ITU graduates behind new Virtual Reality startup

With a new Virtual Reality tool, two entrepreneurs from the IT University of Copenhagen have created a faster and easier way to create 3D animations. Their company, Sidetracked, has just landed a DKK one million investment which will enable them to launch their product this summer.

Entrepreneurshipdesigncomputer gamesstartups

3D animations are an indispensable in modern computer games, which rely on realistic-looking characters and natural movements. The animations, however, are both complicated and time-consuming to make – and since the task is usually reserved for the artists, 3D content often becomes a bottleneck in the development process.

Now, the startup Sidetracked is planning to make the creation of 3D content much more accessible through Virtual Reality technology.

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We want to democratize the 3D production flow because 3D artists are burdened with a huge workload and responsibility, since they are the ones who outline, model and animate.

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“We want to democratize the 3D production flow because 3D artists are burdened with a huge workload and responsibility, since they are the ones who outline, model and animate. We want to make these parts of the development process available for the rest of the production team,” says Mathias Dam Arvanaghi, co-founder of Sidetracked with Jonas Hingeberg Ruge.

VR instead of mouse and screen

Specifically, Sidetracked will replace mouse, keyboard and screen - usually the 3D animator's preferred tools – with Virtual Reality.

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[Y]ou can put on a pair of VR glasses and step into a digital world where you have your content right at your fingertips.

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“This means that you can put on a pair of VR glasses and step into a digital world where you have your content right at your fingertips. If you want to develop and shape a character, you just grab it. The tracker allows you to shape and move the content with your hands,” Mathias explains.

The concept was born during a thesis project from ITU's MSc in Games programme. During their studies, Mathias and Jonas experienced the complexity of producing 3D content first-hand. They decided to find a way to make this part of the creative process accessible even to people without experience with game development and animation.

The VR medium proved extremely suitable for that purpose.

"We tested our concept on 30 people with different qualifications and experience levels, and only one of them did not manage to make an animation within 10 minutes," says Mathias.

From thesis to business

When the thesis had been defended, their supervisor convinced the group that their concept had business potential, and shortly after they were accepted into ITU’s Startup Programme, which helps students realize their business ideas.

Although neither Mathias nor Jonas had planned on becoming entrepreneurs, the programme made them enthusiastic about the project and helped them with all the practical matters connected with starting a business – from developing a business plan to company registration, budget and VAT.

“Initially, it seemed like a daunting step to take, since we had no experience as entrepreneurs. I don't think we would have thrown ourselves into it without the safety net and guidance we received through the Startup Programme,” says Mathias.

Investment from Borean

The two entrepreneurs believe that their product has potential far beyond the gaming industry, as 3D is used as a sketching and production tool in many domains, including in architecture, the automotive industry and the advertising industry.

And they are not alone in seeing the potential. Sidetracked recently landed an investment of DKK one million, as well as an investment loan of another two million, from the investment company Borean Innovation.

The funding makes it possible for Sidetracked to convert the prototype into a finished product. The first version ready for sale will be launched in July.

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The market is really big, and only getting bigger as 3D content is becoming more widely used.

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“The market is really big, and only getting bigger as 3D content is becoming more widely used. Denmark and the Nordic region are front runners, especially within the games industry, but in the long term we also plan to expand to other markets and industries,” says Jonas.

“Now we have to deliver a product that people want to use. We know that there is interest, and because we ourselves have experienced the problem, we know that a solution is missing. We believe that Virtual Reality is the solution that will make 3D content development accessible to everyone," says Mathias.

Further information

Vibeke Arildsen, Press Officer, phone 2555 0447, email viar@itu.dk