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Fracture Reality

Fracture Reality joins the Digital Catapult Augmentor programme to position its virtual meeting platform as a commercial proposition.

In recent years, the workplace has changed dramatically. Today, teams are dispersed and expertise is scattered across continents, as long-standing cultural and technology restraints are replaced by new ‘work from anywhere’ policies.

Although remote working was on the rise, Covid-19 led to an unprecedented shift in homeworking, leaving teams with no option but to collaborate online. As businesses struggled with the new normal, Fracture Reality saw this as an opportunity to pivot its business model and develop its virtual meeting platform, Join XR.

“We’d been building multi-user immersive software for a while as an agency, but when the pandemic arrived, that was the trigger for us,” said Rob Minson, co-founder and CTO of Fracture Reality.

“Everybody wanted remote working solutions using immersive tech, so we decided to stop doing our agency work and focus on a collaborative meeting platform that could scale across all organisations and use cases.”

The company founders Rob Minson and Mark Knowles-Lee met in Brighton, where they worked together in the games industry for multinational organisations including Disney and Mind Candy.

In the first few years of business, Fracture Reality operated as an agency, creating bespoke mixed reality solutions, with services that ranged from design and engineering solutions to multi-user holographic experiences, digital twin interfaces and bespoke HoloLens2 application development.

While mixed reality is frequently associated with gaming, entertainment and social applications, the technology is not widely recognised as a productivity tool.

“There are many organisations who want to start leveraging virtual and augmented reality technology, but for many, it’s unclear where to start,” explained Rob Minson.

“If an organisation needs to hire a 20-person team of 3D experience engineers, that’s a high barrier to entry.”

Transforming ideas into usable systems.

JoinXR uses augmented and virtual reality technology to help users collaborate on complex 3D data. More than just an online meeting platform, JoinXR allows expert and non-expert users to browse, manipulate and discuss data, such as building plans, product designs or 3D scans, in an intuitive 3D environment.

While several industries, including construction, engineering, and product design, have adopted 3D technology, complex data is often only accessible to engineers with specialised software. As a result, this often excludes non-expert users and decision makers, which can cause significant delays in moving large projects forward.

In contrast, JoinXR can be used off the shelf across an organisation, as easily as colleagues pick up Zoom or Teams. As well as the standard features users expect from an online meeting platform, JoinXR brings in images, documents, 3D models and data, visualising all this together in one immersive space, where lifelike avatars of meeting participants can interact.

Fracture Reality joins the Digital Catapult Augmentor programme to position JoinXR as a commercial proposition.

In 2020, Fracture Reality joined the Digital Catapult Augmentor Programme, a 12-week acceleration programme supporting early-stage businesses developing innovative and commercial immersive solutions.

Before Augmentor, Fracture Reality had worked with Digital Catapult through its immersive labs: as residents in the Brighton Centre and as launch partners in London. The company joined Augmentor as its business shifted from an agency to product-based when it developed JoinXR.

Augmentor is designed to help startups in the immersive community become investment ready and accelerate their business growth. With its growing client base, Fracture Reality was already revenue positive and mature compared to other startups. Still, the team soon realised the benefits of joining a cohort, collectively focused on developing immersive technologies.

“We had just pivoted to a product from an agency,” Rob Minson explained. “We had plenty of traction in terms of projects and clients, but very little traction for JoinXR as a product.

“Augmentor helped us steer how we position the product as a commercial proposition: what kind of clients we go after, the lines of approach and how to steer the conversation,” Rob added. “The programme was super helpful, a kind of commercial turbocharger!

“Our relationship with Digital Catapult has been both a brilliant source of exposure to evangelise the adoption of cutting-edge VR and AR technology by UK businesses and a great channel for meeting partners and peers.”

Augmented and virtual reality is moving so fast. You can’t predict which vertical will suddenly have a burst of excitement around it.

The nature of the JoinXR platform and technology, combined with the team’s agility to build bespoke functionality, has enabled Fracture Reality to reach a widespread client base in construction, defence, healthcare, air transport, heritage, automotive design and manufacturing.

The Singapore Housing Development Board used JoinXR to collaborate on proposed housing developments. By replacing the physical prototypes of buildings and developments with their digital 3D equivalents, the project review teams could ask more dynamic questions of the data and make real-time changes to the urban area within an immersive 3D environment.

In five years, Fracture Reality has partnered with organisations including Microsoft and Unity, Fortune 1000 sector specialists like SITA (air transport) and Technip FMC (subsea construction) – and recently with companies in the healthcare sector to help the NHS use JoinXR for clinical training.

For the immediate future, Fracture Reality will continue to adapt its technology for the healthcare sector and soft skills training, which have offered significant growth, while looking for new opportunities within their client base and broader industry for areas with the most traction.

“Augmented and virtual reality is moving so fast that you can’t predict which vertical will suddenly have a burst of excitement around it,” said Rob Minson.

“That’s why we’re very well positioned. If the construction or manufacturing industry are suddenly keen to adopt virtual reality, we have a platform ready for them. They can get started very quickly, instead of burning a lot of their own development resources on building solutions.”

Fracture Reality was one of 6 winners at the 2021 Digital Catapult Awards, showcasing the best UK technology startups and scaleups that have grown and developed through Digital Catapult’s programmes and innovation activities.