With the need for augmented and virtual reality expanding, Automation Alley members BrandXR saw an opportunity to make the technology accessible by going code-free a la Shopify, Squarespace and Canva. By creating accessibility, the company is empowering businesses—that otherwise wouldn’t have the resources—to dive into the AR/VR space with a tool that allows them to maintain their freedom and productivity. What does the future hold for the technology as it continues to seep into every nook and cranny of every single industry? BrandXR CEO and Co-Founder Moody Mattan says less screens and more digital information overlaid on top of the real world.
Moody Mattan’s passion for the XR world—Extended Reality, the 'X' represents a variable for any current or future spatial computing technologies—jumps through the screen! The CEO and Co-Founder of BrandXR, a no-code Augmented Reality platform and award-winning XR studio, is immediately engaging, with an excitement that is infectious. Before long, you will begin to understand his excitement at the boundless opportunities that are the burgeoning world of XR.
Moody and Co-Founder Kunal Patel started BrandXR in 2017 with their first job, a $300,000-plus project, building three VR experiences for NASA and the Kennedy Space Center. They quickly assembled a team of developers and learned a lot in a year of development. In particular, they saw the value that VR brings to simulate space, as well as other industries.
“One of the things we found out was, it's really a unique skill set to be able to build these 3D augmented reality experiences. It's a skillset that is just not in a lot of Fortune 1000 companies,” said Moody. “Not a lot of companies just have game developers sitting around, hanging out, waiting to build something. That was kind of more validation for BrandXR."
With the need for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality expanding, Moody and BrandXR saw the need to make it accessible, thus the BrandXR studio platform doesn't require any coding experience. As early users of sites like Shopify, Squarespace, and Canva, no code became part of BrandXR's DNA. Moody knew the power of accessibility.
“I'm like patient zero. I don't know how to code. I'm a business guy. I know sales, I know finance, I know marketing. But I don't know everything, right? And I know what I don't know, so I don't know how to code," Moody explained. "So, I selfishly wanted to build this tool for myself because I had all these ideas about how AR could be used in business, but I couldn't build it."
Moody’s bottom line is that experts don’t know how to build this technology, nor should they be forced—they have other areas to focus on. Learning VR is not useful to a rocket scientist. It was important to BrandXR to empower people, knowing that not everyone has the time or resources to learn or even build a team. Industry experts need a tool they can use so they can maintain their freedom and productivity.
Moody has worked in many parts of the country and the world, including Silicon Valley, and figured out he didn't need to be there to start a tech company. So, when there was a need for him to return to Michigan to assist his family, he knew it was also an opportunity to build a company with his vision his way, with his people, and in his hometown.
However, Detroit, being a smaller market provided some challenges, one of which was fundraising. Participating in Automation Alley’s Accelerator program and winning the Industry 4.0 prize were vital in helping BrandXR grow, Moody feels. In addition, BrandXR recently obtained investment from Morgan Stanley which gives them a presence not only in Michigan but also in New York and Orlando, Florida.
The BrandXR team has not let the challenges of a smaller market stop them from reinvesting in the community. BrandXR is making an impact throughout the community with programs such as Electrifly Detroit Augmented Reality Mural Festival and their industry-specific XR hackathons.
They recently launched an AR Mural Festival to showcase the work they've done with various artists. The festival runs through Oct. 31 in various locations throughout Michigan. Murals are located in Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, Sterling Heights and there are eight murals located in the Metro Detroit area between Downtown and Eight Mile. By downloading the free Electrifly Augmented Reality Art app to a smartphone, visitors can experience each mural at its site by simply holding up the phone to the mirror and watching the still, painted walls explode into life.
The Hackathons are the creation of Moody's business partner Kunal Patel. He developed a nonprofit for indie game developers and AR/VR developers called Indienomicon. Indienomicon and BrandXR joined forces to put on the 48-hour hackathons, which pairs AR/VR developers with industry leaders to create and problem solve, giving both groups a way to network. They began with the space jam hackathon: Indiegalactic Space Jam, which yielded BrandXR's NASA and Kennedy Space Center project. They've gone on to do Armed Forces Jam and Mega Health Jam, which is a medical industry project. The company will soon launch an automotive industry-based hackathon in Michigan. For Moody, the hackathons further cement the powerful reach of AR/VR to move industries forward in everything from customer engagement, education and service.
"It was amazing to see doctor's minds getting blown that you could prescribe a video game that would be more effective than any drug," said Moody.
For Moody and his brothers, the drive and vision come naturally. Moody described the household he grew up in as entrepreneurial. Their father, a Syrian immigrant, always had businesses. After earning a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering he immediately opened a restaurant and continued to build several businesses, which are still in operation, including a travel agency and a food distribution business. Moody, Zach, and Malik all worked in them and as Moody puts it, "really get, like, hard knocks, business 101 lessons from the streets sort of thing…that was great. That taught me really how to do business."
Brand XR and the XR world are pretty unstoppable at the moment, as the uses and demand for the technology continue to grow. Moody has seen it, "seep into every nook and cranny of every single industry." But Moody understands that humans are used to living in 3D despite the fact we currently live in a world full of screens. Most office workers are spending 80% to 90% of their day looking at a screen. To Moody, the evolution of the screen is its disappearance.
"We can have digital information overlaid on top of the real world, whether we're at work, whether we're at school, whether we're at a restaurant, and we want to look at a menu, and we want to see what this $50 burger looks like..." Moody jokes. But all joking aside, the evolution of XR means BrandXR will continue to create, innovate and lead us into new worlds for a long time.