Three BYU graduates are changing how the world thinks about enjoying a traditional fireworks show on the Fourth of July through their local startup, Seek, an up-and-coming technology called augmented reality (AR).
The founders of Seek have made it possible for any person to create his or her own fireworks show and choreograph it to a favorite song that friends and family can enjoy. This can be accomplished through an AR studio, called Seek Studio, that Seek released three weeks ago.
Seek Studio is a template-based studio where user-unique AR experiences can be created at a touch of a button. One of the templates, which was inspired by the upcoming celebration of the Fourth of July, is a grid of fireworks. The user gets to pick the color and shape of the firework when it explodes and the song to which the fireworks show is choreographed.
No longer are fireworks shows limited to a pitch-black sky. Instead, someone can create a unique fireworks show on Seek Studio and look through a phone’s camera and screen to enjoy the fireworks show with a sunset as the backdrop. That is where the AR technology comes in.
“AR is overlaying a digital object or image on the real world,” Seek CEO Jon Cheney said. Augment means to enhance, so AR enhances a person’s reality by overlaying a 3D digital object on the real world through a camera. Familiar examples of AR technology are the puppy dog ears on Snapchat lenses and the Pokemon in Pokemon Go.
Although creating a fireworks show through AR may sound difficult to some, Seek Studio has made it as easy as making a video — or at least close to it.
“It is so easy. I don’t want people to think, ‘That looks really cool, but I don’t think I could do it.’ Literally, a five-year-old could do it. I don’t want people to be afraid of it. I want people to say, ‘I know I am capable of creating AR content,'” Cheney said.
Every AR fireworks show created through Seek Studio can be shared by a link, meaning it can last forever instead of ending with a grand finale.
Cheney said they are trying to integrate Seek Studio into the company’s main product, Seek XR — essentially, the YouTube of AR. Seek XR is a free app where anyone can publish, discover and share AR content.
Seek XR acts as a search engine much in the same way YouTube does, but it is a platform for only AR content. Seek Studio gets into the creative side of AR because it provides templates that make creating AR experiences fun and easy.
“Our goal is to have the most AR content and the most people viewing that content than any other platform,” said Cheney.
Seek is experiencing success in the relatively new market of AR. The company has raised about $2 million and has made about $1 million in sales in the last 12 months, according to Cheney. Seek is actively raising funds right now, which will hopefully help to double the size of its team and continue to grow the company.
“I really do see it as that central discovery platform for AR,” said Seek COO Mike Snow, and co-founder of Seek.
Although the three co-founders — Cheney, White and Snow — have been successful in their AR business venture, the success would not have come without their entrepreneurial mindsets.
Cheney, who graduated from BYU with a major in Chinese and a minor in business, has been an entrepreneur since he was a little boy. During Christmastime, he would go door-to-door selling bushels of mistletoe. While at BYU, he ran his own kayak school.
“Clearly startups are where I thrive and where I feel the most comfortable but at the same time uncomfortable. If we fail, it is my fault. If we succeed, it is my team’s fault,” Cheney said.
At BYU Cheney learned important values that have helped him succeed in his career.
“BYU helped me know how to think, work with others and get something done when it needs to get done,” Cheney said.
Snow, who graduated from BYU as a pre-med student, also had entrepreneurial aspirations.
Speaking about Cheney, Snow said, “We were just random college roommates at BYU. We became good friends and had a lot of mutual interests.” That friendship is what led them to start the business ventures together that eventually led to Seek.
Cheney’s advice to BYU students thinking about starting their own company is to go for it. He said to move forward every single day, even if only in small increments. He also warned students to not forget where everything comes from.
“Being prayerful and close to the Spirit is the number one thing that has attributed to our success. I have an advantage over all the people in Silicon Valley. I have prayer,” said Cheney.
Seek, with its office in Lehi, is made up of about 15 employees, many of which are BYU graduates. The company is always looking for great interns for 3D animation, development or marketing.
This coming Wednesday, Seek is hoping to enhance everyone’s Fourth of July through AR fireworks shows. “I just really hope that people will get out and build an AR experience — one of these firework experiences — on the Fourth of July and remember what the day stands for,” White said.
More information about Seek can be found at its websites seekxr.com and studio.seekxr.com.