Sturfee, a San Francisco based startup, announced this morning that KDDI Corp., Japan’s second largest cellular service provider, is using Sturfee’s Visual Positioning Service (VPS) to geolocate AR experiences throughout the country’s major metropolitan areas just in time for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Sturfee was founded by Anil Cheriyadat, CEO, and Harini Sridharan, CTO, in 2015, and subsequently raised a $4M seed round led by SIG Asia. At the DoE US National Labs, Anil Cheriyadat led the computer vision work on using Satellite imagery to detect and visualize objects on the ground. Sturfee uses this same Satellite data to create a world mesh, a machine readable 1:1 digital copy on the world, precisely anchored to it.
Until Sturfee, city-scale computer vision solutions have relied on vehicle-based scanning or collaborative point clouds. “These are operationally intensive approaches and very costly to scale. With our technology, we can create machine-readable version of San Francisco in just a week, and detect and update any city changes even quicker,” said Cheriyadat. Sturfee’s cloud technology currently powers 15 cities on three continents with many more coming soon.
The most obvious use case of the Sturfee platform is a city-guide with information and entertainment anchored to buildings and structures along the street, but the company believes there will be many applications ranging from navigation, tourism, ride-sharing, gaming, outdoor advertising and marketing.
“As we move toward the 5G era and address spatial computing, we will create a new communication scene and with Sturfee we will build a variety of new experiences that will thrill our customers. We envision digital signage and navigation linked to location information, as well as advertising, entertainment, art and education,” said Yasuhisa Yamada, Director of Personal Business Sector, KDDI.
There are several other companies, including Google, who are working on producing this kind of computer vision (or camera first) technology, but the Sturfee approach is unique because it’s using data from Satellites, along with computer vision, to create and anchor this invisible mesh to any place on the globe. Google uses its computer vision, it’s vast street view platform, to geolocated and hyerlocalize the user. Now it knows not only where you are, but where you are looking.
The fact that so many companies are fishing in these same waters attests to the widely shared belief that a spatial wikipedia, as Ori Inbar of Super Ventures calls it, this 1:1 clickable copy of the world, may be computing’s next most disruptive development. Not only the big companies like Google, Snap, Apple and Facebook are here, but well funded startups like Scape, 6D.ai, and Ubiquity6, YouAR, Dent Reality are all competing to build this asset.
Mike Levine, CEO of HappyGiant, an app developer and publisher, worked closely with Sturfee to create San Francisco experiences using the Sturfee VPS platform in order to show off Sturfee’s city scale AR (see video below).
“The Sturfee platform was very easy and straightforward to develop in. We had a ton of fun making this demo with them.” Said Levine. “Even though we were not in San Francisco, we were able to develop remotely using the Sturfee Platform, and feel like we were there, inside Unity! Sturfee sent us almost daily videos of progress as the demo was developed. It was amazing to see the results on video, and when we went out there to see it in person running on mobile devices! Sturfee’s tech is real, and it works, which is pretty amazing to see after waiting to be able to develop city scale AR for so long.”
The Sturfee SDK (software developer kit), also launched today. It allows developers to paint the world with an invisible layer of clickable interactive content, consisting of links, text, pictures, videos and games. The Sturfee SDK and information for developers is available here.