Back in September, two Georgia Tech students, Sarthak Srinivas and Charu Thomas, took the stage at TechSquare Labs’ quarterly competition, Atlanta Startup Battle, pitching a solution to solve a $1.45 million logistics problem for warehouses. That startup — supply chain optimization company Oculogx — took the crown (and a $100K investment) later that night.
The winning pitch put a spotlight on a major challenge — these massive warehouses are still picking orders by hand. That’s where Oculogx’s augmented reality headset and software come in.
By using Microsoft’s HoloLens and Azure, Oculogx is able to create a turn-by-turn navigation with detailed information for the most complicated warehouse spaces. This gamifies the order picking experience and helps workers efficiently locate items within these massive warehouses.
Here, the Oculogx team shares more about scaling their 6-month old startup following their battle win, how they balance their studies with being a startup founder, and their goals for the next year.
What’s your pitch?
We’re building an Augmented Reality application to help workers find and pick orders in warehouses.
How’d you get the idea for this?
A few months ago, Sarthak visited a transportation warehouse. It was a tiny, 100 square-foot facility, but it still took 20 minutes to rummage through binders to find what had been ordered and another 20 minutes to find the actual item. He was shocked by the disparity between the advanced technologies that were being investigated at his lab and the failure of the basics. Sarthak is an Augmented Reality researcher who’s published with Thad Starner, inventor of Google Glass and Wearable Computing Pioneer.
In addition, he worked on building the world’s first Augmented Reality web browser, Argon. When he met Charu, an internationally published logistics researcher who suggested automation for the supply chain for McDonald’s and worked with Larry Sweet, the Worldwide Director of Automation at Amazon, they both realized that solutions involving automation don’t work in some scenarios because robots simply aren’t dexterous enough for items.
What problem are you solving?
Our first product is to help workers find and pick orders in warehouses. Order picking is difficult because essentially workers are working long shifts on their feet, while carrying/operating bulky equipment. We’re making the process more streamlined and smooth.
There’s over 750,000 warehouses worldwide, and up to 60 percent of the operational costs are due to order picking. It’s a huge and important process.
What are the challenges you’ve encountered as a student startup founder?
Balance is a pretty difficult challenge — it seems like there’s always something to do for school or for the startup. Sarthak handles it pretty well — he has priorities for what matters (startup > school) and works according to that. I’m a little bit worse; I have high standards for my academics and my work at the startup, so it ends up getting a bit hectic. As I’m writing this, I’m studying for an important Linear & Convex Optimization Midterm tomorrow.
What are some lessons you’ve learned as you grow your business that may be helpful for others?
Intelligence means nothing in business. There’s a ton of smart people wherever you go, but you’ll be hard pressed to find someone willing to commit. As Woodrow Wilson put it: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence”.
What kind of resources are you looking for?
We’re excited to see this in real facilities so we’re looking for warehouses who’d be interested in beta testing our technology. We want to iterate fast on our product, so getting it in use would be incredibly helpful.
Do you have competitors?
There’s a few companies in the vision picking space in particular, but none of them are focusing on how indoor routing can improve efficiency.
How does Atlanta weave into your startup story?
Atlanta, in a nutshell, is our home. Our investors and office are here (right at TechSquare Labs) and we both are Georgia Tech students. We do research at TSRB with Thad Starner, and our lab is quite literally across the street.
What are your goals for the next 6 months?
For the next 6 months, we’re focusing all our efforts on deploying this in a real facility and iterating on our design.
Muriel Vega contributed to article development.