PARACOSMA: Conquering The Contemporary Technological Landscape With Next-Gen AR/VR Solutions


For the Cover Story of this AR/VR Special Edition, Prime Insights was able to sit down for an interview with Ken Ehrhart, the Founder & CEO of Paracosma, one of the World’s 5 Best AR/VR Solutions Providers, 2022. Mr. Ehrhart was able to share insights about both Paracosma and the current state of the AR/VR industry.


Prime Insights: Please shine some light on the company profile and products/services.

Ken Ehrhart: Paracosma is an AR/VR Solutions Provider. With over one hundred employees in the US, Japan and Nepal, we are able to provide our clients with a one-stop-shop for all things 3D. We offer custom AR and VR application development, as well as providing complete development teams to our clients on a long-term basis. We create entire virtual worlds and produce live virtual events. We offer 3D model creation, including high-volume production of photo-realistic models. We also create synthetic images generated from simulated 3D environments to train deep-learning AI systems. We have a 360-degree video production team and 360 video distribution platform that we offer as a white-label service.

Prime Insights: Please brief us on the inception story of your business venture.

Ken Ehrhart: Paracosma was founded in 2016 as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets were just hitting the market. At the time, surveys showed over 88% of companies planned VR projects. Yet, projects were constrained because companies lacked VR development skills, did not have enough developers or it cost too much. As a result, 56% of companies said they were likely to outsource VR development. Paracosma was founded to serve that need. We are not trying to compete with other companies developing AR/VR applications, we are enabling those companies to fulfill their vision for their products. Over time, as demand for AR/VR and 3D modeling has grown the need for outsourced services has only continued to increase.

Prime Insights: Please do enlighten us on how did you build your team.

Ken Ehrhart: When Paracosma first began hiring developers and artists it was not possible to hire people with years of experience because AR/VR was so new. So, we concentrated on hiring the smartest engineers and most talented artists, and then provided on-the-job training. Now, 6 years later, we have some of the most experienced developers and artist in the industry. As standards have coalesced in the industry, we have been able to expand formal in-house training to match our specific requirements. We now have refined processes to recruit, hire, onboard, train and continually upskill our team. Not only does this allow us to accelerate growth but also to ensure consistently high quality.

Prime Insights: How are you ensuring better outcomes from your business in the time of COVID-19 crisis?

Ken Ehrhart: Paracosma is a global enterprise, so covid travel and work restrictions impacted us as much as any company. But, being an AR/VR Solutions Provider meant we had all the tools we needed to quickly and successfully adopt virtual collaboration solutions. This has also facilitated communication with our clients. All companies are finding employees favor many aspects of remote working and consequently are adopting hybrid work environments and embracing remote work as both a necessity and a benefit. This has been a water-shed transition for Paracosma, because now there is little distinction between clients’ direct employees and our remote developers. It is easier than ever for companies to expand their teams using our remote experts. As a result, rather than intermittently outsourcing projects to us our clients are now insourcing our skilled teams on a long-term basis.

Prime Insights: How is your company is synchronizing with the latest technological advancements in the market?

Ken Ehrhart: The AR/VR sector continues to advance rapidly with an acceleration of new innovations and evolving platforms. But, it is no longer enough to maintain awareness of new ideas. Rather, Paracosma is also building deep expertise in AR/VR technology. We are innovating ourselves as we work to solve clients’ needs. Innovation goes far beyond AR/VR to other areas of 3D that are increasingly impacting every technology sector. Some of the most significant developments are the use of 3D game engines like Unity and Unreal Engine for virtual production of videos and the creation of synthetic images for AI training. In both cases, we are expanding what is possible in the real world by blending with virtual worlds. In virtual production of videos we are able to blend performances of live actors with virtual sets and props that only exist in the 3D game engine. In training deep learning AI systems, we are able to vastly expand data sets of training images. To smaller numbers of real organic images that have been manually labeled, we can add vast numbers of synthetic images that have been automatically labeled.

Prime Insights: How do you ensure the quality of services in your company?

Ken Ehrhart: Paracosma’s scale allows us to increase quality for our clients. This is because we are able to build teams of highly trained specialists, rather than relying on smaller numbers of generalists. Instead of a 3D generalist building a 3D model, we have modeling artists, texture artists, shading artists, riggers, animators, etc. We then go further with experts in hard-surface modeling, organic modeling, fur modeling, etc. Furthermore, each specialist team performs Quality Assurance (QA) on their own work, and additional QA is done on the final deliverable before it is sent to the client. With larger scale we can also implement cross-department project management and QA separate from the production teams assuring a level of independent oversight throughout the process.

Prime Insights: What kind of clients do you serve? Please enlist some names. How are you winning their faith?

Ken Ehrhart: Paracosma’s role is generally behind the scenes. Our goal is to ensure the public success of our clients, not to take credit for a project or outcome. Therefore, most of our clients cannot be named publicly. As an example, AARP has a very successful VR app called Alcove. Alcove is a multiuser experience that allows families and friends to meet and play together in VR. It is built around various subject areas from health and wellness to travel and entertainment. For AARP, Paracosma has developed ‘Staying Sharp’ brain training games, classic board games, and 360 video content that are all integrated into Alcove, but Alcove itself was developed by a third company. The 360 Agency contracted Paracosma to produced AR effects for AT&T’s exhibits at the BET Awards and Essence Festival. Similarly, we have worked for other leading VR companies; one of the World’s largest HR and Talent Management companies; a global appliance maker; a leading auto-parts manufacturer on AR for machine maintenance; one of the largest ecommerce companies; among others.

Prime Insights: How is R&D helping you to take your company to the next level?

Ken Ehrhart: Innovation and technological advancement are powering the rapid growth of AR/VR. Yet, when Paracosma’s clients bring us new ideas and novel requests, we often have to develop the solutions they are looking for, whether or not it has been done before. For our own growth and efficiency, we are continually focused on how we can enlist technology to disrupt previously manual tasks. For example, we have replaced manual labeling of our synthetic images with auto-generation of labels. We are developing tools and libraries to assist our teams of artists and engineers. For development, we are building code libraries and SDKs that standardize and speed repetitive tasks. For 3D modeling, we are developing AI systems to replace manual processes.

Prime Insights: When commentators assess the health of the AR or VR Industry they often look at headset sales or hit video games. How do you view the health of the industry?

Ken Ehrhart: Paracosma takes a much broader view than AR/VR headsets and game sales. In fact, AR/VR are a small part of a much broader transition from 2D to 3D across all technology sectors. Everything from 3D printing in manufacturing to self-driving cars to deep fake videos are enabled by this transition to 3D. Synthetic image generation for AI training, rendering images of 3D models to replace studio photography, virtual production of movies are Paracosma services that are independent of AR/VR headset sales. AR/VR are the beneficiaries of this 2D to 3D transition and driving significant innovation in 3D. But, when you look at the pervasiveness and permanence of the underlying 2D to 3D transition itself, you will come to understand the inevitableness of AR/VR regardless of near-term headset or game sales.

Prime Insights: How can AR/VR enhance Design, Production, and Training?

Ken Ehrhart: Fundamentally, AR/VR can lower costs, accelerate processes and improve outcomes. Design can be enhanced through rapid prototyping and iterations as well as instantaneous remote collaboration both within the design team and with end users and clients. Virtual store shopping with eye-tracking can inform store layouts, shelf placement and package design. Simulations and AR guidance can improve manufacturing assembly lines, speed production and validate part placement through machine vision verification. For Training, the only method that can compare to hands-on experience is virtual training that simulates hands-on training. But, significantly, we can do VR training that covers rare and dangerous situations that cannot be replicated in real life. Furthermore, VR training can assure consistency of instruction that cannot be achieved with live human trainers.

Prime Insights: According to you, which industries will be disrupted by AR/VR technology in the future?

Ken Ehrhart: I would turn the question around and ask what industries will not be disrupted by AR/VR? Not only can any real-life experience be simulated in AR/VR, with AR/VR we can experience things that are too expensive, dangerous or rare to experience in real life. Furthermore, we can experience things with AR/VR that do not exist in real live, that were previously only accessible by the imagination.

Prime Insights: Share some words of wisdom that you would like to convey to the aspiring entrepreneurs and the readers of our Magazine.

Ken Ehrhart: Don’t be whipsawed by near-term hype and trends. Look to the underlying transition from 2D to 3D. With AR/VR we have seen waves of hype and troughs of disappointment when reality did not match the hype. The focus of hype has shifted from the launch of consumer VR in 2016, to Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore in 2017, to location-based entertainment, to XR, to enterprise training, to virtual events, to Quest games, to NFTs to the Metaverse. Each buzz word and hype cycle represents the crest of a wave that is just part of a broader tsunami of 3D adoption.

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