29 September 2016
by Bhakthi Puvanenthiran
Holographic creation company gets boost from Alibaba's investment armCo-founder Amber Cordeaux using Humense's human-to-human virtual reality headset.
Film and theatre industry expertise is pushing this creative company to global heights.
Like a thousand small currents that burst a dam, pressure is building in the virtual-reality world.
At the start of October, Google is set to debut its Daydream platform headset. Days later the world's biggest VR company, Oculus, will kick off a developer conference. And on October 13, gaming giant Sony will releases its Playstation VR.
The technology has been around for decades, but its the last 24 months that have seen an explosion.
And as the pressure builds, one of virtual reality's quiet pulsing hotspots is Sydney's inner west.
For the last year, three young tech founders have been quietly working away in an office in Leichhardt on a human-to-human communication experience they hope will remove the tyranny of distance.
And they want it to be as common as Skype.
"Our goal is to enable most people on earth to be able to see another human in their space with their eyewear," explains co-founder of Humense, Scott O'Brien.
It's called volumetric virtual reality, and unlike the 360 VR that is currently out in the market, it allows users to walk around and with the subject.
Despite only being founded a year ago, Humense has already found friends with deep pockets.
Two venture capitalists from the investment arm of global e-commerce giant Alibaba, CRCM/Youku Global Media Fund, have invested an undisclosed amount in Humense, according to co-founder Amber Cordeaux.
The pair are visiting Melbourne and Sydney this week, including a masterclass on VR investment at the University of Melbourne.
"We are thrilled to have CRCM/Youku on board with us as one of our investors," said Cordeaux, noting China is also a leader in the field.
Humense has enormous plans and with virtual reality set to be worth $150 billion by 2020, the sky is the limit.
"In the next few months we are challenging ourselves to scale enough to be used from Sydney to LA to London and Beijing and Shanghai," O'Brien told Fairfax Media.
"With this we hope to engage various industries, music, film, sports and various talent management agencies for celebrity talent."
One of the potential commercial uses of Humense will be for celebrities to do endless fan meets, without having to physically be there.
"Then between 1-3 years from now, we will start to democratise access to our platform and tools so general public can start recreating themselves digitally and volumetrically so they can join in the fun," he said.
How the movies and theatre help
So why is Australia doing so well in this industry?
"We have people who have done 3D scanning for The Matrix, Mission Impossible and Star Wars," he said, of his team of of seven.
He plans for the size of the team to double in the next three to six months.
"Movie and TV gets a lot of mentions but also what gets forgotten, a lot talent is from the theatre industry. One of our staff, we found him as a stage hand working in theatre," he said.
"He's proven to be one of the most impressive tech leads I've seen or heard about."