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Ken Ehrhart | Founder & CEO | Paracosma Inc.

Paracosma: Making Virtual Reality Better than Reality

Through Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), one can experience realities that are rare (fleeting or remote), impractical (dangerous or expensive), impossible (past or future); or otherwise enable people to experience things (emotion or empathy) from a different perspective (identity or scale).
With headquarters in San Francisco and offices in Japan and Nepal, Paracosma Inc is an AR and VR design, consulting and systems integration company that provides solutions and skills to both small and large customers.
In an interview with Insights Success, Ken Ehrhart, the Founder & CEO of Paracosma shared a few key insights and struggles, which eventually helped the organizations to reach new heights.

“Virtual Reality offers a safe space to meet, collaborate and train unconstrained by physical and medical restrictions”

Below are the highlights of the interview between Insights Success and Ken Ehrhart;
What led to the inception of the company?
There is a paradigm shift taking place in computer technology from 2D systems to 3D systems.  Paracosma is focused on the opportunities arising from this transition.  Paracosma was founded as a Virtual Reality service provider at the start of 2016, when the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets launched. We rapidly embraced Augmented Reality as well a year later with the release of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore. Over the last four years, in addition to VR and AR application development, our 3D modeling team has dramatically expanded. This gives us exceptional capability as 3D content creators, in such diverse areas as photography replacement and Digital Twin creation.
Describe Paracosma’s innovative VR and AR solutions which address all the various needs of its customers.
Paracosma is one of the larger pure-play AR/VR startups. We now have over 75 employees including 45 artists and 30 AR/VR developers and engineers. This breath of expertise is really critical in allowing us to provide a one-stop shop for our clients across many sectors.  For AARP, we are producing VR brain games to improve aging users’ mental fitness.  For UrsaLeo, we make Digital Twins to visualize Internet of Things data overlaid on client facilities.  We developed a library of holographic video content that can be viewed in AR or VR for business simulation training by an HR and Talent Management company.  For IVN, we built a demo of live point-cloudbased 3D video communications.  We have a manufacturing client using AR for machine maintenance to reduce downtime and improve efficiency.  Medical clients using VR laparoscopic surgery training to save lives. Oil and gas clients using VR training to prevent spills and fires.  An online retailer is replacing expensive studio photography with digital renderings of our photorealistic 3D models. In this time of Covid19 lockdowns, we are creating realistic virtual copies of real offices and corporate facilities, and turning those Digital Twins into fully interactive, multiuser VR environments that can be used for virtual face-to-face remote meetings, for company presentations and large group events, or for real-time collaboration and training. We are also giving away our consumer VR sandbox game, Shelter in Place, in which players find themselves within a large mansion filled with minigames and entertainment.

“The fundamental goal of VR is to create virtual worlds as vibrant, interactive and useful as the real world, which has been closed off”

How is the company’s VR solution more advanced compared to other companies’ solutions?
At our core, we are a Solutions Provider. We provide bespoke solutions not a least-common-denominator off-theshelf product.  We help our clients by creating custom solutions to realize the specific results they are looking for. We are not trying to force the sale of a one-size-fits-all generic product, which is unfortunately sometimes the goal of smaller companies that may struggle if they don’t standardize on a general-purpose offering. Because we have scale and longevity, we can be more innovative and pursue cutting edge research that better meets the forward-looking visions of our clients.
As Founder and CEO of the company, how does your background influence the company and your approach to the industry?
At Paracosma we are focused on creating and delivering world-class business-to-business solutions to some of the largest global companies.  As a Venture Capitalist for 20 years, I have experience guiding startup companies to successful global growth.  My focus on establishing the Japan subsidiaries for multi-billion-dollar Enterprise SAAS companies (like Concur, Marketo and Demandware) provides over a decade of experience serving the business needs of large enterprise clients.  It is somewhat rare to be able to bridge between the worlds of small high-growth startups and more conservative and demanding large enterprise clients.  I believe my background contributes to our ability to successfully do just that.
Describe in detail about the work culture and the values that drives the company.
The current pandemic lockdowns lay bare the truth that companies are only as strong as their employees. Offices, facilities, and workstations stand empty and unused, while the capabilities, creativity and dedication of individual employees remain crucial. As a Service Provider, Paracosma’s quality and capacity is a direct reflection of the experience and ingenuity of our employee teams.  Therefore, we put our employees first, and during these difficult times, we have maintained full employment.  In fact, we are continuing to expand our client services.  This is only possible because of our people.
Which technologies are bringing disruption in AR/VR industry?
Over the last few years, AR and VR have seen steady adoption and expansion from consumer to enterprise and industrial applications. In areas such as medical training and oil and gas handling, in which mistakes can cost lives, risk-free VR training is the ultimate solution. This year, with the pandemic lockdowns, we have begun to realize the greatest potential of these technologies. The fundamental goal of VR is to create virtual worlds as vibrant, interactive and useful as the real world, which has been closed off.  Through multiuser VR we can recreate offices, meetings, tradeshows, concerts, entertainment, retail, education, travel and other social experiences that are currently restricted in real life. This provides the greatest opportunity that we have yet seen for the expansion of the VR market.  We believe we are seeing an inflection point in the industry that was facilitated by high-quality, low-cost, stand-alone VR headsets like the Oculus Quest.
How is Paracosma contributing to the evolution of the AR/VR industry?
Paracosma’s goal has always been to expand the availability and adoption of AR and VR through the offering of highquality, low-cost solutions.  As a direct response to the Coronavirus Pandemic, Paracosma has been offering both consumers and businesses free VR solutions as a community service. In addition to offered “Shelter in Place”, our consumer VR game, for free to players, we have also been giving away free virtual offices to companies that want to try out remote VR collaboration. Surveys have shown that once companies try and begin using AR and VR they continue to invest in and expand that use. We believe that now is the best time for companies and individuals to experience what VR and AR have to offer, to improve their businesses and lives. Those positive experiences will continue to expand the industry.
What technologies is the company leveraging to make its solutions resourceful?
To offer the most scalable, affordable solution for VR collaboration, Paracosma has been building VR Worlds on top of Microsoft’s free Altspace VR platform. This enables companies and their employees to very quickly realize the benefits of real-time multiuser collaboration in their own virtual offices and auditoriums at just the price of the users’ VR headsets, or even at no extra cost when accessed through a standard PC.
What are the company’s future aspirations? What strategies is it undertaking to achieve those goals?
We are working with several clients and partners on longterm projects and collaborations that absorb almost all our capacity as fast as we can increase it. So, we continue to hire and train team members as rapidly as possible. This is of course complicated during the current crisis.  But, as a global organization with operations in the US, Japan and Nepal, we have of necessity fully embraced the use of virtual office environments and remote virtual operations. We have ourselves become a test subject and now a case study in adoption of remote collaboration in VR, with daily meetings and frequent all-company presentations. The technology works great and is helping us accelerate our growth and productivity.  Our goal is to share that message as broadly as possible and help other enterprises realize the same benefits.

“Through multiuser VR we can recreate offices, meetings, tradeshows, concerts, entertainment, retail, education, travel and other social experiences that are currently restricted in real life”