RALEIGH – Transmira, a Raleigh-based startup, is in the process of raising $2.6 million, the company announced this week. But that could be just the beginning – for it and the impact of the looming virtual reality “metaverse” on commerce.
WRAL TechWire spoke with company co-founder and CEO Robert Rice about the startup, its patented technology, and the future of how companies may interact with consumers.
“Many metaverse efforts are nothing more than virtual game worlds or social VR spaces. Without that direct link to the real-world and a monetization layer for everyone, many of these will not be sustainable ventures over the long term,” Rice says.
“Having said that, there are some major trends that are rapidly evolving and already disrupting markets that are still generally off the radar for many people. There is a new digital or virtual economy developing with new business and revenue models.”
[By the way, Cary-based Epic Games (publisher of Fortnite and the widely utilized Unreal gaming engine) is among technology companies making substantial metaverse plays.]
A lightly edited transcript of cour conversation follows:
WRAL Tech Wire (TW): Tell us about how, and why, the company was founded.
Robert Rice, co-founder and CEO, Transmira (Rice): I founded the company in 2014 and spent a few years developing new IP and watching industry trends. My experience with VR goes back to the early 90s, and AR in the early-mid 2000s. The purpose of the company is to build the foundation for the metaverse with a focus on location and monetization, bridging the real and virtual while seamlessly blending AR and VR together. I met my co-founder, Satwant, a few years ago on Udemy where he had published a course on developing AR applications. We hit it off, became friends, and he has been an amazing partner and co-founder since then.
TW: Tell us about the technology that underpins the company.
Rice: We use a variety of technologies, most from the game industry, for what we do. Most of the magic is in how we put them together and why.
The patent, and part of our core IP, is basically any 2D or 3D object in a 3D environment (game, browser, etc.), that is directly linked to something in the real world… asset, product, service, special offer, credit, voucher, etc. and it can be on blockchain as a non-fungible token (NFT) or not.
We believe the future of commerce is going to be in the metaverse, and it is going to be based on 3D virtual objects and 3D NFTs that are equal to or exchangeable for things in the real-world.
And that is what we have a patent on, with a priority date of April 2018.
We tokenize much of the platform on blockchain, and we decided to use BitcoinSV, which is based on the original Bitcoin protocol, and is the only one that can handle the speed and scale we require for Metaverse applications on a global scale, with a near zero transaction fee cost.
TW: Why establish on blockchain at all – what’s the purpose?
Rice: We aren’t building a crypto company or crypto product to appeal to crypto fans like many other startups do. However, we are using blockchain technology behind the scenes for security, privacy, and ensuring the provenance of our virtual goods. Since we are linking 3D objects and virtual goods to things in the physical world with real value, blockchain helps us make sure that these items can’t be duped and we can validate our data to any customer or end-user with 100% confidence.
TW: If goal is experiential marketing – mixed with AR – how are companies deploying this?
Rice: Experiential marketing is only part of what we do and low-hanging fruit on a quick path to revenue. We have worked with brands and events on geolocating 3D virtual goods for users to discover on their phone with our mobile AR app, that they can collect, and then redeem for free merchandise or special offers and discounts. This allows a business or a brand to target their ideal consumer where they are, and then drive that foot traffic to a brick-and-mortar location or online, increasing brand awareness, engagement, and resulting in an actual transaction.
TW: Where do you see opportunities for your clients to reach consumers?
Rice: Early on, we are targeting brands and businesses with our 3D branded virtual goods that are great for reaching new customers and driving towards transactions. However we are developing other aspects, like 3D digital twins, or 1:1 scale copies of places like homes, offices, stores, stadiums, etc. that will have content in augmented reality, but can also be explored remotely by other users with a browser or virtual reality display, effectively connecting the two together in new ways.
The world is heading very fast towards something like a mix of Ready Player One, Minority Report, and The Matrix. We are making it easy, accessible, and focused on location and monetization. Today you can’t function without a website and social media presence. Tomorrow, you will need to be engaged on the Metaverse or you wont survive the next evolution of media and the internet.
TW: What are the trends in blockchain, NFTs, and geography-specific marketing delivery that are worth noting?
There is a lot of chatter and hype around metaverse tech, NFTs, and so forth right now, but tere isn’t much innovation happening. Many metaverse efforts are nothing more than virtual game worlds or social VR spaces. Without that direct link to the real-world and a monetization layer for everyone, many of these will not be sustainable ventures over the long term.
Having said that, there are some major trends that are rapidly evolving and already disrupting markets that are still generally off the radar for many people. There is a new digital or virtual economy developing with new business and revenue models… ”play to earn”, “yield farming”, NFTs and smart contracts, and more. Literally billions of dollars in revenue and transactions are happening here. Even games are turning into opportunities for users to generate enough income to quit their day job, as has happened recently for a good bit of the population in the Philippines and the Axie Infinity game.
It is time to set aside preconceived notions and our comfort zone with how things have been done in the past and start paying attention to these new things, almost all related to metaverse and blockchain in some fashion or another, that are gaining momentum and about to explode like a volcano. The disruption that is occurring and about to occur at very large scale is a huge opportunity for ventures like ours, and early adopter users, investors, and innovative companies.
TW: Anything else we ought to know?
Rice: Keep an eye on us. We are doing a lot in the next four or five months that are going to be amazing and a generation or two ahead of the rest of the industry.