In his 1935 short story, “Pygmalion’s Spectacles”, Stanley G. Wienbaum, an American science fiction writer first envisioned donning goggles to visit an immersive virtual world, named Paracosma that could surpass the real world. Taking inspiration from him, San Francisco-based Paracosma Inc is creating virtual realities better than reality, because it believes that making virtual reality as good as reality is not enough.
In an exclusive chat with the Founder and CEO of Paracosma, Ken Ehrhart, Mirror Review asks him a variety of questions to know offerings of Paracosma, which are revolutionizing the emerging AR/VR world. Here are the excerpts.
How has the world of AR/VR evolved over the past few years?
The world of augmented and virtual reality has changed dramatically over the past few years. Consumer VR systems were launched in the first half of 2016. The Augmented Reality platforms for smartphones, ARKit by Apple and ARCore by Google were just launched in the second half of 2017. So, both VR and AR are very new. Initially, there was a great deal of enthusiasm, but little awareness of the difficulty, complexity, and cost of producing AR/VR content and applications. As a provider of outsourced AR/VR development services, Paracosma received a lot of inquiries from companies that had an idea of what the technology might do in the future, but no understanding of the challenges needed to be tackled to reach that goal. As the technology matured, we are seeing realistic projects with reasonable budgets and enterprise clients move from simple proof of concept (POC) to minimum viable product (MVP) to full production systems.
When was Paracosma established? What are its core values, mission, and vision?
Paracosma was formed in the first half of 2016 with the mission statement of “Making Augmented and Virtual Reality as good as Reality is not enough; Our vision is to make Augmented and Virtual Realities better than Reality; Our Mission is to make Reality better through Augmented and Virtual Reality”
Our vision and mission clearly drives our focus on photo-realism, which is a fundamental goal and the reason half of our team members are artists Doing things impossible in real life, including expensive and dangerous training scenarios, and improving traditional enterprise processes is the second element. Our mission drives our cofounding of the “VR for Good” Conference with VR Voice and a new pro-bono project to build tsunami awareness with these technologies.
Brief us about the services and solutions offered by Paracosma. Which is your latest best-seller service/solution?
We have seen enterprise applications come to the fore in both AR and VR. In AR, we are working with several clients to assist in manufacturing, including machine maintenance, assembly, and test. In VR, we are working with several VR training clients. This VR technology has large-scale applicability and potential to dramatically reduce costs and increase efficiency. These efforts have grown out of individual client requirements, but the elements that are common across clients, are making the solutions consistently effective, cost efficient, and faster to implement. Beyond these specific use cases, Paracosma offers a broad portfolio of services from 360 photo and video production and distribution; to photogrammetry, 3d model and character creation; animation, as well as fully interactive AR and VR application development, with our first consumer VR game, “Unnamed VR”, launching this holiday season.
What type of benefits does Paracosma offer its clients?
As a provider of outsourced services, our focus is on high quality at lower costs as well as a one-stop shop to meet all AR/VR requirements.
What are your long term plans for Paracosma?
Paracosma Inc is a US Delaware corporation with our main sales and marketing team in the US and our primary R&D through our wholly owned subsidiary, Paracosma Nepal Private Limited. Now, we are establishing our wholly owned subsidiary, Paracosma Japan K.K. With that, our Tokyo team will expand our service offerings in Japan where we already serve clients. We have also tripled employees, clients, and revenues each of the last two years and expect that growth to continue in the future.
Describe your roles & responsibilities as the Founder and CEO of the company. Which is your favorite part of this role?
As a General Partner in Venture Capital since the year 2000, I have invested in more than two dozen startups. From seats on the Boards of Directors or taking operational roles in the companies, I have helped businesses grow by offering advice. With Paracosma, I directly control the direction of the company. This is both exciting and challenging. But, the greatest pleasure is the fact that VR and AR demand a marriage of art, science, and technology. This is not pure engineering or algorithms; it requires artistic and creative teams and focus. In addition, the future scope in VR and AR is as broad as the real world. We are not limited to one sector or vertical but can add value and make contributions in virtually any area. That keeps things diverse and interesting. Finally, everything we do will continue to improve and expand with technical progress and skills development, so we are also focused on the long-term future potential of the industry.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a business in this sector?
I would say “plan for the long term”. With advancements of mobile devices, everyone on the planet will eventually have robust VR and AR capabilities effectively for free in their phone. The things that are expensive and difficult right now will become nearly free and easy. So, plan on how your skills, team, and company will continue to grow from now until then. A 6-month runway will not suffice; planning for 6-years makes more sense.