Michael Guerin is the founder of Imvizar, an augmented reality (AR) start-up focused on making it as easy to access AR content as Spotify makes it to access music.
“Currently, it’s difficult to find good quality AR content as so much of it gets lost in the depths of the App Store,” Guerin says. “Our global platform will aggregate AR experiences and allow anyone anywhere to upload, share, and enjoy experiences using a single mobile app. Because we’re focusing specifically on AR, no headset or other equipment is needed. All content is viewed on a user’s phone screen.”
The second strand to Imvizar’s bow is creating immersive content and potential applications for its technology range from recreating historical events to education and entertainment. “To date, immersive technologies have largely focused on industrial and workplace applications. We saw the opportunity to use the technology to enhance a physical space or recreate events from the past,” Guerin says.
“With AR we can rebuild a castle from ruins, bring historical characters back to life or ‘walk’ someone through the Dublin docklands so they can see what life was like in the Famine times as millions of Irish poured onto the famine ships. Seeing historical characters appear in front of you and tell you their own story evokes a truly different and deeper emotional connection than it’s possible to experience with a narrator and an audio soundtrack.”
Guerin set up Imvizar in 2021 and there are now five people in the core team. The company is focusing on tourism and visitor attractions initially and will work with local authorities and directly with attractions to help them tell their stories in an interactive way.
This type of immersive technology can be eye-wateringly expensive to deploy so Guerin, who originally studied commerce and toyed briefly with becoming an accountant, has come up with a business model that takes the sting out of the upfront costs. “Basically we’ve gone for shared risk meaning we develop the experience and then take a share of the revenues. This keeps the entry point low for an attraction,” he says.
Imvizar is already revenue-generating with attractions up and running in Sligo, Cork, Portugal and Long Beach California. When a visitor arrives they download the Imvizar app which leads them into the individual attraction's fully branded AR experience. "This as an opportunity for anyone running an attraction to revitalise it for the post-Covid world," Guerin says. "It provides a completely new exhibit which can help boost revenues while simultaneously increasing engagement with the under 35s."
Guerin is no stranger to emerging and immersive technologies having been closely involved with the formation of the award-winning Smart Docklands initiative. He has acted as a strategic advisor to the Harvard Technology and Entrepreneurship Centre and previously worked as national operations manager for Startup Ireland. He also led the connectivity programme at Smart Docklands which included deploying Ireland's first urban small cell 5G testbed.
“I could see the potential of 5G and future connectivity to unlock the possibilities of AR and I set up Imvizar to explore this and make it easy for anyone to share and access AR content,” he says. “In my role with Smart Docklands I got exposure to a huge range of new and emerging technologies from AR/VR to IoT to 5G. Having first encountered engaging AR in 2017 I had a keen interest in what the technology could mean in a smart city context. However, I subsequently realised its potential to have a profound impact on storytelling.”
Guerin has kept Imvizar's start-up costs to the minimum with roughly €40,000 invested to date between founder equity and support from Dún Laoghaire Rathdown LEO and Enterprise Ireland. The company is currently in the process of launching a pre-seed round to raise €600,000.