UK-Japanese startup Kudan ties up with Hakuhodo to bring augmented reality to advertising



See the original story in Japanese.

Bristol-/Tokyo-based Kudan, the startup developing an AR (Augmented Reality) engine, last week announced a business alliance with Japanese ad agency Hakuhodo and its group company Hakuhodo Product’s (hereinafter, Hakuhodo). Due to this cooperation, Hakuhodo established a factory specializing in VR (Virtual Reality)/AR named Hakuhodo-VRAR and has started proposing ads utilizing VR/AR to both companies’ clients.

Since its launch back in 2011, Kudan has developed a proprietary positioning technology called SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping). Generally for AR, markers are used in AR apps in order to recognize the positional relations in images captured by the camera. Even if not, multiple viewpoints are needed to measure relations as to distance or position between objects since the structure of human eyes or 3D camera enables such viewpoints. Kudan’s SLAM enables positional relations to be fathomed even with single-lens cameras by mapping multiple points on images, so that various AR apps can be availed for devices equipped with single cameras being found on one side, such as smartphones or tablets.

Kudan had secured totaling 203 million yen (about $1.96 million) from investors in Hong Kong or Singapore (including Japanese investors living there) this July. Currently no VC firms are included on the Kudan’s shareholders list because of the firm’s aim to promote technological developments over the medium to long term.

The two firms did not establish any financial tie in this business alliance, but constructed a scheme where Kudan provides its technologies while Hakuhodo performs planning and promotion for advertisement applications utilizing them. Kudan regards the game or education industry as a main potential market for its AR technologies or SLAM engine, looking to enhance its public awareness both inside and outside of Japan through the tie-up with Hakuhodo in the advertisement sector.

Kudan CFO Ken Iizuka commented on this:

Our potential clients do not know how to use our technologies yet. It is important to visually show how they can be used.

Yet, how can they be used? I met Iizuka at the Tokyo office and saw some demonstration of the apps employing the SLAM. A video of the demo follows.

In AdTech International held at Sophia University in Tokyo this August, the company’s founder / CEO Tomohiro Ohno took part in a panel discussion under the theme of the globalization of startups. There he said that Japan is not always the best place to start up, and the reason for choosing Bristol in UK as a place for research and development promotion.

Although the firm has an office in Tokyo as a basement of back office works and sales promotion, their targeted market is not only Japan, but also North America, Europe and Southeast Asia. With the advantages of having dispensed with markers and making AR available with single-lens cameras, the firm expects utilization in the automotive industry which has especially large demands and where it is easy to differentiate with other rival technologies.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Kudan founder / CEO Tomohiro Ohno (photographed at AdTech International held at Sophia University)