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Paracosm: Mapping the Future


Written By: Erica Brown

Whether it’s a key part of a government project or just a tool to find the nearest gas station, in today’s society, most of the outdoor world can be viewed through 3D mapping.

Paracosm is a local startup that is bringing 3D mapping technology indoors. The company, which is now one year old, consists of engineers, programmers and 3D-artists called the Space Parakeets who work to bring real-world places directly to people’s fingertips, said Amir Rubin, CEO and chief parakeet of Paracosm.

Although the company began by selling virtual models to the architecture, engineering and construction industries, Paracosm’s ultimate goal is to 3D-ify the world.

It Started With an Idea

While Rubin and his wife backpacked through Europe, they came across an old castle.

“Wow,” Rubin said he thought. “I could feel the history here, but why am I only experiencing this castle as it is today? Why can’t I see what it was like 1,000 years ago, with people living in it and it was alive and active?”

At that moment, Rubin said he didn’t think there was a reason he couldn’t experience a physical place on multiple levels.

“So, that’s when I thought: How can we virtualize the world?”

Construction of the Team

When Rubin first came up with the idea to start Paracosm, he said he called his friends, told them about the idea and asked them to come work for him.

“You have to have a good culture that encourages ideas to flow,” Rubin said. “The biggest challenge of starting a company is filling a culture that can stay on track (and) stay focused but still get ideas and input from everyone.”

This was not Rubin’s first venture into entrepreneurship, so he knew what would work and what wouldn’t.

He knew, for example, that everyone joining his team had to understand what it is to believe in the vision, listening to everyone’s ideas and contributing those ideas toward the vision.

Duncan Martel, a 3D artist at Paracosm, said working with the team is what he enjoys the most.

“It’s an exciting technology, and it’s a disruptive field,” he said. “It’s unique to scan something and then in a few minutes (have) that representation on a computer and be able to manipulate it. So, it’s exciting to be on the forefront of technology.”

Martel said he thinks there’s a lot of potential in the field, especially when there are a lot of untapped ideas and unknowns that can be achieved with the right technology.

“Once you have a true digital representation of real-world spaces, there’s just an infinite amount of possibilities that you can do with that data,” Martel said. “Really, it’s a bright future.”

The Vision

Paracosm has a vision that will allow for a whole new outlook on technology, Rubin said.

“When you create an indoor virtual space, you’ve effectively created a 3D map,” he said. “The interesting thing about a map is that it let’s you answer two basic questions: Where am I? How do I get where I’m going?”

The entire outdoor world is mapped, he said. Every piece of land, street, building office and house is viewable on Google Maps or Google Earth.

Rubin explained that in contrast, no such thing exists for inside a building.

“As for humans, it’s easy to navigate throughout a building, but what about robots?” he said. “What we want for our vision is that a 3D map of the world is consumable of every building in the world and the inside of that is consumable by humans and machines.”

For example, he said, he wants a robot to be able to take a map of a building and know which floor it is on.

“Our vision is to build a 3D model of every place on earth so that machines can use it to understand the world the same way humans do,” Rubin said. “We like to joke that we’re enabling the robopocalypse.”

Up-and-Coming Projects

Paracosm is currently working with the historic Thomas Center on a 3D model of two rooms in the building: the Spanish Court and the Long Gallery.

“After the scan is complete, guests can virtually walk through these rooms on our website,” said Erica Chatman, facilities coordinator at the historic Thomas Center

She explained that Paracosm scanned a room while it was empty and then scanned again when the room was fully decorated to complete the model

“It’s amazing what they can do with this cutting-edge technology,” she said.

Chatman said the 3D model will help the center by allowing guests from out of town to plan events without having to step foot in the rooms ahead of time.

“These rooms aren’t traditional rooms,” Chatman said. “There are roundtables, glass ceilings and a lot of space for dancing. This project will test the limit of their product.”

Paracosm has partnered with Google ATAP Project Tango, NASA, esri and Autodesk.

The young, innovative company is undoubtedly mapping the future and fulfilling their vision of 3D-ifying the world.

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