Mixed Reality Frontiers: Merging AI & AR for Better Robots and Happy Users

In 2020, 13 startups enrolled on our Mixed Reality Program. The aim? To co-create the next big thing in digital interaction, entertainment and content, and bring mixed reality to the mass market. But who are the startups enrolled on the programme?

TechTics is one of them! We chatted to TechTics’ two co-founders, Edwin Bos and Martijn Lukaart about giving robots superpowers; finding MR experts in an emerging field and how IKEA stands to benefit. 

1. How did you get the idea for the product you’re working on in the MR program?

We are in the MR program with our company www.techtics.team. Our participation was originally focused on our project: www.project.bb. We have been working on a swarm of robots that roam beaches to find and pick up litter. We want to involve a broad audience to create awareness around the project. Our idea is to let them help to train the robot’s detection algorithm by playing a game on Nreal. We saw the mixed reality tools we developed for our beach robots as a jumping-off point to develop further mixed reality concepts with a more commercial use.

2. What problem is this product trying to solve?

In this information era we can easily go to Google, Wikipedia or any number of other sources. But what we often miss are direct visual cues when it comes to activities which demand instant action, like when you solder a chip. 

We see an opportunity here to come up with a solution where you can get instant visual cues based on what you look at. We made that a reality, with a tool that lets you train your own objection detection guide. Powered by smart glasses and the 5G network, you can now give meaning to the world around you in an automated way. It will make life easier for consumers, engineers and yes…even for robots.

3. What’s the biggest challenge your team faced?

A lack of development power. We are a new tech consultancy startup and our core team doesn’t include engineers. For each idea we work on, we have to put together a team with the right skills. This could include AI specialists, robotic engineers, industrial designers etc. MR was also quite new to us, but luckily we found a great MR expert that helped us to build the proof-of-principle, so we can display our vision.

4. What was the moment you realised your product would be a success?

The epiphany came the moment we concluded that we were not just enabling robots to become superheroes, but bringing our tool to a wider audience of consumers and businesses.

5. How has the hubraum program helped you develop your product?

The hubraum program has been a great journey and a fantastic way to kickstart our Mixed Reality ambitions. Early access to the Nreal emulator and the glasses as well helped us take our ideas from concept to reality. That and the mentoring we received from DT and the support we got from Nreal, MobilEdgeX and Unity was really helpful.

6. How have you found designing a product specifically for the Nreal glasses?

A lot of fun! These glasses are a real breakthrough in terms of wearability and we expect it to be a significant stepping stone toward bringing AR into people’s daily lives.

7. Why is MR the next big thing?

We envision a world where you can get instant visual cues based on what you look at. Automated instantaneous friendly guidance, available everywhere, explaining and pointing out what you see. There are so many target groups that would benefit from this. For example: IKEA customers could assemble their products quicker and more easily than ever before. Engineers or technicians could work with complex equipment that they had never seen before and cleaning robots could identify and retrieve litter on the beach.

8. What skill of yours has been most important for your career?

Staying curious, testing and validating use-cases. Getting our hands dirty, that is what TechTics is all about. 

9. How do you fuel innovation in your company?

We like to play around with new tech and work with young bright minds in cooperation with corporate innovation managers. We utilize our network within universities, municipalities and in tech startup ecosystems. Fresh ideas and perspectives help us to reach the next level. We believe in hiring varied and representative teams to ensure that you can ensure your product or service would work for different target groups by testing it out in the office first. 

10. What book/album/film has inspired you creatively recently?

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight – a memoir by the creator of Nike. I read it a few years ago and recently read it again. Knight inspires with amazing anecdotes about the early days of his startup and his passion for sports. We have a great deal of respect for his perseverance in getting Nike where it is today.

11. Which other entrepreneur/startup are you most inspired by?

It’s a totally different sector, but I have always been inspired by Bobby Hundreds, co-founder of clothing brand The Hundreds. These guys started with an idea around selling t-shirts and turned it into a streetwear empire with a unique storytelling approach.  

12. What’s the one tip you would give young entrepreneurs?

Look for a co-founder with the same ambitions and different skills (ones that complement your own). Find out where you match and where you don’t. You can never do things completely on your own and it is a lot of fun to explore how you can grow as a team.

Fancy taking part in our next XR program? Don’t delay, apply for our XR developer program now.

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