Arqball Spin Brings 3D Visualizations to Phones and Tablets

February 15, 2012

10:30 am

Arqball’s bootstrapping founders, Abhi Shelat and Jason Lawrence, are having a blast making visualization technology for education and scientific use. Their newest product, Arqball Spin, will be debuting at SXSW in March.

Arqball Spin is like YouTube for 3D. It lets you capture, author, annotate and share 3D visualizations of objects using your phone or tablet. DNA structures and museum artifacts can be rotated with a tap of the finger for a more complete understanding of the object being presented.

I asked Shelat for some insight into Arqball’s work process. The two UVA computer science professors work well together, utilizing complementary skillsets. “Idea flow is easy when we get talking – the ideas come faster than we can bother to study them, and it is a fun process.”  As for launching Arqball – “It started organically and informally,” according to Shelat.

We both spent years earning PhDs in highly specific topics. That process gave us a lot of discipline, but it also puts us a bit out of touch with what most people consider interesting uses of computers. For example, I can’t spend more than twenty seconds on Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja – so to my financial detriment,  I’ve ruled out a lot of ways to make highly impactful software.

I asked Shelat what has been the hardest thing about starting up, and he admitted grappling with doubt and wondering, “Are we doing the right thing?” But his advice for fellow entrepreneurs is simple: “The hard work shouldn’t be a chore.”

Arqball is a finalist in the 2012 SXSW Accelerator Program in the mobile category. You can check out their 3D visualizations for yourself on their website.

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Meg Rayford is a communications consultant based in Northern Virginia. She previously spent two years as the Director of Public Relations for a nonprofit startup, where she learned a lot about providing clean water for impoverished countries, even within the confines of a bootstrapped startup.

She is the editor of Tech Cocktail, and she develops media strategies for companies in Washington, DC and Virginia. You can read her most recent work in the marketing chapter of the upcoming book, “Social Innovation and Impact in Nonprofit Leadership,” which will be published in Spring 2014 by Springer Publishing. Follow her @megkrayford.

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