Visby is a startup with a mission to “capture the real world and play it back” using holographic imaging software. While most companies working with holograms are using the technology to build video games, Visby’s focus is on digital light field images and videos — recreating light itself — for multiple applications including VR headsets and holographic TVs.
“There is no better way to convey holographic imagery than light fields. A light field is basically just a way to describe all the light in a particular space,” explained Ryan Damm, CEO and Co-Founder. “With a traditional photograph, an image is created out of the light that happens to fall just on that camera lens in one spot. With light fields, we are sampling light across a much larger area. This method allows film and video professionals to publish beautiful, photorealistic video for immersive and holographic displays, but there is no practical way to physically capture all of the light and it takes a ton of compute power to create the file itself.”
“At Visby, we aimed really far in the future. We didn’t want to build something that was going to be commoditized in a year or two. We set out to create technology that hadn’t been developed anywhere before and then build products around it.”– Ryan Damm, CEO and Co-Founder, Visby
Visby’s innovative holographic imaging software solution captures and generates holographic light fields that are far superior to volumetric imaging techniques previously used to create augmented reality. The company uses 100 cameras at a time to capture all the subtleties of lighting that distinguish individuals, such as hair textures and the glint in people’s eyes.
In the short term, Visby’s objective is to deliver cinematic content for VR, AR, or multi-perspective displays. “We’re talking to major studios that want to use holographic technology to create high-end experiences for the general public,” said Damm. “They don’t want holograms that look like video game characters; they want them to look like real people. We’re the only company that produces images that are photographic and realistic instead of a 3D model.”
Visby has also developed a mobile stack that, once integrated into an app, will put holographic technology in the hands of anyone with a smartphone. “The quality is so high, so photorealistic, that an amateur waving a mobile phone around will be able to produce a professional photoshoot,” said Damm. The technology can recreate actual light from 3D scans, simulate cameras, and make it possible to capture professional-caliber images. Damm sees a world of potential in the real estate industry and other vertical markets that rely heavily on photography for advertising and marketing.
Visby had been running its video processing pipeline on Amazon Web Services (AWS) for about three years when it ran into problems. While doing a massive machine learning deployment, Visby encountered issues procuring GPUs, along with delays between requesting compute resources and computation actually starting. “By its nature, our work is very sporadic. Some days, it’s very quiet, but when we do need to process video, we have to run thousands of jobs simultaneously. The number of jobs we can run equates to how quickly we can complete a project,” said Damm. “In AWS, we couldn’t commission resources whenever we wanted to. The caps that AWS imposed on us meant that processing a video would take days, and we’d have to plan around that. This placed an upper limit on our growth.”
Visby needed a cloud provider that allowed for rapid scaling when running the very large ML deployments required for processing videos. The company briefly considered Azure, but Damm and Visby’s CTO and Co-Founder, Kris Chaisanguanthum, didn’t feel its team could successfully complete the migration.
“Our team’s expertise is algorithms, not cloud migration. We knew we had to switch cloud providers, but we wouldn’t have been able to build anything significant on Azure without bringing in additional headcount.”– Kris Chaisanguanthum, CTO and Co-Founder, Visby
Solution & partnership with SADA
Visby chose Google Cloud Platform (GCP) because of its ML capabilities and ease of use. “One of the things that we found appealing was that GCP uses Kubernetes, which is an open source technology,” said Damm. “We wanted something that would be easy to maintain without outside expertise.” Damm was also drawn to the incentives that Google offered Visby, including the opportunity to partner with SADA. “Having SADA available was a big factor in us choosing Google.”
SADA worked with Visby to ensure it overcame the scaling challenges it had encountered on AWS, and to position Visby to take advantage of Google’s unique hardware offerings to accelerate what is possible in mainstream light field technology use cases. Damm said this guidance was exactly what Visby needed. “We didn’t know where to start. SADA took care of everything, even at the level of project management, which was wonderful.”
Because Visby does not employ a full-time cloud engineer, a lot of what it had built on AWS was, as Damm admits, “hacked together.” SADA examined what Visby was doing on AWS and determined how it could be improved upon in GCP.
“SADA reviewed the plan with our team in detail, so we knew exactly what was happening. Their communication was excellent. Every week, they told us what to expect, including any challenges we might encounter.”– Ryan Damm, CEO and Co-Founder, Visby
The migration to GCP was rolled out without affecting Visby’s day-to-day work. “We’re at a stage where we don’t have a lot of resources, so minimizing disruption was huge,” said Damm. “SADA led our transition in such a way that it didn’t feel like that much extra work.” The results were immediately impactful:
- With no scaling limitations, video processing has sped up 100x.
- Visby found GCP to be considerably faster than AWS for the same amount of compute power – saving time and money.
- SADA provided guidance on workload optimization that has increased productivity and decreased support assistance.
“The expertise that SADA provides keeps us from spinning our wheels,” said Damm. When the Visby team does need help, they can easily get in touch with a SADA engineer. “Fortunately, our implementation was set up in such a way that we don’t need that much help, which is really remarkable, but the few times we have, they have been very responsive.”
Damm has big plans for Visby. Over the next six months, he hopes to close 10 new deals, collaborate with studios, and integrate Visby’s technology into an app to enable hundreds of thousands of people to scan things using their mobile devices. “If we can point to amazing photos that our technology enabled people to take, that will be great for us.”
Google Cloud is essential to Visby’s short and long-term goals. “As light field technology improves and expands all imaging, we’ll need new tools, new video codecs, and new ways to film the world. A lot of what we’re doing right now is processing and white-glove service, but we plan to eventually launch a cloud service that doesn’t require intervention,” said Damm.
Visby’s partnership with SADA is invaluable.
“When you’re building a tech company, it’s easy to assume that tech people are proficient in all areas. We don’t have the specialization skills on our team that could have successfully implemented our migration to GCP. Our partnership with SADA was born out of an intersection of circumstances that made everything come together perfectly. SADA is doing a great job – they’re knocking it out of the park.”– Ryan Damm, CEO and Co-Founder, Visby