Imagine a world with digital layers, each augmented with varying degrees of reality. On one of the spectrum is the 100% line; we’ll call that absolute reality. On the other end of the spectrum is the 0% line; let’s call that virtual reality (VR). In between are the myriad scaled versions of augmented reality (AR). This mixed reality (MR) world is our future, according to Alon Melchner, founder and president of WakingApp.
Melchner started WakingApp in 2012. His first project were AR books, then he hit upon the idea of sharing his technology so that other creators can make use of augmented reality in their creations. Hence, ENTiTi was born.
ENTiTi is free software that anyone can use to create AR and VR content. There is a version for the PC and one for the Mac. Initially, creators could make use of ENTiTi only to create AR projects in a drag-and-drop display, making it easy for anyone without technical skills and coding knowledge to create augmented reality products. But that wasn’t enough for Melchner, so he took ENTiTi one level deeper. Now, creators can make use of the same tools to create VR projects.
“Creators can create in minutes, hours, or days what otherwise would take weeks or months to do,” Melchner said, “and with no previous experience.”
How WakingApp is Educating the Public about AR/VR
While people are starting to use ENTiTi, many of them still don’t know what to do with it. “We are now in the dawn of the digital graphics age,” Melchner said. “We’re entering the age of mixed reality.”
To get to the point where MR is as common as other digital technologies—like the Internet, 3D printing, and smartphone apps—are today, Melchner is talking to universities, advertising agencies, and enterprise companies to sell them on the idea.
“We are telling universities that they can now teach people how to make AR and VR content in hours or days,” he said. WakingApp is also working with 3D printing companies to offer their clients a way to create AR/VR more easily.
Niantic’s popular game Pokémon Go uses augmented reality to show fictional creatures called Pokémon on the real world map using a GPS locator on the player’s cell phone. Imagine a world where anyone can deliver augmented reality for more practical purposes. Businesses can publish white papers using AR enhancements, weather forecasts can be obtained at the snap of a finger right before your eyes, instant communication messages can be sent from one person to another via augmented delivery signals akin to Ron Weasley’s howler message in the popular Harry Potter series.
It’s unclear just what form these augmented reality events may take, whether they’ll be delivered through a headset device like Oculus Rift, smartphones, Google Glasses, in-auto dashboard technology, or all of the above, but Melchner sees the world we live in taking that shape very soon.
What Can Be Done with AR Content Once It is Published?
If someone wants to be an AR or VR content creator, all they have to do is download ENTiTi and learn how to use it. Once the content is created, it must be viewed if it is going to have any value. WakingApp offers an AR/VR reading app that can be downloaded for the Apple iPhone, Android devices, and Gear VR. But to get to those devices, the content needs to be published.
Creators can create using 2D images, 3D images, video files, alpha channel content, green screen content, 360 videos, and sound files. The one thing ENTiTi doesn’t have is templates.
“When all the assets are uploaded,” Melchner said, “you drag and drop on the scene. Then you define the AR or VR features, and the target image, you want. It can be a business card, a book, a photograph, or whatever.” And, presto!
There’s no limit to the number of objects a user can upload to ENTiTi. Users can also use pre-loaded content from WakingApp. Anyone with the viewer can see any content that has been published with ENTiTi.
Current ENTiTi users include a washing machine manufacturer for an AR user manual, an architect, and a psychologist. It’s also been used for advertisement creation.
“I’m telling agencies they should upgrade their ads,” Melchner said. “They can be upgraded in minutes, and you can change them any time you want. It’s all immediate.”
While ENTiTi has solved the technology problem for AR creators, “there’s no AI for creativity yet,” Melchner said.
ENTiTi as a Business Model
To date, WakingApp has raised $9 million in three rounds of funding. The money has come from Israeli venture capitalists, U.S. funding sources, and three Chinese companies. The company is currently in the round D.
WakingApp has three levels of use. Users can download the free software and start creating right away, get their own creator and viewer white labelled, or partner with WakingApp to have their own on-premise solution with their own server, cloud, and full-service AR/VR content ecosystem. Melchner said he sees enterprises of the future looking at that last kind of investment.
“Imagine a 3D marketplace,” he said. “Anyone can use the assets and do something with them. We’re working to create that marketplace.”
ENTiTI currently has about 30,000 pieces of content published with thousands more new content being added every month. And they haven’t even officially launched yet. This content can be viewed with Revit software, Oculus Rift, Fusion 360, HTC Vive, and 3ds Max with WakingApp’s downloadable plugins for those devices.
“The basic idea is a computer-based creator,” Melchner said. “You upload your assets to a special design cloud. On the cloud, we have compilers. If your device doesn’t support 4K picture and the content creator uploads a 4K picture, our app knows the highest level of development you can see. So if your device only supports 2K, you’ll see 2K.”
Melchner envisions a Wikipedia-like library of MR content from all around the world. When creators sign up for their ENTiTI account, they’re asked to pick a category from among Education, Advertising, Games, Movies, Architecture, Medicine, Tourism, Toys & Board Games, Air / Space, Heavy Industry, Art, Music, and Business / Finance.
“Oculus Rift, HoloLens, Magic Leap, and Google Tango are all the future,” Melchner said. “TVs will be obsolete. In 10 years, we’ll be able to see the world in digital layers, but only if big enterprises and large companies start creating content.”
Melchner is betting they will.