Augmented reality, 3D printing and a shot at the moon

Hemanth Satyanarayana, Imaginate CEO, demonstrated at EmTech organized by Mint and MIT Technology Review what it is like to interact with a given environment via augmented reality


Imaginate chief executive Hemanth Satyanarayana. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Imaginate chief executive Hemanth Satyanarayana. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

New Delhi: EmTech, an emerging technology conference organized by Mint and MIT Technology Review in Delhi on 9-10 March, saw presentations and demonstrations of some cutting-edge technologies that are set to change the way manufacturing is done in India, how automation in logistics will impact businesses and how people will communicate or travel in future.

One such company that made a presentation at the event is Imaginate Technologies, which operates in the domain of mixed reality—an amalgamation of virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR). Hemanth Satyanarayana, the chief executive of Imaginate, had the audience watch in wonder as he gave a live demonstration of what it is like to interact with a given environment through AR.

The demonstration was set up so that the audience saw on the large screen what Satyanarayana saw on his AR headset: he could interact with the hologram of a virtual machine or any other object he wanted to place, watch videos, and even interact with the “avatar” of his colleague, who too wore a headset and connected with Satyanarayana from the hall next door.

The demonstration provided not only a sneak peek into how people would interact or “virtually teleport” in the future but also how they would conduct businesses.

Financial company MetLife, for instance, is using Imaginate’s technology to offer a virtual customer experience wherein customers can talk to an avatar of a customer service agent, Satyanarayana said.

He pointed out two major limitations to mixed reality. “Two big bottlenecks would be availability of good content (of objects and people to create holograms, which is integral to experiencing AR and VR) and the fact that while Imaginate’s technology is compatible with all kinds of headsets, not many people have an AR/VR headset yet,” he said.

Another technology that has gained momentum in the past decade is three-dimensional (3D) printing. “3D printing has cut across industries--be it healthcare, fashion, packaging for FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) companies, architecture, automotive or aerospace,” said Guruprasad Rao, director and mentor-leadership team, Imaginarium.

He added that 3D printing is a green technology: it is faster, efficient, produces less scrap (waste) and uses less energy than conventional manufacturing.

The Mumbai-based company, which initially started 3D printing of jewellery, has over the years entered healthcare and many other industry segments.

Among others that made presentations at EmTech were GreyOrange, which deploys robots in the warehouses of e-commerce logistics firms as well as those of many FMCG companies for making their supply chains faster, and Boltt, which is building an artificial intelligence-based health assistant to improve lifestyles.

And then there was Team Indus, part of Bengaluru-based aerospace start-up Axiom Research Labs, which is in contention to send a spacecraft to the moon as part of the Google Lunar X Prize. It plans to do so on 28 December this year. “We are trying to build a spacecraft that can soft-land on the moon,” Rahul Narayan, one of the co-founders of Team Indus, told the audience at EmTech. The company is building a nine-foot craft that can carry up to 25kg of weight on a journey of over 400,000km.

“With the aim to land on the Mare Imbrium crater of the moon—a crater as big as Europe—we plan to make two orbits around the Earth and four rounds of the moon,” he said.

In order to engage India at large, the organization plans to launch several campaigns, including competitions for engaging students in rural India and creating awareness about Team Indus through a bus dubbed Moonshot Wheels.

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