Richard Boyd is upfront: he wants to make the Triangle the new center for the metaverse.
Boyd is the founder of Chapel Hill-based Ultisim, a startup that is the result of his decades spent building innovative game technology companies across the industry.
Whether it was at aerospace giant Lockheed Martin creating Virtual World Labs after they acquired his computer game startup 3DSolve, or previously running 3dVillage where he pioneered 3D city walking tours, Boyd has developed a sense for where technology is going.
In this case, Boyd believes strongly that the 3D internet is already here, whether we know it or not.
Ultisim has already successfully crafted digital twins for the University of Arizona’s campus so the college can monitor energy and water use and enhance facilities planning. The startup also pioneered a simulation of a Toyota dealership.
“Simulations like these outperform textbooks, they outperform other ways to train people,” Boyd said. “But then you can also use this as an operational tool to actually track what’s going on in your dealership, in your factory or in your hospital.”
At hospitals specifically, Boyd feels they have the potential to save 100,000 lives or more in the U.S. each year just by implementing simulations.
Boyd is also the CEO of Carrboro-based Tanjo, a startup that creates platforms for humans and machines to cooperate with each other. Tanjo was acquired by a private financial services company in 2019 but continues to operate as a standalone entity. (Boyd was also previously a subject of our Download Q&A series.)
Boyd said that since Ultisim’s beginning, rooted in his past game experiences, his vision has been consistent. It’s just been about waiting for the markets to catch up.
Adapting to Change
As a digital twins metaverse startup in the 21st century, Ultisim was also there to build out more applications in education and healthcare when the pandemic came around. As Boyd said, despite the (obvious) cons, the pandemic has accelerated a number of trends that companies could capitalize on.
“You certainly have to anticipate changes in the market space,” Boyd said. “That’s what we did and why we kind of hunkered down for a little bit and focused on some government work, because the government kept spending.”
Just as the moving image transformed the last century, so too will simulation in society’s next stage, Boyd said.
“For the first time in human history, we can actually have these rich, deep models of the future or current or recent paths, which we can get into and really understand the structure because we have AI and machine learning as well as this 3D visualization capability,” Boyd said.
In the future, he said, every company is going to need the ability to simulate, model, predict and adjust accordingly. Ultisim will be a primary tool to do this, so everything from company operations to learning can be radically altered.
“The teacher will now take you inside the human body or to the surface of Mars or whatever great adventure we’re going to go on today, where we can do little simulations to teach,” Boyd said. “We’re going to enable all that, and it’s an exciting time to be here.”
As Ultisim looks ahead to its growth, the startup has partnered with Croquet, a Los Angeles-based company that developed the first open metaverse operating system (OS) for independent, cross-platform virtual world creation. With Croquet, Ultisim can develop rich 3D worlds on the internet, Boyd said.
“We’re betting on this idea that it’s just about web browsers and removing friction and making it easy to create and share these worlds,” Boyd said. “That vision is something that’s going to unlock new capabilities.”
With the great talent pouring out of nearby universities, Boyd is confident the Triangle can develop its own role in the growing metaverse technology saga. No longer is Silicon Valley the only place you can drive technological innovation, Boyd said.
“I hear very often that you can’t have startups in North Carolina,” Boyd said. “‘You need to do them out on the West Coast.’ I’ve shown we can get capital from elsewhere, bring it here, and build.”