. Who are we building it for? Are we building it for tourists or are we building it for our people?”

We're builders just like any other builder in the world. We just do it with code and we have craftsmen and journeymen with specialties...We're constantly looking to solving the next problem.”

Our guest today is Kevin Hohl, the Chief Strategy Officer at HD Interactive. Hohl has called St. Petersburg home since he was 20 years old, and has developed into one of the community’s main technology thought leaders. Kevin’s perspective on the St. Petersburg community is unique. His first job in St. Petersburg was at the St. Pete Times while he finished his AA degree at St. Petersburg College. From there, Kevin got his start at a little company called Templeton, then located on Central Avenue, which would eventually become the prestigious Franklin Templeton after its merger with Franklin Mutual Funds. In his time, Templeton grew from 300 employees to over 3000 following the merger.

Years out from his time selling 401k’s across the country with Templeton, Hohl has found his place at HD Interactive, where work and play go hand-in-hand, “Aren’t we lucky that sometimes our jobs are to play video games?” Hearn says, “I certainly know that I am and I never thought that twenty years ago this is what I’d be doing.” But if you think they don’t take their “playing” seriously, you’d be wrong. The virtual/augmented reality technology that HD Interactive has been working on was recently included in an Apple Developer Conference, meaning large companies are providing more tools to make augmented reality more accessible for developers. The more widely accessible these resources, the better for HD Interactive’s employees, as research and development into new technologies has a large role alongside client work. They take pride in building things, and using new technology and code as a tool to bring models, drawings, and databases to life. As far as where the technology will go, no one really knows for sure, says Hohl, “but we’ll be there along the way, monitoring it, using it, employing it, experiencing it, and evangelizing it for sure, hopefully.”

In VR and in the name of science and R & D, I've probably gotten myself physically sick, I don't know, more than thirty times. It's a new learning lesson every single day. It really is.”

 

Table of Contents

(0:00 – 0:21) Introduction

(0:21 – 5:04) Virtual Reality Technologies

(5:04 – 10:42) Augmented Reality

(10:42 – 15:34) Artificial Intelligence

(15:34 – 19:43) St. Petersburg’s Renaissance

(19:43 – 24:52) The Pier

(24:52 – 27:43) Shout Out

(27:43 – 28:00) Conclusion

Produced by Phil Steuer

 

Transcript:

Joe: Hey everybody. I’m here with Kevin Hohl from HD Interactive. Kevin is a long time resident of St. Pete and a technology thought leader. Today we’re going to talk about how soon its going to be until we’re in space and mating with other species and aliens and all the things that he knows that he may decide to share with us or he may not decide to share with us.

Kevin: Well thank you that’s a wonderful introduction and we can actually go into space right now, right in this room.

Joe: Is this is the blue pill or the red pill (laughs)?

Kevin: Exactly! Just by putting on a set of VR goggles. In fact, just last week, I tried a new virtual reality experience for the HTC Vive that is a space station. So you can experience weightlessness. You can look at the earth and you’re traveling at – what is it – sixty-four thousand miles an hour over space.

Joe: Is the weightlessness inducement all contained in the glasses or do you have to use some other things?

Kevin: Oh no, its the HTC Vive. It’s a virtual reality headset and you have two controllers that are your hands and you really don’t see your body. But you can see your hands and you can push and pull yourself all through the space station. So, if you’re the type of person that wants to experience weightlessness, this is a way. And quite frankly, probably after about six minutes, I got pretty dizzy on it.

Joe: So just seeing is enough to make you feel weightless even if you’re not.

Kevin: We’ve learned, and I’ve learned the hard way that when the virtual body moves and the physical body is stationary, that’s where there’s a propensity for people to become queasy or kind of lose their balance and things. It just so happens that I’m probably about one of the most sensitive people out there.

Joe: In general, but… (laughs)

Kevin: (laughs) Yes, in general and in VR and in the name of science and R&D I’ve probably gotten myself physically sick, I don’t know, more than thirty times. It’s a new learning lesson every single day. It really is.

Joe: So what’s the weirdest virtual reality thing that you’re comfortable talking about, that you’ve done?

Kevin: That we’ve done?

Joe: Or even that you’ve seen.

Kevin: One that I think is the most impactful, it’s weird, it’s scary, and it’s very, very, very simple. Its a gamer experience called ‘Richie’s Plank’. The graphics are ok, it’s not the most beautiful thing. But you go in an elevator and you hit the virtual button and it just brings you forty stories in the air and the doors open and there’s a plank and that’s it. It’s just about the most frightening thing that I ever experienced. In fact, I couldn’t even walk out on the plank the very first time that I did it. It took me a few times and then I actually cheated, cause you know you can fall off the plank and basically fall all of the way down. I kind of kept one eye out of the VR headset and had a view of, at least my foot. So, I felt safe. But I was, frankly, too afraid to do it. Recently, we’ve been doing more one on one demos and just showing it to technology leaders and interested parties and the dean of this college and the head of the Chamber of Commerce. It was interesting to see who would take a step and who wouldn’t. I mean, I really wasn’t forceful with anybody but I tried to be encouraging to get the person to walk out on the plank if they felt intimidated by the height because, obviously it’s really scary if you’re afraid of heights. It was pretty great. Almost everybody eventually walked out on the plank and experienced it kind of with my help of and encouragement along the way. But there is certainly a large amount of people that just wouldn’t do it.

Joe: There’s that myth that if you die in your dreams…is that true for VR too?

Kevin: I hope not, because I died so many times in VR it’s probably too many to count. But for gaming it’s amazing. The kind of work we’re doing right now is just a lot of exploratory and R&D. We’re working with a tool for data visualization. We’re not even really sure how far we’re going to go with it or where it’s going to lead to. So, in some ways we really do feel like pioneers in this because somebody had to figure out pie charts and graph charts and they’re really important to understand data. Well, now you can walk through the data. You can be immersed in it. So, we’re just exploring new ways on how that could happen and what the experience would be and what use cases there are for it. So it’s a lot of fun.

Joe: So you feel like technically that your team could probably do about anything so half the time it feels it might a solution looking for a problem.

Kevin: Absolutely, yeah I mean we’re builders. We’re builders just like any other builder in the world. We just do it with code. And we have craftsmen and journeymen with specialties. People that model 3D elements, people that animate, people that draw, people that work with big databases, and people that write with code. I mean, code is sticks and stones. I guess it’s a good way to put it. We’re constantly looking to solving the next problem. You know, most of our work comes from our clients requesting us but at the same time we like to devote a certain amount of our time as a company into R&D and into new technologies. And right now virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality are three things that we’re really excited for. The CEO of our company, Sean Carey, the founder of HD Interactive was actually out the first week in June at the Apple Developer Conference and we are really excited that Apple has provided tools now for developers like us for augmented reality. It’ll be coming probably, you know, in the next year or two I think we’ll see a real rise in all kinds of ways that augmented reality can be used on the telephone as well as the tablet. So, just partnering and giving developers those tools is a very, very exciting thing. And I think as far as things to look for in the near future, augmented reality is going to be a very, very, very popular thing. We’re already tooling around with it and getting the developer kits and spending some time playing with the sample code that they give us and getting those things working.

Joe: So, for people who may not be familiar with this space, can you sort of describe augmented reality and how it works?

Kevin: Sure, so augmented reality by definition is any digital element that interacts with the real world so a very simple basic example that we’ve both seen a million times is the first down marker on a football game when you watch tv. So there’s a painted yellow line in there. Nowadays we’ve got all kinds of graphics that come up and even advertisements that show up on the field especially in soccer in the world league and things like that, that aren’t actually there. You don’t even know the difference. So, that’s by definition what augmented reality means. Quite literally, augmenting reality with something that is digital. So, the early stages of it were webcam and something called a marker. So it was a black and white thing you’d give it code and then you show the webcam the code. It was a bit of a fad. There were video games like that, there was augmented reality birthday cards and greeting cards. And yeah, we augmented our business card, I don’t know, probably three or four years ago just to test it out. At that time that was the Qualcomm Vuforia SDK, so that was the software development kit for that and I think maybe within a week or so, we already had many of the assets laying around if you will. So we put it together and it’s always fun just to show. Kind of shows our creativity as a company and I get to say I have the coolest business card. But, you know, after that it was really a parlor trick and so, it really wasn’t widely adopted.

Joe: Would you put that into, you know, a lesser of the QR code?

Kevin: Yeah, or even a fancier version of the QR code because it would look for an image. Originally when it came out, we were hoping to maybe use it in say an art museum that you could just hold your phone to a…

Joe: That’s a great idea.

Kevin: You know, the technology really wasn’t there and I could talk about that thing for a while but in the end it wasn’t really a feasible thing with the technology itself and then the budgets needed to create stuff like that wasn’t a great fit. But Pokemon Go was huge. Your kids still playing Pokemon Go?

Joe: We never did Go. We’re still doing the cards and the old school things, yeah and it was a full on addiction.

Kevin: It’s still happening so that is another version is augmented reality because it knows literally geolocated where you are. So, it’s interacting with the real world with again, digital content in some way.

Joe: How do they monetize that?

Kevin: I think with in-app purchases. I think there is a free version. I actually, I escaped that one. There were too many friends and family and too many opportunities for my five year old daughter that we didn’t need it in the house.

 

Joe: Our team got into it, our Big Sea team, and I think we probably lost a solid, five hundred man hours to people out there doing that. So, I’m going to send an invoice to Nintendo.

 

Kevin: It’s also part of the experience and also part of learning and aren’t we lucky that sometimes our jobs are to play video games. I certainly know that I am and I never thought that twenty years ago this is what I’d be doing.

Joe: And you guys, I mean, you’re on the forefront of technology. You’ve also kind of been on the forefront of doing business. You’ve had a distributed team now for a million years. It’s given you a really nice life and obviously there’s some drawbacks in not having an office but it seems like you guys have thrived and…..

Kevin: Yeah, you know, at the end of the day its overhead that was really never important as the way that we saw it and many companies operate and need that. Many development teams feel like they need to be in the same space and we’ve always been able to work collaboratively with online and the telephone and Skype. Skype is great, I mean Skype and Basecamp and email. You know we’re really excited. Sean made a…we were talking about what we were going to talk about today and one concept that came up is, you know, this is big news of Apple adopting this augmented reality engine and giving developers these tools. Is it super practical to hold your phone up and play a videogame that sits on your table so you’re seeing it in real life? No, but it is a bridge to everyone in the world getting used to augmented reality in a new way. So, this is what’s going to happen in the next couple of years. We’ll start having consumer wearable devices so the things are happening around us and to the point when maybe in five or ten years they’re glasses, not much bigger than mine, and we don’t have screens anymore. We have a brick in our pocket that’s just processing all of the information. It’s a computer but there’s no screen on it. Laptops, same thing. Television is the same thing. We could just have our glasses on and hit a few buttons and boom, there’s a TV right in front of us. The fundamentals of those technologies exist today. So, where they’ll be in ten or twelve years, it’s going to be interesting but we may not have screens anymore. I think that’s going to change. So, we’re in a wonderful time of transition and bridging into these new technologies. You know the internet, smart phones, virtual and augmented reality. It’s the next evolution and the next thing.

 

Joe: A lot of these things are amazing. There are are a lot of amazing technologies out there but especially things that change people’s behavior. It takes a groundswell to get to that point to where you can get mass behavior change. You know, Twitter is an example, right? Who talked like Twitter? But sort of by definition enough people had to be ok with talking like Twitter, then all of a sudden it catches fire and goes kind of over that tip and goes big and that sometimes is as much the impetus for success of a technology as anything which is half marketing, half quality of the technology.

Kevin: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more and we really haven’t even talked about artificial intelligence.

Joe: Yes, that was a question I had was where does VR meet AI and what does that look like?

Kevin: We’re still trying to figure it out. It’s something we’re huge fans of, study everyday, read and absorb as much as we can. Our guess is probably by this time next year we’ll have some element of AI in some software development project or app or something that we’re making. The tools for people like us to employ AI is becoming easier. So, as developers adopt it, people will adopt it. But again, the core fundamentals are here. There’s an interesting story, we think about AI and what it’s going to replace and, you know, the easy things are drivers and, you know, service industry jobs. Well, there’s some stories out there and forgive me if I don’t get them a hundred percent right but Watson, the IBM computer, solved a problem that would’ve taken two million man hours to get an answer on. They made a book of haikus that was a mix between AI written and human written poems and people couldn’t tell the difference. Music industry people said, ‘Well I’m safe. I’m always going to have a job. AI is never going to affect me.’ and, AI is producing brilliant compositions that again, there’s no way that a computer did this and well, uh, yeah they did. Its rich in sound and complex in melody.

Joe: That really taps into the patterns. There are people who are in the music industry that write songs. They know the patterns, this, this, this, crescendo this, repeat this, repeat that and…

Kevin: And AI is doing it. There’s actually AI writing more AI code. We’re not safe man!

Joe: Is that a double entendre?

Kevin: Right! We always thought that, you know, well we’re developers, you know, we’re writing code. That’s not going to be taken over by artificial intelligence. Well, you know, it might.

Joe: Politicians talk about it. There’s a big groundswell now about just, I forget what the name of it is but basically just giving people three thousand dollars a month because there’s no work for them and the more where you’re going to at some point have less jobs than people because technology is going to do the work and, you know, it doesn’t mean there’s less money. You know, there’s an element baked into sort of our society that there will always be work available and that you should work and that a lot of political debates happen around whether people who don’t work should be taken care of or not and the unfairness around that. But, you know, you look in around the corner a hundred years from now it may be very possible that robots and AI does so much that literally, as the population increases, there are literally just aren’t enough jobs that humans need to do. So, rethinking the idea of just giving a certain amount of money to people every month that’s generated by the economy.

Kevin: It’s going to be interesting to see what happens, that’s for sure. I can see it but, you just never know. Someone still has to maintain them and I really don’t know where it’s going to go but we’ll be there along the way, monitoring it, using it, employing it, experiencing it, and evangelizing it for sure, hopefully.

Joe: Yeah, you mentioned Elon Musk, he has some concerns. He has some ideas about AI and, you know, sometimes he seems like he wants to put the brakes on that a little bit. Not that that’ll ever happen but he’s a pretty forward thinking guy and so he’s worth listening to because he’s so progressive and so forward thinking in so many areas to have concerns in this area. It always seemed counterintuitive to his general vibe so, hey, that makes me want to pay attention.

Kevin: We pretty much listen to everything that he says and adapt most of his word. I just have fun with they guy’s Twitter feed. He just has, really smart ideas. Just fun new technology things that don’t exist and, you know, crazy idea after crazy idea. Have you seen the thing about his tunnels?

Joe: No.

Kevin: He wants to put tunnels deep, deep, deep, deep, under Los Angeles and your self-driving car will lower and then, (swoosh sound).

Joe: Through the tunnel?

Kevin: Through the tunnels and alleviate traffic and time and then you pop back up on an elevator to the top.  I don’t know if it’s a Ted Talk or an interview but there’s a…I think it’s a Ted Talk

Joe: Isn’t that just a subway?

Kevin: It’s the next ‘geny’ I guess. It’s an underground highway.

Joe: Right. So, what’s the viability of being underground in Los Angeles?

Kevin: Well there’s nowhere else to go.

Joe: Sure, but I mean from a better aux-stability standpoint.

Kevin: I guess that was all ok. I don’t know, the cool animation that he had made it look ok.

Joe: As long as the cartoon says it’s safe, I believe it.

Kevin: Exactly.

Joe: Well I’ve got a few minutes left. I’d like to transition into talking about St. Petersburg. You know, I feel like you’re pretty ingrained in the community. I see you out and about a lot, been here a while, family here, support a lot of things. Let’s start by talking about your feelings on St. Pete’s evolution, it’s renaissance or whatever you want to call it over the last ten years.

Kevin: It’s been so great. I moved here when I was twenty years old, in 1990. The first job I had was at the St. Pete Times while I finished up a lowly AA degree at St. Pete College and then was lucky enough and fortunate enough to get a job at a company called Templeton. They had these things called ‘Mutual Funds’ right over here on Central Avenue. I didn’t know what a mutual fund was the day before I started.

Joe: Is this Franklin Templeton?

Kevin: Yeah it was Templeton, yeah. John and Rosemary Galbraith, one of the founders of the company, that have lived in St. Petersburg and have been incredibly philanthropic along the way. They no longer live here but I was hired and interviewed by Rosemary Galbraith in October of 1991 and shortly after that they merged with Franklin Mutual Funds to become Franklin Templeton. In the time that I was there we went from three hundred employees to three thousand employees.

Joe: So, you were there for the merger?

Kevin: I sure was. I was there throughout the entire evolution and then into arguably the greatest economic period we’ve had in our country’s history at a mutual fund company in the financial industry. I actually started in customer service and moved up into sales and my job was, in the late nineties, going to factories and plants all over the country and explaining to a worker what 401K was. Yeah, so I gave the first talks on 401Ks and explained to people why they should have them and what an important thing looking back now. At the time it was just a drag to go to Meridian, Mississippi and Chunky, Alabama.

Joe: Chunky, Alabama.

Kevin: There’s a Chunky, Alabama! In Meridian, Mississippi is where they make Peavey guitars and Peavey amps and Peavey drums. I got to meet Hartley Peavey who is basically a cousin of Les Paul. So, it was incredible, yeah. And then they made the mistake of telling them I play drums and they put me in this drum room in this sixty-four piece crazy Neil Peart drum set and all sat with their hands folded and waited for me to play it. Like, I’m sorry I’m the karate kid of drums, I know four things well. But getting back to St. Petersburg. So, I started at a company that’s two wonderful companies that are really en-drenched and been a part of the St. Petersburg culture for a very, very, very long time and I live thirty blocks away from downtown right now. It’s the farthest from downtown I’ve lived in the twenty-six years that I’ve been. So, I’ve been going to the Emerald Bar, and the yacht club and the Museum of Fine Arts, and places like that.

Joe: I see what you did there. You started off with the Emerald and then, ‘Oh, wait and the yacht club and the museum! Not just the Emerald! I mean, you know, five days a week. But I did go to the yacht club once and…’

Kevin: God bless the Emerald. That’s what my t-shirt would say. So, it’s been fantastic, all of the development, all the building, all the arts, all the culture. I’m not sure what came first, the art, the culture, or the money. But I’ve been able to see all three of them align with each other and it’s just so great. I did Leadership St. Pete twelve years ago. I sat on their board for seven years. I advise a wonderful non-profit called Creative Clay that teaches art to adults with developmental disabilities – a horribly underserved population. I’ve done that, sat on the board for a while, the executive committee and now I advise them as well. Watched the Morean Arts Center be built right across the street when I was at Franklin Templeton. I watched those columns come in, I saw the funny shape, and like, literally watched the cranes one day from my office. So, to see the Morean celebrate its hundredth year as an art gallery is another fantastic thing. So, I’m the youngest of four, the only one in my family who doesn’t live in the town we were born in, and this is my roots. I certainly believe that family is first but in the same vein my roots and my family are here in St. Petersburg and I’ll be a lucky person if I spend the rest of my life here and raise my daughter here.

Joe: Great. So, what are your thoughts on the Pier? I’ll even be more specific, not the new design, not the…that sort of thing. What place has that area played in St. Pete’s history and what role do you think it should or will play in St. Pete’s future?

Kevin: Its funny you ask me about the Pier. The Pier has been my client at different agencies that I’d worked in. We’ve been the agency of record from 2001 until the day that it shut its doors. Worked with the city, worked with the folks at the Pier and I started attending public meetings about the new pier in 2008. I don’t think there’s anyone at St. Petersburg that’s not an architect, a city employee, that actually isn’t intimate with the project as I was able to be. Basically, I’ve forgotten more than most people know about the pier and where it started and where it went. I think we should have a pier. I think we missed the mark and we made a mistake by not making the lens. I really do. It’d be there right now. It would be huge and beautiful. Some of the critics I just didn’t really see eye-to-eye with and any building you build is going to need maintenance and the type of material and those things were guesses at the time. I believe that the right decisions would’ve been made and would’ve been a long lasting thing. Man, we could do a whole show on the pier, we really could. So, I was really disappointed that that project got voted down by my community. I felt like my community let itself down. I was really saddened and shocked that that happened. It would be here.

Joe: Well, one of the other interesting points, I was talking with someone yesterday about the Pier on actually another show and the new design lacks the large, iconic,…You think of things like the St. Louis Arch, for example. It is what it is. Its a piece of art but its something that people come and take pictures of and it defines the city. But yet, you could still go up in it. You can still have events around it. It doesn’t preclude from having that sort of community availability and vibe. You look at the Space Needle, maybe not so much as far as the events around it or the community by it, but, you know, its a thing you still go up and use it. So there’s use to the community but with a different landscape in Seattle. But are we losing out by not having that one thing that can be photographed and be associated with the city as an icon.

Kevin: Well, the people voted it down. I mean we were going to have that with the Lens. It was going to be this iconic, big, beautiful, giant thing and it got voted down. So, the design that we have today, you either have form or function. Although, tourists aren’t going to come and take pictures of it. I’m going to take my kid there a lot. We’re going to spend a lot of time there. People in Seattle don’t go to the Needle. Who are we building it for? Are we building it for tourists or are we building it for our people?

Joe: Or can we serve both?

Kevin: I thought the lens did it. But I’m excited about this and there’s a million little reasons why there isn’t a restaurant and shopping out over the water. There’s a bunch of them. When you have that type of stuff, have to have different kinds of pilings and you have to have fire, sewer, water. You have to have the ability for an ambulance and a fire truck to get down there to put out a fire. Again, I know this because I went to public for five years on the subject. So, when they took all of that off the water, it was by design. They just ‘Eh, we don’t want to do that. We don’t want to have boats just dock up to restaurants.’ We would, but it wasn’t in the budget. Fifty-million bucks and it had to have a subsidy of much less to operate and run it. It was a half a million dollars a year to run the Pier. That was tax payer money. That was going away because the restaurants and all that stuff and the retail was going away and quite frankly, it should be a Beach Drive. Go to a restaurant and eat and look at the Pier. Go out over the water and fish and boat and kayak and walk and maybe listen to concerts. So, the new Pier park solves all those. That’s something that I’ll want to go to.

Joe: So, you were disappointed about the Lens but you also embrace what’s coming as well and look forward to it?

Kevin: Yeah, I get it. It’s not going to be as cool looking. I mean, it could be, maybe it is. But, I certainly am going to have a lot of fun at it. There’s going to be a lot stuff to do. There’s going to be beautiful views. It’s not going to look great from a helicopter but the good things is I’m not in a helicopter that much. I’m going to be on the ground.

Joe: Ever since they took the helipad off the top of the Emerald you stopped flying, right?

Kevin: Exactly! I think it’s going to be something that families use everyday and I would rather have something for the people than something for the people who visit the people. We need tourism, definitely. But that’s why we have hotels and restaurants and museums. I’m happy that it’s for the people and I’m behind it. Its definitely better than nothing. You know, I got a call from the city about ‘Can we make, like, an animated movie? We’ve got to sell this to the people’. Those things are expensive and unfortunately, it wasn’t in the budget to do a big fancy animation like that. I wish there was. Could you imagine if I could make a virtual reality experience of the Pier and you could walk through it and you could really look at it? I think a lot of people would a lot more behind it if we could immerse them in it now and just show it to them. But, you know, its just so far its just meant to be. But I love what I’ve seen and I hope they start building. They’re tearing everything out now.

Joe: Yeah it looks like its moving. Some news about the recent permits and stuff.

Kevin: I’m for it, for sure.

Joe: Alright, last thing, we’re getting down to it. I want you to give someone a shout out. Its a segment that I like to do and I’m going to preclude you from using Creative Clay since we’ve talked about them a lot. So, tell me someone, or it can be a entity but, you know, a person is nice as well. I think sometimes entities are a little easier and people get left out of that. In St. Pete who’s doing something neat, who’s doing something worthy that’s helping to lift up St. Pete or just something has impressed you and you think they would benefit from having a few more eyeballs on what they’re doing or a little attention and appreciation thrown their way.

Kevin: That’s a really easy one for me. I want to give a shout out to The Poynter Institute. If you don’t know who The Poynter Institute are, they are the entity that not only runs and operates the St. Pete Times, but they serve the entire journalistic community across the whole globe. What does that mean? What do they really do? Well, my shout out is to a fine gentleman by the name of Al Tompkins. What Al does is Al is actually hired by every major news organization in the world, CNN, CBC in Toronto and Al Jazeera and ABC, NBC, and what he does is he teaches modern storytelling for journalists. His students in class are veteran writers, producers, and camera people and it comes right out of here from St. Petersburg and makes an impression all over the world. In these days when there’s so much thought and energy on what is news. The people at Poynter are really trying to always police that and answer the question. As soon as I got VR goggles and VR movies, I went straight to Al Tompkins and literally while I was showing him virtual reality, he’s like “Look, Tom Brokaw is on the phone!’ and it says NBC News and the reason why they had called Al is because in the newsroom they couldn’t come to a consensus about how they were going to use a story. So, Al was the deciding vote on what word they were going to use. I don’t know the specifics he wasn’t able to tell me. But Tom Brokaw called him to get his advice on what is the best way to tell the truth. Telling the truth is what the mission of the Poynter Institute is and I know a lot people know who they are. I don’t know if a lot people know what they do. It’s so incredibly impressive and exciting to know that its coming from here and Al lives two miles from my house when he’s home. Most of the time he’s at these places, teaching journalists and trying to always be honest and tell the truth which is so hard these days. So, my shout out is to The Poynter Institute and to Al Tompkins. You make the world a better place and you do it here from St. Petersburg.

Joe: Beautiful, thank you. Alright, Kevin Hohl, HD Interactive, its been a pleasure and I might take you up on that offer to talk pier for an hour.

Kevin: Oh my gosh, I’d love to. Thank you this was among the fastest hour of my life. So, it was fantastic. Great job, super comfortable, and I’d be back anytime.

Joe: Great, thank you.

Kevin: Thank you

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About the host

Joe Hamilton is the CEO of Big Sea and a founding Insight Board member at the St. Petersburg Group.  Joe brings a strong acumen for strategy and positioning businesses. He serves on several local boards, including TEDx Tampa Bay, which grew his desire to build a platform where the area’s thought leaders could share their valuable insight with the community at large.


About the St.Petersburg Group

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