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The VictoryXR Show: Qualcomm’s Elliott Levine Talks Chips, Virtual Reality and Education

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March 13, 2024 | Steve Grubbs

Steve Grubbs interviews Elliott Levine who explains his role at Qualcomm and then breaks into a deep conversation about what he is seeing across the country disrupting the way education is delivered. It includes: best use cases for virtual reality, how Qualcomm chips will enable better experiences with wearables, the efficacy of using immersive learning, and some interesting industry news.


  • Elliott Levine, Director of Worldwide Public Sector and Education at Qualcomm, discusses his extensive background in education and emerging technologies, emphasizing the importance of embracing technology for safer and more productive learning environments.
  • Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors are found in various educational products, including laptops, security cameras, drones, and virtual reality (VR) headsets, facilitating generative AI and immersive experiences.
  • The convergence of extended reality (XR) and artificial intelligence (AI) is seen as a transformative force in education, offering personalized learning experiences that adapt to students’ interests and needs, potentially revolutionizing traditional classroom instruction.
  • Despite the promise of technology in education, Levine stresses the importance of addressing challenges such as access to technology and ensuring that innovation is guided by a commitment to improving academic outcomes for all students, highlighting the need for educators and institutions to embrace change and strive for positive impact.

Watch at https://youtu.be/S8Iss7ElJAs?si=yxiHVxizzXBsbHiY

Steve Grubbs: Welcome to the VictoryXR Show. I’m your host Steve Grubbs. And today we have a very special guest Elliott Levine with Qualcomm. But not just any guy from Qualcomm, Elliott leads education in the company and I’ll let him speak more specifically to what he does and the official title, but I know that when Elliott shows up at a conference or at your school, there’s going to be a very good conversation about education and outcomes the use of technology. So Elliott, do you mind just giving everybody a little bit about yourself and your role at Qualcomm?

Elliott Levine: It’s short things I am at this now. I’ve been an education for a little over 30 years. My emphasis has been the adoption of emerging technologies and education. I’ve been a columnist for the National School Boards Association all the way back to electronic school magazine for anybody that actually still remembers that keynote speaker at conferences. I’ve held varying roles in 12 higher education institutions, private companies, publicly traded companies, all the way up to the title of Chief Academic Officer and Distinguished Technologist and probably where a lot of people know me if anyone reads in Tech Digest when they first came out with their list of the top 100 influencers in Ed Tech back in 2018. I was named to that list with some pretty impressive colleagues.

And we always joke as I take some of my co-workers around to shows like that and, Steve they want to know is there anybody that I don’t really know because I seem to be stopping and hugging a lot of people at trade shows catching up with people. I’ve made friends I haven’t seen in years, but that’s part of the fun of this job.

Steve Grubbs: Yeah, yeah, you are very well known and that’s just one more reason why we’re very happy to have you on the show because a lot of people want to hear what you have to say. so you’re at Qualcomm you move from I believe in the classroom to some education roles and then to Qualcomm. Is that right?

Elliott Levine: Yeah, I started back in the 90s in a 12-school District here in New York. After that I went into the for-profit side and the startup. Does anybody remember the great teachers toolbox? Great book package. That was among the companies. I was working with the time. I’ve been my own startup focused on technology sales and I kind of led our public sector practice. Was teaching at the university level when I went back to graduate school here on Long Island. Spent a great number of years at Packard and later HP as well as a phenomenal partner out in California called STS education. They’ve been during that time created the first software to combat bullying and cheating and injuries in Esports called healthy player one. So I’ve had a lot of fun along the way.

Steve Grubbs: Yeah, tell us what you do at Qualcomm specifically.

Elliott Levine: So, my official title is Director of Worldwide Public Sector and Education. So I do also work with local and national governments that are looking to embrace technology. But my ultimate passion throughout my whole life has always been about education and making an impact in the classroom. So for that, I really helped drive the adoption of technologies that can embrace safer and more productive learning environments. And I think a lot of educators are surprised when we start examining the sort of technologies that Qualcomm and Snapdragon-Based processors can be found. Whether it’s laptops, security cameras, drones or virtual reality headsets, they didn’t realize how much of a presence that’s Snapdragon products have in their schools and universities already.

Steve Grubbs: Yeah, yeah and give us a few examples of those types of products.

Elliott Levine: Everyone’s kind of eagerly awaiting the launch of Snapdragon X processors for laptops and you’re going to see it from a large array of computer makers later this year. And these are going to be the first laptops capable of running generative AI on the device itself without the need of the cloud. That’s a major game changer in education.

Steve Grubbs: Wow.

Elliott Levine: When you think if you wanted to evaluate IEPs, the last thing you want to do is toss that up to a cloud where a third party LLM could pick up particularly sensitive student information, and it could be reused in a way that would violate FERPA

 A number of drones not just drones for playtime but drones for security both outside the campus as well as even in the corridors of schools from a number of companies cameras from companies like Cisco Meraki leverage that Dragon processors in them to provide on board AI performance. and VR headsets are synonymous with Snapdragon technology everything from a vast array of Education products all the way up through Quest and even Microsoft Hololens all leverage Snapdragon technology to deliver that.

And I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what the company is doing in automotive iot. I mean the list keeps going on and on what I love about this company for more than anything is they’re constantly innovating. They don’t just say they’re innovating they actually do it and they’re doing it across so many Industries.

Steve Grubbs: Yeah, the powerhouses today are chipmakers, you see that in the market cap on Wall Street Etc. If and frankly even in national policies, the United States for example is very interested in making sure that we have the capability of producing chips. And so Qualcomm somewhat specifically to mobile maybe completely specifically mobile has really dominated that space globally and I know that it’s called the XR2 chip that what it’s called.

Elliott Levine: There is the XR2 Gen 2 that’s now out as well as even an AR to chip. That’s now just specifically for augmented reality.

Steve Grubbs: So the xt2 Gen 2. Is that what’s in the Quest 3?

Elliott Levine: I would have to check if it’s the 1 or Gen 2 to be precise, but the big difference you see in the transition to XR2 is really the optimization for a mixed reality experience. And the earlier headsets really focused on the limitation of what we call 3 DoF or three degrees of freedom. That means I can look up, I can look down, I could look left, I could look right and I could technically pivot my head. It’s all my days position only.

 6 DoF means in addition to my gaze positions. I can now move up and down left and right forward and backwards. So I have movement as well as gaze and anybody who’s played any recent games,and I’m kind of old-fashioned, I was back on the original Sony PlayStation, but if you’re on Playstation, you have one thumb controller for your gaze another for your movement. So having fixed off is something that today’s learners already are quite accustomed to and oftentimes are eagerly, they’re very comfortable with and that’s at the heart of what XR2 is able to deliver and all these new generation headsets are really reflecting it and it creates a much more immersive learning environment. And that’s where some of the studies of late have shown.

Elliott Levine: That truly immersive experiences are what can be the game changer in academia.

Steve Grubbs: So we see Qualcomm chips in obviously VR headsets like Quest and frankly most of the headsets Pico and Lenovo and Vive and all around the world. But we also see them in our iPhone. And then I think in tablets, the iPad and that type of thing.

Elliott Levine: So you’ll see different types of chipsets. So Apple, for example, you mentioned you’ll find a Qualcomm modem in the device, but they use their own silicon in tablets. Yes. We do make a variety of semiconductor specifically just for the tablet industry running Android and doesn’t quite well and that’s separate from our chipsets for computers right now windows. But you’ll find what we do is we don’t just simply take the same chip and try to apply it across the board. Every industry has very specific requirements and needs and each one of those Industries and use cases gets addressed in specific chipsets, which is why now, instead of just having one generic chipset for XR, there’s really one more for mixed reality and there’s another specific to augmented reality. And I think again that just shows that the company is willing to take a leadership role in this industry, especially but make sure that we’re identifying the challenges the needs to deliver the best experience.

Steve Grubbs: So help me understand this. On my computer I might have both a graphics chip and a computing chip. Am I right that in the headset you just have one chip?

Elliott Levine: So yes, when we do a whole system on chip that can deliver not just your CPU and your GPU but the other one that now starts to come into play particularly in computing environments is the neural processing unit. And using neural processing versus GPU or things like artificial intelligence. It is much more productive. You can process that much more information with far less power consumption demands when we think about our gaming PCs that have these massive gpus inside cranking out tons of power.

And imagine our phone being able to do that. We don’t quite have that luxury. But the fact is that the latest smartphones with my Samsung here, but with plenty other OEMs, they’re leveraging the latest Snapdragon processors that can deliver generative AI right on the phone. And the one thing that nobody’s going to give up on their phone is they don’t want a phone with a fan and cranking out a lot of heat and they don’t want a phone with no battery life to it. And we’ve taken that element of it and brought it to so many other technologies. So yes, you’re gonna see GPU and NPU now on more silicon as it comes out in different use cases applications.

Steve Grubbs: So My Ray-Ban Meta glasse, which I wear these non-stop all day long for listeners, if you haven’t tried these out, I love mine and…

Elliott Levine: Really?

Steve Grubbs: these are prescription they’re transition, but I was wondering what chip was in them? One of my friends at Qualcomm told me it was a Qualcomm chip. and which chip would do,…

Elliott Levine: Yes.

Steve Grubbs: if that’s the Gen 2

Elliott Levine: I would have to look to see which one it is.

Steve Grubbs: While you’re looking I’ll just tell people, the thing that I love about it is that I have this AI at my beck and call all day long. It gets a little better all the time, but I can walk down the street and say hey call so and so right on my glasses. I can ask you questions, somewhat limited right now in the questions you can ask but it’s expanding they keep putting out updates. So it’s pretty cool stuff. I can take videos. I can take photos all of that type of thing.

Elliott Levine: Yep, and affects it. So that particular pair of glasses you’re wearing that is using the 1 Gen 1 so specifically a use case for augmented reality for day to day use as you’re explaining.

Steve Grubbs: Interesting. I love it. So I’m a big endorsement for the Ray Ban Meta glasses. Let’s move on to the topic of use cases for computing Metaverse learning whatever we want to call it.

Elliott Levine: Sure

Steve Grubbs: Whatever term, what are some of the best use cases that you’re seeing as you travel around to shows and schools.

Elliott Levine: There’s one mindset among many people that this is just going to replace a classroom teacher. No, absolutely not. But what studies are showing is that when we take traditional classroom learning, we take the lecture and we supplement that with staggered VR experiences over time. The amount of material that students can master and retain knowledge of can increase dramatically. If we go back to the late 1800s, there was a psychologist who’s last name was Ebbinghouse and he was very well known for the forgetting curve. Everything you learn and hear about right now.

In the matter of just a week’s time. You’ll be lucky if you could remember maybe ten percent of the information that was presented to you. However, in the models that have said after the lecture stagger VR experiences by one day, by two days, by three days. if we look at that scenario alone after three days of just lecture, you’re likely to remember maybe 20% of what was presented. However, with staggered VR practice, three times over that week. Retention could exceed 60% So a three x differential Now those are the results but we really got to talk about the why.

 And up until now you think about most use cases for It’s been field trips. It’s been science labs. And while they are great learning experiences, I think we’re only at the tip of the iceberg as to what VR is capable of delivering for educators, and that’s what we’ve kind of missed out on. So why is that? First off. You’re eliminating for most children in a VR environment all the distractions. Looking at their phone. They’re not looking at their watch. They are completely surrounded into the experience. Their brain is processing more information and it’s wild to see some of these brain scans in fact. So you’re already triggering use in ways you haven’t before plus by delivering content repeatedly. Your brain is being told repetition means importance. I need to remember this. Which is why my wife always has to tell me three times, to do something because she knows I’m gonna forget. The same applies here in it was like my wife invented VR. Thank you, honey. But repetition triggers importance in the mind, so they’re going to retain information.

And as a result, you look at some of these studies like Price Waterhouse Cooper, had a very phenomenal study that looked at training employees and what was taking two hours for learners to master in a classroom setting or 45 minutes in learning we’re getting the same result in just 29 minutes in virtual reality. We can keep going but…

Steve Grubbs: Yeah, I do. You and I both know the federal government has a real emphasis on reading and math. Talk a little bit about reading and math in immersive learning spatial computing.

Elliott Levine: I think, Steve, behind the scenes I’ve been really pushing for this now for some time and I’ve been at Qualcomm for three years. I was super excited to see that there are companies now really stepping into both math and literacy spaces. And again, it may not be as easy to execute. But if it can be done and done effectively. We really have a game changer here. One company at the moment, they’re focused on secondary math and they completed what I would consider be a randomized study where it was random selection of students.

And what they found was there was a class of students who went through traditional lecture and then there were students who did traditional lecture but the supplemented it with VR learning experiences, the test group performed 11% better on standardized tests for math then the control group. I don’t know a single school superintendent in the US that wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to see that sort of progress. In fact, I know that adoption of pilots around the country are now taking place as a result of that. But there’s so much more we could be doing in elementary math in literacy. Particularly amongst English language learners. That this could be a game changer to help children catch up. So that they have the tools necessary to learn at the same level as their peers.

Steve Grubbs: Yeah, and I assume that’s Prisms VR With Honor route. Yeah.

Elliott Levine: I mean they’ve done a phenomenal job and I think they are helping to really elevate what’s possible in VR? I think, it’s just a matter of time before we receive more math curriculum in play and I think we’re gonna hopefully see some of the ELA content providers want to step into this space. How many times can you try to come out with a new learning platform and yet your customers and your schools don’t see any measurable results? If we can bring about change through VR experiences.

Steve Grubbs: Yeah.

Elliott Levine: Why wouldn’t the Publishers want to take advantage of that and why wouldn’t schools want to at least give it a shot?

Steve Grubbs: Yeah, yeah, no that’s great and in we know that whether you look at the PwC study whether you look at one of my favorites that rarely gets mentioned, but I first saw it from Alvin Wayne greyland. He shared it was a Taiwan University study that hooked up an EEG to the brains of students and when they sit in a standard classroom, very little of the brain was lighting up. we’re online doing some things more the brain lit up…

Elliott Levine: Yeah.

Steve Grubbs: but when they were in VR their brain was just exploding with knowledge with new receptors and all of that. It’s just fascinating research and it’s a few years old now, but still I’m certain it’s true.

Elliott Levine: Over my time, I have taken tours of schools and universities and research programs and they love to take me on course to see their schools. And this one University, I remember they’re showing me this state of the art lecture hall and every student’s got, high-tech in front of them. And there is the professor at the front of the classroom and they’re doing Death by PowerPoint and where I’m standing at the back I can see the screens of about a hundred students in that class. And what did I see? Email. I saw Amazon. I saw eBay. I saw Spotify. I saw everything but learning taking place. It’s very easy to buy the stuff. Anybody can go by headsets. But really coming to the table and addressing the pedagogy. And ensuring a phenomenal experience.

Steve Grubbs: Yeah.

Elliott Levine: Probably the equivalent of laptops in the mid-2000s. This is still something in a lab environment or perhaps we see if schools are going to do lab experiences maybe twice or three times a week for students in a particular subject. Perhaps they’ve got a ratio of one VR headset for every 10 to 15 children. Probably where a lot of them are at today and if they’re not they’re already behind the curve. I think what we’re going to see a valve over the next few years is we’re going to see that ratio drop to one headset for every five children and I suspect there will be academic institutions that say we’re no longer going to do a one-to-one program for a Computing device.

We’re going to do a one-to-one program for a learning device and perhaps substitute laptop that Chromebook that tablet or a headset. The prices are on par and the question is which will deliver a result and I will tell you I would love to see the study that kind of evaluates that. To see if one can deliver better academic outcomes.

Steve Grubbs: Yeah, I agree and look, we’re running a little low on time and I want to make sure we get to this topic because it’s nominating headlines.

Let’s talk to me about how you see AI artificial intelligence fitting into the world of immersive learning.

Elliott Levine: Okay, I can tell you from my vision. I actually think in the next few years we’re going to be at a Crossroads of XR and AI. Today every student goes through the same VR experience.

And that’s great. but imagine being able to harness into personal passions if you knew something that a student was very passionate about. That you’re gonna give him a challenge-based activity on a topic that matters to them. And that can even adapt in real time. To the stimulus that they’re providing if they’re getting something wrong. Don’t just Market wrong or say, the student failed the simulation. No, adapt to help determine through Diagnostics. Not only I want to know what you got wrong, I want to understand why you got it wrong. Because if I can provide curriculum mapping to an appropriate exercise to overcome that hurdle whether in the middle of that experience.

We’ve talked about personalized learning in education now for God knows how long and really in most cases. This personalized learning is nothing more than differentiated something for the kids doing very well something for the kids doing very poor and something for the masses. That’s not personalized. I want to go in and really dive deep and give each individual child that IEP like experiences. I want to help them establish goals meet them or exceed them. And AI has that possibility to give the time that it’s impossible. For teachers to do personalized learning for 40 children. It cannot be done. There’s not enough time. But AI can be the tool to help the teacher in that.And VR can be the experience.

Steve Grubbs: Yeah, what’s interesting about what you say is our goal. We should be rolling out our 3D immersive AI tool in Q2 of this year. We’re just weeks away. When it first rolls out, it will be pretty cool. But probably Q3 We’re not gonna be able to go as far as you’re describing so the teachers up there the AI teacher is teaching and then stops and does it quick little assessment. Did you understand this, throws that out and if they click the right answer then it keeps moving on but if they click the wrong answer then it begins explaining it in a different way. And at any point that student can raise their hand and ask a question. So it’s not quite on point with what you’re saying, but it’s close getting closer.

Elliott Levine: And again, we’re going to always need the steps. The Journey of a Thousand Miles always begins with that single step and we’re going to Not only how we deliver the content. We’re gonna want to look at how we create assessments. That really are natural and most effective. multiple choices great. The problem is it’s too easy to guess your way through. If it’s an answer that the student has to figure out on the screen or…

Steve Grubbs: Yeah.

Elliott Levine: with the hand controller or with gestural motions. To show how to do the project or do the work?

That gives greater depth of knowledge and again, ensures that know. Okay, they got it, right, but did they get it right the right way or do they just happen to guess the right, a through e that’s why I think there’s such. So much opportunity and I think so much Innovation that’s going to occur in this segment between now and the end of this decade. it’s an absolutely phenomenal place to be

Steve Grubbs: We won’t even recognize it by the time 2030 comes around.

Elliott Levine:  No, and I think especially with the advent of not just cellular technology but 5G, bringing that level of connectivity and connection speed. To the device wherever it is whether it’s at school or at home. To be able to have that sort of real-time simulation becomes very possible. Because it’s no longer going to just be content running on a headset. It’s going to need to adapt on the fly and I think our vision of the Star Trek Holodeck. Is going to be here much sooner than we realize.

Steve Grubbs: Yeah, I 100% agree. It’s something that we work on literally every single day. So last question if you let’s say this is your moment you’re sitting in front of a school principal front of a teacher or the dean of a college and you have a 90 seconds to tell them one thing that would leave an impression. What would that one thing be?

Elliott Levine: I’ve usually start by asking a question pretty simple. What kind of legacy do you want to leave in this institution? What do you want to be known for? It’s very easy to play the safe road. And in fact, there was a study years ago of School superintendents. That didn’t rock the boat had an average job tenure of 3.2 years and those that tried to bring about positive change at a 10 year of 2.6.

We are a very unique situation in Academia, we talk about change, but we’re probably the most adverse out of most industries

And understanding the Legacy that the individual wants to leave behind. That’s key to knowing. Are they really ready? to explore the unknown and take a new chance. And honestly, I think in controlled environments with sound planning It’s something that every single student regardless of age regardless of background socioeconomic Geographic. It’s something that every child deserves. And when I see that we still have children who will graduate school and barely can read. We’ve got problems. These are harsh realities that we’re facing and it’s not just here in the US this issue plagues us across the entire globe. Technology alone isn’t going to solve it. Absolutely not.

But having the tools handy are going to be so critical and even today less than 9% of children worldwide out of 1.6 billion kids are being given access to some technology for learning. That’s a big number of children that are missing out. so I will always come back to what kind of Mark do you want to leave on these students? And we go from there.

Steve Grubbs: That’s a great one friends Elliott Levine the sage of Education from Qualcomm. We appreciate you joining us today. All of your thoughts always love visiting with you and we will look forward to visiting with you again soon.

Elliott Levine: I look forward to it Steve. Thank you so much.

Steve Grubbs: Thank you everybody. We will be back next week with another great show check back in as when you can. Thank you.

Steve Grubbs is the CEO of VictoryXR, the global leader in immersive, spatial education. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa’s colleges of business and law and served in the Iowa Legislature as Chair of the House Education Committee in the early ‘90’s.