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Interview: CloudBNE's world of AR, AI, and geospatial tech

26 Mar 2019
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Matt Kirby is a Kiwi who made a name for himself doing creative tech work in the entertainment industry and in corporate IT. In fact, one of New Zealand’s most powerful bands, Shihad, was a huge inspiration to Matt’s work ethic and career.

Now Kirby is in Australia heading up CloudBNE, a creative tech company that focuses on artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR). It covers a different range of industries, and it doesn’t get tied down to any one area in particular.

”20 years ago, and pre-YouTube era, I was working with my heroes in bands likes Shihad. Doing video cuts of TV interviews and music videos was amazing - especially for a 17-year-old still in school. They were a band from New Zealand that had an international focus from day one with a great work ethic which rubbed off one me at a young age,” he says.

“There are a lot of parallels between the music industry and business. For example, the pub covers band = brand new startup finding their feet; the cool indie band = tech startup making headlines but not making a lot of money; and the major label band = Series A funded start-up taking on the world.”

Kirby moved from Auckland to Brisbane, Australia for the lifestyle – and to d something a little different.

“In New Zealand I used to hear, ‘we are so small; the market isn’t big enough…’ I often hear the same thing in Australia and even through parts of Asia.  Could we have launched CloudBNE in New Zealand? absolutely.”

No matter where it’s based, CloudBNE is on a winning streak. Last week one of its AR films was shown at a film festival in Miami. This week it will work with geospatial tech and AI for an augmented reality solution for an industrial customer, and it will continue development on film, as well as mobile games and apps.

Geospatial technology, AR and AI all have their own shortfalls, but when those three technologies are combined, the other technologies overcome shortfalls that any one technology has.

“If we use AR as an example – 3D objects can often drift from their original location especially when manually placed in a location. Geospatial is great for placing AR objects in a location specific location using GPS co-ordinates, reducing the chance of them drifting out of place. For example, placing a 3D model of a building in a vacant plot of land.”

“AI through object detection can place 3D objects in relations to real life objects, for example, detect a fence and ensure the 3D model of a building is two metres away from the fence at all times,” Kirby explains.

“Google Maps is about to be updated to use the same approach with directions projected using AR combined with GPS and building image recognition from google earth/street view – at the moment it’s difficult when you leave a building to go to another do I turn left or right?”

“Often it’s only after walking 100 metres down the road that you realise you’re walking the wrong direction even with Google Maps helping you."

With all of this technology, a startup’s journey isn’t easy, as many entrepreneurs will attest to. Kirby says one of the biggest challenges is cashflow and innovation.

“Innovation suffers if you don’t try new things that may not have an immediate reward which often works against cash flow in the short-term future. For the life of CloudBNE or any business, cash flow is never fully conquered/taken care of but what we do is allocate time and focus.”

“Cash flow: Sitting down every Monday morning to work out where the financials are at, it my way of getting the least enjoyable part business out of the way at the start of the week but on the plus side I know where we need to get to financially by the end of the week/month.”

“Innovation: Turn off the socials and spend three hours twice a week focused on something new will inspire you to push yourself further but also help you through the less experimental work.  I believe those three hours of focus are better than three days (possibly even three weeks) of unfocused work.”

He also says that spending time with people in other industries is immensely valuable. 

“You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from others even if you’re seen as an expert in a field.”

Kirby adds some additional advice to tech startups and says focus on the customers, not the capital raise.

“If we had gone through capital raise when we started, we would have wasted a lot, it’s only now I feel comfortable entertaining capital raising several years later.  We are fortunate to see sales opportunities from lots of different industries and it’s often the start-ups/scale-ups that have budgets three or more times as much as an established multinational brands for a similar piece of work.”

And finally, what’s one thing Kirby has experienced that has blown his mind?

“To be honest usually its people, being in a bar in Singapore with the best of the best creative tech people from around world was amazing.  The discussions being had about what’s next, what’s coming up still to this day is inspiring.  It’s one of the reasons I talk at conferences like Locate19, it’s a two-way street when I’m on stage.  Some of the best ideas I’ve heard have come from a random stranger asking a question – it’s a powerful learning experience for everyone involved.”

“Tech on its own in general doesn’t excite me, it’s the use cases and people trying something new with it.”