We talked to Pavel Sorkin of iPi Soft about motion capture for the masses, 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?
Pavel Sorkin: It’s not been an easy time for most people with lockdown limitations and home-schooling difficulties. Fortunately, this hasn’t affected iPi Soft’s business operations much as we sell online worldwide and are accustomed to doing business remotely.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded iPi Soft.
Pavel Sorkin: I hold a Ph.D. in Applied Math from one of the leading technical universities in Russia and worked as a software engineer for seven years after graduating. I then worked for three years as a project manager at the Samsung Research Center in Moscow, managing several R&D projects in the area of consumer electronics. With this experience, I founded a company that implemented business analytics solutions for the financial and telecom sectors. This business has been a success, but I was interested in moving forward and participating in the development of a unique software product in markerless motion capture and joined Michael Nikonov in founding iPi Soft in 2008.
How does iPi Soft innovate?
Pavel Sorkin: The motto of our company is “motion capture for the masses.” iPi Soft’s innovation is aimed at the democratization of motion capture with markerless tools that allow any digital content prosumer or professional to easily and accurately capture and digitize human motion. We rely on our own tracking algorithms optimized to work with inexpensive off-the-shelf cameras and depth sensors, so the cost of ownership for our product is a fraction of the cost of other mocap solutions popular in the market. The company is also constantly keeping an eye on new developments that can be used for capturing human motion and improving the product.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Pavel Sorkin: Since iPi Soft has never been a brick-and-mortar operation, working remotely on business development, marketing, and product design is not new for us. But to help our customers through this difficult time, we’ve offered license discounts and continue to offer a film competition and platform where customers can not only display their work but compete to win licenses. We also sponsor promotions from leading entertainment tech industry websites such as Renderosity, where motion capture users can gain industry knowledge. In addition, we offer academic discounts for students and institutions that, in combination with an affordable cost of ownership, aims to help young people enhance their professional skill set with tools that have perceived market value.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Pavel Sorkin: In business and our family lives, we always have to make choices, and it is true that these choices may be difficult, especially during times of global crisis as we are presently experiencing. Our major asset is our loyal customers. For us, we have found the best thing we can do is to continue offering better products at lower costs. This should pay dividends in the long run.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Pavel Sorkin: Like many companies around the world, we are relying on video conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet and project/collaboration tools such as MS Teams, which are proving indispensable. Beyond tools, we have regular calls with our staff not just to have updates on the status and solve issues but also to see how they’re doing emotionally.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Pavel Sorkin: There are reputable motion capture solutions that have a long-standing industry presence. Many of them are not ideal for small studios, individuals, and hobbyists. Markerless solutions like ours are more convenient and affordable as they do not require wearing clumsy, expensive suits with markers. We are quite enthusiastic now as we see great potential in a rapidly evolving area of AI-based tracking algorithm technologies. These provide a good option for real-time and interactive applications that focus on the speed of response and are in high demand in various market segments.
Your final thoughts?
Pavel Sorkin: I hope that the challenges presented by the worldwide pandemic will be alleviated, and our everyday life will turn to some type of “normal” this year. At the very least, we all are becoming stronger and more creative in our approach to business and life in general.
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