Digital Catapult invited Virtual Perceptions to their Augmentor investor & executive showcase, with ten start-ups meeting a room full of investors looking for the next big company.

An overall analysis of the day can be found at the end of the article. But for now, let’s go through each start-up one by one, with my thoughts on each. We highly recommend reading about them all, to get a feel of some innovative companies which may take off – similar to Gravity Sketch some time ago.

Agile Datum

Do you know anything about local council planning? No, nor did I. But I think everyone appreciates that the local council can be, at times, a tad inefficient in a few ways. In fact, there are 3.5 million planning applications, and over 40 per cent are rejected to basic errors. The admin costs on the government are in the tens of millions.

Agile Datum uses an AI platform to automatically validate applications, saving time and costs. This is done by turning 2D models into 3D, making the planning system faster and more engaging.

While not as flashy as some start-ups on the scene, it fulfils a need and solves the problem efficiently and eloquently.

Also Known As

Journalism is incredibly dangerous in today’s world. When deployed to high-risk countries, colleagues could be either kidnapped, harmed, or killed during their duty of reporting the truth. The solution is good training, which companies already spend millions on (at least for the major networks).

Also Known As wanted to provide a solution where journalists can remain calm while in a hostile situation, training their decision-making process. The system uses biometric data to track their rates, adapting to help guide their learning.

This is a really great way to use technology to help journalists. But as the need is so small – journalists in the top tiers of media out on the field – the opportunity to scale may be minimal.

Artificial Artists

The founders showed a short clip of a Samsung ad they made, as part of their campaign with the previous company. The short video cost hundreds of thousands to make, and six weeks of work. They then showed a short, near-identical clip of a Samsung twirling around. The video was supposedly made in an hour, with their platform 3dctrl.

Artificial Artists wants to create a tool and agency where they can create high-grade professional clips in a short period. While it is not clear how they cut so much time, it is a very cool company to follow. The next challenge they will have is to ensure they differentiate themselves from their competitors.

ARki

Construction and CAD / BIM go together as close as cement with bricks. But many construction workers still rely on PDFs and sheets to visualise the final product on-site. ARki offers a simple solution; to create an AR platform that shows the 3D models from the CAD on the site.

ARki is similar to Agile Datum in that they solve a very direct business need, and on paper, it is a great solution. Yet the company is entering a competitive space where construction companies have innovation labs where they are exploring immersive tech. If ARki is to soar, they need to go beyond the dedicated engineers pushing the frontiers in-house, or join the team.

In response to the above, Sahar Fikouhi – Director at ARki – said the following:

“There is, of course, many companies tackling augmented reality in-house, and most of these are reserved for the “innovation hubs” which are predominantly used for PR and marketing and not actual working tools to enhance productivity and performance.

“Having worked with several architectural companies producing innovation I have seen that mainly these get reserved for the select few, and the actual working designers and engineers use outdated techniques.

“The opportunity to deploy actual working AR across the entire design, engineering and construction team is actually a long way from simply providing innovation, but enabling teams to use an easily distributed system that works for ordinary users. That’s exactly what makes ARki unique, we have developed a cloud-based infrastructure that keeps the users at the heart of our innovation, providing a system that enhances the actual use of AR beyond mere visualisation, and into productivity.

“The fact that we have over 5k registered users on the app, is testament to the fact that there is a huge market demand for a use-able AR product for the AEC industry that is focused on use-ability and not gimmick!”

Extend Robotics

By now, you would be sick of hearing about 5G and how it will disrupt every industry. I get you. But the fact is immersive technologies will all be disrupted – and improved – by the implementation of 5G. For AR, it will mean more content can be streamed over WebAR. For VR? It means controlling robots safely, using the lower latency for tasks requiring speed and precision.

Extent Robotics is developing a human-AI system where highly-specialised contraptions can complete tasks. The modular system can go on drones, rovers, or climbing robots to create an ‘avatar twin’. So specialised and dangerous tasks can be completed over 5G.

The examples Extend Robotics uses is on the repair of telecom equipment towers and maintenance work. But honestly, I can see the same principles work in so, so many other industries beyond.

Imaged Reality

While I am reluctant to support companies that help with the extraction of oil and gas, I recognise it is an incredibly profitable industry that is ready for improvement. And it offers a small, simple, and effective way to cut costs on field trips.

Imaged Reality brings the field to the office, allowing teams to scan the land to improve the success of finding one with oil. The company cuts the cost of a field trip to see if a site suits, to then extract from there. The company already worked with Shell, and I can picture the company repeating their partnership again.

IN Reality

While I do not care about sports, I know how bleeding-edge the analysis and training of major clubs are. From data analysis to doctor-certified training, athletes from football are at the absolute peak of performance based on our known knowledge. So let’s throw some data science and VR in as well.

IN Reality is a VR simulation company that helps train people to be the very best. The system creates avatars which use data fed into it, based on weather conditions and other athletes participating in the simulation. This means people can train, while data is consequently tracked.

We are seeing more and more sports companies use data-led approaches to improve themselves. IN Reality throws themselves into the ring with an immersive alternative. The true value comes if they can prove that athletes improved based on their system, and that the system itself did not hamper their abilities.

NeuroCreate

Mental health is a pain, both for workers and companies. One estimate says that the UK suffers £3.4bn in productivity loss. So NeuroCreate wants to recognise certain brain patterns to identify and replicate the ‘flow’ state of work, improving productivity and, in turn, work satisfaction.

The digital platform allows users to reach this state, getting them on their feed and going forwards.

I’m a big fan of any company that takes risks based on a PhD or study, and designs a new product based on the findings. NeuroCreate offers a platform which takes a look at the flow state, and brings it out. While I would like to see if it works, the concept and science behind it are enticing.

M-XR

Capturing realistic 3D models is tricky, as there are so many and with such detail, a team of artists are brought in to sort the process. But it requires guesswork, manpower, and admin to make perfect assets.

M-XR automates the 3D capture process, mapping the realistic material of the world, using AI and hardware. This, in turn, cuts costs and guesswork.

Digital Catapult notes that it would disrupt film, gaming, VR, and AR production. I agree with the same thoughts.

Resus VR

It’s not an immersive showcase without a medical start-up, right? Resus VR helps create VR simulations where doctors train their skills, and can assess themselves afterwards. It is a safe, controlled environment where everyone can learn before going on to real subjects.

The distinction is that Resus VR does not train surgeons; they train doctors to make better decisions. The company is different from others in a market getting more and more competitive; and one which could give it its edge.

Analysis

I found the diversity, technical expertise, and innovations of all start-ups astonishing. Equally, the insights from investors grounded the companies as well. The companies that would do well are not necessarily ones that use immersive tech, but the ones that solve a problem. If they happen to need VR and AR, then all good so long as it commercially solves it.

Extend Robotics takes my pick as the most likely to be funded. It fulfils a need while converging multiple technologies (5G and VR) to make a cost-saving solution. While it focuses on telecoms equipment, the company has the potential to go beyond the industry and disrupt others with their human-AI interface. I hope to hear more from them soon.

Artificial Artists particularly floored me, with the swift way that content can be made. If engaging videos can be made with one artist, not an ad agency, then marketing would be disrupted in the future. And the multiple revenue streams from its engine to its consultancy means it could scale up very quickly by 2024. If the design process is as quick and straightforward as they suggested, it is one to watch.

Also Known As is particularly interesting for me, as someone who works in the media. And while I can see the likes of CNN, Reuters, and the BBC to use the training tools, I cannot see the scope going more widely. Unless, of course, the biometric data is used for scenarios outside of journalism.


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Tom Ffiske

Editor, Virtual Perceptions

Tom Ffiske specialises in writing about VR, AR, and MR across the immersive reality industry. Tom is based in London. 

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