Holoxica looks to the crowd for funding
EDINGBURGH, UK – It’s the latest way to raise capital: Crowdfunding. Sites like Kickstarter.com and Rally.org, which allow companies to raise money in small amounts from large groups of people, were recently profiled in the Wall Street Journal and the story of futuro-watch-maker Pebble’s $10 million success is seemingly everywhere.
Why borrow money from a bank, or go in with a venture capitalist, when you could collect advance payments from your future customers?
It was only a matter of time before this trend made its way to 3D, and the first to bubble up comes from holography developer Holoxica, which has launched a $40,000 Kickstarter campaign to initiate its first consumer offering. Essentially, they want to take Escher-inspired designs, make them 3D, then turn them into holograms that will be for sale. And they’d like you to pay for it in advance.
They’ll use the money they raise to create the images for print, as well as develop a specialized lighting system for the proper display of holograms.
Part of the driver, said Javid Khan, founder and managing director of Holoxica, was the difficult nature of finding funding in Europe considering the current financial situation, but it was also “fun to do,” he said, from the Holoxica offices in the Scottish Microelectronics Centre on the Edinburgh University campus. “We’re on a university campus, there’s a lot of young people around, so we just got a little team together and we figured, let’s do something fun and see if we can raise some money this way.”
Khan said it would also be something of a market tester.
The company’s primary business is developing a “3D holographic display system that suspends dynamic images in mid-air, creating a naturalistic 3D space.” Essentially a moving hologram (which I discuss more here). To create income along the way, though, and to promote the use of holographic technology in general, the company specializes in design for holographic display, using other companies, such as Zebra Technologies, for the actual hologram printing.
Here’s work they’ve done with the multi-beam sonar image of a shipwreck, for instance:
Currently, most of their customers are medical and chemical researchers who want to visualize their work (many of them on the Edinburgh campus as well – you know that’s where Higgs is from, right?), but this project will explore whether there’s demand from consumers to see some of their favorite images in 3D.
“It’s more of a trial than anything else,” Khan said, “so far it doesn’t seem to be going too well…” A few days in, but with 31 days left, they’ve raised a little over $500 toward the $40k. He laughed. “If it doesn’t work out, we’ve got other projects in the pipeline.”
The crowd is a harsh judge, but also provides valuable feedback. “If it doesn’t work out,” Khan said, “what I’ll really look at is why, so we don’t waste anymore resources on consumers.”
He’ll also learn about how people value holography as art – and at the very least help a little in spreading the world about the technology.
“The holography world is not that big,” he said, “and the markets are huge, potentially.” There is yet another resurgence in interest in 3D. Khan worries that without significant R&D investment now, while the iron is hot, people will yet again become disillusioned with the poor 3D visualization options (glasses, lenticular printing) and lose interest in 3D for another 20 years.
“I think the 3D data capture market is pretty key” to holography’s continued growth, Khan said, because “it’s a frustration that you can’t see the data that’s captured.”
Will that drive people to fund his Kickstarter and keep the company evangelizing and growing? We’ll find out in about a month…