Startup Mantra: VR tech to make stronger training sector newsfragment


Believe school or college lecturers the use of digital truth (VR) headsets to give an explanation for to scholars the tricky ideas of maximum dreaded gardens. Quickly, this creativeness would develop into a ‘reality’ as Pune-based immersive era answers startup FirebirdVR is putting in VR libraries in schools round Pune to allow get right of entry to for college kids to better training at inexpensive value.

Participants of FirebirdVR at their administrative center. (HT PHOTO)

FirebirdVR CEO Founder Akshay Rathod and co-founder COO Yogesh Surwase say that VR era is not going to simply disrupt training sector, but in addition the retail and banking sectors within the after few years. The startup may be participating with eminent retail manufacturers to introduce a digital buying groceries enjoy for his or her consumers.

Preliminary steps

Hailing from a little village similar Latur, Rathod were given publicity to digital truth (VR) and augmented truth (AR) era all over his engineering school days in 2015 on the Vidyalankar Institute of Generation, Mumbai. He says, “As a student, I always explored the upcoming technologies and then I got to know about a cardboard VR viewer introduced at the Google I/O 2014 developers conference. VR technology was new and not easily accessible, but it was a revolutionary concept as anyone could create a VR viewer and experience VR. Inspired by this, I made a Google Cardboard Viewer and personally experienc.ed VR and it was an eye-opener for me. I realised that this would be the next revolution in spatial computing.”

“We created Made in India VR viewers based on the Google template and sold around 400 sets in the Mumbai market including online and offline mobile shops. As a student, it was a success for me, but it was not my innovation. So, I started moving towards software development around AR-VR. I also started conducting workshops for ARVR in Mumbai colleges which further increased my interest in this technology. Being a capital-intensive business, I decided to shut down MyMadBox as I could not see much growth in it. That was my first business experience and I was left with only 9,000 profit,” remembers Rathod.

Serendipity

Rathod labored with a dozen of community from the ARVR era trade and used to be really helpful to the Boston Consulting Team via considered one of his acquaintances. With BCG, Rathod were given to understand numerous industry facets and the way Mumbai works.

He stated, “We were keen on spreading awareness about VR technology and building our company along with people. Since I had no prior business experience, working with BCG helped me a lot. Although we had no idea then how ARVR would turn out on a larger scale, we decided to develop anything that came our way. Education was close to my heart as I personally experienced the challenges of pursuing higher education. We were searching for the right time and till then building our technical expertise around it.”

Staff development

Rathod met his co-founder Yogesh Surwase in 2018 via a shopper. An alumnus of MITSOM, Surwase had affluent prosperous enjoy in numerous industries like pharmaceutical, production, and many others and had leave his process to begin his personal VR Gaming Zone in Pune.

Surwase says, “When I met Rathod, we discussed various topics related to VR industry and got along well. I left my job in 2016 and ran the VR gaming zone for two years, prior to joining FirebirdVR as COO. During the service years, FirebirdVR had done a lot of firsts in India like the first virtual reality (VR) fashion show in Mumbai. The technology was not evolved then and hence there were few challenges. Now the industry has grown and there is validation that it will grow further.”

Pivot

With Surwase becoming a member of the corporate and making an allowance for the evolving ecosystem, Rathod next made up our minds to pivot from services and products to a product corporate.

Says Rathod, “The Indian ARVR ecosystem is yet not evolved and it was clear to me that if we want to make something sustainable, it must be a product. When we brainstormed about VR applications in the education sector, we considered several aspects including the failed attempt of Google to launch the ARVR glasses. Indian market was not ready for such products which were ahead of its time. The technology was amazing, but hardware and software support was not available. Also, we deliberately kept away from the K10 segment in education. Although VR can be exciting and entertaining to school students, it can be harmful if used for a longer duration and the eyes are not mature.”

“Another consideration was that understanding VR technology has a bit of a learning curve. So, we decided to focus on technical diploma holders, ITI and engineering students who have a bit of inclination towards technology. The tipping point came after 2019 and we started giving demonstrations to students from various parts of Maharashtra. We know that this will be a long journey for us, but we are on it. We want to make everyone’s life better around us.”

VR Libraries

The VR trade faces early demanding situations like deficit of publicity and accessibility to {hardware}. Schooling may be a tricky marketplace to break as a industry. Making an allowance for those elements, Rathod and his staff made up our minds to establishing GuruVR Library in instructional establishments.

Rathod explains, “Similar to traditional libraries which provide infrastructure and access to books, GuruVR libraries will also provide VR headsets to students. The earlier strategy of offering courses on a subscription basis was not working out as educational institutes were not willing to invest in VR hardware. So, we decided to invest and develop the hardware ourselves. Now the educational institute’s management are in favour of installing our hardware on their campus as they do not have to bear additional cost. Soon we will have GuruVR libraries around Pune colleges first and then expand to other cities and states in India.”

“Our present strategy is to experiment with students in Pune since it is our operations base, and we are in touch with more than 25 colleges for collaboration and setting up GuruVR libraries. Our sole focus is to enable access for students to higher education at an affordable cost. At present, we have about 1,380 students enrolled for four years and we will be giving access and exposure to these students about AR-VR technology,” he stated.

Reside lectures

Republic of India has greater than 3,300 engineering schools and universities and we nonetheless we don’t seem to be generating professional engineers on an international scale, says Rathod. Consistent with him, the infection lies within the rudimentary taste of training by which lecturers are not able to exhibit and scholars are not able to visually snatch the ideas.

Rathod states, “We are not replacing teachers. Teachers will get better tools to explain difficult topics or concepts like quantum physics by combining the power of VR and visualisation tools. If teachers can bring in simulations in VR classrooms, then students can experiment repeatedly. Similarly, for ITI students, advanced robotics is one topic where robotic arm machine procurement would cost more than eight crore rupees. Companies having costlier machines also prefer skilled candidates instead of training fresher students on those machines. VR can help simulate and visualise such topics at very low cost.”

Writer programme

For the engineering curriculum, each and every semester has 390 hours of content material use, which is remitted via the colleges. To form this content material, the FirebirdVR staff is bobbing up with a writer program. Elaborating in this, Rathod stated, “Whenever we interact with students and teachers, they come up with new ideas and hence we like to work with them to keep content relevant and in sync with the latest trends. Students also benefit by working in the AR-VR technology domain. Students get curriculum-based knowledge and value-added courses in addition. Corporates can also conduct campus interviews of potential students using VR headsets and from any location.”

Metaversity within the making…

FirebirdVR is now a 14-member sturdy staff. Rathod along side his staff has an aspiration of creating GuruVR libraries as out there as any UPI fee. Rathod says, “The real challenge today is the affordability of higher education. We want to eliminate this barrier and help students learn practically and online. We want to create a Metaversity and hopefully, we will get support from AICTE in future. We wish to onboard more than 50,000 students in the coming 1.5 years and set up GuruVR libraries in more than 50 colleges across India.”

“We have also deployed a small business team to work on XR banking but it is in stealth mode. XRetail is a major space we are working with big brands to provide AI and immersive shopping experiences to all customers. We will soon come up with hardware solutions to reduce the overall application cost. We are waiting for the Indian ecosystem for headsets and manufacturing to mature to a certain extent,” he stated.

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