UniSA Venture Catalyst winners receieve $1 million for their hologram company

A “CRAZY” idea to see if they could replicate the 3D holograms in the original Star Wars movie has led, after plenty of hard work, to a $1 million investment in Adelaide and US-based technology company Voxon Photonics.

Founders Will Tamblyn and Gavin Smith have grown their idea over the past eight years from an idea into a hardware and software solution - the Voxiebox - which can create moving holograms — or 3D digital content — without the need for users to wear special glasses.

Potential applications for the technology include gaming, education, engineering, medical imaging, advertising, communication and command and control.

Mr Tamblyn said the $1 million injection from local investors would allow the company to fast-track the development of a larger projection system, and also help the company grow its developer community.

The key to the uptake of the technology would be to encourage users and content developers to get on board and develop their own uses for it.

To aid this Voxon has developed software which allows developers to design an application which can be run on a computer, without the need for them to first invest in the Voxiebox hardware.

“There’s two main areas that we’re focusing on. The first area is refining the hardware and the software and building the platform,’’ Mr Tamblyn said.

“The second area is building a grassroots community of innovators and early adopters and enthusiasts and people who want to get involved.

“That’s a really important thing for us because with any sort of new technology it’s crucial to have people doing things with it.

“If you sign up on our website you can download a developer kit so you can build apps and write programs or build games for the Voxiebox without having any hardware.’’

The money will also help to improve the hardware.

“We know exactly how those improvements can be made, it’s just a matter of implementing them now.’’

The improvements will include bigger, brighter displays and a smoother image.

The Voxiebox is currently a 16x8x6cm display. The next is envisaged to be about 18cm square by up to 8cm, and further larger displays will be considered.

“But we don’t want to make it to big because that loses the real value proposition, the shared social experience of gathering around the display,’’ Mr Tamblyn said.

Mr Tamblyn said the 3D chess game in the original Star wars movie, and the Princess Leia Hologram were literally the inspiration for the Voxiebox.

The company has four core team members in Adelaide and two more - also co-founders - in New York and Rhode Island.

The Voxiebox was displayed at the recent Maker Faire held at Tonsley and Mr Tamblyn said the response was excellent.

“It was non-stop all day,’’ he said.

Once the next iteration of the technology is ready the company will be more actively promoting it, with Mr Tamblyn saying the tangible, emotional response of people when they get to see the device in action was always very positive.

Mr Tamblyn and co-founder and chief technology officer Gavin Smith took a “leap of faith” 18 months ago, deciding to commit themselves fully to the business.

They have followed a path through various entrepreneurial programs in South Australia as their business has developed and are now working with the New Venture Institute at Flinders University and are supported by the UniSA Venture Catalyst Program.

They have won support from grant programs including the AMP Tomorrow Fund and attended the South by Southwest (SxSW) conference in Austin this year along with other NVI Flinders start ups.

Mr Tamblyn said it was encouraging to see the growth of the entrepreneurial community in Adelaide and encouraged others to take a risk and start their own companies.

“I think it’s important for South Australia and Australia for people to get out there and chase those big ideas and don’t be afraid to get out there and give it a go,’’ he said.

The $1 million investment was led by Adelaide based investment firm Fortis Ago, whose prior investments include online wine retailer Vinomofo. In association with the investment, experienced industry executive Steve Cope, former chief executive of the Electronics and Communications Group for Hills Limited, and former head of Clipsal Integrated Systems will be joining the company.