Ideal dinner guests, the bold new frontiers of virtual reality and the controversies of A.I were discussed with Immersive Robotics founder, Tim Lucas, from his company’s sunny base in Brisbane, Australia.
So how did a West Australian boy wind up on the East Coast of Australia?
Originally from Mullumbimbi in New South Wales, Australia, I moved to Perth, Western Australia as a child with what I can only describe as a nomadic family that moved between states and countries frequently.
I always had a strong interest in technology, robotics and aircraft and often as a child would pull everything apart to figure out how it worked. I later extended this same interest to business, identifying it as an important force multiplier to get my ideas into the world.
I built my first business to manage aerial and stunt cam operation for a corporate Special Air Service experience, which was great at the time because I got paid to hang from and jump out of helicopters and boats and play with guns and fast cars.
Before consumer drones were available, I began to apply my engineering abilities to creating unmanned helicopters that carried cameras. I soon became a very early innovator in the drone industry. I quickly turned into a full-time consultant in this area and begun to invent new aircraft designs and payload systems. I founded Remote Sense, an aerospace and robotics consulting and rapid prototyping business. This led to a contract in China, designing high-end inspection drone systems for the Chinese power grid.
After two years of flying back and forth and contracting in China, I decided I wanted to start my own tech company. I had been casually experimenting with some early Oculus Developer equipment and wanted to interface this to robots as a new type of human/machine interface. From further review, there were no wireless solutions or compression algorithms that were suitable for Virtual Reality (VR), so I began to think of ways to break down the data and stream to the headset, eliminating the cables. I started talking to a colleague, Dr Daniel Fitzgerald, who also became interested in this problem. We produced a compression algorithm that is the fastest in the world, centralised around streaming to VR headsets; now applicable to the next generation of Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality headsets.
We co-founded Immersive Robotics (IMR) with some of my clients from Remote Sense becoming angel investors in IMR and we set up offices in Brisbane. It has proven to be a great city to call home and an all-round advantageous place for a start-up.
What bold frontiers do you think (or hope) VR is headed for?
I think VR has been the precursor for what is now colloquially being called Mixed Reality (MR). I think VR managed to capture many peoples’ imaginations with gaming and some currently limited applications.
Mixed Reality is rapidly heading in the direction of becoming the future computer interface of choice. It won’t be long until this technology becomes a part of our daily lives and expected workflow.
IMR is at the innovation forefront of streaming, for the Mixed Reality interface. This will enable the future of what I envision the internet to look like.
It will be highly real-time critical. Unlike the current internet and computing, you will interact with both cyberspace and the real world in parallel and in a manner that is more of an organic human experience as opposed to a flat page that buffers behind a window currently.
It will literally put the digital world at your actual fingertips!
If you could have dinner with four people (dead or alive) who would they be and why?
Elon Musk: He is a unique and sadly rare combination of someone who has the resources to make great change on the planet and abroad, and at the same time possessing the mindset and drive to do it. He sets huge goals and follows through and raises the bar of what is thought possible. That is a powerful thing. Elon is someone I think I would see eye to eye with in many ways.
Nikola Tesla: I consider Tesla to be one of history’s most unrecognized great minds. I would love to discuss some of his lesser known ideas and advancements, the ones that were unfortunately not recognised in his time.
Obrey de Grey: He is committed to solving one of the biggest barriers that mankind has always faced and mostly accepted as a limitation that cannot be changed, the rate at which humans age and subsequently expire. I think we are entering the dawn of a new time where once seemingly insurmountable obstacles like this are instead problems waiting for a solution. It would be great to catch up and talk more about entropy!
Demis Hassabis: Artificial Intelligence (AI), stands to perhaps be the pinnacle of human achievement and one of the most controversial things in development. As a tech inventor myself, I think AI stands to change the game completely, but there also is a risk of it whipping the whole board if we are not careful with it. Plenty to talk about with anyone leading in this field.
What has been your biggest surprise since founding Immersive Robotics?
The level of interest in what we are doing has been astounding. The rate at which IMR has adapted and grown is amazing and a testament to the power of a strong core team. I think a lot of other leaders in tech recognise what we are doing and how relevant it will be in the very near future for connectivity between devices. The positive responses from people trying our technology is overwhelming.
What was the significance of receiving Advance Queensland Ignite Ideas funding?
Brisbane was the ideal place for our start-up, due to the state government’s recognition of how important technological innovation is for future economic prosperity. Many countries have been focused on things like resources, but even now almost all industries like this are heavily influenced by advancements in technology and automation. That is the future and where the smart money is.
A government that backs what you are doing and offers support, particularly in the early stages is extremely important for start-ups. Applying for the Advance Queensland Ignite Ideas grant gave IMR a fund-boost early on at a critical juncture and allowed us as founders to build value in the company and give away less equity at a time when the valuation was lower.
This got us to a point where we had more commercial interest and greater investment potential, in turn allowing IMR to grow quicker and hire more employees. IMR is now the largest employer in Queensland’s VR industry and a recognised global thought leader.
Can you name your favourite sci fi films?
· Terminator 2
· Edge of Tomorrow
· Donnie Darko
· 12 Monkeys
· The Martian
· Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Can you describe your growth plans over the next two to three years — including job creation?
IMR aims to be the streaming standard for Mixed Reality, this includes over future cabled networks, PC to (MR) device and over mobile wireless networks such as the impending 5G network. Providing real-time critical streaming across dedicated and shared networks between devices. Supporting the future of “Internet of Mixed Reality Things”.
We constantly look for the most talented individuals to assist us with this vision and will continue to do so.
Please complete this sentence…. “Our best employees…
Are the ones who remain positive in adversity and possess high problem-solving ability. Most of what we are doing has never been done before, so you need a lot of inner drive and perseverance to get through it sometimes. You need to be excited about making something new happen. These are the people who thrive at IMR. We have been fortunate in being able to build a highly capable and dynamic team.
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