AirMarkr.com is a mobile app that lets you draw in the air in 3D real-space anywhere you wish. It just won first prize at the MLOVE startup competition. In our interview, Miho Tanaka (CEO & Founder) gives insights on Airmarkr, her background and on what keeps her going.
Originally from Japan and raised in New Zealand, Tanaka realized she needed a new challenge. She decided she wanted to live in a country where she is unfamiliar with the language, culture and the people to see how she would do. Using a working holiday visa and looking at a list of countries, she became interested in Germany and finally decided to move to Berlin.
Starting in 2012, Tanaka first pitched at the Campus Party Berlin. During that time, she was still working fulltime in interactive campaign strategy and concept creation for global brands. She later quit to concentrate on Airmarkr.
The self funded startup is currently building its third prototype.
VENTUREVILLAGE: What does AirMarkr do and how did you come up with it?
Tanaka: AirMarkr lets you draw in the air in 3D real-space. The idea came when a good friend of mine was telling me about a light writing app he came across. It had two parts: a camera function and a torch function. One person draws with the torch function while the other person takes the photo with the camera function. An app that requires two people and two phones to operate, selling functions that are already preloaded on most phones…it was the most absurd thing I’d heard.
I thought, they should use the motion tracking data of the phone and visualise that path via AR and at least that way you only need one person to use the app. Then I thought, I should make this app, and that’s how it all started.
VENTUREVILLAGE: Describe the person who will use your app in the future.
Tanaka: Anyone who uses a paintbrush, chalk, spray can, or any other tool for expression. With the technology we have today, and one that’s advancing at breakneck speed, there is no reason for you to be limited to drawing on a physical surface.
VENTUREVILLAGE: Has anybody used it yet?
Tanaka: Not the app, since it’s not released yet. But we did a collaborative project with Imogen Heap to create some of the visualisations for her music video Me the Machine. It was super exciting to be part of this project since it was her very first song entirely composed and performed with her motion sensing Mi.Mu gloves.
VENTUREVILLAGE: Who’s behind AirMarkr?
Tanaka: My amazing team! Conor Haines, our co-founder CTO (and the creator of our motion tracking system) has worked for NASA, and he’s developed tools for intuitive human machine interaction for the German AeroSpace Center.
Roman Miletitch, another co-founder is finishing his Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence, and he’s previously created a 3D motion capture system and a writing engine for visualising sign language.
Nick Arner is our developer. His thesis was an “Investigation of the use of MultiTouch Gestures in Music Interaction”.
VENTUREVILLAGE: What are the first things that come to your mind? Fill out the blank:
– mobile and: fun.
– Sundays and: Mondays, same same when you’re a founder.
– Berlin and: LOVE! Even after three years, I’m still such a gushy tourist, but this city makes me all googly eyed every time I step outside on the cobbled tree-lined streets or the lush parks.
VENTUREVILLAGE: What was your biggest learning so far?
Tanaka: You gain more from openness and trust in the goodness of others than from the opposite (which is what I used to be). You can’t build something with other people if you don’t have those two key things.
VENTUREVILLAGE: If you have a bad day, what gets you going?
My grandparents. Especially my grandma. All throughout her life, if she wanted to do something she’d find a way to make it happen with a complete disregard for obstacles and convention. She is my greatest role model.
VENTUREVILLAGE: Thank you for your time and insights!
Disclaimer: The author of this article was also part of the MLOVE startup competition jury.