Living cities: Start-up wants to breathe digital life into cities
With his start-up 6d.ai, AR expert Matt Miesnieks first took care of the AR Cloud infrastructure and successfully sold his company to Niantic. The next step is the content.
Miesnieks already positioned himself circa 2017 on the augmented reality cloud as the foundational technology for the AR future. In 2017, he predicted that the leading AR cloud company could be as valuable in 15 years as the largest tech companies are today. In 2018, Miesnieks founded 6D.ai.
6D.ai with a successful exit
With his startup, Miesnieks developed scanning technology for the rapid creation of digital twins of real environments. To accomplish this, the startup networks smartphones that upload image data to a cloud, where it is stitched into a 3D map. The map, in turn, can be synchronized across many smartphones.
The technology worked so well that Pokémon Go studio Niantic bought it out in 2016, which Miesnieks now calls a "modest success." Niantic recently unveiled the VPS visual positioning service for AR apps, which has digital twins of circa 30,000 real-world environments in its library. Niantic wants to continually expand this network.
The 3D reconstructions are based in part on synchronized smartphone scans of Pokémon Go players. According to Miesnieks, 6D.ai's technology is the "deep-tech foundation" of Niantic's Lightship development environment.
Living Cities aims to become the social glue between real and digital worlds
Now Miesnieks, along with his co-founders John Gaeta (Magic Leap, Lucasfilm) and Dennis Crowley (co-founder of Foursquare), are announcing their new startup: Living Cities, according to Miesnieks, aims to develop a product that enables "new forms of self-expression". It's supposed to "reflect real people and places out to the global audiences of the virtual world; and reflect the creative freedoms of the virtual world back into the real."
Specifically, Miesnieks envisions virtual 3D environments that correspond exactly to a real counterpart and in which people can encounter each other on an equal footing in real and digital terms - a living digital twin, in other words, a mirror world.
According to Miesniek, Living Cities works one level above current map platforms such as Google or Apple Maps and does not want to compete with them, even if they would do "similar things" in some cases. He cites the aforementioned map services and 3D game worlds like GTA and Fortnite as examples.
It seems Miesnieks wants to use neural rendering techniques for his digital twins, as he cites Block Nerf, an AI system from Google that is capable of generating 3D scenes from Street View images. We're also seeing generative AI getting better at creating images and scenes. Consider the recent advances in Google's Imagen or OpenAI's DALL-E 2.
"This means that photo-real, interactive, 3D experiences that represent the real world are going to be 'table stakes' going forward, and anything built using yesterday’s techniques will look and feel dated", Miesnieks writes.
Living Cities initially wants to focus on a single problem and solve it. Miesnieks believes his startup is in an excellent position because the founding team knows about the complexity of applying software in the real world. According to Miesnieks, it has decades of experience in this area "and has explored this idea maze possibly more than any other team on Earth."
For its launch, Living Cities has received an initial $4 million in pre-seed funding to test its hypothesis. Most of the money comes from DCVC venture capitalist Ali Tamaseb. Miesnieks says investors who also backed 6D.ai are participating as well.
For its first project, Living Cities has received $4 million in pre-funding to test its hypothesis. Most of the money came from DCVC venture capitalist Ali Tamaseb. Miesnieks says investors who backed 6D.ai are also involved.