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QSTP-funded startup brings virtual reality to life

  • Jun 18, 2022
  • Author: QT-Online
  • Number of views: 3901
  • Science/TECH
Tarantula AI’s ‘KeyCast’ creates immersive 2D to 3D photo and video conversion through machine learning
Tribune News Network
Doha
Augmented and mixed reality technologies are widely reported to be on the brink of mass adoption, and tech startup Tarantula AI are creating solutions to narrow the gap between physical and virtual worlds, transforming the broadcast media industry. .
The first commercial product to emerge from Tarantula AI, with its deep learning technologies and visual depth-effects, was KeyCast, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) replacement for the ‘green-screen’ we see in television studios today. “It’s the highest quality and only solution of its kind in the market today. KeyCast enables live broadcasters to isolate the person being filmed in the foreground of a scene using standard cameras, and then insert graphics such as ads, augmented reality, and new backgrounds behind them,” said Layne Fox, Co-Founder and CEO of Tarantula AI.
Founded in 2019 by David Podolsky and Fox, Tarantula AI was the result of Podolsky’s participation in the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) Research to Startup (RTS) program. The RTS program gave the team the opportunity to license technology created by the Qatar Computing Research Institute and formally launch their startup.
From the outset, Tarantula AI’s mission was to build the most accurate solution in the world for video broadcast production, and to set the bar for the quality of this technology. This is, in large part, due to the company employing AI and deep learning to solve the classic problem of occlusion; the ability to manipulate areas in a 2D video that are blocked by another object. KeyCast also automates parts of the AI’s unique training pipeline that will make new business segments, new content, new advertising opportunities and infinite creative ideas possible for the first time.
The retail sector serves as a great example for how augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are being used to create more immersive and engaging video for consumers. For instance, brands can use AR to place virtual products directly into programming instead of relying on traditional stand-alone commercials.
As part of Qatar Foundation’s (QF) research, development, and innovation ecosystem, QSTP, QF’s technology hub and home to tech-based entrepreneurs and their startups, through its Tech Venture Fund (TVF) actively enabled Tarantula AI’s innovation journey in real-time to develop KeyCast. “In addition to being consummate professionals of the highest caliber, they have been extremely supportive, through our ups and downs,” said Fox.
“The intersection of science, technology and commerce at QSTP and, most importantly, the excitement and motivation you feel whilst working there is reminiscent of Silicon Valley in the early years. You get a sense that anything is possible and that it’s only just the beginning,” added Fox.
While the pandemic resulted in a new wave of technological innovation, Fox traces Tarantula AI’s success back to its early seed-stage funding rounds through QSTP’s TVF. “Typical institutional investors often demand a validated market-fit and commercial traction even during seed rounds, making it very difficult for nascent technology companies to attract significant investment in today’s climate,” said Fox.
“The TVF seed-stage capital allowed us to execute our research and development plans and ultimately develop our initial proof of concept, which in turn led us to raise additional capital to develop our product .”
For Fox, the full potential of Tarantula AI’s technologies is yet to be realized: “Just as when the iPhone was first introduced, we can only begin to imagine the ways our products will be used in the future. We are now making it easier and cheaper for people without experience or huge budgets to create professional, studio-level videos without a studio.”
Discussing the company’s roots in Qatar’s startup environment, Fox added: “We absolutely encourage startups at any level seeking capital investment to look closely at Qatar, more specifically, QSTP, and for ways to connect with the key players here. We have learned that the investment community in Doha is very helpful and open to making introductions within the ecosystem.”