Mixed Reality Frontiers: Why Holograms are Good for the Planet

In 2020, 13 startups enrolled on our Mixed Reality Program with Nreal. 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?

We chatted to Overlay’s Astra Davalos about why holograms are good for the earth; why entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone and about trying to create AR’s first killer app.

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

Figmin XR started out as our founder Javier Davalos’s research project back in 2016 for Hololens. Originally it was just a holographic radio-controlled car and airplane simulator, but props were needed to make them more fun, so he added a built-in voxel editor so he could create scenarios for them.

Thanks to this concept we scored a major grant from Magic Leap, and then the app really took off. Over the years we continued to develop it and we now have a product that we feel proud of. Figmin XR is now a multi-purpose platform for creating, collecting & playing with holograms. We believe that we are on track to become AR’s first killer app, and with hubraum’s support we’ll make that happen.

2. What problem is this product trying to solve?

We built Figmin XR to empower anyone to create mixed reality experiences. In the past, you had to be a professional to create a scene in XR but we are changing that.

From a more existential perspective, we believe that someday humanity will come to believe that holograms can be as good or better than real objects, and this will be a good day for all of life on earth. We’ll reduce our material consumption and therefore reduce the amount of waste we generate. It is our mission to build a product that will accelerate the adoption of mixed reality.

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

Since we started development in 2016, there were no toolkits to build our app with. We had to code everything from scratch, even our 3D UI. We even had to invent our own control mechanics: the contextual hand user interface called “CHUI” which is designed to work with motion controllers, hand tracking and on mobile phones. This was key to being able to build such a complex application.

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

We would spend hours just having fun while testing and enjoying Figmin XR. That’s when we realized we were onto something. Most AR apps are short-lived, we are building a product that our customers will want to come back to time and again.

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

Our mentors provided invaluable feedback, thanks to them we were able to really make the app much easier to use, more accessible, and to create great tutorials.

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

Our product was designed to run on all AR hardware from its inception, so adding Nreal as a supported platform was not that difficult. It’s all thanks to our control mechanics — it was great to see that the theory worked in practice.

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

Javier does not like routine, throughout his career he has forged a role for himself of a generalist programmer/designer so he would always have to be working on something new and different. This has been a key skill that has enabled him to build a multi-disciplinary product like Figmin XR.

For Astra, the most important skill is imagination. Entrepreneurship means beginning by imagining something that hasn’t been done before and only after reaching this point, starting to build it.

8. How do you fuel innovation in your company?

We like to design things by ourselves. At first, they may be rough around the edges but as we iterate them, new ideas and answers arrive and in the end, it always works out. 

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

Undoubtedly Elon Musk! He accelerates people adopting technology which is good for the future of life, and we are also definitely inspired by Alban Denoyel from Sketchfab.

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

Know yourself and what you are capable of. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. If you are convinced that you can do it, go for it, but know that you might have to walk all the way to the edge of the abyss…and you might have to take that last step. 

Inspired to join us on one of our programs, too? Hurry! Apply now for the XR Developer Program 2021

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