We talked to Buravkov Mikhail on how BYOWLS develops VR on UE4 and Unity for the gaming, industrial, and interior markets, and this is what he had to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Buravkov Mikhail: COVID-19 has changed the world, life, and attitude to many processes both in business and ordinary daily things. We hope that everything will return to normal as soon as possible. As for business processes, we were forced to switch to remote work, although this did not affect our team’s productivity so much, and in some sense even pushed us to new ideas.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded BYOWLS?
Buravkov Mikhail: When I founded BYOWLS, I already had experience with startups; I was a CMO in two different companies related to database and service products. With the experience gained, I directed my knowledge to implement my startup. We started with projects related to the VR / AR industry, developing both game products and projects for the B2B sector in training for working with complicated equipment. When we got used to this market, we decided to try our hand at Virtual Production, developing an application for working with a virtual camera. With this product, we were able to find our niche, offering the market a product for Android devices, which was so lacking for small companies, as well as for users who were not ready to spend a lot of money on hardware but are ready to use a software product for their phones that covers their needs in Virtual Production.
We are currently working on several products, including a virtual camera for UE4 that works on android devices. We are also working on a face tracking product for working with real-time animation in the UE4 and Unity game engines. With VR products, hand tracking, face tracking, and streaming technology, we laid the foundation for a more ambitious project: the Virtual Reality Streaming Platform. We are already actively developing the product and have an early MVP, which allowed us to start negotiations with funds to attract venture capital investments to develop and implement the product.
How does BYOWLS innovate?
Buravkov Mikhail: Our platform will save significant money for businesses and lower the minimum entry threshold for new VR users. But let’s try to speak one at a time. The product will have a similar structure to the already familiar streaming services – in the form of an application with a monthly subscription. It gives access to the library with games to the users. To start the game session, you would only need your phone and a simple helmet, usually used to watch 360 videos (its price is ~ $ 10). The application turns the phone into a VR headset – tracking the space and the user’s hands. In turn, games will be processed on the server, increasing the entry threshold for developers, so issues such as handling lights, shadows, and mirror surfaces will no longer be a problem for VR game developers. The starting point for entering VR will be minimal because any user with a mid-range smartphone and ARCore support will use the platform.
We are also offering B2B decisions because, at the moment, it is business that drives the VR industry using helmets for training and testing employees. We will help save significant funds on the purchase of VR equipment because our platform does not require VR helmets but can use any mobile phone of the middle price segment with ARCore support. Also, the software will not become obsolete and will not depreciate compared with VR headsets, which become outdated every year, and mobile phones, on the other hand, can always be used for other purposes.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Buravkov Mikhail: Undoubtedly, we felt the negative effect almost immediately after the introduction of strict quarantine measures. Many companies canceled or froze projects for one reason or another. But all this has a temporary effect, and it is essential to get through this difficult period because there are businesses that have suffered much more from the pandemic, namely the HORECA industries, cinemas, entertainment, etc. I think they are the ones who need real support from both the state and the clients.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Buravkov Mikhail: In this challenging time, we had to make difficult decisions, namely, to reduce payments or send specialists on voluntary leave. These are extreme measures that we had to take to survive, but we did it deliberately and fairly, trying not to fire Specialists but to find compromise solutions for everyone – I think we succeeded.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Buravkov Mikhail: Relatives and friends help us the most, we are working remotely now, and perhaps this helps us in stressful situations because there are always those nearby who can understand and support us in difficult times.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Buravkov Mikhail: I can include here companies specializing in VR technologies. The main difference between one company and another is the specialization within the market – someone makes games, someone makes business decisions, someone uses innovative solutions, and some use those technologies that already exist – that’s the difference. I think the leader is the one who pushes the industry and is its locomotive, the one who introduces new ideas and technologies, and I hope we belong to such companies.
Your final thoughts?
Buravkov Mikhail: I believe that the pandemic has caused enormous damage to companies, people, and the economies of countries. This is an inevitable process, as inevitable as the fact that after any crisis, there is a rise – new companies and new products will sprout and provide innovations and new solutions that are unique and contribute to the development of medicine, technology, education land the development of science in general.