Augmented Reality Technology Enlivens Dinosaur Show
"Acquiring a new technology through intellectual property (IP) trading and incorporating it into one’s own technology is like rolling a snowball downhill: business will get bigger and bigger." Sengital is a company engaged in software development and exhibition solutions. Through a chance encounter, it has learnt of the "augmented reality" (AR) technology developed by Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI). It has subsequently acquired that technology on a non-exclusive licencing basis and applied it in "Legends of the Giant Dinosaurs", the largest dinosaur exhibition ever run in Hong Kong now held at the Hong Kong Science Museum. The AR technology not only helps making the exhibits more interactive, but also boosts Sengital’s technology and corporate competitiveness.
Licenced latest AR technology adds to interactivity of exhibition
As Dr Alan Lam, CEO of Sengital, recalls, previously he has not come across IP trading, but then they were just awarded Hong Kong Science Museum’s dinosaur project. At the flash of the moment he has thought of using AR to make the exhibition more interactive, so they approached ASTRI to acquire the licence to use the latest AR technology in the hope that this will help make a name for Sengital and bring in more business.
Dr Lam points out that AR has been available for more than 10 years: by using a mobile phone to take the picture of a code of special shape, a realistic picture will appear on the mobile screen. But ASTRI’s latest AR technology can turn flyers into codes without special processing or the addition of other codes, so the results are more natural.
"The AR technology used in ‘Legends of the Giant Dinosaurs’ has been incorporated with our innovations, including a mobile app for starting up 3D animation. Upon identification of a real location, the app will launch a 3D interactive animation about dinosaur world and the visitor can take photos with virtual dinosaurs. If a mobile lens is directed to a flyer or dinosaur fossil inside the exhibition, lifelike dinosaur relics will appear on the mobile screen to add to the interactivity and interest of the exhibition."
IP trading help reduce R&D time
He mentions that, as a company focused on display items in shopping malls, exhibitions and museums, Sengital is aware of the increasing market demand for the interactivity of exhibits. "We will develop in this direction and will, through IP trading and the incorporation of technologies developed by ourselves, apply different innovative elements in different projects and keep the snowball rolling."
Dr Lam says that, as the preparation time for exhibitions is always limited, it is difficult to deal with exhibit design and technology development simultaneously. "Acquiring a required technology through IP licencing allows us to save half a year of research and development time, so our team can concentrate more on incorporating self-developed technology into the acquired one to enhance value-added." He reminds Hong Kong companies that the blending of technology and creativity is the real secret of having market advantage. "Gaining business opportunities straightly through technology acquisition is not a healthy development model."
Good market repercussions end up in identifying business road map
Born, raised and educated in Hong Kong, Dr Lam is a graduate of the Department of Mechanical and Automation Engineering of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The scope of his Ph.D. research is in motion sensing and involves also virtual keyboard and virtual mouse. Ten years ago, in the Hong Kong Electronics Fair organised by the TDC, he met his partner who was engaged in the business of game joysticks and they hit it off. They decided to join hands, founded Sengital and participated in an incubation programme of Hong Kong Science and Technology Park.
"At first we concentrated on promoting motion sensing joysticks game controllers. But we were way ahead of the market and business was not satisfactory." So the company changed to providing research and technology in product designs. "But then we came across some technologies which were not our specialty. We dared not forge ahead and so for no good reasons lost opportunities in getting the jobs." His success this time allows him to chart a new road map for his company.
Dr Lam reveals that the application of AR in Legends of the Giant Dinosaurs has aroused a lot of interest from mainland, South Korean and American clients. "Buying a non-exclusive IP doesn’t take too much money, but the result is 100 times the investment amount." Furthermore, Sengital has entered an internet start-up competition on the strength of this technology against technology companies from Shanghai, Guangzhou and Foshan. It won a third-class award and Rmb30,000 in prize money and was the only winning company from Hong Kong. "This is a big help in our promotion of AR technology."
"I have research experience and speak the same language as the academia. I come also from the business sector and understand the needs of the market very well. With such a background, I also help commercialise our research projects."
Sound legal system provides advantages in becoming an IP trading centre
Currently Sengital possesses more than 10 patent projects which have either been granted or are at application stages in Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland and the United States. Dr Lam says that Hong Kong has a sound legal system and the availability of professional IP lawyers. "For example, in Hong Kong Science and Technology Park there are experienced lawyers acting as advisors. They help companies with patent search and application as well as the drafting of patent claims so as to avoid infringement of patent rights."
Dr Lam says that Sengital will actively involve in IP trading as a way of speeding up the development of its projects. "I very much would like to make in-depth discussions with players in the industry to explore new opportunities for cooperation in the BIP Asia Forum which is jointly organised by the TDC, Hong Kong Design Centre and the Hong Kong Government."