Tim Porter, cofounder of Underminer Studios.

Underminer Studios, an Austin-based startup focused on Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality applications, is hosting ATXRHACK, an immersive technology hackathon at WalMart’s Technology center downtown.

The hackathon focuses on creating innovative solutions for real industry problems. It is sponsored by Underminer Studios, Intel, Walmart, Galvanize, occipital, Cuvee Coffee and Capital Factory. The sponsors will present their challenges and the hackathon participants will form teams to compete to find the best solutions. The event takes place the weekend of June 29th and runs through July 1st. Tickets are $50 and include food and drinks and prizes will be awarded to the top teams.

Alex Porter, one of the founders of Underminer Studios, provided more information on her company in the following Q&A via email.

Q. What is your company?

Underminer Studios was formed in 2016 by Alex and Tim Porter. Our family had been at the mercy of the video game industry and had lived in five cities in four years: New Orleans; Victoria, BC; Vancouver, BC; Los Angeles; Austin and we were ready to begin using the technical skills of Tim and the business skills of Alex to create our own future.

Our goal is to create a clear vision to effectively leverage Visualization Technologies. Successful implementation of powerful visual tools combined with data, analytics, and the newest hardware solutions can solidify industry leadership and provide a competitive edge for any business. We specialize in creating unique tools for growth and expansion especially in entertainment, health, marketing and education applications.

Q. Who are your customers?

Our beginnings include creating the IP and backend for the VRideo 360 video player which was a launch title on Vive, Rift, Gear, and PSVR. Marker-less facial tracking for ULSee which is a Unity Plugin now and is used by Chinese Hollywood for face swap with stunt doubles. We have worked extensively with the Intel Innovator Program to create Early Innovation projects, articles, and host events. One project actually demonstrated and defined the term XR (Extended Reality) through Intel, EnVRonments in which we combined the power of object tracking from Augmented Reality and the immersive experience of Virtual Reality for a dynamic use case. Our work has also included an AR comic, several medical devices, plus other training and marketing tools.

Q. Who is on your team?

Alexandria Porter is an experienced serial entrepreneur, designer, and leader. Her background in physical and digital design began when earning a BS in Interior Design. As a founder of Underminer she has lead the firm in development of more than 12 titles with Immersive Visual Technology. As a Chief Executive Officer her work includes cultivating the company vision, building a stellar team, and creating valuable assets to meet stakeholder’s goals. In addition to her primary job functions, Alex has been recognized by Intel for her extraordinary commitment to leading-edge technology development as a 2017 Top Innovator.

Timothy Porter, a pioneer in Visual Technology, is the Chief Technology Officer. He started his career in Video Games as a Technical Artist before moving on to endeavors as a serial entrepreneur, and later as a Pipeline Technical Director at Sony Picture Imageworks, during his career he published more than 50 titles on a multitude of platforms. Driven by a mission to utilize entertainment paradigms in leading-edge technology, Tim is best known for inspiring others to imagine the endless possibilities with technology and executing that vision. He was recognized as a 2017 Top Innovator by Intel.

Kevin Chaja, Chief Strategy Officer, began his career in post-production at Warner Bros Motion Picture Imaging. From there he moved on to Myspace, Filmlight, New Hat, Sony Colorworks utilizing his expertise in engineering, QA, and coding automation. He has served as Head of QA for Dolby Vision and recently served as Sony’s Executive Director of Post Production. As an entrepreneur he delved into VR/AR with Color Black Moment, an Augmented Reality tool for education and emotional intelligence which was acquired by EQtainment and includes serving as the companies CTO. Other endeavors include being an advisor for a few stealth projects.

Q. Why are you guys the ones to do this startup?

We are passionate and focused on changing the perspective of how technology can solve real problems. With more than two decades of experience on our team in entertainment, business, and technology we are building the paradigms that with shape the future and humanize the digital world.

Q. What challenges do you face bringing your startup into the marketplace?

We have been in the Visualization Technology space with a focus on Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Videogrammetry which are still emerging technologies, so our markets either don’t know much about how they can use them, or they are relegated to nice to have not need to have. Much of our initial work is to educate because most of our clients do not know how they can solve their problems with these advanced solutions, yet.

Q. How do you acquire customers?

Our relationships with the Intel Innovator Program, Occipital, Sony, Vive, Leap Motion as well as our networks in video games, movies, and production have been key to acquiring customers. We are actively participating in professional conferences, demo and speaking opportunities that have also created recognition and attracted customers.

Q. What is the business model?

Our business model is a Service Model where we offer a process to ease clients into emerging technology. We begin with a Discovery Phase in which yields a Technology Strategy Plan and can include feasibility studies for software and hardware, team building, and an overview of how to take a concept from idea to product. Then we move to a Prototyping Phase to build out a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and lastly we are available for the Development Phase of a product in which we can be the primary or the management for an outsourced team.

Our product, Volumation, is a PaaS model enabling clients to capture videos on their own equipment using set parameters, then send us the very large amount of data and lastly, we return the assets after churn reducing the necessity for the massive infrastructure.

Q. Are you bootstrapped or do you have angel or VC financing?

We have been bootstrapping since we began our company in 2016. Raising a Founder Round for Volumation last year and considering next steps as we begin to grow.

Q. What Austin resources have you found most helpful?

The Austin Startup community is amazing. The Female Founder+ group has been a wonderful place to ask questions, get support, and stay motivated. We have participated in many events Startup Week, SXSW, and Meetups as well as previously being members at Capital Factory where we embraced the collective knowledge of the Mentors.

Q. What has been your biggest win so far?

Our pivot to a hybrid consulting and development model was an important shift. Working in leading-edge technology is not easy and requires more communication and clarity than standard development. This change has helped to stream-line our processes and create an easier entry point for our clients with fewer barriers, more understanding, and better products. It has also been a huge win to fully develop a product of our own that has so much market potential.

Q. What is your long-term vision?

Much of our work has been on the path to creating impactful uses of technology for the betterment of the world and we plan to continue doing so with a focus on health applications. Volumation as a tool is going to evolve and allow us to move into medical. We envision using it to capture and analyze the body for varied uses from surgery to physical therapy and beyond. We want to realize our vision for virtual reality therapy, VR concussion detection, improved drive controls for motorized wheelchairs and more.

Q: How are you giving back to the Austin Community?

Through our work with the Intel Innovation program we are able to sponsor small events and offer resources to the local community. We have worked with Silicon Hills News, AR/VR Tools and Tech, Videogame Makers Unite, Austin Developer Week, VR Austin and other local organizations to support and create opportunity here at home. Our next event is the ATXRHACK a hackathon focusing on Visualization Technologies; AR/VR/MR/XR and offering learning opportunities with Tech Talks with prizes, food, and of course caffeine all weekend. We kickoff with a mixer on Friday June 29th at 5pm, Saturday is all about Innovation + Collaboration, and Sunday July 1st concludes with presentations and awards at 2:00pm. This event is hosted by Walmart Technology and sponsored by Intel Innovators, Occipital, Vive, Capital Factory, Cuvee Coffee, Galvanize and Underminer Studios. Learn more and grab your tickets at ATXRHACK.