Better Than Reality: RIoT Pitch Event Will Bring Augmented Reality Ideas To Life

In-person pitch events are back, and RIoT is kicking the doors open next Tuesday with a night that pushes the bounds of traditional three-dimensional reality. The RIoT Your Reality Augmented Reality Challenge Final Pitch is an AR innovation immersive experience, with the six teams pitching also providing live, hands-on demos of their augmented reality technology. (Register here to attend the free event to be held at the Raleigh Founded Gateway location from 5:30-7:30 p.m.)

Raleigh was chosen as one of the three U.S. cities to host an augmented reality challenge funded by Facebook Reality Labs and US Ignite that challenged municipalities to tap into their local innovation communities to develop novel AR applications that solve pressing community problems. After being selected, the Town of Cary and Raleigh came together with Google Fiber in April to call for solutions that use augmented reality to create a more economically developed and accessible community.

Of the 18 teams that pitched their AR ideas, six were chosen to participate in the 12-week project sprint to further develop their idea before competing on July 27 (next Tuesday) for a $40,000 grand prize and a spot in an upcoming cohort of the RIoT Accelerator Program (RAP). The panel of judges includes representatives from Google Fiber, Cary, Raleigh, NC Crowdfund, and Lithios. Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin will present the award to the winner. 

Amber Cobb, Director of Partnerships East for RIoT, said everyone is invited to come to the event from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Attendees will have the chance to mingle with the local tech, startup, and investor communities and town representatives, plus test out the new technologies first-hand—all while enjoying some free food and beer. 

“This event will be a great opportunity to remind ourselves what it feels like to network, while supporting our area’s phenomenal entrepreneurs and, of course, seeing some cool tech,” Cobb said. “A highlight of this contest is the unique public and private intersection and partnership between municipalities and local innovators. It’s my hope we’ll start to see more of these kinds of contests in the future. Who better to solve these civic challenges than the people living in the communities where they are happening?”

Who are the finalists?

The Town of Cary and City of Raleigh called for augmented reality solutions to address three needs: improved accessibility for city programs, revitalizing the Raleigh Convention Center for economic impact, or driving workforce development. (Though teams were also allowed to pitch ideas outside of the box, Cobb said.)

One of the finalists is Wild Portals, a company that creates immersive AR experiences to enhance live entertainment and sporting events. They were an early AR partner for Snapchat, where they developed the well-known filter for EDM artist Rezz, which includes her iconic glowing goggles and has over 4 million uses.

For the RIoT event, Wild Portals is creating an immersive storytelling experience that will tell the story of Raleigh’s 229-year history via 10 podium stands with QR codes placed around the Raleigh Convention Center, said Wild Portals Managing Director Tony Wild. At Tuesday’s event, Wild Portals will test out one of those, by handing out paper with a QR code that sprouts an oak tree on the ground in front of someone that, when tapped in real life, explodes and tells the history of Raleigh, said Wild. After all, Raleigh is the “City of Oaks.”

Although he’s “just a guy from Arizona,” Wild is passionate about the capabilities of augmented reality and finding new ways to create engaging experiences with it. He jumped at the challenge of finding a way to use it to drive communication and education from municipalities like Raleigh.

“I know from experience working for a city that buildings like the Raleigh Convention Center are a major source of revenue for the city,” Wild said. “Bringing an AR experience to a tech conference happening there just adds so much value and draws attention to the center, so more companies host events there.”

Another finalist, LiRA, is developing lip-reading technology to make city programs more accessible for voiceless people by using AR to translate lip movement from a camera into text. Andrew Prince, LiRA’s CEO, said they are currently embarking on a campaign to gather diverse lip-reading data from thousands of people and are encouraging people to volunteer to provide data by reading a few lines. [Note: we previously wrote about LiRA in May.]

As the top producer of tobacco in the U.S., North Carolina also has the highest rate of voicelessness, as removing a patient’s voice box is an unfortunate part of many procedures for patients with respiratory or throat cancers. Losing the ability to speak makes it hard to maintain a job, communicate with loved ones or even order a coffee. That’s why Prince—who encounters these patients on a daily basis as a head and neck surgeon—said he hopes LiRA’s software will be used throughout cities to empower individuals suffering from this condition to be able to participate in daily life again. 

“The initial version of the software will have mostly medical-centric vocabulary, so we can sell to hospitals have it available the moment an individual wakes up” Prince said. “But long term, as we expand the capabilities of the platform and AR’s ability to recognize all English vocabulary, then I can definitely imagine this as a straight-to-consumer product.”

The AR solutions created by the other four finalists solve different community needs, demonstrating the diverse capabilities of the technology. For instance, NatureXR is using AR for environmental conservation, while reality content creator Cyrene Quiamco is using AR to make online learning more engaging for children.

BlueRecruit (another past GrepBeat story subject) is developing AR course modules to advance workforce training in the solar industry, whereas finalist OurTown is using AR to elevate historically silenced voices that tell the history of Raleigh via city-wide tours taken by bus or walking.