Article: New Tech Catapults Young Firm

Gravity Jack In the Press

 

via the Spokane Journal of Business
 
Steve if you are looking down on us right now – sorry that they took a picture with one of the few PC’s in our office. (gag reflex)
-Jack

‘Augmented reality’ focus could lead Gravity Jack to sales, work force growth

By Chey Scott
Of the Journal of Business

Gravity Jack COO Mitch Williams shows a sample of augmented reality through which a Lady Gaga video pops on the screen when a picture of the performer is recognized.
—Staff photo by Chey Scott

A young Liberty Lake-based software-design venture that’s grabbing hold of an up-and-coming computing technology, called augmented reality, is on such a fast growth track that its top executives say they can hardly keep up with its own demand for new employees.
That company, Gravity Jack Inc., has grown into a multimillion-dollar concern in just under two years and also has multiplied from five founding members to nearly 40 employees, says Terry Hoy, its co-founder and senior vice president.
Hoy says Gravity Jack projects that it will triple its revenue this year, though he declines to disclose exact revenue figures. He adds that the company’s overall goal is to surpass $100 million in annual revenue in the coming years.
Gravity Jack expects to double the size of its work force within the next nine months or less, says Chief Operating Officer Mitch Williams. He adds that the company interviews job applicants just about every week, mostly for computer- programming and coding positions.

As a result of that ongoing increase in employees, the company has outgrown its current 2,300-square-foot headquarters space at the TierPoint office building, at 23403 E. Mission. Hoy says it will be moving to a larger 6,000-square-foot space nearby, at 23505 E. Appleway, before the end of the year.
Gravity Jack was founded in November 2009 by Hoy and Luke Richey, its president and CEO. Richey—a local entrepreneur and founder of some other Inland Northwest startups, including Tometa Software Inc.—saw a future demand for tech firms that specialized in the development of augmented-reality products, Hoy says.
Though the young company offers all realms of computer programming services, including development of mobile applications, websites, and other forms of software, augmented reality is its fast-evolving niche.
Augmented reality—also referred to in the industry by the abbreviation AR—is a computer image of a real-world scene that is augmented with additional text, images, or videos. Aug-mented reality also can be described as viewing the real world in an enhanced way, the company’s website says.
Augmented reality can be accessed by using a mobile computing device with a camera, such as a smartphone or tablet computer, that has software installed on it allowing it to recognize markers or locations that trigger it to bring up otherwise hidden information.
Words, images, video, or other data then appears on the device’s display based on what the camera sees and recognizes as a marker or geographical coordinate where that additional information virtually is located.
An example of a real-life application would be leaving a message or data at a specific geographic location that then could later be accessed there by another user, who would be alerted electronically when they were near the data’s access point, Williams says.
He says that type of augmented reality is called geo-location and uses GPS coordinates to “pin” data to a specific location.
Aside from geo-location based augmented reality, Gravity Jack also develops AR projects and software that are accessible through what’s called computer vision, Williams says.
That form of the technology is based on the camera focusing on and recognizing either an image—called natural feature tracking or natural image tracking—or a basic symbol inside a box. Those symbols are similar in function to the square quick-response (QR) codes that increasingly now are found on advertisements and can be scanned by smartphones to bring up a website or other information.

Williams says that in augmented reality, those symbols—called fiduciary markers—could consist of a small black box with a logo or image in the center, or a black bordered box with a simple symbol inside.
When a device’s camera lens views a fiduciary code or recognizes a specific image, it prompts an interactive feature to come onto the screen, he says.
To show its clients a basic demonstration of natural feature tracking-based augmented reality, Gravity Jack has created a simple application that uses a specific photo of Lady Gaga to prompt a music video by the artist to come onscreen and play on an iPad while the photo is in view of the camera. If the image goes out of the camera’s range, the video stops playing, Williams says.
He says that Gravity Jack has developed its own software kit, branded under the name siReal, which it uses to develop its augmented-reality projects.
Williams says the cost to have Gravity Jack develop an augmented-reality application can widely range, depending on the complexity of the project, the amount of time required, and because Gravity Jack’s projects all are customized based on a client’s specifications.
Such projects could include Gravity Jack’s team designing an AR-based mobile application, or an AR feature that a client wished to include on a website.
Hoy says the contract fee for a client of the company could range between $20,000 a month and upwards of $100,000 a month. He says those figures vary based on how many of Gravity Jack’s developers are working on the project, and how many hours a week is spent on it.
Williams says Gravity Jack soon plans to release a new and updated version of its proprietary augmented reality content-viewing application, called browsAR. That version will be available in the coming weeks to download for free from the Apple iTunes App Store, and eventually from the Android Market, Williams says. A simplified version is available now in the iTunes App Store, he adds.
Williams—who is the son of Wayne Williams, president and CEO of Telect Inc., the big Liberty Lake-based telecommunications equipment manufacturer— and Hoy say the goal for browsAR is for it to become the go-to app for viewing augmented-reality products.
“We want it to be to AR what the web browser is to the Internet,” Williams says. “We want browsAR to be where you go to find AR content; it’s the eyes to the AR world.”
Due to nondisclosure agreements, the company can’t name its current clients or describe any of their projects, but Hoy says there will be some large-scale project releases early next year. He says the company’s biggest AR project contract it’s now working on is for a big-name toy manufacturer.
“There are an infinite number of applications of this technology,” Hoy asserts. “It can be used for any type of industry.”
While one of the more mainstream uses of augmented reality is as a marketing tool, Hoy says another potential application of the technology could be as an employee training tool. As an example of how that tool might be applied, he says fiduciary markers on certain machinery or parts could prompt demonstrative videos to show how to perform certain tasks.
“We have some high-profile clients that are looking at the (rising) cost of training,” he says. “What if you could streamline that training and take your iPad up to a piece of equipment and there’s a marker on it, and it’s interactive and a video comes up that tells you how to do something.”
Hoy says the inspiration for the Gravity Jack’s name comes from Richey’s enthusiasm for skydiving, which also was how he met his wife, Jennifer, who’s involved in the company as its chief financial officer. The second part of its name was chosen in honor of Richey’s grandfather, Jack.

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