Rafael Pagés of Volograms tells us about 3D AR-compatible content.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Rafael Pagés: Fortunately, we all doing well. The main disruption we had is not being able to see our families for a year, as they live in Spain and restrictions in Ireland are very strict.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Volograms.
Rafael Pagés: I have been working in the 3D reconstruction space for more than 10 years, both as an entrepreneur and also as a researcher. Volograms is a spin-off from Trinity College Dublin. Before founding the company, Jan, Kostantinos, and I worked together at TCD as postdoctoral researchers, doing our research in the fields of computer vision, computer graphics, and volumetric video.
How does Volograms innovate?
Rafael Pagés: Volograms bring reality capture closer to everyone. Our technology enables the capture of real people into volumetric holograms, volograms, which can be enjoyed within all kinds of AR & VR experiences, apps, social media, using smartphones, tablets, Augmented and Virtual Reality headsets. This allows creators, brands, institutions, and other professionals to bring immersive storytelling to the next level. Whether it is making cultural experiences more memorable, creating more engaging marketing campaigns, delivering more effective communications, or adding an extra dimension to artistic performances, Volograms help blur the line between real and virtual.
But during the pandemic, we took our innovation one step further. Typically, to capture 3D humans, you need a volumetric capture studio with dozens of cameras, servers, specialized software, and qualified personnel. However, Volograms just announced Volu, the first app that allows you to volumetric capture directly from your phone, radically simplifying the process and bringing the technology to everyone. Volu unlocks one of the key problems Augmented Reality faces: user-generated content.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Rafael Pagés: The pandemic has been very challenging for us, as we have seen how many productions were either canceled or postponed. However, we saw it as a great opportunity to focus on developing a new product that did not depend on the studio capture. And we just made it public!
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Rafael Pagés: At Volograms, we had always been very flexible with working hours and working from home, so we already had some processes in place that helped a lot during the pandemic. However, we have been a fully remote company for a year now, and we had to continue evolving to adapt to how each team member faced the new situation. For example, we noticed that the technology and business teams, who had plenty of interaction when we were all in the same office, barely talked to each other now, as we had separate team meetings. To solve this, we started having more but shorter meetings and virtual social events, so everyone felt part of the same team.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Rafael Pagés: We are lucky to have Enterprise Ireland’s support, which has helped many Irish companies during these complicated times.
Your final thoughts?
Rafael Pagés: The impact of the pandemic in traditional media has helped technologies such as Virtual and Augmented Reality grow significantly, opening new possibilities for companies like ours. VR is now mainstream, with millions of headsets sold worldwide, and AR is central in all big-tech roadmaps. The world will be very different in the next few years, which is the moment to start building that future.
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