Hyderabad: After dabbling in and working with augmented reality (AR) for about a year, Radhakrisha B., a software engineer from Gitam university in Visakhapatnam was looking for ideas to create solutions with technology. A random conversation with someone about problems pertaining to indoor navigation sparked an idea. “Can AR provide more accuracy than existing systems?" he thought to himself.
Months later, Radhakrishna, managing director of Augmented Byte--a startup working out of the Hyderabad-based incubator T-Hub--is now creating products for indoor navigation.
What makes his work unique is that the navigation system he built is not dependent on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, but simply works based on the scanning of a unique image (from the starting point) to start the AR-based navigation in any given space.
“After that conversation, I went back and researched about indoor navigation, which is still a big question in the market. When you enter a complex structure like mall or a hospital, the GPS signal is blocked due to walls. Outside the marker is accurate. The other methods in the market use Bluetooth beacons and Wi-Fi hotspots for indoor navigation currently," explained Radhakrishna.
Pointing out that Bluetooth and Wi-fi signals do not provide dynamic location for indoor navigation, Radhakrishna said AR proved to be a more accurate tool. “Essentially we survey and create a map of the place to create the product. We create a unique image at the starting point inside the premises. It can be a small A-4 size image. We have a collection of 2000 pictures that can be used and if you have anything in mind, we can use that too," he said.
The easiest correlation to his product is the online game Pokemon Go, which took the world by storm a few years ago. Using Augmented Byte’s products give a similar feeling. A test video of the same shows a robot and a UFO appearing on one’s phone as guides for indoor navigation. After starting up the app and scanning the unique image, all one has to do is enter the destination within the premises.
“It works even in aeroplane mode. The UFO guides you, while the robot follows you and gives you analytics after you reach the destination," said Radhakrishna, who worked as a software engineer for Accenture till he quit in August 2018. But success for him didn’t come easy. After seeing not-so-satisfactory results at an event in Mumbai last year in October, he realised his product was far from perfect.
“I went back home in Hyderabad and thought of using a unique image instead. That worked, and I first tested it in the township I stay at Lingampally. After that I decided to file a patent for it. Right now, we are working on nine pilot projects, which include hospitals. We are hoping to close in on them as clients after the pilots are done," Radhakrishna informed. He added that he plans to target 35 to 40 hospitals in the coming one year, to look for prospective clients.
Radhakrishna had initially planned target the tourism sector, given how his product will be helpful to navigate places like forts and museums. But after he joined T-Hub in February this year, hospitals also showed keen interest in the AR-based indoor navigation system he developed. Radhakrishna now wants to expand his team, which comprises three employees and also wants to built a marketing team.
“So far we have bootstrapped and the pilots have been enough. We have not gotten any funding so far, but we are open to it," he added. While his competitors are bigger companies which also provide indoor navigation solutions like Indoo.rs and Infsoft, Radkhakrishna is confident that Augmented Byte will grow given its unique solution in terms of not requiring Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
“This is the first time I am hearing of such a product which does not require Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. AR exists in the market and has been catching up in the last five to six years. It took-off after Pokemon Go came, and everyone started learning about it. You even have AR marketing now and it is used even in employee training. Something like this can also be useful for in a music festival where people are there just for a few days," opined Abhijit Bhushan, a Hyderabad-based private AR and virtual reality (VR) developer.
In the coming days, Augmented Byte, which is part of T-Hub’s second batch of Lab32 (a six-month incubation programme), is looking to create an AR-based game like Pokemon Go and release it next month. “And in the next six months, we will concentrate on B2B (marketing)," Radhakrishna said.