Today James is talking with Caroline Walerud, one of the co-founders of Volumental – a Stockholm-based company working in the 3D scanning space which is definitely one of the hottest spaces right now. They’re currently live on Kickstarter, so go check out the campaign.
Caroline, tell us about your background
I grew up in Stockholm with international entrepreneur parents, studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University but spent most of my time starting and running organisations – my first startup selling sourdough bread when I was 14, and at the university I ran the Scandinavian Society and captained the university basketball team.
I returned to Stockholm after completing my natural science degree at Cambridge to conduct research and spoke on clusters and policy as a faculty member of the Stockholm School of Economics. I’ve also helped to start the Swedish Chapter of the International Women’s Forum.
In October 2013, I joined Volumental and co-founded the company with four researchers, which was then the research project Kinect@Home and we have been running Volumental ever since.
What is Volumental and what problem are you solving?
Volumental is the world’s first web-based 3D scanning service. Volumental makes it easy for anyone to create and share 3D models of the world around them.
3D models are everywhere. For example, Designers use 3D models to plan renovations. The characters, objects and rooms in computer games are 3D models, and of course in 3D printing, you need a model on the computer first to print anything out.
However, today these 3D models are really hard to make. Either, you need experts spending their days building the models from scratch with a 3D modelling program. Or, you get a 3D scanner, which usually costs USD$10,000 to 40,000. And even these scanners require manual fixing with complicated software, and a powerful PC to run the computations.
Volumental is here to change that. We make 3D scanning accessible to everyone through our cloud-based service.This is how it works! All you need is your browser and a depth camera like a Primesense camera, or the Microsoft Kinect camera, which only costs 80 dollars. Go to Volumental.com and film around an object, person or room, for a few seconds, and you get a 3D model back to your browser within minutes.
Tell us a little bit about the team
Volumental has been growing very rapidly since it’s incorporation. Beginning with just five co-founders, Volumental hired its first employee on April 2013 and had since grew to a dynamic team of 13 people in both the business and technical function of the business.
Here’s brief information about the cofounders:
Miro: Miro is pursuing a PhD in Computing Science in the Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, Stockholm. Miro is a technical physicist with two MSc from KTH and Imperial College, London. He is ranked the top 10 C++ programmer in the world according to BrainBench. Miro was an Algorithm developer and technical project manager in Tobii Technology, an eye-tracking company, and oversaw several research projects aiming to develop new platforms and methods in image processing and machine vision in eye- and face-tracking. He holds several patents for eye-scanning technology in Sweden.
Rasmus: Rasmus is currently pursuing a PhD at the Royal Insititute of Technology, KTH, Stockholm. Rasmus joined the Kinect@Home project as a research engineer to perform 3D reconstruction. He started programming at the age of 10 so has 17 years of programming experience. Rasmus is our star programmer, he managed to beat KTH’s previous record by a factor of 19.8 for solving the Maximum Flow Problem and was instantly recognized as a skilled programmer.
Alper, PhD: Alper holds a PhD in Computer Science from the Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, Stockholm. Alper led the research project, Kinect@Home, aiming to collect a vast dataset of real-world environments for improving object recognition and 3D mapping for robots.
Patric: Patric is Volumental’s expert tech advisor. He is a professor at the Centre of Autonomous System (CAS), where the research project, Kinect@Home first started. Patric specializes in the research area of localization, mapping and navigation for mobile robots, 3D reconstruction and spatial understanding, service robotics and systems integration
Is this a competitive space and tell us about the other players in this space?
In the description of Volumental above, I mention that there are existing scanning solutions which are more complicated to use and also more expensive. There are also many companies that are using depth cameras to make 3D models of the world around us.
However, what we are offering is something different and is much easier to get started with: all you need is a depth camera like the Kinect, an internet connection and you can start scanning any objects around you!
Many startups in the market focuses on hardware, such as Lynx Labs or Matterport. While others have offline software that works on your desktop, but they require a powerful PC with good graphics cards for the software to work. What makes Volumental unique is that it offers unbeatable 3D scanning technology through the cloud, providing fast, easy-to-use solutions that work both on Macs and PCs.
What kind of clients will you be targeting?
In our kickstarter project, we are working on a 3D scan-to-print app which makes it easy for everyone to print something that is scanned from the real world – just as easy as making a film clip. We are therefore targeting those with 3D printers at home who want to 3D print cooler stuff, and those who just want to try out 3D printing.
You will be running a Kickstarter campaign – tell us why you chose Kickstarter and what you hope to get out of the campaign?
Kickstarter is a great way to reach out and involve a community in the shaping of our future service. A successful Kickstarter project will allow us to hire a backend developer and to create a new app specifically formulated to make people’s scans perfectly suited for 3D printing. At the same time, it is a great way to gauge interest and see how our users interact and connect with our products.
Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
Our vision is to be the household name for 3d scanning globally. When you Scan Your World – you do it with Volumental.