Plumbing a problem for developers in Germany, where old pipe systems can make renovating any structure a challenge. Holo-Light’s Florian Haspinger wants to help with problems like this using XR technologies, to enable an XR economy.
Alan: Good morning, everyone, it’s Alan Smithson here, the host of the XR for Business podcast. And today we have a very special guest, Florian Haspinger, CEO and one of the founders of Holo-Light. And today we’re going to be learning how Holo-Light is redefining engineering across automotive, manufacturing, chemical, and myriad other industries using XR technologies. So with that, thank you and welcome to the XR for Business podcast.
Florian, how are you, my friend?
Florian: Hi, Alan. Thanks, I’m fine. It’s a pleasure to be here and thank you very much for having me.
Alan: It’s so great to have you on the show. And I’m really excited. But for people who don’t know, why don’t you just kind of tell us a little bit about what is Holo-Light and how did you get into it?
Florian: Sure, of course. Let me take a bit of time and I will tell you how things started. We have a few stories back in the beginning of everything. This would explain a little bit better how the story would end up. So good stories should start with something like “Once upon a time, there was a big economy and The Problem,” and so on. Or “It was a cold, dark winter night in the mountains back in 2015, snow was falling down and you saw the light of the lantern outside flickering inside an old house.” But honestly, that’s not how it started.
Alan: [laughs] I was all– you had me on the edge of my seat! “Once upon a time, it’s snowing.” I could picture it!
Alan: [laughs] Alright, so carry on.
Florian: We were really frustrated students. We studied theoretical physics in Tyrol. And as a theoretical study — especially on physics — also, the study is extremely theoretical. And also the funder. And we sat together in my old child’s room. So it was a 2015, around in the beginning. And we were overthinking our life decisions. And just to notice, we were just 24 years old and we thought about how we can invest our lifetime in something, something makes a difference in the world outside. There we thought about how can we make things easier or better in matters of industry and engineering, because also our background was a little bit in engineering. And later and after some silence and after a few questions, Alex [Werlberger] — our CTO — came up with the idea to think about augmented and virtual reality. And then we started to talk about how this kind of technology would be able to drive digitization, revolutionize industries, and change the way we consume content in the future.
Alan: What was that, to put a timeframe on this?
Florian: It was in January-February 2015. To be honest, it was really a little bit snowy out there.
Alan: So here you are in the beautiful mountains of Tyrol, probably doing some skiing. Snow’s glistening, your CTO says “Aha! I think it’s going to be XR!” Then what?
Florian: [chuckles] Exactly. And after this, this brilliant thought about AR and VR we just said, “Okay, yes, let’s do it.” And we founded a company in April 2015. And after founding the company we sat together and said, “Okay, now we have a company. But what about the business idea and the business model?” So first we had the idea to drive digitization with XR, then we founded the company, and then afterwards we had to build up the business model. So it was a little bit funny in the beginning. But in– I remember it was later 2015 when we were able to get the first Hololens in our hands. And I remember the first time I tried this kind of device and I really thought, that’s it. This is going to change everything. And with the background of physics, we completely could understand how the technology works. And it was just something fascinating and amazing. And we said, “Okay, that’s it. Okay, let’s drive the story, let’s drive the company.” And then we started in the area of engineering, because Alex and myself had some engineering background before. Therefore, we tried to figure out the problems in engineering and how can we solve them with the power of XR. So that’s how it started in 2015. And until I would say 2016 around, not that much happened. Just a lot of thoughts and a lot of discussion and a lot of everything. And by end of 2015, we managed to get in an accelerator program powered by BMW in Munich. I remember it was an event in Tyrol. A colleague — from I guess from one of us — said, “Hey guys, you have to go to that event and show what your idea is.” And it was just an innovation event, a very small innovation event, but BMW was their guest and they saw it and said, “Hey, that’s cool, let’s try it out.” And then they just picked up us and took us to the tech founders program in Munich. And there we had our first office. We had the first start. We had coaches and they showed us everything what we have not to do. But we did everything what they say not to do. [chuckles]
Alan: “Oh, we already did those things.” [laughs]
Florian: [laughs] Yeah, exactly. And after some years now, I recognize what they said and why they did it. But in 2016 we just thought, “Nah, come on, we can do it better.” But that’s typical startup life, I guess.
Alan: All right. So what is Holo-Light, then? And what problems is it solving for customers?
Florian: Yeah, OK, Holo-Light is is a company building the technology which drives the XR economy in the future. We started at engineering and figured out that the problems we have there, like big data, industrial consuming, and interaction with XR data in overall. And there we found out by starting in the engineering area that it’s the field we want to be there. So we developed end user application. It’s called ARES. It’s the Augmented Reality Engineering Space. So every engineer who wants to do something, work in collaborative modes, or just engineer their 3D content in 3D can start with ARES. And the technology who enables everything is ISAR: Interactive Streaming for Augmented Reality. It sounds complicated, but at the end it’s just a remote rendering technology that helps applications to get streamed on servers. At the end, we see us as the XR economy enabler with our technology. The problems we solve there is high data consuming problem on small mobile AR devices at the end, if you break it down to something small. Yeah. So I can tell you a lot of more of what special stuff you want to know.
Alan: Well, I see some on your website here. Some of the companies you’ve worked with, ThyssenKrupp, BASF, BMW. Maybe you can speak to kind of some of the specific things you didn’t done for those. One of them here is factory planning at BASF. What was that all about? Is that a bunch of people with Hololenses standing around looking at the factory of the future? How did that work?
Florian: The use case of BASF, BASF is doing a lot of stuff, doing simulation things on AR, engineering things on AR and VR. The use case we want to share here is a use case of factory planning, also the one you mentioned on our website. They have huge factories here in Germany, I don’t know how big they are. I would say our office fits in there 10,000 times or something. Their pipe systems, they are a really, really old. And they also want to grow a lot in the next years. And so they have to really find everything and do everything new. Usually they start planning on the factory by getting the status quo of the factory, because if you planned it 20 years to go, it won’t have the same status 20 years later.
Alan: A lot of larger organizations are realizing this. They have the blueprints from when they built the building. And when they stand there with the blueprints and look at the building, it looks nothing like what it is, because you’ve had twenty years of “We need to add a furnace over here. We need that machine over here. We need to rewire this, repipe this.” And so you’re effectively useless with the original information. So how are you bringing that information up to speed?
Florian: Yeah, that’s exactly the point. So nothing is like the planned before. What we do is we take the original plan, just bring it into AR as the status quo 20 years ago. And then we go into the field, the engineer stands there where the factory should be planned in the future, and then he just overlays the old plan and sees where are the differences, and where are the problems if they want to build up a new pipe system or if they want to extend something. Then they just take one of our products, the Stylus, and then they just mark the options and the points, what changed from the status quo, and then they just try out to engineer in that new environment the real pipe system they really need. So they need to take also from a modular toolset some standard pipes and then they set it just together, like they do their engineering work in the field and not on the computer. And that’s the huge benefit. So they have the status quo plan, yes. And they know it should look like that. But they planned in the real world with the real problems and the real status quo. And with ARES and Stylus, you just can do it.
Alan: I think it must be saving a lot of time for them, because if you’re looking at paper diagrams, plan something out, and then the people go and they take the plans, and they go on to site and they start to build it, and they realize, “Well, this is great, we want to put a pipe here, but there’s a big machine here now.” So by being able to digitally overlay the plans, this must save enormous amounts of rework.
Florian: Yes, and it’s not just a matter of time. It’s also– at the end it’s always a matter of time, but they also had some cases where they planned with — before, without AR — their pipe system. And after the planning, they went to the producement step and they found out that they have — I think it was — 20 meters less pipe system they really need to complete their task. And that’s just a huge mess. That’s not just time consuming. It changes everything. The whole planning of the other factories, they are also related to them. That’s a huge impact here. It can save a lot of time, a lot of materials, and also a lot of costs there.
Alan: So I have a question. So you have your your ARES: Augmented Reality Engineering Space. So that’s more of like a collaborative space where people can come together from around the world and look at different parts in 3D. Maybe it’s an engine being inserted into a car or whatever. But what are some of the numbers around it? So how do you quantify the savings, is there a way to do that? You’ve have case studies that show we saved X amount of time or X amount of money, or made those things? What are the ROI proof points that you’re able to show?
Florian: Yeah, we have a few. As you know, it’s sometimes not that easy to quantify an engineering process, but especially here at BMW, we got the statement they can evaluate their concept up to 12 months earlier and save, I guess, a few hundred thousand dollars a year for saving prototypes by using ARES. That directly is related to shorter time to market of their products and also related to their overall outcome of the quality of their products. So if a customer says up to 12 months earlier, then that’s not just a bit, that’s a huge number.
Alan: Well, that’s the difference between being a leader and being a follower.
Florian: Yeah, exactly.
Alan: So talk us through the other products you have. You have ISAR. So what is ISAR? Remote rendering and AR streaming. So I’m assuming you’re streaming this down from the cloud, using probably Unity or something=
Florian: Yeah. It started by developing ARES. We were one of our first customer of ISAR. By handling big industrial data, we found out very fast that it’s a huge performance issue for industrial data and the mobile devices.
Alan: “Here’s our factory in CAD. Oh yeah, it’s five terabytes and five trillion polygons. Can you just drop it in the Hololens?”
Florian: [laughs] Without ISAR, of course not. With ISAR, yes, you can do that. And that’s the big point. We developed an application, a technology by our own, that makes that kind of step happen. So no more data reduction or simplifying data hours by hours or days by days. Just take whatever you have and bring it into AR because industrial customers, they have their workstations and servers. And also cloud providers, they have a lot of computation power. Why not just use it, bring that application you have — at the moment, a Unity application you have — on the server or on premise or in cloud. And our SDK just– at the end, it’s very simple. Just at the SDK, I think it’s one or two code lines, one DLL and just go for it. And then you build from your Unity application or server application and then this web application runs on the cloud or on-premise, and this streams it directly on the mobile XR device. There will be provided some clients and this client just connects to the server and then the stream gets ready. And the cool thing is it works really with 60 frames per second. So you don’t recognize any difference in running on server or on a local machine. That’s pretty cool. So no limits anymore.
Alan: That’s awesome. Now ,do the cloud services, do they need to be on-site or on-prem? Or can you use this from AWS or a manager or some other cloud service?
Florian: So we provide that technology for both scenarios. So sometimes we have customers also like BMW, who want to use their own on-premise server structure to make sure that all the data they have still remain on their own servers. But we also provide ISAR on AWS, and we have also clients there. So you can use ISAR on every public cloud or on-premise. There is no difference.
Alan: That’s really cool. That’s great for these clients, because one of the issues that we’ve kind of found is — I’m assuming you’ve run into this as well — is that every customer has a different cloud architecture. Some are in Azure, some are in AWS, some are in their own cloud that they’ve built internally. And the flexibility to be able to build this for them in any scenario is really amazing. So the last one here on your on your product list is Stylus XR. What is that about?
Florian: Stylus closes the gap in interaction. So we’ve found out in– also in early 2016 that the biggest issues are performance we solves with ISAR. Collaboration, interaction with data, we solved it with ARES. And the third problem is interaction with that kind of content. As you know, if you take a Hololens or any other smart glass, you have the gesture control usage. It works very fine, sometimes better, sometimes it’s not that good. And overall, it’s not always the best solution for industrial use cases. It’s more or less a little bit unprecise. And it makes a huge change if you talk about content creation. If you want to do content creation in AR, then you need something a little bit more powerful than gesture control. And there we thought “Okay, let’s solve that problem, too. Let’s develop a device for that kind of thing.” And then we started of thinking how we can do that. And then we developed AI driven tracking system that tracks a pen — in our case, the Stylus XR pen. And this pen gets tracked in a cursor around one to three millimeters in real time, so losing the lag in the input side. And this makes a content creation happen and also enables a lot of other use cases. As you mentioned before, the ThyssenKrupp use case, I can also give you an example there.
Alan: Just to kind of frame this, Stylus XR is literally a 3D pen.
Florian: Yeah, that’s it.
Alan: So did you make that hardware yourself, or did you have it made? Because I know there’s other options in the market, like the Logitech VR Ink or the Massless Pen.
Florian: Yeah, that’s true. So first of all, we developed the stylus based on our AI tracking system. And after we had that AI tracking system, we built up the hardware. And there we had a partner to help us out there, because as we are not a hardware company — we are good at building software — we had a good partner helping us out there. So still, if we are going to sell a stylus, it’s going to be produced from our partner.
Alan: That’s awesome. So you actually designed and had a stylus built. Taking the other things aside, I mean, there’s a huge market just for that. I mean, Logitech has spent probably millions of dollars developing their VR Ink 3D pen. And Massless, I don’t know how much they’ve raised, but again, another company that’s designing a pen that’s tracked in 3D space. So is there any thoughts around bringing this Stylus XR into the consumer world, or is it just focused on the enterprise solutions that you’re working on?
Florian: At the moment it’s more or less focused on the industry. But totally, yes. We are also working to get it run on VR. So at the moment the stylus just runs on Hololens. In future it should also run on VR devices like Oculus, or HTC Vive, or any other. And it also runs — just small information — it also runs on the computer itself. Makes it totally fun to interact with a 3D pen on your 2D screen. But that’s just a fun fact.
Alan: That’s awesome. I actually want one of these now. [laughs]
Florian: Of course, Alan, sure. We can send you one, if you want.
Alan: I want a 3D pen! I want to draw in 3D, man! I’ve got a Hololens. I’ve got all the things. Let’s go!
Florian: Yeah, perfect! Of course! I will notice that, I will send you one. No problem.
Alan: Thank you. What I’ll do is I’ll show it to some of our customers, as well. because this is– you nailed a problem that we’ve seen as well is that the– if you go back to Steve Jobs saying that “We have ten styluses that we carry with us every day, our fingers,” they’re great for almost 99 percent of everything. But there is a missing accuracy. You don’t draw with your finger, you draw with a pen. And so there’s this kind of inherent need for a very precise device in three dimensional space. And this is really exciting. I had no idea when we started this call that you guys did that as well.
Florian: [laughs] Yeah, perfect! We are always open for a surprise.
Alan: Florian, how do you then not lose focus? So you’ve got ARES, you’ve got ISAR, and those are kind of real enterprise applications, serving your enterprise clients. They’re software solutions, so they scale quite nicely. And then you’ve got this hardware device that while also serves their needs. But how do you kind of stay focused when doing that?
Florian: That’s a good question. So it was not always that easy in past, as you can imagine, doing three parts together. But we always had one vision: to enable the XR economy with our technology. And if you take all three pieces together, you can drive Stylus and ISAR in ARES. We have a mission that in future, every engineer uses ARES in combination with ISAR, in combination with Stylus. So at the end it’s it’s one big product we serve to the customer.
Alan: It’s ready for your next commercial. “Holo-Light: Three products, one vision. Enterprise unleashed.”
Alan: No? No, maybe not?
Florian: Not bad. That’s good. I’m going to take that. [laughs]
Alan: We’ll throw that in the website.
Florian: [laughs] Perfect. We sell all these three products also by their own. So there is a Stylus SDK. You can simply integrate the stylus as it is in every other Unity application. You can integrate ISAR in every Unity application, and then power every application by ISAR as a remote rendering application. So at the end it fits together to one vision, but it’s also available on a separate way to get things a little bit more widespread in the market.
Alan: Awesome. I want to draw attention to the website. Just so people, if they’re listening, they can find you: it’s holo-light.com, correct?
Florian: Yeah, that’s it.
Alan: You’re meeting with a customer now. It’s a new manufacturing company. They don’t know anything about AR, VR, XR. They know nothing. They just– they have a factory. They want to add some digital technologies. What would be the first thing you say to them to get them excited about this technology?
Florian: Hmm, good question. Usually if we start a new conversation with a new customer, we first ask our customer, what are their biggest problems they have in engineering and production line overall? Then we say you have problems since the last maybe 10, 20 years. You can solve them and you can make them a little bit better or something, but you can’t solve them. And then we go forward and say, OK, let’s get a little bit more detail. Tell me your story. And then afterwards we say, yeah, I think there is time we really can solve your problem after 20 years. We can solve all your engineering and understanding problems. We can solve the problems you have between analogue content and digital and real content you have. A little bit like closing the gap in the engineering and manufacturing chain. That’s how we start talking with the customer.
Alan: Wonderful. You start talking to a customer by listening.
Alan: It’s so true, right? Sales is 99 percent listening and then I think I can solve that. Great.
Florian: Yeah, true.
Alan: As much as we all work towards building value for our customers and driving ROI, this technology can also really be viscerally used to change the world we live in and make it a better place. So what is one thing, one problem or challenge in the world that you would like to see solved using XR technologies and why?
Florian: There is a way we consume content in the past, and also in the future, and also in the present. In the past, we consumed content on paperworks or maybe later on desktops and monitors. And in future there will be a different way how we consume content and interactive content overall. Doesn’t matter at the end if it’s an industrial problem or it’s a consumer problem; it’s just the way how we consume content. I would say XR is the driver worldwide to consume future content overall. So if you ask me, I would say in 10 years there will be no other solution where you want to consume content than XR solution.
Alan: I tend to agree with you on that, my friend. I have a last question and I will end there. On your website, you’ve listed partners, Microsoft Mixed Reality Partner, AWS, Deutsche Telekom or T-Systems, Oracle. What are those partnerships? What do they look like? What are some of those partnerships and how are they benefiting your customers, those partnerships?
Florian: So a few of them are a little bit more under NDA than others, but overall, I can say if you talk about telco providers, for example, they are going to build up their XR economy system by using ISAR in the future. And if you talk about cloud providers like Azure or AWS, I would say it’s quite the same. They are focusing on a specific strategy for building their own AR economy and we are delivering their missing links, like some parts of ARES or ISAR itself. These are more technology partnerships you saw there. We have also partnerships for integrators. They use our products, ARES, ISAR and Stylus, and to integrate it into their customer projects, for example. I would say it’s on the one hand, it’s a very technical partnership we drive with a lot of these customers, partners you mentioned and also some reseller partnerships; integrated partnership is also reseller partnership. We have also partnerships with CID resellers. They just take our stuff and sell it to their customers as a bundle, because ARES is also able to get integrated into existing CID solutions on the market, and they just take it integrated and then they sell it as a whole bundle. So if there is a customer who wants to take Autodesk solution for, for example, he can say, “Yeah, I want the Autodesk solution with AR,” and then they can get the ARES solution if they want.
Alan: Love it. Love it. Florian, this has been really, truly enlightening. And I’ve loved learning about Holo-Light, about how Florian and his team can really help you revolutionize and digitize your workforce, moving forward in engineering and manufacturing. And it’s just amazing. The technology that you guys are building is fantastic. And it sounds like you guys are truly on an amazing path forward in the future of XR. So thank you for joining me today, Florian.
Florian: It was amazing and a pleasure and made a lot of fun.
Alan: And that’s the end of the XR for Business Podcast. Don’t forget to hit the subscribe button and hit the alerts so you don’t miss any episodes. I know we took a brief hiatus over the summer — COVID times and all – but we’ll be getting back to a regular cadence of podcast soon. And I want to say thank you to Florian. And thank you to Alex Colgan and Grace and Chris from my team, for producing this wonderful podcast. There’s a lot of work that goes in behind the scenes to make this thing seamless. So thank you very much to my team. And also, I want to give a quick shout out to all the team of MetaVRse who have been supporting this podcast, both financially and in time considerations. So thank you to my team for doing that. This has been the XR for Business podcast with your host, Alan Smithson. And if you want to read the transcripts of these instead of listening to it, it’s xrforbusiness.io. And Florian, thank you so much. Holo-Light: holo-light.com.
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