Vin­cent Wang: Hu­man­iz­ing the holo­graphic

CEO of Van­cou­ver startup H+ wants to cre­ate a ‘so­cial camp­fire’ ex­pe­ri­ence for in­for­ma­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS CANADA - By YUJI ZHANG in Van­cou­ver For China Daily

Vin­cent Yang, CEO and co­founder of Van­cou­ver startup H+Tech­nol­ogy, has a vi­sion to in­te­grate tech­nolo­gies seam­lessly into hu­man needs, and in­ter­ac­tive holo­graphic plat­forms are part of that quest.

Yang and his class­mates Dhruv Ad­hia and Yamin Li founded H+ in 2012, af­ter they com­pleted their mas­ter’s de­grees at the Cen­tre for Dig­i­tal Me­dia (CDM) in Van­cou­ver.

To­gether, they worked out of a garage to cre­ate and test their first holo­graphic plat­form, which later be­came known as their key prod­uct, Ho­lus.

Ho­lus is a por­ta­ble, pyra­mid­shaped de­vice, which con­verts dig­i­tal con­tent from com­put­ers, tablets or smart­phones into a 3D dig­i­tal ex­pe­ri­ence. Un­like other vir­tual re­al­ity and aug­mented re­al­ity wear­able tech­nolo­gies such as Google Glass and Mi­crosoft HoloLens, Ho­lus is a table­top, free­stand­ing de­vice that seeks to in­vite col­lab­o­ra­tion and foster a com­mu­nal ex­pe­ri­ence.

In June 2015, the first Ho­lus was suc­cess­fully funded on Kick­starter within 19 min­utes of its launch. By the end of the one- month cam­paign, it had raised nearly $300,000 and had 496 back­ers.

“We al­ways put hu­mans in the cen­tre stage of tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tion,” Yang said. “With Ho­lus, stu­dents can learn DNA struc­ture or the so­lar sys­tem in class with pre­sented in­for­ma­tion from mul­ti­ple an­gles and phys­i­cal in­ter­ac­tion. Fam­i­lies can play com­puter games with con­tent that comes alive, and in­ter­act in ways not pos­si­ble with other gam­ing sys­tems.

“The pur­pose and ob­jec­tive of Ho­lus is to pro­vide a so­cial camp­fire ex­pe­ri­ence where peo­ple can over­come iso­la­tion and stag­na­tion with re­spect to in­for­ma­tion,” Yang ex­plained. “Ho­lus is the first step in the holo­graphic rev­o­lu­tion, aim­ing to hu­man­ize tech­nol­ogy by bridg­ing the gap be­tween the dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal world.”

Yang’s dream of in­vent­ing new things that res­onate with hu­man na­ture was seeded in his child­hood. Born in Shang­hai, Yang started learn­ing art and draw­ing at the age of 13. It was the same year he got his first per­sonal com­puter.

In 2006, Yang re­ceived his bach­e­lor’s de­gree in mul­ti­me­dia from the China Academy of Art. Af­ter three years of in­dus­trial work­ing, he came to Canada and con­tin­ued his grad­u­ate study at the Cen­tre for Dig­i­tal Me­dia, for a pro­fes­sional mas­ter’s de­gree pro­gram in dig­i­tal me­dia jointly con­trib­uted by four Van­cou­ver univer­si­ties: the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia, Si­mon Fraser Univer­sity, Bri­tish Columbia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy and Emily Carr Univer­sity of Art and De­sign.

“This pro­gram fo­cuses on cul­ti­vat­ing mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary skills and prac­ti­cal ex­er­cises. It not only fits my in­ter­ests and back­ground, but more im­por­tantly, it is the place where I met my two other part­ners who share the same pas­sion and in­ter­est with me,” Yang re­called. “We three were all in­ter­na­tional stu­dents when we came here.

Yang said “video chat and voice call are how we com­mu­ni­cate with our fam­i­lies from thou­sands of miles away. I re­mem­bered my par­ents al­ways wanted to get closer to the screen to see my face clearer. What we are do­ing right now, by pro­vid­ing a much more in­ter­ac­tive and holo­graphic ap­proach of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, will help fam­i­lies liv­ing in dif­fer­ent places get closer. That’s how we solve our home­sick prob­lems.”

Af­ter three years’ de­vel­op­ment, the com­pany has grown from three in­di­vid­u­als to a group of 16 pas­sion­ate peo­ple with unique back­grounds. H+ Tech­nol­ogy is cur­rently one of the ris­ing stars in BC with a rapid growth rate. It re­ceived awards from Nex­tBC, in­clud­ing Com­pany of the Year and The Most Dis­rup­tive In­no­va­tion in 2015. Its busi­ness-to-busi­ness prod­uct HoloMax won the Van­cou­ver User Ex­pe­ri­ence Award in 2014.

HoloMax is a scal­able and cus­tom­iz­a­ble ver­sion of Ho­lus. H+ suc­cess­fully col­lab­o­rated with Ron­ald McDon­ald House BC to cre­ate the first dig­i­tally in­ter­ac­tive, holo­graphic play space for chil­dren at BC Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal.

“The in­ter­ac­tive fea­ture in­volves the scan­ning of stuffed toys from around the room to set off re­al­time vis­ual & au­dio ef­fects within the vir­tual en­vi­ron­ment,” said Dhruv Ad­hia, Yang’s part­ner and chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer of H+. “It has been re­ported that spend­ing time with our prod­ucts has helped some chil­dren’s re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion by giv­ing them an ex­cit­ing rea­son to be­gin walk­ing and in­ter­act­ing with their sur­round­ings.”

“If H+ is a car, Ho­lus and HoloMax are two wheels cur­rently driv­ing this car mov­ing for­ward. They are means, not goals. We are a tech com­pany gen­er­at­ing ideas, ser­vices and plat­forms that con­nect tech­nol­ogy and nat­u­ral hu­man be­hav­iors. We are never a man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany only sell­ing holo­graphic prod­ucts,” Yang said.

The com­pany cur­rently put most ef­forts on the cus­tomiza­tion of SDK (soft­ware de­vel­op­ment kit), a sys­tem that al­lows any ap­pli­ca­tion de­vel­op­ers, artists and de­sign­ers to con­nect Ho­lus with their pro­gram­ming. The de­sire is to build up an iTunes sort of plat­form in the holo­graphic ecosys­tem among de­vel­op­ers, cus­tomers and busi­ness part­ners.

Van­cou­ver is home to one of Canada’s hottest startup scenes, and flour­ish­ing lo­cal tech scenes rely on govern­ment sup­port, in­clud­ing tax ben­e­fits and fund­ing. Yang re­called how the col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Na­tional Re­search Coun­cil has helped H+ nav­i­gate a dif­fi­cult pe­riod.

“It is not only about fund­ing,” Yang said. “We were an am­bi­tious but in­ex­pe­ri­enced team. They pro­vided us a vet­eran in­dus­trial tech­ni­cal ad­viser. It is a long-term men­tor­ship. The ad­vi­sor at the coun­cil has ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ences in this in­dus­try. He teaches us step by step, from how to craft a startup pitch to how to grow as a real com­pany.”

When asked if he had en­coun­tered any cul­tural bar­ri­ers lead­ing a Cana­dian com­pany, Yang replied: “Prod­uct it­self talks. My nos­tal­gia never ap­plies to my work. It is a glob­al­ized world. Our hard­ware part­ners are in Tai­wan; our first group of clients are Amer­i­can. Canada has a di­verse cul­ture, which al­ways in­spires us to cus­tom­ize our plat­forms with bet­ter ex­ten­sion­al­ity and com­pat­i­bil­ity. We never see cul­ture dif­fer­ences as a dis­ad­van­tage.”

Yang be­lieves “team, dream, ex­e­cu­tion” are the key el­e­ments that form a sta­ble “iron tri­an­gle”. And time adds a depth di­men­sion to trans­form the tri­an­gle into a strong pyra­mid.

“Re­ceiv­ing chal­lenges and fail­ures are very com­mon for star­tups. As long as we are get­ting closer to achiev­ing our val­ues, it is worth tak­ing the risk,” Yang said as he stared at his pyra­mid-shape holo­graphic art­work.

LUKAS GADELHA / FOR CHINA DAILY

Vin­cent Yang, CEO and co-founder of H+ Tech­nol­ogy, presents Ho­lus at the com­pany’s Van­cou­ver head­quar­ters.

Vin­cent Yang, CEO, H+ Tech­nol­ogy

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