Krikey founders Jhanvi and Ketaki Shriram explain why they think Augmented Reality will be the next powerful thing after YouTube
The Shriram sisters chat with Meaww about the concept behind Krikey, the AR app, about film production and plans for Krikey in the future
Imagine looking at your phone's screen and seeing characters of your favorite films coming to life. In a couple of years, it may not be limited to just your mind palace, thanks to the advancement of Augmented Reality. It could potentially bridge the gap between the storytellers and the rest of the world. Krikey, an Augmented Reality App, aims to bring that imagination into 3D and let you hold it in your hands...virtually of course.
Started by sisters Jhanvi Shriram, a Stanford MBA graduate and Ketaki Shriram, a Stanford Ph.D. student, the story of Krikey is relatively new. The adventure began in the Okavango Delta, where the sisters traveled together on safari. It was awe-inspiring to experience elephants and lions in real life - but sharing their photos didn’t convey the emotions they felt when they were a few yards away from an elephant playing in the water.
The pair set out to create a VR experience but quickly realized the cost and headset adoption hurdles were too steep for a small startup. They searched for a more scalable solution and decided on mobile Augmented Reality. The app was released in February of this year. The two have also co-produced a film called 'True Son', that follows a 22-year-old boy who runs for Stockton city council and brings together the youth in the city to vote for change.
Meaww chatted with the sisters about the concept behind the app, about film production and plans for Krikey in the future. Time to fuel your imagination:
1. What is the story behind Krikey?
“Krikey” is an Australian slang expression of excitement or awe at seeing something remarkable. Our hope is that our users feel this same emotion when experiencing Augmented Reality in the Krikey App. We were also traveling together in Australia as we were trying to file our incorporation documents!
We knew we wanted to work together post-graduation and went into school with a plan to diversify our skill sets. We went through a lot of different company ideas before settling on Krikey. It blended our interests well with technology, storytelling and art - and allows us to keep pushing the technical boundaries of augmented reality through multi-player games and computer vision.
2. What was going through your heads when you two were putting the idea together?
At first, we just kept asking questions, “What if this [or that] was possible in AR?” There are a lot of options to pursue within Augmented Reality and narrowing down our scope was the first challenge. Next was who do we think might use this? We did user tests with young people in different age ranges over summer break and kept refining our plan. At the time we hadn’t built an app and had not yet figured out how to get objects to appear in camera - but we didn’t give up and found an awesome team to work with to solve each technical challenge that came up in the process of building Krikey.
3. What are your views on AR being used in the entertainment industry in the future?
We strongly believe that AR will be as powerful to the next generation of young creators as YouTube was in 2006. Our goal is to entertain the world through Augmented Reality. We hope Krikey’s AR features will be a bridge between the entertainment industry and young storytellers.
4. What would this mean for a viewer and the art of storytelling?
In her PhD, Ketaki studied the impact of VR on empathy and specific embodiment of different avatars and animals. With Krikey we want to build AR experiences that increase empathy between people and their environments. To do this successfully it must be part of an interactive, engaging story. With each AR experience, we are learning how users want to tell stories - whether it’s through custom animation controls or increased engagement when AR objects move on the z-axis. In the Krikey world, the viewer is the creator, weaving their story on camera. Our team is constantly learning how to improve the art of storytelling in AR, it is never a process with a final answer because it must constantly evolve.
5. To build something of this magnitude couldn't have been easy. What was your biggest challenge?
Recruiting has always been the biggest challenge! People are a company’s greatest resource and finding good people (who also believe female founders can succeed!) is hard. Lots of candidates have the technical skill set required but may not be a good cultural fit with the team. Diversity in hiring is also very important to us - not just in terms of race and gender but also life experience and age. Every team member brings a unique, valuable perspective to the table. We have an awesome team and we love them - they work really hard and are supportive of each other and the team’s goals each week. We are very particular about hiring and cultivating a strong and respectful team culture.
6. You have also co-produced a film. What was it like working on True Son?
It was so much fun! We loved making the film and really enjoyed working with the entire True Son team. It’s been so rewarding to see everyone’s careers post-film, especially Michael as he became Mayor! We are very grateful we had that opportunity and learned so much from the experience. Many of those lessons in team management and business we are able to apply forward to Krikey. (The film ‘True Son’ is also now on iTunes!)
7. Would you want to produce more films in the future?
Absolutely yes! We have written several scripts and books together (none of which we have published but hope to one day when life is less busy). Our favorite genres are young adult fiction (for books) and historical films with a strong female lead. We did get to pitch an AR/VR sci-fi TV show just over a year ago which was also a great learning experience for us (writing and pitching in a different genre).
8. Anything new coming up for Krikey?
We have lots of fun multi-player AR games (first app to have these on the market!) and some neat branded experiences coming up this summer. Thank you for trying out the app and supporting us! Our goal is to be the AR entertainment platform for the next generation.