Japan’s Recruit shows off virtual reality startups from its Tech Lab Paak accelerator


See the original story in Japanese.

Japan’s Recruit Holdings (TSE:6098) held last month a Demo Day for the 6th batch of its startup accelerator Tech Lab Paak in Shibuya, Tokyo.

Six teams in the regular course and six teams in the VR (virtual reality) course made three-minute pitches presenting their half year results since joining the program. In addition, other nine teams made one-minute pitches which can be voted for the Audience Award although they were excluded from examination by judges, and thereby it became a big pitch event having 21 teams.

Below, I introduced what kind of services were or are going to be born out from Tech Lab Paak, with a focus on prizewinners. The following are judges for the pitch competition in the event.

  • Shintaro Yamagami (CEO, Colopl Next)
  • Shinichiro Isago (Director, Business Strategy, LINE)
  • Hiroshi Hata (Startup Business Development Manager, Amazon Web Services Japan)
  • Yohei Sawayama (Managing Partner, 500 Startups Japan)
  • Yoichi Aso (Head of Media Technology Lab., Recruit Holdings)

Tech Lab Paak Award: HoloEyes

Supplemental prize: pair meal ticket for a hotel dinner

HoloEyes aims to make an information revolution in the medical field using VR. The firm was founded by engineer Naoji Taniguchi and surgeon Maki Sugimoto (Associate Professor, International University of Health and Welfare Graduate School). The technology will be helpful for the medical world by sharing information of human bodies as 3DVR form.

The medical VR database will be constructed through collection of CT scan data and forming 3D human body models, while accumulating thereof. If searching a term “male, 60s, prostate cancer,” 3D images of matched cases will be output. Doctors can utilize them for diagnosis references of similar cases or training upon surgical operations.

The firm expects a business model providing VR viewers for hospitals and selling collected data after obtaining patients’ consent to medical colleges or pharmaceutical companies.

500 Startups Award: MacroSpace

Supplemental prizes: meal tickets worth 30,000 yen

MacroSpace develops a system for the tele-existence. With this system, users wearing sensors attached to the bodies can control remote robots with the users’ same motion via Internet. The existence of avatars in different places may realize “transportation”; tele-diagnosis or tele-education will become possible technically by setting avatars in depopulated areas lack of doctors or teachers. Since the size of robots is independent of the human body, larger robots can be controlled by users so that it can be also utilized for disaster rescues, for example.

The developer Sho Nakanose likened the possibility of tel-existence robots: “everyone can become ironman or cyborg”. The MacroSpace team aims to participate and win the tel-existence-focused global competition ANA Avatar XPRIZE which will be held in the US in 2020 with a total amount of prize money of $21 million. The firm had fundraised 15 million yen (about $130,000) in its seed round from Skyland Ventures and others.

Colopl Next Award: Embody Me by Paneo

Supplemental prize: Apple Store gift cards worth 30,000 yen

Sometimes it is difficult to subtle nuances or contexts accurately in communication with videos or voices such as Skype, as compared to face-to-face communication. Paneo supplements the insufficient parts of the online communication and provides an environment where you do not always have to meet and talk directly.

Although Microsoft has been developing a real-time rendering system using plural Kinect for 3D capturing of human bodies, it is not easy method due to requiring complicated preparation or environment as well as specialized studios. Facebook has been making similar efforts using Oculus also, but it is poor in expressing presences or takes time to create 3D models.

Paneo develops Embody Me which enables an easy creation of 3D models from face photos and allows a group chat system with them. It creates 3D motion pictures based on user’s movement captured by camera, and transfers them to the opposite party in real-time. The team plans to launch its flagship app for HTC Vive or Oculus Rift in early 2017.

LINE Award: Orario

Supplemental prize: a set of uncut boiled snow crab

Hiroki Yoshimoto who is a student of Ritsumeikan University had felt dissatisfaction with that information services provided by the university were scattered and not even be optimized for smartphones, so he started development of Orario. By registering log-in information for the university’s portal website, it gathers information by web scraping and displays information such as canceled classes or supplementary classes on the mobile app for each student.

35,000 students are enrolled in Ritsumeikan University, and the number of monthly active user of the app from the university reaches 18,000. The app is currently available for 8 universities and the team plans to cover 70% of student information for Japan’s top universities by next March. The app has a notebook / resume sharing function among students in the same classes, and the team aims to monetize by setting up a marketplace for trading these class materials in January or implementing a direct recruiting function targeting companies in the future.

Additionally, the team announced that it had raised 20 million yen (about $170,000) from a Japanese consulting firm Vector (TSE:6058) in December, seemingly in its seed round.


Supplemental prizes: Amazon gift cards worth 30,000 yen and a lunch ticket for Amazon cafeteria

The founder of OTON GLASS had started development of the device under the same name because his father suffered from dyslexia, and subsequently the firm completed its 9th prototype with support from people with dyslexia and amblyopia. OTON GLASS recognizes what the user is looking at as visual information and reads them out with a voice through character recognition in order to help the weak-eyed people’ understanding. The firm also develops a translated reader function for non-Japanese users and another glass device named JINRIKI GLASS which forwards images to remote people to have the characters read out.

OTON GLASS team was turned out from Docomo Ventures’ 3rd incubation batch and recently won the third prize of James Dyson Award 2016 – Japan Chapter.

See also:

Special Award: STYLY by Psychic VR LAB

Supplemental prize: a visit right for Microsoft Japan’s Technology Center led by its Director Madoka Sawa

Psychic VR Lab develops a VR shopping platform focusing on fashion named Styly which conveys the appeal inherent in fashion items or fashion brands’ views online. Currently, about 30 brands have been took part in its test, and a virtual shopping demonstration with Styly at the Isetan department store in Shinjuku last year.

Although the service had been assumed to be used only in an environment well-equipped VR devices due to the popularization of VR, as it has become much easier for consumer users to prepare VR environment, the firm will intend to create services allowing VR experiences even with general PCs.

In this event, Psychic VR Lab revealed that it had fundraised an undisclosed amount from Colopl VR Fund and others in its seed round.

See also:

Audience Award: Orario and Macrospace

Supplemental prize: membership of TECH LAB PAAK as Project Member

Explanation of both products omitted since it has already been provided above.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy