Kodama is a new platform launching today (6th June) on Kickstarter that allows people to intuitively express their imagination in 3D environments. The first commercial use of the technology, Kodama3DGo, will allow kids – or adults with a taste for imagination – to create in three dimensions by moving the 3DGo controller with their hands.
We sat down with Charles Leclercq, Founder and Director at Kodama, to learn more about where the technology started.
So, Charles, can you tell us a bit about how you got to where you are now?
It started a long time ago when I was a kid – playing with LEGO and visualizing action scenes. My imagination eventually steered me towards a career as a creative at Ubisoft, where I worked on projects like Assassin’s Creed and Prince of Persia. In the creative industry we build 3D content and interactions but we do that using 2D interfaces and there is a mismatch, so, to try to address this problem I left Ubisoft and took the time to explore the future of interaction at the Royal College of Art. A lot of hard work later and here we are.
What inspired you to get directly involved with the engineering and technology?
Well, ultimately, I’m a thinker and a creator, and I want to use my own skills to take my ideas and use them to solve real-life problems. As such, I chose to study engineering so that I could learn to do that.
Where was the inspiration behind Kodama?
It started off as my graduation project while I was studying at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College. I wanted to create a tool that would allow anyone to express their imagination immediately and intuitively. In the creative industry projects always start with somebody’s vision, be it for marketing or for a creative purpose. That person needs to explain what’s in their head to others.
The problem is that when we use tools like a computer and mouse to express ourselves, some of the creative intensity can get lost because the interfaces are designed with a functional requirement rather than with a user experience perspective. I wanted the tool I created to materialise the raw imagination instantly – almost like an interface that doesn’t feel like an interface.
So how did the idea for Kodama evolve over time?
I realised that to achieve what I set out to do, I needed to create a non-optical tracking system to track 3D objects in space. The two key benefits of using a non-optical system for Kodama are that:
- It doesn’t rely on line-of-sight, so it won’t lose signal when something comes between different parts of the interface, and
- It isn’t affected by the lighting conditions around it.
The problem I had was that the technology I needed didn’t exist at that point. I first needed to do a lot of human-centred design research into how the interface should function to allow the intuitive expression of imagination. After that, I had to do more research on how to make it work – to take it from the creative vision to a working solution. Antoni (Co-Founder and CTO) joined me to support the technology side of things, and together we began to refine and expand the idea as we developed Kodama as a company.
So, you place great value on engineering, then?
Absolutely. It’s a great time to study engineering because we’re getting to a period where technologies available to engineers are a lot more accessible. Modern tools like 3D printers and powerful computers make today the perfect moment to take your ideas and materialise them. But, to do that well, it’s key to develop your skills. Learning some basic programming, and how electronics work will help you to best leverage these technologies.
Finally, what makes Kodama accessible?
Certainly. Current computer interfaces require us to adopt a specific user behaviour in order to use them – a behaviour that requires learning. If you think about it, moving a 3D object on a screen with a 2D mouse requires us to remap both what we want to do, and how we do it, to achieve our goal. It’s like speaking in a foreign language rather than your mother tongue. What Kodama does differently is that it adapts the digital to the way humans naturally interact with physical objects, ensuring that the entry barrier to the technology is as low as possible.
This new type of interaction makes the computer more like an instrument than a tool. With the 3DGo, expressing ourselves becomes more natural, intuitive, and inclusive.