Hemanth Satynarayana of Imaginate tells Vishnupriya Bhandaram about the ‘magic’ behind augmented reality and technology solutions that humanise
The 30-year-old tall, thin, shell-frames and formal wear sporting Hemanth Satyanarayana can easily be mistaken for a first year college student. His demeanour belies his well earned position as an augmented reality expert. The fact that he operates from IIIT campus could also add to the confusion.
With a bachelors in mechanical engineering from IIT Madras, Hemanth went on the beaten path of taking up a masters in engineering from United States of America but he veered off that path when he chose to specialise in augmented reality. He worked in a number of start-up companies where he developed an image guided liver surgery apparatus for a children’s hospital in Buffalo. Hemanth also developed a forklift training software which would allow the user to visualise real-life scenarios. Hemanth worked in a couple of virtual reality startups in New York before deciding to come back to India and start his own augmented reality company. “I always wanted to come back, living there permanently was never on my agenda,” says Hemanth who took a year to explore different verticals in the field of virtual reality.
“I never left my mechanical engineering days behind. What I do now is an extension of what I studied with an added bonus of computer vision. I replicate the physical world onto the computer,” insists Hemanth. Once in India, Hemanth began to work on ‘Trialar’ – a virtual trial room that was aimed at helping customers try on apparels and jewels at the click of a button. The ensemble is simple: a 50-inch display, advanced CPU connected with HD cameras and a UI that replicates a dressing table. Customers can pick and choose from the clothes in the database which is superimposed on them. Voila! No more sweaty trial room headache.
Hemanth has already sold this product to a high-end fashion store in Mumbai. This innovative approach landed Hemanth a recognition in MIT’s ‘TR 35’ list of top innovators under 35 and on Nasscom’s top-ten list a few years ago. “Trialar is a product good to go. We won’t be making any more customisations. Now we are working on mixing the world of cinema and augmented reality,” says Hemanth and pulls out his phone and shows us a demo of their unnamed app which brings the concept of moving pictures from Harry Potter alive. The mobile AR (Imaginate, available at Google playstore for android users) will essentially tie up with production houses; as the user points to a poster of the movie, he or she will able to see videos as though they are playing through the newspaper. Users can even book their tickets in a similar fashion.
Foray into healthcare
Hemanth realises the importance of virtual/simulated reality in the field of healthcare, as it has great potential to help doctors who can visualise the human body. Hemanth has created an application (beta mode) which helps people book appointments with doctors. Hemanth has also created a device for a hospital in Chile, which helps anaesthesiologists by simulating the anaesthesia procedure before surgeries to find the right passage and monitor doses.
Hemanth says that smart phones will soon be the only phones available. “A while ago, QR codes were the in things, augmented reality is the big thing right now. Innovation is an enabler, but you also should have a good business sense,” says Hemanth. He is also in talks with the Indian Army to develop a combat training kit which creates a virtual environment where soldiers can get trained in real combat, as they visualise their physical actions on screen.
Get the terminology
QR Code: It is a quick response code onto which data can be formatted algorithmically and this can be read by an imaging device such as a camera.
Augmented Reality (AR): It is a live view of the real and physical world which is augmented (supplemented) by a computer generated sensory input.