Paracosma: Delivering Ground-Breaking Virtual and Augmented Reality Experiences
Paracosma is an Augmented and Virtual Reality Company entirely focused on the 3D revolution that is happening in technology right now. Computing is currently undergoing a major transition from 2D to 3D systems. This is enabling entirely new industries, from Additive Printing (3D Printing) in manufacturing where a computer file can become a real object, to spatially-aware autonomous vehicles (self-driving cars and drones) where entire landscapes can be virtualized and navigated using artificial intelligence, and Deep Fake videos, in which computers can generate life-like representations of real people that can be indistinguishable from the real thing.
In the past, computing transitioned from text-based terminal systems to HTML-based websites, and from audio to video media. Likewise, the 3D Revolution is changing all of the computing space and enabling Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to bring new ways of doing things that are transforming business sectors.
For example, most of Paracosma’s 3D modeling business is actually replacing studio photography using computer rendered images. Traditionally, a retailer that wanted to display photos of a living room online would need to ship all the furnishings to a warehouse, stage the living room scene, light it, hire a professional photographer to shoot it, then process the photos to produce website images. Now, they can affordably and quickly create photo-realistic 3D models of all the furnishings, those can be arranged in a 3D computer scene, “photos” can be composed with a virtual camera and the images can be rendered in the computer for display on the website. All this saves the retailer millions of dollars in costs.
Similarly, today, a growing number of movies have been created in 3D “game engines” and shot virtually, with actors and actresses being filmed in green-screen studios and inserted into the virtual movie set. This completely transforms the movie industry.
Undeniably, AR, and VR are cutting-edge of this revolution and much of Paracosma’s focus is on these technologies’ application development and content creation services.
Turning Opportunity into Success
Paracosma’s initial focus was primarily on Virtual Reality. The company’s founder recognized how technology trends were enabling VR through faster processing, better graphics, more bandwidth, and storage. He also saw the enormous potential of VR technologies, to transform gaming, training, travel, real estate, and other sectors. But there was a mismatch between demand and supply. VR was a completely new field, and he saw that there were not enough VR engineers available to realize the potential of all these opportunities. Existing IT departments did not have the capability and capacity to add VR. Also, there were not enough experienced VR engineers to hire. Therefore, he saw an opportunity to found Paracosma as a service provider to offer the needed skills to the market.
Since then, the company has expanded its focus from VR to AR. Paracosma has also expanded its 3D art department as fast as it can hire and train new artists. Currently, the company is growing faster than the general AR/VR market but still cannot expand as fast as the market demand.
A True Digital Transformation Leader
Ken Ehrhart, Founder, and CEO of Paracosma, is a Venture Capitalist (VC) investing in high-tech startups for 20 years. As a VC and previously, serving as a technology Research Director, Ken has been focused on technology trends and the breakthrough developments that revolutionize industries. With that background, he felt compelled to found and lead Paracosma, because the world is now just at the beginning of one of the most far-reaching and profound technology transformations ever. He states that as the 3D transformation is just in its infancy, what people experience in VR and AR today just gives a glimpse of what is still to come.
“We’ve seen this repeatedly in the past. The first digital cameras were terrible compared to film cameras. Quality improved. Sharing of photos became easier. Picture focus, exposure, composition became superior to what we previously experienced. Not only did digital cameras come to exceed prior film technology, but the devices themselves shrank down and became embedded in our smartphones,” Ken explained.
Similar to this, the low quality, hard to set up, difficult to share, expensive, unsatisfying nature of much of AR/VR will continue to evolve and improve. As virtual experiences and objects improve to become indistinguishable from real videos, photos, and live activities, the true magnitude of this transformation will be revealed. This will impact all aspects of life and society, as well as business and the economy.
Making AV and VR Accessible to Every Business
The 3D industry and AR and VR sectors are truly cutting-edge. Paracosma’s goal has been to make them accessible to its clients through low-cost, high-quality expertise. To build a team of expert engineers and developers in an emerging field requires hiring brilliant people, equipping them with high-end workstations, providing training, and supporting broad R&D into the latest tech. In the end, the company is advancing itself as the AR/VR industry advances, and growth in the company’s capability grows the broader industry capacity.
In most cases, Paracosma’s clients’ projects are pushing the limits of what is currently possible. Positive outcomes for them push the boundaries of what is possible in the future, while greater experience lowers costs and scales access.
Business Impact of Immersive Technologies
Ken believes that disruptive transformations in AI, IoT, Cloud, and other advances reach across tech and other sectors which also impacts the Paracosma. “For example, visual recognition is an AI (artificial intelligence) problem. You need to create computational engines that can discern the key elements of an image or scene and produce the desired outcome. UrsaLeo, our IoT client directly benefits client experiences by adding 3D visualization. Without robust cloud solutions, we would not have an “AR Cloud” of persistent, sharable AR content and experiences,” he adds.
A good example of interdisciplinary work is Paracosma’s team in the ANA Avatar XPRIZE competition. For the competition, teams must develop a system for remote telepresence in which an operator using VR gear appears present in the form of a robotic avatar in a distant environment in which the robot must interact naturally with and provide aid to other humans. Ken conveys that creating a human-to-human bond remotely through robotic intermediaries is a hugely challenging interdisciplinary problem that blends sensors and spatial awareness, VR imaging systems, and haptic interfaces, with robotics, telecommunications, and many other disciplines.
Fostering Innovation Culture with Key Partnerships
According to Ken, innovation involves many components. But it is trying new things, and coming up with new approaches to existing challenges. So, one way Paracosma fosters innovation is to be open to trying new things, learning new technologies, and attempting new solutions.
For example, current VR systems are primarily based on visual perception. The best experiences add spatial audio to immerse two of our primary senses.
Beyond those two senses, Paracosma is partnering with Haptx, the most advanced haptic gloves solution provider to further add a sense of touch and force feedback. This is critical to enabling the next generation of virtual experiences. It is also critical to Paracosma’s ANA Avatar XPRIZE solution. And, the Haptx systems become a key enabler of robust human-computer interfaces for controlling robotic systems more generally. In partnership with Haptx, Paracosma intends to provide clients of both firms with software integrations to add Haptx glove capability, software application development, and robotic control solutions.
By embracing new technologies and solutions across as many AR and VR platforms as possible, and devoting teams to deeply learn and extend those developments, Paracosma continues to expand both the new things it is trying and the new solutions that it is developing for its clients.
Driving Disruption to Survive Through Tough Times
Amid a global pandemic, all companies have faced the impact of lockdowns, shuttered offices, and remote working. With offices in the US, Japan, and Nepal, Paracosma was no different. Ken’s travel was cut from over a quarter of a million miles per year to zero. But, fortunately, as a company focused on VR, Paracosma began holding virtual employee meetings, and company-wide townhall events in VR. The company has thus avoided the fatigue that comes from “postage stamp” video conferencing windows and replaced it with the full-interactivity of a life-size virtual office.
The second quarter of the year marked Paracosma’s highest revenue and highest growth quarter. While the company has been impacted by slowdowns of some of its clients’ business, it continues to add clients and expand services.
In a world in which everyone expects ongoing limitations to travel, in-person meetings, and a delayed return to “normal” offices and classrooms, Paracosma sees VR providing a compelling alternative. While a 360-degree photo or video may have provided a VR preview of a travel destination or real estate tour in the past, those virtual experiences may now become primary.
In these times, which are particularly restrictive and isolating for senior populations, the 38 million-member AARP, has launched a VR app called Alcove. It allows family members and friends to meet virtually in a home-like setting and enjoy VR experiences together or individually. For Alcove, Paracosma is developing “Staying Sharp” games to promote brain fitness, just another example of VR solutions accelerating to meet current needs.
Precious Client Appreciations and Industry Recognitions
Paracosma has a close relationship with its clients and partners. Most of its business now is ongoing repeat business with existing clients or new phases of projects with clients. So, the company is gratified that it is meeting and exceeding their expectations. As a consequence of its satisfied clients, Paracosma has received recognition as a “Most Trusted”, “Most Innovative”, “Leading”, and “Best AR/VR Solution Provider”.
“They do amazing work and the results are breathtaking. Having Paracosma’s ability to create stunning looking 3D resources with minimal turnaround time vastly increases our ability to deliver our product.” – John Burton, CEO of UrsaLeo.
Envisioning the Future of VR
Ken says, “In the history of VR there has never been a more exciting time. If VR did not already exist, we would be trying to create the technology to meet the needs of the current environment. For companies like Paracosma, the goal has to be to quickly adapt and offer to the marketplace VR solutions that provide scalable multi-user virtual experiences that begin to replace what we have been restricted from in-real-life.” He believes that in many cases VR can begin to provide alternative solutions that not only improve upon existing video conferencing systems but add a sense of presence, immersion, and multimedia collaborative experiences that can approach or even exceed what is possible in person.