Pictures of vacation rentals online show fantastic places to stay at great prices. But it’s not uncommon to have that gnawing feeling that they’re too good to be true. Does that interior picture of the Lake Tahoe chalet with the roaring fire and alpine view actually reflect reality? Or is it a fraud or a deepfake? What about that designer diamond bracelet with the no-bid $5,000 price on an auction site? Is that a scam? Does the seller actually possess the jewelry?
It’s a common problem online, whether to trust the imagery tied to a compelling buying opportunity. Until recently, there was no way to tell the genuine article from a con job. Now, with the launch of holographic imaging software by Visby, an imaging software startup that puts the “real” in virtual reality (VR), people can capture and publish photorealistic images for holographic display. While most companies in the immersive imaging space focus on creating 3D assets akin to those used in gaming and animation, Visby focuses on extending photography itself—capturing and recreating light directly the way humans see it. These photographic holograms (i.e., “light fields”) can be used in computer vision applications such as the aforementioned image verification, as well as playback in VR headsets, augmented reality (AR), extended reality (XR) and holographic TVs.
Visby is a startup: everybody has to wear multiple hats, including some we’re not used to. But SADA filled engineering gaps on the team for Kubernetes and cloud deployments. Our Google Cloud rep gave Visby a direct referral to SADA with a very high recommendation.Kris Chaisanguanthum | CEO and Founder of Visby
“If you want to sell something valuable, now you can prove that you have it, with holographic technology,” said Kris Chaisanguanthum, CEO and Founder of Visby. “Or if you have a place for rent, you can prove that it’s yours. That’s easier when you have a hologram rather than a single image. Its richer dataset makes it much harder to falsify.”
Visby’s holographic computer vision, or light-field technology, enables a richer dataset with an algorithm that can make an entirely realistic hologram by looking around corners and seeing behind objects, which enables it to infer depth very easily. To acquire this richer dataset, Visby captures all the subtleties of lighting that distinguish places and objects, such as textures and the glint of light bouncing off reflective surfaces. In addition to visual authentication for places and objects, other use cases for Visby include verification of profile pictures and immersive video for movies, TV and gaming in AR, VR and XR.
Visby developed its sophisticated holographic imaging technology with a team of PhD-level computer scientists. While they’ve been able to make the technology work for large projects, scaling it as a productized service for any size project, large or small, presents an obstacle. Visby’s challenge is that their team’s research orientation didn’t include in-house expertise to actually deploy their light-field technology as a product. “Getting to a marketable product presented new challenges, especially since we’re coming at it from the R&D side,” said Chaisanguanthum.
The way Chaisanguanthum sees it, while computer engineers and computer scientists 10 or 20 years ago had a more generalized ability to work on programming and systems, today, the complexity of tools and infrastructure means technical specialization has taken over. While specialists can still complete tasks outside their comfort zone, it isn’t an optimal use of their talents.
“The narrative of the wunderkind startup founder coding an entire platform from scratch is no longer true,” said Chaisanguanthum. “Everything’s so specialized nowadays that this scenario doesn’t work anymore. If you want to build a platform now, the sensible thing is to hire people skilled in specific technologies. But that’s difficult with a small team, when you are hiring people one by one. With increased consideration for security and scalability, you really want people who know what they’re doing.”
As a result, Visby was assigning computer vision engineers to complete DevOps tasks. Without a headcount dedicated to cloud technologies such as Kubernetes, APIs and user interfaces, it was difficult to move from being a white-glove light-field service to a scalable platform where companies large and small could self-service their own orders.
After working with Visby on their earlier migration from AWS to Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Chaisanguanthum again called upon his trusted solution provider SADA, a two-time Google Cloud Global Partner of the Year and premier MSP, for assistance. Visby especially needed expert help with containers and rolling out the platform.
“Visby is a startup: everybody has to wear multiple hats, including some we’re not used to,” said Chaisanguanthum. “But SADA filled engineering gaps on the team for Kubernetes and cloud deployments. Our Google Cloud rep gave Visby a direct referral to SADA with a very high recommendation.”
To get Visby closer to a scalable platform that empowers customers to create their own holographic images with light-field technology, SADA provisioned an automated production environment within GCP with a Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) cluster. Then SADA rebuilt Visby’s infrastructure for production use to execute job submissions in a standardized workflow. SADA also produced a web user interface (UI) for Visby’s internal users to replace a command line interface (CLI) that enables them to upload files via an application programming interface (API) for processing, see the status of jobs in progress and create and operate different workflows for new API functionality.
“By delivering a stable and easily configurable GKE production environment, SADA allowed us to separate the development of the underlying technology from issues of deployment and scalability,” said Chaisanguanthum. “This enables us to deploy resources far more effectively and efficiently, and focus on our core capabilities.”
With their production environment established for programmatic submission of images, Visby can now begin to extend their light-field imaging engine via an API so customers and third-party apps can create holograms by themselves.
SADA wants Visby to be successful over the long haul rather than just being interested in short-term projects. When I talk to SADA about the company’s needs, it’s reassuring that I can take their recommendations seriously. As anybody who’s ever been in a C-level position knows, there are many vendors who are not invested in the long-term goals of your company and are just trying to upsell you.Kris Chaisanguanthum | CEO and Founder of Visby
As a result of their engagement with SADA and Google Cloud, Visby now has the makings of a market-ready product. With their holographic engine rebuilt as an API-driven production environment that has a more user-friendly UI, Visby moves into its next phase on firmer ground.
“Essentially, SADA built an API interface into our core computer vision engine that lets us monetize our technology as a proper product rather than as a white-glove service,” said Chaisanguanthum. “That enables us to demonstrate more value-add to our customers as we begin to deploy at scale.”
Simplifying an HR problem
Beyond completing the deployment for Visby, Chaisanguanthum knows that SADA did something more for the company. Through SADA, they got a dedicated cloud engineer who completed specific tasks critical for company growth without adding a headcount.
“As a manager, scoping out a project for SADA simplifies an HR problem for me,” said Chaisanguanthum. “Otherwise, I would have had to hire a cloud engineer who wouldn’t necessarily have been able to contribute elsewhere. To a startup, that’s a big deal. I can assign a SADA engineer to a job that could have taken up 10% to 50% of my team’s bandwidth for tasks they don’t specialize in. That saved us nine months of cloud development work.”
In addition to solving Visby’s short-term engineering challenges, SADA has continued to guide Visby on their longer-term roadmap. Meeting regularly, SADA listens closely to the upcoming needs Visby anticipates but hasn’t fully defined yet.
“At our scheduled account meetings, our SADA Technical Account Manager often asks about the next items on our technical roadmap,” said Chaisanguanthum. “Often, my answers are more about business and operational concerns, but she zeroes in and brings in SADA engineers and other specialists to solve specific problems. It’s like having a concierge to help bridge our business needs to technical solutions.”
In it for the long haul
While this project has drawn to a close, the partnership between Visby and SADA continues throughout their cloud transformation journey. SADA continues to bring GCP options—from Apigee API management to Anthos at the Edge for bringing apps closer to the user—to Visby’s attention to complete the next steps in their cloud journey.
“SADA wants Visby to be successful over the long haul rather than just being interested in short-term projects,” said Chaisanguanthum. “When I talk to SADA about the company’s needs, it’s reassuring that I can take their recommendations seriously. As anybody who’s ever been in a C-level position knows, there are many vendors who are not invested in the long-term goals of your company and are just trying to upsell you.”
Because SADA has worked with hundreds of Google Cloud customers, Visby has benefited from that experience. Not only does the SADA team keep Visby informed on what to do to make their light-field platform more effective and efficient, but they also fill them in on what not to do.
“This will resonate with many startup founders: getting SADA’s expert opinion is valuable because it prevents us from doing a lot of stupid stuff,” said Chaisanguanthum. “SADA gives us guardrails. They’ll say, ‘Here’s a known solution to your problem—just use it—don’t reinvent the wheel.’ I feel very confident in my decisions about Google Cloud products and SADA engineering because I trust SADA. SADA is more than a vendor; SADA is a trusted product adviser.”
Going from zero to one
With their scalable solution in hand, Visby now has a product. “The most important metric is that we went from not having a product to having a product that our customers can integrate into their apps,” said Chaisanguanthum. “It’s like going from zero to one.”
In this moment, getting a product to market makes all the difference. “Without SADA and Google Cloud, Visby wouldn’t have a product at this point,” said Chaisanguanthum. “Actually, I don’t know if Visby would even be in business now without SADA and Google Cloud.”