Jamie Fleming launched studio216 in 2005 and helped build the digital content agency for more than a decade. But after the recent acquisition of a Seattle mixed reality startup called Z-Axon, the firm has pivoted over the past 18 months into a software startup called Altoura.
The company just raised a $1.1 million round from investors including id345, an angel investor club; Pradeep Singh, founder of Aditi Consulting; Edward Yim, president of Blue Moon Ventures; Mike McClure, partner at MJR Development; and others.
While augmented and virtual reality products have yet to catch on with mainstream consumers, the immersive technology is finding a place inside businesses who are using it to train employees, create marketing materials, visualize designs, help workers in the field, and more.
That’s where Altoura comes in. The company sells enterprise software that creates a “digital twin” of various physical environments. For example, real estate customers use Altoura to create mock-ups of properties that can be shown during a live VoIP call with multiple people at once.
Other use cases include retailers that want to train employees about how to sell various products inside a store or how to handle different customer profiles. It’s similar to how Walmart is using virtual reality technology to hire new managers.
Another Altoura customer uses the software to train pilots in a “digital twin” of a 737 cockpit.
“We’re finding a lot of interest and success where employee actions are influenced by the environment they work under,” said Bharat Ahluwalia, CTO of Altoura who previously co-founded Z-Axon. “Being able to do it digitally lets you scale training really well.”
Customers listed on Altoura’s site include Sprint, Alaska Airlines, Skanska, Windermere Real Estate, and others.
Altoura is a Microsoft Mixed Reality partner, which helps the company get access to new customers. Its software runs on Azure and works with Microsoft’s HoloLens device, but is also compatible with other headsets and smartphones.
Microsoft has been investing in mixed reality for several years, with executives pointing to the concept as the third wave of computing. Microsoft is looking to differentiate itself from many others in virtual and augmented reality, such as Oculus and Magic Leap, by focusing primarily on business and industrial applications, rather than games and consumer apps. The company announced a related partnership with Airbus in June and is reportedly releasing its latest device, HoloLens 2, this month.
Before he launched Z-Axon in 2016, Ahluwalia worked at Microsoft for more than six years, most recently as a principal program manager on the HoloLens team.
Fleming is a design veteran who worked at NBBJ before launching studio216 in 2005.
Altoura has offices in Seattle, Shanghai, and Bangalore.