One of the main perks of being an entrepreneur is working remotely, whether you are on a plane, sitting on a beach or getting things done at home during the evening.
Cincy-based startup Immersed is looking to add an extra twist to that formula. It plans to use virtual reality to allow workers to telecommute into a virtual reality workspace.
“Immersed was founded under the belief that a future where humanity is able to live wherever and work wherever is fundamentally more freeing than one where we are not,” its website states.
The software works via laptop and VR headset. Users sit down at their laptop, and their camera recognizes their presence via artificial intelligence software, which is currently only available on Mac devices. Employees then affix the headset and “enter” the virtual workspace with their peers, where they can detect coworkers’ body movements and even look in on anything they are working on.
Immersed CEO Renji Bijoy. Courtesy Photo.
“Quite literally, it feels like you are there,” said CEO Renji Bijoy. “It feels like your co-workers are there right beside you, because you see their bodies, you can see their interactions.”
Unlike conference calls or video chat, when a team is collaborating on a project in Immersed, the software will allow coworkers to pick up when an employee is pointing, clicking, typing or white-boarding live in the virtual workspace. The goal? To “recreate the in-person experience, even though we’re remote,” Bijoy said.
Getting to this point began for Bijoy when he started his post-collegiate work in the corporate world, in positions like software developer and senior architect at CNN.
However, Bijoy wanted to build something that was his own, that would solve problems for people.
So, he initially looked to his master’s is in computational perception robotics for inspiration, a discipline that looks to teach robots to perceive the world as humans do. His first project in that arena was using drones to film football games and automating statistics tracking to help teams understand their performance and improve their game.
“Ultimately, this didn’t get as much traction as the current idea,” he said.
Since the football statistics project didn’t work out, Bijoy used his computational background to land on the idea of using cameras on laptops to perceive bodies.
This idea, which would become Immersed, brought Bijoy and his team to the famed TechStars accelerator in Chicago. They participated in the program from July to October 2017.
Bijoy said the accelerator was an incredible challenge, but one that fully equipped the team to be ready for TechStars Demo Day, an event that was attended by a highly regarded investor network.
“IT FEELS LIKE YOUR CO-WORKERS ARE THERE RIGHT BESIDE YOU, BECAUSE YOU SEE THEIR BODIES, YOU CAN SEE THEIR INTERACTIONS.”
“We were going through fire that entire three months,” he said. “We were working at least a 100 hours a week. We would wake up at 5:00 a.m. in the morning and get back home at 10:00 p.m. Every single day, seven days a week.”
Immersed is a young enterprise; after all, the Immersed team only began working on the software during their time in the accelerator. However, Bijoy said that they picked up some game-changing investors while pitching in Chicago, raising over half a million dollars. Most of that investment was from one of the most high profile TechStar investors, The Walter Winshall fund.
The capital has helped the fledgling startup grow quickly, with plans to launch this spring. Immersed currently has 60 alpha users, and around 3,200 beta users. While it is not open to the public yet, the team said they plan to open it up to the masses once they are comfortable enough with the software, which could be in the next few weeks.
It’s a move that is a result of one of the biggest lessons Bijoy learned through his experience in the accelerator: Entrepreneurs must have a very calculated approach to running every aspect of their business.
“TechStars really instilled that type of mindset into you,” he said