Walid Kilonzi

AR, VR, Empowering Africa!

Discover the world of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality!

Join us as we sit down with Walid Kilonzi, the extended reality producer at Fallohide Africa—a cutting-edge creative studio revolutionizing Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality


Discover how AR, VR, and mixed reality transcend entertainment and find their real-world applications. From enhancing work environments to streamlining employee training, Walid shares captivating experiences from Kenya where extended reality is already making a significant

impact. Moreover, Fallohide Africa's mission to craft original African realities that resonate with its people and support local enterprises in the digital frontier is truly inspiring. Prepare for an exciting exploration into the magic of extended reality and how it's shaping Africa's narratives and empowering its future!

This is the fourteenth episode under the ‘Shifting Narratives’ program supported by the British Council SSA Arts.

*For the best experience, please use a headset/earphones.

Website: https://www.fallohide.africa

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/walidkilonzi

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Walid Kilonzi: We say we create original African realities that are true to the African people and their labors. And that is our responsibility that we take very seriously. So we hope that this year that we continue creating these realities that are true to the African people and the work that they do in terms of the commercial work that we do. 


[00:00:20] Adrian Jankowiak: So Walid Kilonzi from Fallohide Africa. Such a pleasure to have you here, man. We met at an event you were doing and we've been tracking each other's work and progress for a while. You guys at Fallohide, you're really focused on XR and people hear all these terms of AR, MR, VR, XR. So what is XR? Perhaps you can give people an introduction.

[00:00:46] Walid Kilonzi: Great. Thank you so much for having me. So extended reality is an umbrella term of what we call immersive technologies and extended reality would have virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. So virtual reality is a simulated environment by a computer to be able to be in a sort of digital world, or sometimes in a pre-recorded 360 footage kind of experience.

[00:01:12] So it can either be both made or shot on a specialized camera called a 360

camera. Also we have augmented reality where you can superimpose digital assets into the real world. Think that you want to buy a new couch and you want to see how it would fit in your living room or how it look like, and then superimpose that digital couch and you see how that looks like.

[00:01:34] Also, Instagram filters and Snapchat filters and TikTok filters are augmented

reality. And then we lastly have mixed reality, which has an identity crisis. But ideally mixed reality is a mixture of both augmented reality and virtual reality. Where as of now, mixed reality has a VR headset attached to it but it has a... what we call a pass through. It can see the wall as is, but can now superimpose those assets. So it's ideally a mixture of both virtual reality and augmented reality. Later on this year when Meta releases the Meta Quest 3, we'll get to understand what mixed reality really is at a commercial space.

[00:02:10] But yeah, right now it kind of has an identity crisis. But the most important

ones would be VR and AR.

[00:02:18] Adrian Jankowiak: So now actually once we get to the place where we have sunglasses or contact lenses that can display augmented reality. If they can also display things within their screen, then will that be augmented reality or mixed reality?

[00:02:33] Walid Kilonzi: That's a good question. There are augmented reality glasses, so mixed reality headset would switch between VR and AR. So AR glasses can switch to VR. So then they just become augmented reality glasses.

[00:02:47] Adrian Jankowiak: Yeah. Nice. How did you get into this and how did you start getting into the technologies and finding people to work with?

[00:02:57] Walid Kilonzi: Great. So, think back late 2015, early 2016. Mark Zuckerberg, I think invested in VR by buying a company called Oculus and way before that I was really into Google Street View, just kind of going through like a bunch of places all over the world and that was really exciting and I've always wondered how they did it.

[00:03:16] So when I saw that Facebook had both Oculus, now known as Meta. It became very exciting to see what I could jump into this because I really didn't feel like,

cause my background is in film, I didn't feel like film posed a challenge enough for me. Not saying that I was perfect in every way, it just didn't scratch that itch that I had.

[00:03:35] Then I went ahead and worked with a few people within that space here in Kenya which is really exciting. Where I got to work with Al Jazeera. I got to work with Safaricom. I got to work with a bunch of other interesting clients. Then in 2019, I decided to start my own studio called Fallohide, where we've went ahead to work with various multinational companies based in Africa, and also work with various governments within Africa to kind of support them in mostly social impact problems.

[00:04:07] Adrian Jankowiak: What sort of social impact problems and what was the methodology for that? Why did they come to you and how did you go to come up with solutions for them?

[00:04:16] Walid Kilonzi: Great. So specifically for governments I think there's often a concern of that they need to digitize and they need to digitize quickly. The how is often the problem. So for example, during the pandemic Machakos County really had a decimated tourism industry that had shown promise in the prior years as a destination that you could go to within the environs of Nairobi. So, Once the pandemic hit, of course, everybody was hit hard, but specifically for Machakos County, they wanted a strategy of a post covid travel kind of contingency plan to make sure that the industry could pick up as quickly as possible. We had this theory of there would be post covid

travel boom, which actually happened.

[00:05:05] The county needed to think about, fine, what can we do now to prepare for that time? They initially called me to just create simple content, simple documentaries, simple photos. I told them we could take this a step further, we could create an XR approach together with tools that are readily available by open platforms such as Google to be able to kind of create that content hosted and also make sure that that marketing funnel leads to sales, ideally. So, we decided to shoot 360 documentaries of these tourism sites. We also showed normal documentaries.

[00:05:43] We also did map most of the hotels more than 150 giving them also access to their Google My Business profiles giving them 360 photos to host it onto their Google profile, which is ideally street view and also still normal content. So we were giving out content to stakeholders, giving the content to the county so that in terms of marketing during the pandemic, people can experience Machakos.

[00:06:10] So that kind of tease would now lead to the curiosity to go to Machakos County and as a company we thought Google would definitely love what we're doing and we approach them and told them, Hey, we're up to this and we're using your platform to do this. And this has never been done before in Africa. So I think this is something to keep an eye on. And they were wonderful about it. They gave free training to this hoteliers. They gave up to $50 of ad credits for this hoteliers. Supported them. We were helping Google also to kind of fix their pins. Since we were physically there, we would give them the right coordinates and kind of fix them properly.

[00:06:48] Some of those accounts were taken by other malicious parties, so those accounts were given back to the real owners. And it was really a beautiful time for

digital marketing in Machakos County. And they were very happy about it. Of course, they did a documentary on it that is on the YouTube page.

[00:07:04] That kind of gives a summary on what we did and what we achieved. So, yeah, I think government even till today, with our slightly new president, he's very keen on counties and ministries to digitize in a way that makes sense. Using our Machakos County as a kind of like a case study.

[00:07:23] We are lucky to be working currently with a bunch of agencies within the

government and working with other counties to achieve the same or better with what we achieved with Machakos County. And maybe just to add were we able to kind of measure that impact. So Google gave us access to the data of how many people started searching some of these hotels. Where were they coming from and kind of compiling this data that they constantly give Machakos County to use it for policy. And that's when we saw that curve, you know, go quite high in terms of number of phone calls. Even some of these hotels started delivering because the curiosity was so high.

[00:08:00] Since they couldn't travel there, at least they could now kind of get deliveries done and things like that. So that's how we were also able to measure that impact.

[00:08:09] Adrian Jankowiak: Nice and practically speaking, you walked around as well, right? You documented in 360. What was that experience like?

[00:08:18] Walid Kilonzi: We kind of forgot about the pandemic because we were in really sometimes rural places and the road was empty and it was that kind of experience of just driving and we had special permission from the governor at the time to kind of just go through the borders. Cause I stay towards the Nairobi area.

[00:08:37] And we sort of kind of forgot about the pandemic. But of course, every time

we'd get to the destination where we're going and we'd see how deserted it is, we then are reminded why we're doing what we're doing. So I think especially with the tourism sites, initially it was exciting. Then we started going to the hoteliers and that's when it became very depressing very quickly.

[00:08:59] You seeing people who have more than 200 rooms all completely empty. You're seeing how very large restaurants are only having one waiter kind of a thing.

Just business was really, really bad. And this hoteliers really needed all the help they could get.

[00:09:13] So... I grew up in Machakos County myself, so even just being able to help some of these places that I kind of grew up in, where on Sunday afternoons my family

and I would go and, you know, have dinner or lunch or whatever at these places and seeing how much they're suffering is completely empty.

[00:09:32] It was really heartbreaking. But the fact that we were able to help them in

that capacity was extremely invigorating. It was exciting that we were able to kind of do that for them. And we still get phone calls every now and then just kind of saying still thank you. And we are also still constantly trying to help them in any way that we can.

[00:09:50] If a pin has been shifted or you know, there're things to be solved, we still

connect them with the relevant guys at Google to kind of just help them so that's how that experience was.

[00:10:01] Adrian Jankowiak: It sounds like you've made an impact there. How are you tracking beyond those conversations? You mentioned tracking impact. Are they seeing improvements from that boom?

[00:10:12] Walid Kilonzi: Definitely. And just to add on that, the county still gets a report I think every quarter on how the hoteliers are doing. Especially we're tracking the ones that we helped specifically. And we've realized that the impact has even gone beyond the county assisting them with digital marketing, we find that they have now enough resources to hire a digital marketer in-house.

[00:10:34] Some of this relationship between these hoteliers and Google has gone beyond Google just helping, but also running ads on the platform. Even the fact that

just getting that report and Machakos County is always very gracious to kind of sit us down as a stakeholder to kind of just take us through what they received that quarter.

[00:10:51] That's how we are able to kind of see, oh yeah, things are going great for the

majority. But we also now still in discussion of saying, fine, that effort is kind of deteriorating over time. There're those who really did well but there those who either still need a leg up of sorts or the county can still do better.

[00:11:09] They're more than 100 and 50 hotels in Machakos County. And so we are now kind of in that discussion of seeing fine. Can we add more onto that database, can we now specifically strengthen women and the youth? How can we make sure that the counties aware not just through the data that Google provides, but also being in conversation with these hoteliers in a steady way.

[00:11:34] We're also trying to see how they could get more training, which roads have not been mapped properly, and all that kind of stuff. So we are kind of also now sitting back and saying, fine, that was great back then. We now need to sit down and see how can we now take it forward as a country moves towards a more digital age.

[00:11:51] Adrian Jankowiak: Great. And am I right in thinking you worked with Insta 360 or at least with the equipment for the project. That might interest people how you would convince an international camera manufacturer to work with you. What's the value then for them?

[00:12:07] Walid Kilonzi: Insta 360 has been a godsend for the XR community in very many ways. And just for context. Originally, if you had to have a 360 camera, you had to 3D print a thingamajig that could host four GoPros. 

[00:12:26] Adrian Jankowiak: Yeah.

[00:12:27] Walid Kilonzi: Yeah. Yeah. Mount exactly. And you had to put like four GoPros and you had to sync them all together in post-production manually.

[00:12:36] So like putting the picture the way it's supposed to be, and then you'd have a 360 video. It was extremely problematic. But then again, we are always thankful that GoPro came up with software and they kind of helped the industry at that time, but it was really horrible, because another thing you needed to do to sync them up together is rub the camera like you're trying to make a fire to kind of just spin them around to sync all that together which was very hard on the hands. So Insta360 came into the industry some time back in the VR early days, and they kind of changed the game where you could now buy a camera that had two or more lenses and you are able to now take your 360 photo or your 360 video very comfortably.

[00:13:24] And ever since then, we've never used any other 360 camera. They have the best quality, they have the best battery solutions, you know, they're also very pocketable. Some of their cameras you can literally put it in your pocket and you know you're good to go. You have an entire studio in your pants.

[00:13:42] So for this project, we were traveling a lot. So we couldn't use their big

professional camera called the Insta360 Pro two, or if their Titan, which is now even way more massive. And for more context, the Pro two has 8 K quality, the Titan has 12 K quality, which is absolutely nuts. So we said fine.

[00:14:05] We want something that is travel friendly that we can hot swap our batteries. And, you know, something that can also take in a large amount of storage and can deal with high temperatures and also very low temperatures because we went

to the highest places in Machakos County to the lowest places within the county.

[00:14:23] So we told them, hey, we're using one of your cameras and if you can support us with an Enterprise version of it, we would be actually happy. So sadly they

couldn't send the enterprise version because at that time, logistics and shipping, and it was an issue in Kenya. I can't remember what was happening at that time.

[00:14:43] But JKIA, like goods were stuck there for months on end. So we decided fine

we'd invest in one but any kind of support that you can give us when we do this would be very happy. And they were very keen on what we're doing. Cause they wanted to use it also as a case study. So once we were able to achieve what we achieved they were extremely happy.

[00:15:02] They kind of put us out there and talked about what we did. We are still in

conversation to try to see how can we make sure that these cameras are also accessible for other people within the African market. We're in conversation to see also what kind of other case studies that are great for the African market, because whatever happens in Europe, whatever happens in Asia, doesn't completely apply to this market.

[00:15:24] They've been a wonderful partner and we're going to be working on interesting projects very, very soon.

[00:15:28] Adrian Jankowiak: Really exciting. Yeah. With technology like this, with now smartphones, it's much easier for us to even manipulate the 360 footage, isn't it? So it's great to see the progress that's been made since those rigs with four or six GoPros. So you've also done other commercial projects as well.

[00:15:47] You've worked with Nestle. What was the Nestle project about?

[00:15:51] Walid Kilonzi: So Nestle, massive on safety. They take safety very seriously, which is a wonderful thing because manufacturing... it's quite easy to get hurt. And they have a curriculum that is very private only meant for the workers and, and stakeholders that are involved in contractors inside the factory that they wanted us to see if we can solve a few problems. 

[00:16:18] Number one is that the trainings of the safety tend to take a bit too long

since it's quite a booklet. 

[00:16:26] Number two, people tend to get distracted in a world where attention spans are quite small. They have that kind of concern that, you know... they often give a

test once they train you about safety. So they give you a test and you, if you don't pass it, you have to go through the training again. All contractors, anybody who enters the factory, which is very interesting. So they had these problems and they didn't know how to fix it and they were curious to find out, fine, is this something that is doable?

[00:16:56] Is this something that we can execute with this new technology? And we were happy to say yes. So we made a simulation whereby it recreated parts of the

factory in an animated space. And you were able to go through all the main training safety bits of it under 15 minutes. So not only did you just go through the factory, but also you've learned safety specifically for that factory.

[00:17:23] So the muscle memory of saying, oh yeah, I shouldn't do this, or something has gone wrong, I should do what I'm supposed to do cause in the simulation, this is where the fire equipment was. This is that. This is this. It really helps people snap immediately because it's familiar to them. Apart from that, since 15 minutes to them is also still quite a long time.

[00:17:44] We also shot a 360 video of that entire process under five minutes. So these

are for more of people who they want to make sure they get into the factory a bit quickly, but they would still be masked in that. So it's still kind of like a factory tour, but at the same time it sensitizes you onto that safety thing and we are really like, happy that ever since we did that kind of stuff, that we've not had any sort of accidents or anything that has happened within the factory, which to us is such a big win not just for us as a company, but also as an industry that VR is not just a novelty item that this is actually helping people to stay safe at work.

[00:18:27] So the other things, of course, going to explore it later on this year, but I

think it's very exciting. Sadly, we are not able to show or talk in depth what we did, because it's for internal communications, which is an NDA, but we are hoping to work on something later on this year to show the general markets what does a simulation of a manufacturing plant look like so that people out there can understand why it's good for work in that perspective.

[00:18:54] So that was a really exciting project.

[00:18:56] Adrian Jankowiak: So on top of the 360 video, which is the five minute thing, you also recreated in 3D the entire space and rebuilt it and then moved the camera around and got people to interact with the space or, yeah? Something like that.

[00:19:11] Walid Kilonzi: So for example, there's something to do in the safety thing. There's something to do with forklifts. And what kind of distance you need to put between yourself and the forklift. So rather than recreating the entire factory, it's just recreating the place with the highest traffic, where the forklift will go.

[00:19:29] And kind of now recreating that specific part, then so on and so forth. So we

didn't necessarily make it kind of like a free roam experience. Like almost... 

[00:19:39] Adrian Jankowiak: just a scenario, right? It's a every single scenario. Yep.

[00:19:44] Walid Kilonzi: Exactly all in different parts of the factory, but they're high traffic areas. That's typically contractors, which is the most important one because you see the staff already have their own programs of safety and being reminded and memos and all that. So the contractors and visitors and others, customers and stakeholders, those are the most important ones that really need to go through that.

[00:20:13] Adrian Jankowiak: So they get given a VR headset and they got made to sit down for 15 minutes to experience this when they come in?

[00:20:19] Walid Kilonzi: Yeah. So for the simulation, you typically stand, since also VR headsets do have a safety concern. It might be somebody's first time to wear VR headsets. So, if this is somebody who's tech savvy, we'd encourage for them to stand cause that's how the experience is far much better.

[00:20:35] For anybody else, they need to be seated down. So also that's where the 360 video kind of comes into play. For those who are extremely shy or have motion

sickness very easily. The 360 video is the best version of that cause it grounds you. You can see the floor, you can see real life stuff. And of course, taking care of the headset and all that, and also safety issues. So we came up with a way for them to kind of just gauge and ask important questions before somebody's just given a VR headset to kind of just see what works and what doesn't work.

[00:21:05] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm. Great. Thanks. And what about craft reality? Then maybe you can tell us about what you've been up to.

[00:21:13] Walid Kilonzi: Great. So craft reality is our... I would call it a wing. And what we do with craft reality is we train artists to get into XR, not full-time, but as an added kind of skill, giving them access to services and tools that they would otherwise not get anywhere else. Our main goal here is to make sure that they make money with it and kind of ask for more money on top of what they typically ask with their client.

[00:21:43] As a company, we are constantly looking for capacity, people to work with. And skilled XR labor is scarce in the African continent. So we're both kind of building that capacity at the same time we're trying to grow that industry to have some sort of friendly competition amongst us. Then again, also the fact that the technology is kind of getting better and better, but by the time universities and colleges kind of keep up with the curriculum and all that, it'll be kind of too late if when the market really has a lot of demand. 

[00:22:15] So we're also trying to just the market to have that same capacity to kind of

fulfill that demand in that sense. But craft reality, as of now, is more of a training and showcase kind of program that has different IPs. We eventually want to become a distribution platform also so that we're no longer, per se, really doing trainings.

[00:22:39] But we are more or less having very specific artists. We help them build their

experiences and then we help them distribute it all over the world. And why I think that's important is because currently we saw that nobody's really working towards that kind of a future where XR experiences are monetized. There's a lot of funding out there. There's a lot of this and that but we have come to realize that it's not leading to a more sustainable business model for that. So, we take money from the commercial side.

[00:23:12] We invested in building a curriculum. We now have a curriculum on VR, AR, pretty soon also mixed reality that we are going to license and we have been licensing

to certain universities by being guest lecturers or kind of just adding to the papers and stuff like that. Apart from the curriculums, also trying to see whether we could get more trainers, for now, to kind of just see fine who can help us train some of our IPs and are there for cohort and stuff like that. Ideally we wanted to be a more sustainable approach towards a future whereby XR at and, you know, apps are kind of in the same level of ticketing, of distribution, and stuff like that.

[00:23:57] We're doing it slowly but surely. It's difficult without funding but then again, we are very glad to say that we've had very supportive partners who have been able to give us resources to be able to execute this. Being able to connect us to the relevant professionals in different sort of areas to kind of have certain insider information to be able to train people and so on and so forth.

[00:24:20] So later on this year, we will have more IPs and also a repeat of the IPs that

we had last year. Last year we had Nairobi Fat Cap, which is training artists to do virtual reality graffiti. And we also had PNGs Only, which was training digital artists to create augmented reality experiences. We have very, very exciting partners this year that we'll be revealing soon, that are going to help us support this sort of trainings.

[00:24:47] We are working very hard to see how can you distribute these experiences

outside Kenya with no funding. It's not easy, but we feel like we're on, on a more sustainable approach to hack this. We don't shy away from funding, but then again, we also don't sort of apply. And what I mean by that is... we already have a vision of how we want to do this.

[00:25:14] So we typically would go and ask, Hey, do you want to join us on this quest?

And this is how we plan to build this and all that. Rather than seeing opportunities, than trying to apply for that funding because often they don't align with our values or they wouldn't, for example, allow us to monetize eventually.

[00:25:30] So for us, what's important is that we find partners who care about our

approach because our approach is more on creative centered empowerment rather

than just putting our projects out there. Or for the artists to deal with XR content for a while because they had access to the equipment since they no longer have access to it, they can't deal with it anymore. So, we are trying to find a sustainable way to also still support some of these artists. And our former cohorts, we're still working with them in various ways in research and development, in clientele work and things like that.

[00:26:07] And we're hoping this year that we can take it a step, level higher, where we

can do possibly a bigger cohort, possibly do greater marketing, have access to different markets. Then hopefully next year we'll be doing our first ticketing XR experience, which is extremely exciting to see what the African market is willing to pay for an XR experience by an artist they love.

[00:26:31] I think that information is very important, not just in Kenya, but also in other

African countries that are doing XR so that, that way minus the funding, people are able to kind of have these XR experiences that you can pay for and have access to in that sort of way.

[00:26:47] Adrian Jankowiak: Hmm. Yeah, that's really interesting because the things you did with craft reality, the street art and and so on. We need to understand as artists what we can do with it and going back to where you touched on at the beginning, now Google's street view has opened up the AR API.

[00:27:04] Right? The sdk, sorry. So it is basically you can create art and we're kind of

going into this space where we're gonna have our reality, which is the reality around us. And then once we look through an augmented lens, whether that's a phone or a headset, we're going to see a totally different world around us.

[00:27:23] And all we might see is some Pokemon through Pokemon Go, but there's going to be so much more in, in this virtual world around us. So it's really great that

you guys are building that and building the capacity for people to create with it. Have you found any of the designers have used the skills you've taught them so far?

[00:27:42] Gotten into making projects?

[00:27:45] Walid Kilonzi: Currently, we ended up having to go in depth with some of these designers and digital artists. They were more curious and some of them were more curious and wanted more access to some of these tools and some of our partners. So what we decided to do is kind of have a quiet in-house training that is more in depth for them to kind of build that capacity.

[00:28:08] We're glad to say that even some of them have made some money, around that. So it's not a lot of money that they've made. I won't say it's millions or anything

like that, but it's a beginning that fine. Can I monetize this fast than number two? Can I make an entire art experience? So there are some who we are currently still holding their hands for them to kind of still explore, experiment, before they get their first, you know, XR exhibition, solo exhibition. I can't make any promises on their behalf that they're going to do anything anytime soon. It would be my joy that they do but I think we're on track for something very exciting sometime next year.

[00:28:51] Adrian Jankowiak: Nice. Great. Have you got anything else you'd like to share or any questions?

[00:28:57] Walid Kilonzi: Later on this year, we will be doing mostly projects around heritage. We are partnering with other friendly competitors to do exciting. It's a matter of just people being able to be supportive of some of these XR companies, not just ours. Show up at these events, you know, give us feedback.

[00:29:16] That's very important because we do these things cause of you guys. We are

always keen to listen to ideas. And anybody who's kind of curious about XR, we really welcome them to kind of just come and see and explore what this thing is about, what they'd like to build and see how we can support with our resources and time that we have.

[00:29:36] So yeah, I think this is going to be a very exciting year and we typically have

a tagline where we say we create original African realities that are true to the African people and their labors. And that is our responsibility that we take very seriously. So we hope that this year that we continue creating these realities that are true to the African people and the work that they do in terms of the commercial work that we do.

[00:29:59] And also in terms of craft reality- when it comes to whatever realities our

artists or our cohorts kind of decide to make.

[00:30:06] Adrian Jankowiak: Great. Well, I'm excited as well. Really excited to see where the industry goes as a whole and where you guys are taking it as well. It's standing out and hopefully we can collaborate. I'd love to see more museums. You talk about heritage exhibitions. You know, you walk into a heritage site and you shouldn't have to carry a piece of paper with you.

[00:30:30] That sounds exciting and really wishing you an amazing, amazing year. I know we'll see each other hopefully soon at one of these events, one of us is organizing.

[00:30:40] Walid Kilonzi: Definitely. Thank you so much.

[00:30:42] Adrian Jankowiak: Thank you. You have a great day. Thanks for joining.

[00:30:45] Walid Kilonzi: Bye.

[00:30:46] Adrian Jankowiak: Cheers. Cheers.

Episode Credits

Produced by Nairobi Design

Host: Adrian Jankowiak

Producer: David King'ori

Shorts & Artwork: David King'ori

Music: Ngalah Oreyo (@ngalah_oreyo) and Mercy Barno (@merc.b_)

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