Having made new technological advancements, Blacksburg-based startup Precision Augmented Reality Works, known as PAR Works, was recently invited to the fifth annual SXSW Interactive Festival Accelerator Competition.
PAR Works was started two years ago by Tech professors Jules White and Mani Golparvar-Fard, as well as Ph.D. student Hyojoon Bae. It has been developing faster and more accurate 3D augmented reality technology systems that works in the areas of advertising, automotive, real estate, and construction.
Users of PAR Works’ services interact by taking pictures of objects, and then annotating those pictures with information.
“I think that this is very useful technology. For a machine to be able to recognize what it’s looking at is really awesome, and it has a lot of applications,” said Adam Hickey, PAR Works Android developer.
Augmenting is a form of computer generated sensory. In this case, it means that real-world photos are regenerated and connected with virtual information so the information is accessible in a new way.
After winning an innovation award at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, PAR Works decided to apply for SXSW. They will join companies from across the nation, including local company Heyo, in Austin, Texas, March 11-13 to flaunt its innovations, services and products.
Out of 500 applicants, 56 companies were narrowed down in seven categories. PAR Works was then selected as a finalist in the mobile technology category.
Another division of the conference is the SXSW Trade Show. PAR Works’ Mobile Augmented Reality Solution mobile application, which is focused on brands to communicate with consumers, was chosen as a finalist in this portion of the competition as well.
“We are working on a new approach for augmenting techniques and using the phone as the interface,” White said.
PAR Works is one of two companies that placed as finalists in both competitions.
“I hope that we can walk away from the competition on track to set up multiple partnerships with different brands, digital advertising firms and retailers,” White said.
The start-up company is based on virtual overlays, or the instantaneous overlay of cyber imagery and real world data, such as photos and videos.
“It’s sort of the next evolution in photography,” White added. “We’re moving into photography that knows where you are, and what you’re looking at. It’s a different way of interacting with the world.”
Their real world imagery technology allows any smartphone user to tag and analyze any arbitrary object such as buildings, vehicles or landmarks, with millimeter precision.
“It’s a blessing and a curse. Every time we talk to someone, they have 10 new ideas or problems to solve,” White said. “It’s good because there’s lots of opportunity, but it’s hard because we’re a start-up and there’s 100 different ways we could go. We have to pick and choose what might be the most successful.”
The technology created came from the idea to bridge the gap between what people see and need information on in everyday life, and the virtual information on the Internet.
“The reason we’re better than other available technologies is because we use actual image recognition and processing,” Hickey said. “There’s a lot of augmented reality stuff out there, but it requires too much data, which is messy and slower.”
By taking multiple photos of an object, product, or building, the PAR Works server can compare the pictures, draw a point where those all overlap, and eventually create a 3D “point cloud” of objects, according to Hickey.
“I think it’s a really opportune time for us because people are wild about taking photos with their phones,” White said. “With the app, your phone is not just capturing a photo, it sees what’s in that photo and tells you about it.”