One of Kansas City’s first city-backed ventures to capitalize on the speed of Google Fiber is set to officially launch next week. Fittingly, it’s from a company that could help other entrepreneurs speed up how they pitch their own products.
SightDeck, a spinoff of Los Angeles-based tech company iMatte, provides HD telepresence with a lot of extra tricks. Not only does the system have the capacity to broadcast remote meetings, it can fuse them together using a drop screen and infrared technology that allows up to four attendees in different locations to appear in the same room and manipulate background graphics by touch, like a gigantic iPad.
For startups clustered around Google Fiber, the fact that it also functions as a stand-alone film studio with those baked-in special effects will be key. As a part of LaunchKC, the city’s own incubator, SightDeck CEO Richard Welnowski had received free meeting room space inside the city’s historic Union Station, the site of a proposed $2 million city-backed technology lab. He hopes to give other affiliated startups free access to tape their own VC pitches or product demos.
Welnowski, an Emmy award-winning filmmaker, is from the area and chose to locate his company in Kansas City in part because Fiber will provide the necessary speed and bandwidth to keep broadcasts from buffering, key to the seamless experience. Of course, businesses in the area aren’t connected to Fiber yet; so far, Google has only started residential hookups. For now, the system will demonstrate its remote capabilities over a Time Warner data feed that the city is also providing. (It connects with another unit, located at iMatte headquarters.) Very soon, though, it could have other outlets to showcase; schools and libraries go hot in each neighborhood that comes online.
Priced at $125,000 per unit—double that if you want a second system to actually conference with—Welnowski’s gear will require a hefty investment for any company. To that end, he hopes startup participation will be sort of like his own product demo. As he puts it: "SightDeck is like a Ferrari. Now you need a good driver."