Are Holographs The Future of Communication?

MATSUKO offers something very special: holographic communication, currently via smart-glasses. The experience of using MATSUKO is notoriously difficult to describe – it’s definitely a “you’ve got to see for yourself” moment, but they give you a roughly similar 3D experience to seeing a friend or colleague in person.

And who better to ask about extended reality? We asked MATSUKO’s co-founder, Matus Kirchmayer, how to hire smartly in the sector, the best way to innovate in XR and if MATSUKO’s product will still be relevant post-Covid.

Matus and his co-founder Maria Vircikova

We have phone, email and video calls. Why do we need holographic communication?

If you look at the evolution of communication, we have always tried to simulate each sense, one by one. It started with messaging, then audio was possible, then it was possible to have mobile audio so you could have it everywhere, and then video was added. So you have an image, but it’s still very flat and reduced to the size of a small screen. Obviously, the next step is to have the real person in 3D in front of you. And that’s what it will simulate — with all these senses, it will recreate a person’s presence. 

How many years do you think it will be before what you offer is mainstream — in the same way that almost everyone has a mobile now, everyone has access to holographic communication?

I think that this will depend on how quickly the appropriate XR device is made available to the public. So there’s been an issue with price in terms of smart glasses until recently with Nreal — which are available for around $500. If you compare this with smart glasses from Magic Leap, they’re more than $2000. So that’s a huge difference in price. In the future we expect that as different brands offer smart glasses these prices will go even lower, so there will be some premium glasses available for hopefully less than $1000 and then you will have more casual glasses for $500 or less.

Maria in the Nreal glasses

Obviously your product is particularly relevant because of the pandemic. Will it still be relevant after the pandemic is over?

Absolutely. From an environmental perspective, we can’t go back to traveling like we used to. There will be a lot of effort invested into tools like ours for people who want to reduce their time in airports and hotel rooms just for the sake of a one-hour or two-hour meeting.

But Covid has also prompted a lot of change in the way that big enterprises organise their teams and employees. Offices will become organised on a hybrid model, some employees will continue to work from home or only come to the office from time to time and the rest will be in the office full-time or part-time. Working habits have changed. Tools which enable these teams to continue to work together as one group virtually, regardless of their location, is the future. 

What do you think the XR use cases are that will fundamentally change things for everyone?

From day one it’s been clear that XR needs to be about people interacting together. All the major tech developments in the past that revolutionized our daily habits – like the internet or the smartphone – changed our behaviour on a daily basis because they were about connecting people. So human-centric use-cases will be the ones we find really amazing, like holographic communication.

But many other things will also be better with XR, too, such as the possibility of interacting with a lot of abstract data. Imagine you go to visit a cathedral in Milan as a tourist. You could google the cathedral, but it isn’t very practical to do so when you’re there. But because of geo-localization and because you will be there with your MR glasses,  while you’re going round the cathedral, facts will pop up. Your MR glasses will tell you when the cathedral was built, who the architect was, how much time it took to build, what the history was and so on.

Another simple example (though there’s obvious privacy issues here) is you’re at a meeting and as you glance round, you will be able to find out more about the people at the meeting without asking, like their roles and their names. 

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs trying to hire experienced talent in a sector like XR, which is still an emerging field?

There is a big pool of talent in the game industry who already have a very good background in 3D worlds. Another suggestion would be to look for people who think in a very cutting-edge, innovative way because we invent a lot of things from scratch in XR.

Look for people who are working on new ways of building interfaces and content. Because of that, there are people who have mixed experience in different architecture fields or in design positions. And, of course, you can also recruit from fields like human interactions in AI. 

What advice do you have for a young entrepreneur to come up with a great XR product or service?

I would really encourage people to buy the devices and try all the different apps that you find there.  There are so many possibilities in this new world of XR and XR has so many different features. See what works well today in 2D and 3D and how to apply it. Experiment as much as possible! We need to experiment and we need to learn from our failures. 

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