Rob Wilyman and Mark Shepherd, the pair bringing 3D models to a business near you

Rob Wilyman and Mark Shepherd, the pair bringing 3D models to a business near you

3D technology can be jaw-dropping. Companies like Google and Microsoft are investing billions of dollars to develop it.

Two ingenious entrepreneurs, Rob Wilyman and Mark Shepherd, may have come up with the best application yet.

“We create 3D models for businesses,” explains Rob, co-founder of Apollo 3D. “It could be a restaurant, hotel, museum, or a factory. We create a 3D version of their building, that users can explore and fully interact with.”

The model means that when customers want to book, say, a cosy guest-house for a holiday, they can embark on a virtual tour, to make sure it’s perfect. Points of interest can be added to the tours, like floating footnotes, to guide users.

Users are able to move around the 3D model on a computer or smart phone. You don’t need special glasses

“We have cameras, tripods and scanners, and we physically come in and capture it all. Then we use clever software to stitch it all together,” says Rob. “Users are able to move around the 3D model on a computer or smart phone. You don’t need special glasses.”

‘This energetic startup is pioneering the technology in Britain, but they’re not stopping here! They’ve already secured projects in Norway and Spain.

“People instantly think it’s like Google Street View, but inside. Well, it’s like Google Street View on steroids, in high definition!”

The experience is remarkable. The photos are more than merely stitched together – they’re moulded into a true 3D model. You can ramble around, looking left, right, up and down.

Apollo 3D offers stunning examples of their work on their website including the world’s largest 3D Hotel Showcase – Country Living Hotel – a new hotel group created in conjunction between Country Living Magazine and Coast & Country Hotels. You can also discover Martin House Children’s Hospice. This kind of 3D experience is being used to orientate new patients before their first visit, helping alleviate some of the anxiety felt by everybody in these difficult moments.

More recently, they created a 3D showcase for Salt Beer Factory, a venue that combines a working brewery and a live entertainment venue in the historic town of Saltaire.

“Our product is very, very individual,” says Rob. “We’re developing an industry standard for the UK. We’re at a real cusp in the business, we’ve hired two staff in the past month and are about to recruit two more, so there will be six of us. We’ve received funding from an EU enterprise fund. And we’re bringing in laser scanning, so we can do the outside of buildings. We are head and shoulders ahead of the competition.”

Mark, who was off to a client site in Spain on the day of our interview, told us that they also developed the technology to create 3D from a drone, opening up to an even bigger market such as capturing whole towns. “Within the next 12 to 18 months, the UK residential sales and rental market will be driven to provide 3D captures of property. Gone are the days of ‘photoshopping’ images to make rooms bigger or better than they really are. This is the future: ‘Honest Marketing’ which avoids disappointing potential buyers and wasting time!” says Mark.

Demand is so high the company is moving towards a franchising model.

“We are creating a proposition so that anyone young or old, who wants to work for themselves, can have a business where there are attracting their own customers, scanning spaces. They’ll have their own geographical areas, and send the data to us to create the 3D model.”

It’s a fabulous opportunity for the pair, who met as friends twenty years ago at the local rugby club. Mark is the tech whiz – a former IBM engineer and Global Technical Director of Walmart. He realised that Rob had the commercial experience needed to package and sell his software.

On paper, the business looked like an obvious hit. But traditional banks weren’t sure about supporting a tech startup.

“We’d never had a business account. When we asked for one, all the banks said no. They said come back to us in three months time. Fortunately we came to Tide, who said yes!”

The features of the Tide account are ideal for a young company like Apollo 3D. “Tide is great,” says Rob. “The fees are unbelievably good. Way below any fees we’d get at a standard bank.”

Now the pair have a proven concept, a growing and vocal customer base, and big plans to expand. Two more staff will be joining in the next months.

“The challenge is getting businesses to understand that there’s a new medium out there, which they can use for advertising and marketing,” says Rob. “Then we can expand to the rest of Europe and the US.”

World domination?

“Absolutely. Yes!”

Check out Apollo 3D’s website here.

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