Our IOS AR Innovation Program has been one of the most concentrated we’ve ever done: we scouted 800 startups and whittled that number down to the nine teams who we thought were most likely to create a tangible tomorrow for augmented reality. Here at hubraum, it normally takes between six and nine months to run a program. This time, we sped things up, carrying out our scouting phase in one and a half months (compared to the usual three) and carrying out our development phase in a rocket-speed three months.
So we couldn’t be prouder to have had the chance to show guests exactly what our bright minds in AR have got up to on our demo day, which took place on Tuesday November 30 in an event which adhered to the 2G+ rule (meaning that even vaccinated and recovered visitors had to test negative via a PCR test to attend). Visitors got to listen to pitches from our eight startups and vote for their favorite and afterwards were able to tour our Berlin campus and try out the different apps.
As the head of hubraum, Axel Menneking, said, quoting Steve Jobs: “It’s the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world who are the ones who will actually do it.” This was an event that united all those crazy, talented world-changers. You can catch up on all the best bits you missed here – with learnings on accessibility, merging physical and e-sports and how AR can help dementia – read on for more.
Ultimately, we wanted to celebrate developers. As Axel said in his keynote, there’s a lot of competition for developers in the current moment: “Huge companies have started to even buy into developer ecosystems around their developer platforms. Think, for example, of Microsoft buying Github or LinkedIn. The reason is that developers are the new kingmakers.”
What better way of celebrating them than giving them a stage? Audiences were treated to eight whistlestop pitches of each startup’s cutting-edge AR product. Each speaker had roughly five minutes to explain complex technology to the audience in a way that was engaging and clear. The audience were then able to vote for their favorite.
Although it was a tight race, there were three winners: coming third was ForwARdgame, a startup which wants to merge physical and digital sports via AR. Trace was ranked second: an app who wants to be “the YouTube of spatial media”. Coming in at first place was the wonderful Myfinder, who offer assistance via AR to those with visual impairments. They make life easier by connecting services made available by huge companies into one easy-to-use app: text description, 24 hour access to volunteers, object navigation, object detection, real-time scene detection, and allowing users to transform their phones into a digital cane.
We gathered our winners in a panel discussion where we asked them some tough questions about where AR is headed. You can find some of the best moments from this discussion below — answers have been condensed and edited in places for clarity.
Ghita (Myfinder): That it’s important to focus on our onboarding and user journey and to put the user at the center of the experience we were trying to create.
Tim (ForwARdgame): The stitching between different technologies and devices. For us, it was our first project in which we’d worked with Lidar. We were totally blown away.
Greg (Trace): We’re a small team, so deploying the app with the people at hubraum and Deutsche Telekom, and getting that hands-on experience of research with the user research team was the biggest learning for us. We got to see users using the app and fix things that were problems.
Tim (ForwARdgame): Easy! Dodgeball, fifth grade, Berlin versus Tokyo. Everyone will have glasses, including the teachers.
Ghita (Myfinder): We will all have AR glasses — in fact, yesterday I was talking about AR contact lenses, that would be an amazing experience. But the most important part of it would be how easy and smooth it is for us to create AR experiences.
Greg (Trace): We see these futuristic visions of AR and VR and they’re always very sci-fi. I identify more with visions of the future that are more similar to the movie Her, which are a little bit more mundane — they’re not so sci-fi, but are more about integrating future technologies together.
The cool thing about AR is that we’re still holding phones and experiencing things individually. But in four years’ time, I think we’ll start to experience things collectively and that this will bring people together in spaces. That’s the sort of thing that can bond you when it comes to a future technology.
Greg (Trace): It’s a hard question to answer. It’s a bit like asking: what’s the biggest use case for a phone or a biggest use case for a computer? I think there will be a first version of that but in the long term we’ll see that disappear. We use computers everyday for everything, we use phones everyday for everything and I think that’s where AR is headed. It’ll replace the devices we use the most. It’ll be pervasive.
Tim (ForwARdgame): Glasses will definitely replace phones. They’re much more comfortable than phones. But currently the most time spent on phones is spent on gaming – that’ll be the killer use case for the AR when it reaches its full potential.
Ghita (Myfinder): For me, coming from healthcare, it’s the navigation of spaces. There are a lot of illnesses out there like dementia or Alzheimer’s that can benefit from the use of AR technology and people can use them on a daily basis to recognize where things are.
Ghita (Myfinder): Of course!
Tim (ForwARdgame): To quote JK Rowling, “I don’t understand how everyone isn’t a writer.” Similarly, I don’t understand how anyone will refrain from making something with AR in mind. There will be an abundance of new players, an abundance of new use cases. We’re so early on, guys. Whatever we’re doing here will look just like a Nokia phone looks to us now.
Greg (Trace): Of course there will be new players. The question for the big companies is how to engage with these technologies that will bring you to the new generation — because this provides an opportunity to bring smaller companies in, as well as to collaborate with more agile companies. That’s how as a big company, you make sure you’re going to be there when the future comes as well, because you’re working with a bunch of different partners and being innovative on both sides.
Ghita (Myfinder): Yes, if Elon Musk manages to get Neuralink to work or smart contact lenses are invented that would be great.
Greg (Trace): That’s a yes, but we’re a bit more bearish on this question: I think AR headsets will come in but I don’t think they’ll replace smartphones right away. I think when deployed in use cases where they make sense, this number will grow over time but I believe it’ll be a gradual build over the next five to ten years.
Ghita (Myfinder): Personally, in Bali. (laughs) But with My Finder we’d like to expand to other use cases and create smart experiences to support the care home industry in providing better care.
Tim (ForwARdgame): I think four years is enough time to get [my game] League of Legends in the Park going and merge virtual and physical sports. I love football but watching e-sports is much more exciting, especially for the next generation. Instead of kicking a ball, athletes will be slaying a dragon while their friends watch. This is the future!
Greg (Trace): What we’ve realized is that it’s really hard to make content for AR in 3D. I believe that making a tool that allows content creators, not experts, to make content is the moment you really hit an inflection point.
Ghita (Myfinder): Coming from an emerging country myself, I didn’t grow up with the internet, we didn’t have it until I was 16, but when you’re immersed in it, you see other problems that our innovations can solve. Tackling them first would be a priority. What we’re doing is building the platform and know-how to make that possible for other people in the future to do easily. We’re paving the way!
Tim (ForwARdgame): I was born in Belarus and my favorite device was Tetris as a kid. We’ve got to educate people no matter where, the more the better. I don’t want to live in the post-truth world. We need to help everyone know how to make this world better — it’s possible.
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