Interview with Matthew Lowe

AUGMENTED REALITY

matthew_lowe

Matt is a lifelong tech hacker and founder/CEO of ZeroKey, an AR/VR company headquartered in Calgary, Alberta. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, virtual reality and software development. After getting frustrated with decades old input hardware, he founded ZeroKey in 2015 and set out to revolutionize the world of computing with a completely new type of human-machine interface that features high accuracy hand, finger and body tracking.

 

1. You are the CEO of ZeroKey Inc. Can you tell us more about your company and what you do?

You bet, that’s the fun part of my job!

ZeroKey is a company that set out to revolutionize the way people interact with technology. If you think about it, today we still use the same primitive technology that we did 40 years ago. We still mash keys on a keyboard that are laid out in a rather arbitrary flat grid. At ZeroKey we set out to find a better way, which is exactly where our name comes from; ZeroKey – as in zero keys.

Imagine if the computer knew in real-time the precise 3D location of your hands, fingers, arms, et cetera. Armed with this information the interaction between human and machine becomes very natural, very intuitive, and responsive to user intent. Suddenly we have this capability to provide intelligent AR/VR solutions and natural interfaces to make the connection between people and technology seamless. This means shorter learning curves, increased productivity, and new solutions that simply were not possible before.

It sounds a bit like science fiction, but this technology is already being deployed around the world today!

2. How is the virtual reality (VR) scene doing in Alberta compared to Canada, and where do you see the potential of this technology?

Alberta is surprisingly strong in AR/VR technology. It would seem like a strange sector to come out of oil & gas country, but as it turns out, the type of architectural and industrial challenges that AR/VR is great at solving are also common in the oil & gas industry. Many Alberta AR/VR companies have built great industrial solutions that are now being broadly applied to AR/VR as a whole.

In Calgary, Alberta, where ZeroKey is headquartered, we have a very strong and world renown academic community in the field of geomatics, which includes technologies related to positioning, like GPS. Industry leaders in that field including NovaTel, TopCon, and TDK-InvenSense, all have a major presence in Calgary. This expertise is the whole reason ZeroKey exists today; without that background in positioning technologies we could have never developed the technology that we have.

3. You developed a VR glove together with the design studio BeBop. What is new and innovative about this glove, and what are fields of its application?

Our VR glove started as a proof-of-concept to show off the capabilities of our ultra-high accuracy positioning system. It provides a very natural method of interacting with digital environments and as a result, requires no prior training. This leads to a host of applications covering almost every aspect of computing. Some of the more exciting applications include remote surgery, robotic control and of course immersive video games. Once you digitize the position and orientation of the hand and fingers you can drive amazing solutions that will make our current-day keyboards seem like the dial-up modem of yesteryear.

4. ZeroKey Inc. won the Samsung Developer Conference Pitch Competition 2017. At the conference you mentioned that VR is not accessible to mainstream consumers. Do you see reasons for why that could be and is ZeroKey Inc. planning to change this development?

For mainstream consumers in the AR/VR market I think there’s a real problem with having your cake and eating it too. Consumers either have to choose between low-cost solutions that offer poor experiences or shell out megabucks for high-end systems.

We’re working to bring down the total cost of ownership of AR/VR by deploying our 6-Degrees-of-Freedom tracking technology in low-cost headsets. This pairing of technology will bring affordable high-quality AR/VR to mainstream markets at a fraction of the cost of current products in market.

5. In which fields do you see VR having the biggest impact and how do you think VR will impact future technology development in those areas?

We’ve already seen VR transform the gaming industry, however if we look further down the road it’s hard to think of an activity that AR won’t improve in some way. From repairing your bicycle to cooking dinner, AR can improve all of these day-to-day tasks in a seamless and unobtrusive way. Much like the PC, the internet, smartphones, and now AR, these technologies transform how people live their lives. At ZeroKey we hope to be a small part of that.

 

6. VR has been around for a couple of years now, and has been attracting more and more attention as the technology keeps improving. This resulted in a certain hype of the technology similar to artificial intelligence in the last few years. While the advantages and applications of the technology are manifold, do you also see risks or problems that its use may entail?

When it comes to any transformative technology there is always the potential for misuse. However, from a risk perspective I think AR/VR is rather benign compared to other new technologies. If you look at use-cases like remote surgery and training for dangerous tasks, it’s easy to see that AR/VR will have a very quantifiable and positive impact on humanity.

 

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