With Kokomo VR meeting software, Canon takes a step away from its hardware roots • TechCrunch

Canon has a long And the deep history of being a hardware manufacturer. Most consumers know it’s the best camera manufacturer, but the company has a long, deep, and illustrious history in medical and office equipment and other imaging applications.

During the pandemic, much of her business has shifted. People stopped going to offices. Sporting events are closed. And while the medical industry was booming, Canon as a company needed to rethink its mission and vision: What is an imaging company doing in a world where people want to be connected, but are unable to leave their homes while a deadly virus spreads the world?

At CES 2023, the company Show his vision of the future — a vision that looks a lot less hardware than you’d expect from the 85-year-old company that traditionally made all its money making things with buttons.

A group of Canon veterans took up the challenge and created Kokomo, a VR meeting software package that, in essence, makes real-time 3D video conferencing a reality.

Users don a VR headset and point the smartphone at themselves. The program scans your face, creating a real 3D avatar of you and the person you’re calling. It uses motion sensors in the headset and camera to snap your avatar, transports you to a photo-realistic space, and boom, you’re virtually there with a colleague, family member, or friend. The technology for scanning your face is similar to that used by iOS’s facial recognition system, where you do a short process before capturing. From there, the shape and texture of your face can be shown within video calls.

A quick scan with the companion Kokomo app captures your face so it can be shown to your friends in VR. Image credit: Canon

The most interesting thing to note about the above paragraph is the lack of Canon products. Canon’s software solutions have traditionally focused on improving and making their hardware products easier to use. However, the company doesn’t make smartphones nor VR headsets, so this move is a significant departure from its roots.

TechCrunch caught up with the team that led Kokomo’s development to find out how it came to be, and where Canon is headed as it reimagines its future.

Kokomo is a way to empower people to be there when they can’t be. John Lorentz

“This represents a very exciting new innovation for Canon – but also a very new business direction for Canon as well,” said John Lorentz, co-founder of Kokomo Solution. “As you know, Canon is very much associated with our hardware products. When we announced AMLOS at CES last year, it was about innovating working from home. Our mission [with Kokomo] It is to innovate life at home, hence this project. When we started, we were in the midst of the spread of COVID, and there weren’t a lot of ways to contact people. The basic premise of what we created was to be a solution to that. Kokomo is a way to empower people to be there when they otherwise can’t be.

The team’s goal was to create a solution that takes the experience beyond a phone call, FaceTime call or Zoom call – to feel present rather than just looking at each other on a screen. A worthy pursuit in a world where travel is limited and screen fatigue is real. But how will Canon’s solution to bring people into a virtual world achieve this?

“We support most of the popular consumer VR headsets on the market to enable people to participate in immersive calls, as we call them. In these calls, people can participate. They are dynamic, in living and breathing environments. You can download a companion app on a mobile phone, which allows the person who Your vision talks to him from head to toe,” Lorentz explains. No more legless avatars. No more wondering what someone is actually referring to. And you actually can We see the other person. You can be in a call instead of employment Connection.”

Below is an in-depth interview with Kokomo co-authors John Lorentz, Ray Kono, and Jason Williams. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

All you need is a phone and a VR headset to use Kokomo from Canon. Image credit: Canon

TechCrunch: Why is Canon so passionate about software? Isn’t this a step away from its hardware roots?

John Lorentz (JL): At our core, Canon is an imaging company, and that’s really our specialty. Kokomo applies this specialty to software rather than starting with our hardware first. We see that the ability to go into a call is really in the imaging sensor. It’s about taking image sensor data, and then applying it to someone else’s visual field.

There’s obviously a lot of detail behind it, but our core is premium imaging. When you’re entering networked reality and virtual reality, you need a certain level of entanglement: it really needs to align. Otherwise, you’ll feel disconnected — it just won’t feel normal. The same goes for environments; Not fixed, from another default location. We’ve taken environments from real life and brought them into virtual reality. You really feel like you are in the dynamic living spaces.

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