Adelaide duo makes a holographic breakthrough and zines to help the start-up community
IT’S easy to imagine a great many things arising from a night shooting the breeze over a cool beer, but a fully working holographic projector on the verge of commercialisation is not one of them. But this was how Will Tamblyn and his business partner Gavin Smith first came to design the Voxiebox, a holographic system that Tamblyn claims can be used for purposes as varied as modelling new spacecraft to creating exciting computer games.
And after several years in development, and with the help of Flinders University’s New Venture Institute, Techstars accelerators, and some savvy US business partners, Voxiebox is ready to make its debut.
“My mate Gaz and I used to have a regular Thursday night lab session that involved hanging out in a shed and drinking beers and coming with crazy ideas,” he says. “I suggested a robot with a holographic projector as a head and Gaz said that’s impossible, they don’t exist yet, so I said ‘exactly let’s build one’.”
After experimentation using laser pointers and cardboard, a prototype was born. But Tamblyn and Smith had not put their mind to commercialisation, yet. It was only when they stumbled upon a similar business in US that was launching a crowdfunding campaign that they realised they would miss out.
“We were absolutely gutted because we thought they were going to beat us to market with a product we hadn’t thought very much about commercialising,” Tamblyn says.
At the last minute, Voxiebox was launched into the world of crowdfunding. With just a proof of concept, it failed badly.
“Thankfully it didn’t work,” Tamblyn admits. “In hindsight [given] the amount of work it’s taken to get the product to where it is now, we would have been very hard pressed to deliver our promise.”
But the failed crowdfunding campaign was a blessing in disguise, with the US team competing for funding contacting Tamblyn and Smith and offering to work together. They would bring the network and connections; the Australians would bring the technology.
Voxiebox is looking for seed funding, several million dollars worth, although Tamblyn remains vague about the figure. The product, a projector that can be used to emulate interactions between multiple 3D objects, has circumnavigated the US, with demonstrations for interested parties including NASA, Elon Musk-led SpaceX and the Facebook-owned Oculus VR.
The Voxiebox system Will Tamlyn co-invented is attracting interest from US tech heavyweights