So we did, went to some of the largest players in India – demoed the product - showed 360 – showed Virtual Reality with the Oculus – this was exciting. People were interested, they loved the experience but at the same time very skeptical. They had never seen a hardware product like this. Let alone seeing it coming from India. Some mentioned India can never make a hardware product, some felt we will go bankrupt and few explained to us how this has never happened in last 5 years and will not happen in the next 5. Its funny how awesome is this feeling of being the underdog, all this made us even more determined to convert our prototype into a full blown product and start shipping this thing in 6 months.
January dawned on us, it was the time for the 5th MIT Media Lab Design Innovation Workshop. Every year starting from 2011 we have been doing these workshops in India bringing together students and corporates from different fields like design, technology, art, engineering and creating some crazy prototypes in 7 days. From Smart Textiles to Sensors, from Civic Innovation to Immersive Storytelling we had a lot of themes to invent the future for. This time we planned to do it in Ahmedabad – the city of our PM Modi. With Made In India preached all round we felt this could add impetus to the movement.
Team at Tesseract under Sanjay’s leadership kept on removing kinks in the prototype as the MIT workshop was happening.
After a mini break, we came back to take the product from prototype to a sellable form. Well atleast that’s what I thought.
Ayush wanted to get his MS sorted hence decided to leave. Sanjay and I had a serious conversation on how on earth are we ever going to ship the product in time to our clients in less than 4 months. Even software products are shipped with bigger timelines. Of course we couldn’t give them a 3D printed product. No matter how innovative the technology is aesthetics and design our equally important. Disagreements followed and after many intense on-the roof top conversation the call was taken.
I didn’t understand – but Sanjay had benefit of foresight. He could see that the product had completely consumed us, our friendship was getting seriously affected.
That was a blow – a big blow. The company lost 2 of the most important individuals. The task felt impossible to accomplish. We had given assurances to our clients.
In came Varun – maverick designer, maker, doer, words are less to describe him. He was part of our MIT Mumbai workshop in Pragun’s track. Made his own 3D printer from scratch, used to work in Siemens but left it. He first started hanging around at our office – experimenting with crazy ideas. He started printing Tesseract logos, making automatic plotters, the guy loved his printers – I mean 3D printers. It was as if he was married to manufacturing and having an extra-marital with industrial design with a bit of hardware. It was really refreshing to see somebody with such passion, precision and power of the field he cared so deeply about.
I started making calls left, right and center. We needed hardware guys, we needed system software guys, we needed Android guys, Web guys – well the list was long.
So Dolly started going through our workshop network finding guys who would fit in. Again, I don’t think you know who Dolly is. One of the most hardworking girls I have met – she handled all operations and new avenues for the MIT workshops in Mumbai and Ahmedabad. After the Ahmedabad workshop, we inspired her (more like forced her) to join Tesseract and make a physical product. One should learn how to handle people from her. With such calm and composure she handles the toughest of situations. Be it supply chain, logistics, accounting, finance, packaging or business modeling she is the one-stop person for us.
She contacted possibly all folks that existed in college, outside college, in company, outside company wherever you are, whoever you are if you are good and have the courage to do impossible things we wanted you.
We badly needed to have a kick-ass mobile app. Shiveesh was there, I was here, Varun was here, lets get Android and Web dev done. I called Rahul – our Mumbai workshop participant from IIIT Allahbad:
- Me: “Bhai, ek Android ka stud banda chahiye hai koi”
- Rahul: “Haan ek hai college mai Gaurav. Vo jo aapne app dee thee GPS vale pehle banana ke liye, vo asal mai usne hee bananyee thee”
- Me: “Accha bade jaldee bata diya. Mumbai aayega, web-site nahee hai, hardware product hai remotely nee hoga”
- Rahul: “Haan sir, abhee call karke batata hoo”
After one hour:
- Rahul: “Sir, vo maan gaya hai aap use baat karlo”
So I call Gaurav:
- Me: “Bhai gaurav, ek App banana hai bana lega”
- Gaurav: “Haan sir, ho jaayega”
- Me: “Accha badiya hai, Mumbai aana padega aayega”
- Gaurav: “Haan sir, aa jaaonga”
We booked his tickets for next week. There was no flight from Allahbad so we booked it from Banaras.
That morning Gaurav woke up early, took a bus from Allahbad to Banaras, then waited for a couple of hours before taking a flight from Banaras to Mumbai, and then finally an auto from the Airport to our office.
Rugged, raw Haryanvi from Ambala. Any body would mistake him for a humble gunda. Unassuming but extremely confident. I asked him do you want water, rest karna hai. He was like “Nahi, sir kaam karte hai”.
And this guy had just traveled 6 hours in bus, 2 hours in flight and 1 hour in auto to reach. I thought this is India for you. We keep looking westwards for perseverance for talent, for high technology and design. This is Gaurav, the young India – ready to take on the world.
So we began developing our mobile application.
We needed 360 viewer, we needed to create automatic 3D floor plans, Virtual Reality views and all needed to work seamlessly on the web and android.
One slight problem, we didn’t have the product. We had dismantled our previous design, so we made one proto again this time with a Tupperware box.
Meanwhile, we had a major technical problem with our designs. Parallax errors. Let me be a bit technical here, since our cameras were spaced apart there was parallax. And no matter whatever software we wrote that couldn’t be corrected for. It used to lead weird artifacts on the 360 VR images – as if the wall or the table is broken. It would have been not noticeable for consumer video but not so well for images.
The second problem was calibration. As any camera developer will tell you cameras need to be calibrated, and multiple camera designs need to be calibrated even further.