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AVATOUR Enhances Virtual Reality with Reality

New group collaboration solution AVATOUR enables the hosts of remote programs to bring in virtual associates, workers, and customers for collaboration at job sites.

The system puts the host in the real world and requires him to be ready with equipment such as a 360-degree camera mounted into a selfie stick, and an Android device. The system can accommodate up to five remote guests, who can join in using Oculus Go head-mounted displays (HMDs), or through their laptops, desktops or mobile devices. Without the VR HMDs, they still get a 360-degree perspective of the broadcast, which is similar to them being present there. The 360-degree view is of the room where the simulation is being carried out.

The participants can observe the three-dimensional spatial avatars of others in the meetings, which were also integrated into the 360-degree video showcased by the host. The broadcast is, in effect, the room, where the participants join in the simulation. The meeting participants and host can interact in real-time, and observe the same visuals no matter where they are in the world at that time. Each session can be observed by unlimited participants, and these can also be annotated and taped. The meetings offer a considerable sense of realism.

AVATOUR, a company established by Nokia stalwarts Prasad Balasubramanian co-founder (CTO), and Devon Copley (CEO). The last two years have seen them working with the technology, which was developed as Imeve for the now discontinued OZO camera (with a retail price of $60,000). Imeve has supplied the technology that has powered several key 360-degree broadcasts, such as the Champions League playoffs and Thanksgiving Day Parades for Macy’s.

The new concept named AVATOUR was rebooted by a seven-person remote team. They facilitated the 360-degree services to a controlled market which was unlikely to scale up.

AVATOUR has run beta tests for its product for a duration of ten months. Ninad Athavale, Senior Manager, Global Real Estate and Store Development, GAP, was a user of the solution. He said that unlike Zoom or FaceTime, the experience felt like he was physically present. Athavale said that the solution facilitated faster, better and more affordable business. He described it as being comprehensive and something that his business was looking forward to. Following its launch, Copley remarked regarding the company’s willingness to scale engineering and sales teams. It is now making efforts to lure in VCs.

AVATOUR received an unlikely boost from the still ongoing coronavirus crisis, which forced the hand of companies to look for collaboration solutions. The interested buyers included a prominent medical device manufacturer, boosting the support to medical facilities with a purchase of three kits. It consisted of an Android phone, Insta360 One X 360 camera, a selfie stick, and an Oculus GO HMD. Copley explained that the buyer asked to try out the kits, and then decided to purchase immediately. The buyer then sought a quote for dozens of kits, just a week after getting hold of the three kits.

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