In this series of blog interviews, we further introduce the people and organizations behind XR4DRAMA by asking them about their work and their particular interest in the project. Our seventh and last interview partner is Christos Stentoumis, co-founder of the Athens-based IT engineering company up2metric.
1) When did you first get in touch with the concept of situation awareness and XR technology?
I had my first encounter with VR and immersive experiences back in 2014, when I got my PhD. And then, after establishing up2metric in 2016, I participated in the development of a commercial AR application running on an iPad. XR caught my attention early on. I guess that’s because all the devices depend on computer vision algorithms a lot, and that’s our core expertise and academic background here at up2metric. However, situation awareness was a new concept for me – even though it’s implicit to most XR applications.
2) Who is in your team – and what are your colleagues working on at the moment?
We’re currently 14 people at up2metric, all with different expertise, so we can tackle all kinds of research and commercial projects. Of course, not everybody is a part of XR4DRAMA. The core team in this case consists of Anisa Kouka (a photogrammetry and 3D modeling expert), Panagiotis Bikiris (a backend developer, geospatial engineer, and so much more), Nikos Karantakis (an incredibly talented Unity developer), Minas Katsiokalis (another Unity developer with a focus on AR), Alex Nikopoulos (yet another Unity enthusiast and also a machine learning expert), and Monika Sara Kawka (a junior computer vision engineer). And then there’s my partner Ilias Kalisperakis (who usually works on image-based 3D reconstruction) and me, the team lead. I’d say we’re all really into the project and give our best to create impressive results.
3) From your point of view: What are the most interesting aspects about XR4DRAMA?
Well, the most interesting aspect probably is the challenge to deliver an XR application that’s actually useful. XR tech is getting a lot of attention these days, but it hasn’t exactly become the gold standard of human-machine interaction yet. So it’s really interesting to try and create something that’s needed and wanted by the users. Another interesting aspect is XR4DRAMA’s attempt to combine a lot of different data sources and technologies under one roof and create a platform that gives users an enhanced understanding of what’s going on. A third intriguing topic is the computer vision/AI work we’re doing in the XR context. It’s something I expect to evolve a lot in the near future.
4) What could be a challenge for the consortium?
Well, the obvious challenge until now has been the COVID situation. Other than that I don’t expect any problems really. XR4DRAMA is well organized, there’s a lot of good spirit, and getting obstacles out of the way is rather easy. Given our objectives, I’d say the only major challenge now is to deliver well-designed, performant tools that will significantly assist the users of our platform – and not obstruct their work.
5) When the project is over in late 2022, what kind of outcome do you expect?
From the perspective of the consortium, I expect us to have a nice and working product to showcase and – hopefully – exploit further. As a co-founder of up2metric, I intend to have a fully-featured and stable AR application for outdoor environments, so we can expand our portfolio and enter new markets.