Kai Su / WUFT News
Anna Williams plays with the Oculus, a virtual reality headset that can be used for gaming with Paracosm’s 3D technology on Friday, Nov. 14, 2014 at their downtown office on SW 4th Ave.
The Paracosm office wall displays a colorful array of parakeet-themed art — a detailed watercolor painting, an Angry Bird-esque cartoon, a photograph of a parakeet with a house cat.
Their logo, a parakeet cosmonaut, is derived from the startup’s name, a detailed imaginary world created in one’s mind.
Paracosm’s small team of about 17 engineers and designers work to blur the lines between the physical and virtual worlds using 3D mapping technology. They have developed software to turn flat images into 3D shapes. This month, the company secured $3.3 million in seed funding to further develop that software.
The local startup got its name when co-founder, and University of Florida alumnus, Amir Rubin came across a “word of the day” online, said Anna Williams, one of Paracosm’s five co-founders.
Williams said in the past, Paracosm received funding from the “friends, family and fools” around, which included angel investors, affluent individuals who privately invest in startups. However, this most recent round of funding included bigger names.
“It was bigger people — we had to convince them,” Williams, 29, said. “You had to go and pitch to them and say, ‘Here’s what we have. Here’s what we’re going to make. Here’s why it’s going to make money.’”
Atlas Venture led the seed round, with contributions from iRobot, Osage University Partners, BOLDstart Ventures, New World Angels and Deep Fork Capital. Tim Komada, founder of early stage venture capital firm Deep Fork Capital, said he found out about Paracosm through Atlas Venture.
“This was a company that seemed to have really cutting edge, unique technology from what I’d seen versus other players in the marketplace,” Komada said.
Williams said Paracosm’s technology allows devices to have a 3D understanding of the world, and then localize the device in the space, creating a deep augmented reality. Applications of this technology are vast, including robots that can maneuver the halls of a hospital to video games in which you wear a headset that creates a virtual reality.
“You could play hide and seek with your friend in your house, but it’s a bit harder,” Williams said. “They could leave a fake echo, or there could be a fake version of themselves running around.”
Paracosm employee Quinn Martin said the company will use the funding to transition into the next stages of development.
“We’re going to build out the team more and build up our technology to a really viable product,” Martin said.
Paracosm is not quite at the point of releasing its technology, but it’s not far off. Williams said people could use their technology, but they might not yet understand how to apply it.
“Part of the reason we needed funding was to make it to the glorious future when those devices are out there,” she said. “Most developers are developing for devices that exist — they’re not waiting to develop for devices that don’t exist yet because they could be making money today.”
Williams said the next step is what’s called “shared human-machine perception.”
“We understand what the world is because we live in it,” she said. “We want our devices and the apps on those devices to understand the world we live in.”