After eyecandylab won the AUREA Award 2018 in the category impact, the community is eager to find out how the success story has continued.
Meet the community #3 – eyecandylab
Start-ups in the VR/AR sector are always born in cities? False. eyecandylab´s success story shows that you do not have to start in New York or Shanghai – but you can get there. We talked to Tom Orzikowski, co-founder of eyecandylab and today its Vice President Marketing, and learned that skill, creativity, and patience are key to being successful and location is not. Founded in Unterföhring, eyecandylab has branches now in Munich, San Francisco, and New York City, and is in demand by international clients such as Nickelodeon, Softbank, NBC Universal, Cartoon Network or ProSieben. The cohesion of the global team is secured through modern means such as morning and evening video conferencing across all continents. Who cares about a few thousand kilometers distance in a digital world? Born in Bavaria, known worldwide: This story may become legendary.
It all started in 2017 when the founding team was looking for a simple and courageous challenge. It was found with a smartphone-based AR solution for television. First, they put their own money into the venture and self-financed the technical development of the project. Only nine months later, the application was functional. Lucky ones: Although the European market is rather cautious, the ProSieben Galileo team believed in it at a very early stage and became the first customer. The eyecandylab team took its chance. International experts were found, the concept and product took shape. In "Galileo", a science-oriented TV format, their augment.tv technology celebrated its world premiere - with stunning success.
For the first time, the innovative platform made it possible to present interactive augmented reality in the context of the popular TV show. Starting the Galileo AR App, the viewer had the opportunity to enjoy 11 episodes with additional AR content: 3D models, infoboxes, mini-games or interactive graphics along with permanent functions like people- and song-tracker shifted the content to a whole new level. augmen.tv made Galileo reports even more engaging and created overwhelming results: More than 360.000 unique users during the week tuned in and took part at least a second day. The peak participation rate has been 20% of the average audience pushing the application to #1 on German App charts within five days.
The access to all episodes was as simple as it gets: Equipped with the according app for iOS or Android, users just had to start the episodes and point their smart device towards the screen. Among the advantages is that the solution can be integrated into any apps and works on any device (smartphone, tablet or wearables, such as AR Headsets). Apart from TV use cases, it could be applied also in cinemas, planetariums and other venues such as theme parks. This not only provides new interaction opportunities between viewers and content related to sports, media, entertainment, and commerce - but offers additional attractive sources of revenue for producers, too. The technology behind is anything but banal. With its unique, patent-pending TELEMARK® technology, augmen.tv is the world's first AR solution that uses moving images for trigger purposes. The app recognizes the TV device as well as the viewing angle and identifies the currently viewed TV content while performing accurate time synchronization. Based on this information, 2D and 3D content is being displayed in real-time around the first (TV) screen and users can interact with different AR effects. eyecandylab´s existing customers include big players. In principle, however, their approach is ‘media-democratic´, so to speak: not only large networks and brands but also upcoming streamers and vloggers might be able to use the service in the future.
Soon the team realized, that the Asian and the US-market are more agile and reactions occur at a faster pace. Accordingly, business activities were focused in these markets. Only two years later, eyecandylab acts on the big floor. Global companies such as VIACOM, NBCUniversal, WWE, and Softbank use their technology. The original 6-person team grew to 18 employees. The developers were joined by experts in sales and marketing. High-profile awards followed. In addition to the AUREA Award 2018 in the "Impact" category, the team was nominated by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy for the "Digital Startup of the Year 2019” award and became a finalist in the “Spark” competition by Handelsblatt and McKinsey. Money makes the world go around – and eyecandylab work. The creativity and professionalism of the Munich company is currently rewarded with cash, too. A seed round of $ 1.5 million was raised. Lead investor is Band of Angels, an experienced Silicon Valley angel investment group, and followed by LG Technology Ventures, the investment arm of the South Korean LG Group, as well as other angel investors who believe in the success of the company.
With the funds received, eyecandylab aims to accelerate the development of its scalable SaaS platform, enter new strategic markets in Asia, and expand the team in the US. Especially for this purpose, a market research study on the US market was carried out on their behalf. The study on customers´ acceptance of video AR solutions was launched in September 2019 as a joint project between eyecandylab and the XR scientists Prof. Dr. med. Philipp A. Rauschnabel and Katrin Brunner from the University of the Federal Armed Forces Munich and the US market research institute Dynata. More than 1,000 randomly selected US consumers participated in the survey. Presented at the Telecomcouncil TC3 2019, the study provides in-depth information on customers´ evaluation of applications, willingness to buy and possible business models. Detailed results can be downloaded at https://augmen.tv/eyecandylab. Additionally, the case study "Home shopping broadcast" was created for LG Korea, thus laying the foundation for further major milestones.
In addition to the monetary support, the cash injection also provides more motivation. Robin Sho Moser, now CEO of eyecandylab, says, "We are delighted to have such strong partners at our side to share our vision of an interactive future of video entertainment. The entire eyecandylab team is more than ready for the next steps." Together with LG Uplus, eyecandylab launched the "U+ AR Shopping" service in South Korea, which provides an immersive shopping experience with a growing number of major home shopping channels. Keeman Seoh, Vice President Strategic Alliance & Global Partnership Unit at LG Uplus is optimistic:„eyecandylab’s technology is a perfect differentiator and we are looking forward to taking the next step to extend our leadership position.“ To push expansion plans further, eyecandylab is currently appointing industry experts such as AR and Spatial Computing expert Tom Emrich and Terry R. Schussler, Director of Immersive Technology of Deutsche Telekom, to its Advisory Board. Schussler sees tremendous business potential in the idea of blending traditional video content with interactive XR experiences: “eyecandylab is on track to take advantage of the convergence of 5G, XR and next generation broadcast video”. Tom Emrich also trusts augmen.tv to become one of the decisive applications for the mass distribution of AR in the consumer segment. Best conditions for global success.
Despite the positive feedback of its global customers, the creators of eyecandylab keep the AUREA Award in particularly good memory. Certainly, the jury evaluation has something to do with it. Jury member Emily Olman´s laudatory speech said it all: "eyecandylab has created a product that undoubtedly creates magic by inviting the user into another world. They've improved a global experience and added it with their own content and visions, and they've paved the way for others to build on their creativity and innovation”. According to eyecandylab, a special attraction of the award is its location. Moving in a kind of wonderland while subliminally enjoying the leisure idea. Diving into a park of thoughts, letting thoughts wander and having fun. That's where the charm is, said Tom Orzikowski: "This ambient noise of lightness makes the special AUREA feeling." Nevertheless, the team does not want the competition to be understood as pure leisure time: “The exchange, the time of intensive discussions and the entire organization illustrates the highly professional character of the event.”