canon is long A deep history as a hardware manufacturer. Most consumers know us best as a camera manufacturer, but the company has a long, deep and illustrious history in medical, office equipment, and other imaging applications.
Much of that business has changed during the pandemic. People stopped going to the office. Sporting events have been canceled. And while the medical industry was booming, Canon as a company had to rethink its mission and vision. With a deadly virus raging in the world, what should imaging companies do in a world where people want to connect but can’t leave their homes?
At CES 2023, the company unveiled its vision for the future. The vision seems less hardware dependent than one would expect from an 85-year-old company that has traditionally made all its money by making things out of buttons.
A hodgepodge of Canon veterans tackled this challenge and created Kokomo, a VR conferencing software package that essentially enables real-time 3D video calls.
The user puts on the VR headset and points the smartphone at them. The software scans your face and creates photorealistic 3D avatars of you and the person you’re calling. It uses motion sensors in the headset and camera to capture your avatar, moving you into a photo-realistic space and virtually being with your colleagues, family, or friends. performs a simple pre-capture process, similar to the technology used in Face ID. From there, you can show off your face shape and texture in a video call.
The most interesting thing to note in the paragraph above is the lack of Canon products. Canon’s software solutions have traditionally focused on enhancing and facilitating the use of hardware products. However, the move represents a major departure from its roots, as the company doesn’t make smartphones or his VR headset.
TechCrunch sat down with the team that led Kokomo’s development to find out how Kokomo came about and where Canon is headed as it rethinks its future.
Kokomo is a way to allow people to be there when they can’t. John Lawrence
Jon Lorentz, one of the co-creators of the Kokomo solution, said: “As you know, traditionally Canon has been closely tied to our hardware products.Last year at CES when he announced AMLOS, it was all about innovation in working from home. work [with Kokomo] It’s about reinventing life at home and that’s where this project started. When we started, we were in the middle of COVID and there weren’t many ways for people to connect. Kokomo is a way to allow people to be there when they can’t.”
The team’s goal was to create a solution that enabled experiences beyond phone calls, FaceTime calls, and Zoom calls. So it was about making sure that you could feel their presence instead of just seeing each other on screen. A worthy pursuit in a world where mobility is limited and screen fatigue is a reality. But how does Canon’s solution for engaging people in virtual worlds achieve it?
“We support most of the popular consumer VR headsets on the market, allowing people to participate in immersive calls. It’s dynamic in a living, breathing environment.Download the companion app on your phone and the person you’re talking to can see you from head to toe,” explains Lorentz. “No more avatars without legs. No more wondering what someone is actually doing. And you can actually look Other people.you can of instead of calling upon call. “
Below is an in-depth interview with Kokomo co-creators Jon Lorentz, Ray Konno and Jason Williams. Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
TechCrunch: Why is Canon so excited about software? A step away from its hardware roots?
John Lorenz (JL): Canon is essentially an imaging company, and that’s what we do. Kokomo applies its expertise to software rather than starting with hardware first. It turns out that the ability to step into a call is actually the ability to step into an image sensor. It’s about taking that image sensor data and applying it to someone else’s vision.
Obviously, there are a lot of details behind it, but our core is imaging excellence. must actually match. Otherwise, you will feel disconnected. It doesn’t feel natural. The same applies to the environment. They are not static from another virtual location. We captured real-world environments and brought them into VR. You will feel like you are in a dynamic and alive place.