Friday, May 4, 2007
Interview with Dan Lejerskar, Chairman of EON Reality
EON Reality (www.eonreality.com), an Irvine-based firm developing 3D software technology, recently showed EON Human, a fascinating software technology which takes a single photograph and automatically creates a virtual 3D face, at the Intel Developer Forum. The technology allows photo-realistic, virtual avatars to be created almost immediately from a picture. The product is just one of a very broad set of 3D software the firm offers, ranging from software for simulating products, to technology licensed through Microsoft's IP Ventures group. We spoke with Dan Lejeskar, Chairman of Eon Reality, about the firm's technology, how it is being used for creating interactive 3D environments, as well as more about the company's EON Human product. socalTECH's Ben Kuo conducted the interview.
For those who aren't familiar with EON Reality, what does your company software do?
Dan Lejerskar: Basically, what we do as a company, is we bring products to life. We create the ability for products to be interactive and 3D, where you can see them, and try them without having a product physically in front of you. This capability is predominately for sales and marketing, but can also be used for training, support, and maintenance.
Who uses the software, and who are your customers?
Dan Lejerskar: There are two markets for us--the traditional market for us where we have our predominant revenue streams from today, and new exciting markets in the consumer area for the future. If you look at where our present revenue comes from, it is from companies that have complex products, and where you need to see, try, and demonstrate big ticket items. That is focused on aerospace, defense, industrial, and medical.
How is this different from CAD, and what's special about your technology?
Dan Lejerskar: The key is, if you compare us with CAD, is that you have a highly realistic experience. It's almost like a photorealistic experience--it's not animation, it's a real time interactive experience, where the product behaves like a real product. For example, if you're looking at a printer, you can push a button, and it will respond like a real printer. It's a simulation of a real product. In CAD, you only get a wire frame or shaded version, or at most an animated version of the product. The second part, is not only do we have the physics, but we can handle publishing of this environment in everything from an Internet environment to a high level experience such as a holographic or immersive display. You can hold a product as if it really does exist.
I see that you have some licensed technology from Microsoft, what can you tell us about that relationship?
Dan Lejerskar: At EON Reality, part of our mantra is to create it once, and publish it many times. When I was referring to holographic screens earlier, I was talking about the range of screens you can publish to. One of them is a small-sized product, called touchlight, which was originally developed at Microsoft to allow you to manipulate objects in a 2D environment with your bare hands. The inventor is a gentleman named Andy Wilson, and Andy had developed this for 2D, but hadn't found a good home for this at Microsoft. They contact us, because we work in 3D, and it made full sense to have this in 3D so you can grab an object. We merged their technology with ours in 3D, and created EON Touchlight. That product we launched last year, and has been very successful. I do need to underline that although that's a very successful product, it's just one of a dozen different display technologies that we utilize.
Tell me a little bit about these new consumer products you mention?
Dan Lejerskar: Historically, we have not had consumer products, and if you look at our revenues you can see very little from the area. However, recently we have secured some interesting projects within what I would call rich media publishing -- content we use in the high end, but for the Internet. As part of this, under an umbrella we call EON Experience, we create high quality interactive 3D experiences online. We launched the first part of a project we have been working on for the last 2 years last week, EON Human. EON Human allows you to take a single picture of a person, and convert that into a 3D model of that person's head, which is very detailed--70,000 to 80,000 polygons. If you are familiar with Second Life and avatars, in most cases you don't look like the person you are, and it's not easy to create a user-generated 3D model. EON Human is the first step to doing that.
Is this available to anyone, or is this going to show up through licensing?
Dan Lejerskar: A week and a half ago we launched it with Intel at the Intel Development Forum, with their Ultra Mobile PC. Intel was trying to find a hot button for the product. Obviously, with a ultra mobile PC you can do much more because of the computing power, but how will you benefit from that power? They though that the ability to create a 3D photo in 80 seconds would be a hot button for the product, and we've gotten tremendous feedback from that. Our strategy is of course to license it. We have significant interest from the OEMs for Intel, to preinstall a version of EON Human to help sell 10 million units in the next 18-30 months. The other opportunity is more interesting, and we're talking with some of the suppliers, such as the SK Telecoms and MySpaces of the world, to create a richer experience in their environments for socializing. For example, scanning a face in would be free, but allowing for beautification and creating talking heads for a fee.
How much processing power is required to use your software?
Dan Lejerskar: The core technology is equivalent, whether you work on a laptop or a large powerful computer. Everything runs on a laptop today, but you can also publish to a much higher end environment. That's part of the uniqueness. Five to seven years ago, there were products on the web, and there was high end technology, but you couldn't really communicate with each other. You couldn't create it once, and publish it many times. Boeing, for example, will want to use a 3D model at a tradeshow, on a laptop for sales people, and also on the web.
That's interesting, thanks for telling us about your technology. It seems like there's a lot of interest now in 3D.Dan Lejerskar: I've been in eighteen years in this industry, and have gone through ups and downs, and right now it's almost like a 3D tsunami. It's the reverse of what people used to experience--four years ago, we had to evangelize 3D, but now, we have people coming to us because they want it. I don't know why people are craving the 3D experience now, but they are.