TouchMagix is a Pune-based startup with a product that can convert any wall of floor into an interactive touch screen. Targeted towards “high footfall” areas like malls, conferences and lobbys, it is a technology with a lot of potential, and frankly, something that we don’t expect to see out of Indian companies. After being very impressed with the demo at their Bhonsale Nagar office, we interviewed founder Anup Tapadia for PuneTech. TouchMagix technology will be on display on both days of the Hi Tech Pune Maharashtra 2009 conference in Pune on 26th and 27th – it’s definitely worth checking out. Anup will also be speaking at the conference on Friday. Read on for the interview.
Q: Can you give an overview of TouchMagix?
A: TouchMagix is a technology that allows any projection screen to be made interactive. Imagine a picture being projected on a regular wall, and a person can walk up to the wall and start interacting with the objects in the picture, and they actually react to the touch. TouchMagix technology allows adding such multi-point interactivity to any projected surface i.e walls, floors or screens. The projected surface reacts to the human gestures. It reacts to a touch, or it can react to gestures from a distance. And this can be done with any existing surface.
It is a medium that attracts crowds of all ages and helps brands “Get Noticed” with fun and interaction. It has extensive applications in retail, malls, advertising, events, promotions and gaming. We believe that this is the way brands would communicate to their consumers in future. At TouchMagix we are focussed towards building technologies and services which will aid brand owners to create an everlasting impression in consumers mind. Right now we have launched this product, and our team is overwhelmed with the response from all over the world. Now the real challenge we are facing is to accelerate the process of deployment across the globe in short amount of time. We are looking for awesome people to join this wagon!
Demo of TouchMagix. Click here if you can’t see the video.
Q: Can you dig a little into the technology that goes into making TouchMagix?
As off now we have 2 products, MagixFloor™ and MagixWall™ which are like large multi-point touch-screens. Both the technologies use same set of hardware and software. The hardware comprises of a high-end PC, a projector and our proprietary TouchMagix sensor. The sensor feeds the signals to the PC software, which recognizes human gestures and generates an XML feed on loopback interface. This feed can be integrated with any designing software like Adobe Flash, Adobe Director, 3DS Max etc… to build games and content. We offer an Open SDK interface which can be used by creative agencies or game designers to build content for deployment on TouchMagix. We also provide a remote controlled media scheduler for rotating content on the media. We are also in the process of designing audience measurement tools that will give web based interaction statistics to an advertiser.
Q: There are existing systems in US, Israel and elsewhere which do similar things. For example, Reactrix Systems. How do you differentiate yourself from them, both from an IPR perspective and a marketing perspective.
We have a superior and cost effective technology than most of the competition around. Technology, is just one aspect of the media. The possibilities with the content that one can build on this media would establish our position. We are offering an Open SDK interface for developers that no other competitor is offering. We are also introducing a feature of audience measurement, and web management which will set us apart. Reactrix systems was a close competitor for us, but they recently shutdown despite investment of $75 Million. Any good idea badly executed can also lead to failure. Being in India, we have an cost advantage along with the technology edge to deliver this product to the world. We have a team with diverse experience in technology, advertising and gaming and we believe we can make this happen.
Q: What were the unexpected challenges that you faced in making this happen.
A: Loads of challenges surfaced during the process of development of this technology. It was like playing the game of snakes and ladders for last 2 years day-in and day-out. What we thought was working in the labs and we said hurray, was a basket of new challenges on the field. Elimination of pseudo sensing was one of the big challenges that we had to overcome.
Pseudo sensing is a problem in which the movements of the objects that are in the picture being projected need to be distinguished from the motion of the human. Earlier the system used to do false detections on the projected image thinking it was the human motion. Now we have overcome that problem.
Q: Unlike most other “IT” and “web” startups, your technology has a significant hardware component. This is not something common in India. Has that been a challenge for you?
A: I was fortunate to get an experience in both hardware and software during my journey of learning. My dad always says, “You are a jack of all trades, and master of some!”. This trait helped me in integrating hardware and software required to create the product. Having our own hardware solved lot of problems, which would have been difficult otherwise. It also helped in building the intellectual property around it.
Q: What conventional (and unconventional) means, you are trying out for marketing your product?
A: Basically we have 3 types of customers.
- Private companies advertising their own product in private spaces. e.g – An mobile company putting it in their every showroom.
- Public place owners where advertisers would like to advertise their products. e.g – A mall who would lease out their space to advertisers.
- Short term installations for events, exhibitions, activations, promotions, parties etc.
We would be handling 1st type of customers by direct marketing initiatives. 2nd and 3rd type of customers would be handled through channel partners who have local presence. In addition to this, we will also be doing online direct marketing.
Q: What funding options have you considered?
A: The first phase was funded by Family and Friends. Along with the business plan, the next phase funding plan also would be frozen.
Q: At a very young age, you have done a lot of interesting and varied things? Can you tell us a bit about your background and the various areas you’ve worked in?
A: I started exploring computers at a very young age. At the age of 14 I became the world’s youngest Microsoft Certified professional to achieve MCSD, MCSE, MCDBA. I was fortunate to receive written compliments and motivation from Bill Gates, Azim Premji, Dr. Raghunath Mashalkar, Dr.Irwin Jacobs and many others for this achievement. At the age of 16 I started off my company TechnoKarma Labs with a vision to build innovative indian products for the global market. Our first product was 802.11b based mesh router. This router was a low cost and more efficient alternative to the way wireless networks were being deployed. During this time, I was also associated with International Institute of Information Technology, Pune (I2IT) for research in High Performance Computing under mentoring of Dr.Vijay Bhatkar. After my 12th standard at Fergusson College, I was offered to join in as a full time MS student in Networks & Telecom at I2IT skipping my engineering degree. At the age of 19 I received my 1st Masters degree. As part of my masters thesis, I had worked on a low level distributed memory management system for virtual machine clusters. After my Masters, I worked for 1 year with Qualcomm at San Diego, USA. I developed 2 products in distributed mobile computing at Qualcomm’s Corp R&D which were patented. I received an offer to join University of California, San Diego (UCSD) for Ms-PhD program in Communication Theory and Systems. I decided to join UCSD for PhD. My topic of research was Ad-Hoc networks and large scale distributed systems. During my stay in San Diego, I got a chance to work with a Venture Capital firm and get a view of several start-ups that they had invested in, or were planning to invest-in. This experience was invaluable. After completing the Master’s courses and some MBA courses I decided that I would like to come back to India, and start off TouchMagix. Presently I am on leave of absence from UCSD. I have been consulting to several start-ups in India and US on technology and product development.
Q: You could have chosen to do your startup in San Diego, or in Silicon Valley. Why did you choose to come back to India?
A: I see India as a place with ample opportunities for an entrepreneur. My dream always has been to see India as a product innovation hub rather than a BPO hub. I decided to setup my company in Pune to pursue this dream. TouchMagix Media Pvt. Ltd. is the first entity of the TechnoKarma Labs. I dream to have many more product companies like this in times to come. I love to interact with like minded people who share this vision.