Fortnite developer Epic Games has backed start-up Kiwi RealityVirtual. Photo / Kristin Macfarlane
A Kiwi start-up that wants to “save the world” and revolutionize teleconferencing has received nearly a million dollars in grants to make it happen.
RealityVirtual, a Wellington-based machine learning photogrammetry company, had now received a
Epic Games grant to support open source 3D graphics capabilities.
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Simon Che De Boer, Director of RealityVirtual, said the US video game and software developer most famous for its online video game Fortnite is just the latest global name to back start-up Kiwi.
âBetween Epic Games, Nvidia, and Amazon Web Services, we’ve received almost $ 1 million in hardware, services and finance,â De Boer said.
“It’s a lot of money when you come from Levin and can live on noodles all your life.”
De Boer said it was ironic that the âoverseas behemothsâ saw value in New Zealand technology, but that local industry and investors never showed interest.
âIf you are not Weta Digital, you are just completely ignored,â he said.
“We have been able to do this for years with support from abroad, but we have struggled to see local action. We hope they now get the message.”
The money will be used to create virtual reality versions of iconic New Zealand tourist destinations and for research and development of teleconferencing technology.
De Boer said the grant came at a critical time when its work to “save the planet” by digitizing iconic places was particularly relevant during the global pandemic.
âI preached virtual tourism and the importance of digitizing this stuff in times of war, famine or inaccessibility,â he said.
RealityVirtual can process locations that were previously scanned and will soon be downloaded for free on the Steam online gaming platform. These include a number of iconic beaches and St Matthews Cathedral.
Machine learning technology – designed to map textures and recreate 3D spaces from 2D images – is also used to create an “immersive teleconferencing experience” to create a more human experience than video conferencing platforms current.
De Boer said the technology creates a 3D version of a webcam image to look like talking to a friend through a window.
The image would be mapped in depth in 3D from your 2D webcam and would follow your movements to change perspective in sync with your movements.
âWe haven’t learned how to teleport yet, so that’s the best thing to do,â De Boer said.
The technology is in development, but RealityVirtual hopes to have an early alpha phase by June or July and wants to hire up to 20 new employees over the next six months – if more funding can be found.
âThe Epic Game money goes a long way, but it doesn’t go to the point that we can zoom in big. But we’re confident we could see more funding from other parties,â De Boer said.