We caught up with Sean Huang, CEO and Co-founder of Morfus VR, to discuss his inspiration for Morfus, XR's disruption of the architectural industry and why portable VR is the future of Virtual Reality
Tell us about yourself Sean - who are you and where does your company Morfus fit in the VR/AR industry?
I am the CEO and Co-founder of Morfus Mixed Reality, a Vancouver and Shanghai-based mobile VR company specialized in property technology. At Morfus, we convert any 2D or 3D design and model into a fully interactive mobile VR walkthrough for easy visualization and collaboration purposes between creatives.
Going off the question above, what problem are you trying to solve, and particularly within spatial and architectural design?
Each year architectural designs in all format of conceptual renderings or models are used to show clients what the finished building would look like even during the pre-planning stage. Yet, studies indicate that more than 65% of end users often find huge discrepancies between what is being shown before and what is actually being built after. This is due to the lack of visualization and immersion offered as client experience. Since few years back there has been a lot of companies out there in the VR space helping to tackle this problem by letting user walk through a space using PC based VR solutions such as VIVE, however these solutions are costly and users are stuck in a confined space with an expensive headset that needs to be powered by a strong PC unit. At Morfus we take this solution and deliver it on mobile where people can enjoy a live 3D walkthrough and use it as a collaboration tool without having to go out to buy a VIVE.
Why and how did you come across VR/AR space? Tell us how you first got involved with the technology.
Morfus was started when I wanted to build my own company to stray away from the corporate sales environment. I was a sales manager working at Telus when I met my co-founder and CTO, Avetis, who worked under me during our B2B campaign. One morning on a coffee break we started talking VR after seeing an article featuring Google Daydream, after some thoughts, he proposed the idea of virtual reality as a good solution to real estate since real estate was always a hot topic. Since then I grouped together our other co-founder, Albert and the three of us had started out working on a mobile VR game as a test run while dabbling on some real estate VR solutions on mobile, primarily with using 360 to capture the interiors of houses. However, after researching the Vancouver landscape we found a lot of companies already doing this and more companies were rendering 3D models on PC based VR platforms so we felt focusing on conceptual designs would be more innovative and original especially on mobile.
At that time coincidentally enough, my friend had purchased an empty lot in Vancouver and was working with contracted developers and architects to build up his ideal home.
However at that time there were only the conventional floor plans and static renderings he could use to visualize the house as well as sending it to his wife, who was overseas in China. After the house was built they realized there was a huge discrepancy compared to the original designs and ended up spending more money and wasting time renovating and taking apart the walls. It was at this time that my co-founders and I decided to come up with a visualization tool using the power of VR and the accessibility of mobile.
What is your proudest work your team has produced so far?
Our proudest work is being able to develop an actual use case for mobile VR in terms of solving the problem of communication and response time between remote teams. Since finishing Chinaccelerator Batch 12 we have not only landed government backed projects but as well we have started engaging in bigger partnerships with city planning and infrastructure maintenance.
As with any form of innovation in technology, VR/AR/MR is drawing more and more attention and investment due to its potential to make people’s lives better, more efficient, and smarter. Tell us how Morfus is leveraging immersive technology to achieve this.
At Morfus, we want to make this new technology as intuitive and accessible as possible. I feel mobile VR is often overlooked by AR and PC based VR platforms like HTC VIVE or the Rift (their standalone headset counterparts fall in the same category as well) as a "dumbed down" cousin but if we can take a step back and realize that being able to access VRARMR solutions on any smartphone is far more invaluable than creating a cool content on PC based VR. Given our team's sales background and knowing how to promote, sell, and execute a new product in a way that is very easy for people without prior VR knowledge to pick up is crucial to our success with our clients today.
Also, another proud moment we had was getting into top 18 companies out of 200 to present at TechCrunch's Shanghai Startup Competition semi-finals where it shows how a foreign company in VR can out-compete a lot of local companies in the same space, as well as being featured in Forbes China.
Morfus has focused on working with clients to create immersive walkthrough experience. Is there a particular reason why you chose this area?
We chose this area simply because we have encountered spatial awareness problem among clients of architects, designers all the way to real estate developers.
It’s interesting that you are focused on creating applications primarily for mobile VR use, due to its accessibility compared to VR headsets that require PC. Still, what we notice is that consumers are still learning about the technology and it’s a relatively new idea. What has been the biggest barrier of adoption you see even with mobile VR use?
I feel the reason why this industry has yet to take off to hit critical mass is due to the majority of people out there seeing VR as a high-grade equipment that is both costly and troublesome, yet most companies out there in B2B focused sectors especially in architectural or real estate are not innovating in a way to help make VR more accessible and intuitive for people to adopt.
What are your thoughts on VR/AR industry in Vancouver? How can companies, communities, institutions help to foster growth and adoption?
There are a lot of brilliant tech talents in Vancouver for VR/AR, however, compared to China the demographic of VR companies here are very behind in terms of making VR and AR very accessible to people that have no prior knowledge to VR. In China, you have companies pushing mobile plays for industrial use cases and advanced military simulations.
I feel the reason why this industry has yet to take off to hit critical mass is due to the majority of people out there seeing VR as a high-grade equipment that is both costly and troublesome, yet most companies out there in B2B focused sectors especially in architectural or real estate are not innovating in a way to help make VR more accessible and intuitive for people to adopt. I mean sure with PC based VR solutions you can generate better graphics than mobile but at the end of the day if we want to see VR/AR blow up we have to consider how to bridge the gap between industry professionals in the space with people that are illiterate in immersive technology.
How companies or organizations here can foster growth is to partner up with foreign firms and recruit talents from other parts of the world, the VR/AR association does a fantastic job into creating a cross-border ecosystem to foster growth for this industry.
As a member what do you wish people knew about VR/AR Association, especially in Vancouver?
To be very transparent I was reluctant to join at first since we were moving some of our operations to Shanghai but after being connected with Dan and people at the VR/AR association I would say for any VR/AR enthusiast whether you are in a startup or working for one to definitely consider joining. The community and support provided through VRAR Association have been great in terms of helping developers and industry professionals stay up to date on the latest VR/AR/MR trends as well as connecting people together.
What can we expect from Morfus in the next year?
Amazing things are coming in the next year! We will be announcing more stuff as we go along but now I can say for certain we have decided to expand into Asia as well as applying for a government-backed accelerator program in Dubai referred to us from a fellow batch company out of Chinaccelerator where we plan to work with the Dubai government on tackling technological challenges.