EDMONTON – Curling fans know Dave Nedohin as one of the best last-rock throwers the sport has ever seen.
As vice-skip of the famed Ferbey Four, Nedohin won five provincial curling titles, four Briers and three world championships.
But Nedohin’s life has always been about much more than just curling.
The 41-year-old civil engineer, father of two and husband of top female curler Heather Nedohin is also a serial entrepreneur. Over the past 15 years or so he has been a partner in a consulting engineering firm, several specialty media ventures and a log homes builder.
But Nedohin thinks his latest startup, Scope AR (formerly Scope Technologies), may have the greatest growth potential of all.
In techno-geek lingo, Scope is creating “the world’s most advanced augmented reality training solutions,” targeted at least initially at big industrial clients in sectors like aerospace, oil and gas and mining.
If that’s all Greek to you, don’t worry. You’re not alone. So let me try to explain what AR, augmented reality, is about in layman’s language.
If you’re like most people, you hate printed instruction manuals that use confusing language or poorly rendered diagrams to describe how to operate, fix or maintain a piece of equipment.
So imagine this. Instead of trying to decipher a manual, you can now follow a series of computer-generated, three-dimensional images that overlay the equipment, showing you exactly what to do, one step at a time.
By looking at the equipment through a pair of glasses with a tiny mounted camera, or by holding a smartphone or tablet computer in front of it, the relevant AR images are generated in precise order, along with a series of audio or text-based prompts that guide you through the exercise.
Pretty cool, huh? Welcome to the rapidly evolving world of augmented reality, where animation and real-life images intersect.
According to Marketsand Markets (M&M), a Dallas, Tex.-based global market research and consulting firm, the market for AR devices and software is expected to explode, topping $1 billion US by 2018.
So how did Nedohin and his partners at Scope AR first get turned on to the potential of this new technology? It began with a chat Nedohin had three years ago with Scott Montgomerie, a talented software engineer who lives in California.
Like many in the field, Montgomerie was looking at ways to tap into the consumer market. Specifically, he was exploring ways to use AR to enhance a new gaming system on Apple TV, Apple’s digital media player.
But their discussions took an unexpected turn when a big mining company asked them to demonstrate how AR technology could be used to train workers, at a major trade show in Las Vegas.
“We didn’t know entirely if it would work but we said we’d give it a shot. The show was in September 2012, so we had about a year to build our solution out,” says Nedohin. The result?
“We partnered with Epson (a big office equipment maker), we built a pair of AR glasses and purchased some hardware to mount a camera onto the glasses and integrate the software. Then we showed up at the trade show with these glasses, and the reaction was: ‘Wow what’s this?’” he recalls.
“We were able to show the entire demo hands free, and you could watch it step-by-step and understand where the future of maintenance and training could be with this technology. That’s when the light bulb went on. The response was just completely beyond anything we could have imagined.”
Scope AR demonstrated its newfangled technology nearly 100 times over the next three days, as a stream of curious onlookers dropped by the company’s booth.
“That’s when we realized that the opportunity in industrial markets is massive. So we decided to focus all our energies on those markets, where there’s a real opportunity to be the first ones in that space,” he says.
Less than two years later, Scope AR has several major corporate clients that are using its technology in the field or in pilot tests, and it hopes to generate $1 million in revenues in 2014. But that’s just the start. If the technology catches on, the sky is the limit, says Nedohin.
Eventually, the company may expand its focus to the consumer market, where the potential applications of augmented reality are virtually endless.
“What if you could look outside the Mercer building on 104th Street right now and see the entire downtown arena district recreated? Or walk inside the arena with your iPad and look around it, before it’s done? It’s one thing to have a rendering, but quite another to see it on the actual spot where it’s being built.”