Shapetrace existed as a construction AR startup between 2014 and 2018 before we became a software development agency.
Shapetrace was a complete field solution with a mobile AR app that helped construction workers prevent errors. Using a mobile phone on site, architectural 3D designs were overlaid the actual space to let workers "see before they started to build". During construction, the app used live 3D detection to compare designs to the actual conditions to measure progress and detect errors, which automatically updated the schedule.
We have a lot of battles scars with our tech startup as we were trying to sell a solution that was ahead of its time. Ultimately, our venture didn't work out, but man, we feel it made us really, really good at AR. And it made us efficient, lean, and organized.
You might ask, "Why is AR in construction so hard?"
The construction site is one of the most challenging AR operational environments because it's constantly changing. AR works best when the walls don't move, there are noticeable textures around you, and the lighting is always great: this is the opposite of a construction build. Furthermore, construction workers demand instant reliability because they don't have time for buggy technologies. "It has to be as reliable as a hammer or it's garbage", they'd say. At the same time, AR consumer technology was still in prototype-phase as the big tech companies were struggling themselves. We didn't want to compete against them, so we used their mobile platforms. However, there were significant technical gaps, so we had to build our own 3D vision tools. Ultimately, we were able to file for a provisional patent for our innovations (we could only afford a single one), which was a great feat. Anyway, when Apple and Google finally released their official platforms, it couldn't do what we wanted (see this post we wrote) so we decided to shift our focus out of the construction industry.
Shapetrace won the MaRS Upstart 2015 pitch competition, was shortlisted for TechStar IoT 2017, and was a finalist for ResolveTO 2017, Digifest 2016, TieQuest 2017, Cemex Ventures, and IE Ventures competitions. Shapetrace is an alumni of the Founder Institute, the world's premier idea-stage accelerator based in Silicon Valley. Our highlights include working with Schneider Electric and EllisDon in Grenoble, Silicon Valley, and Toronto.
The Shapetrace team has been been through a rollercoaster together. And we're most proud that we're still together. Now, we hope to offer our professional services to help other businesses succeed.
Here's a link to our old website.
Ernest Yap, Co-Founder, CEO
Ernest Yap, P.Eng is a co-founder and CEO of Shapetrace. He has over 10 years of experience in geospatial, construction, and military industries. Between 2014-2018, Ernest ran Shapetrace and developed patent-pending augmented reality software to help construction workers prevent errors by overlaying 3D architectural designs over actual spaces. Highlights include working with Schneider Electric and EllisDon in Grenoble, Silicon Valley, and Toronto.
From 2005 to 2013, Ernest worked for Trimble Navigation in their aerial mapping division responsible for global sales, North, Central, and South American sales, and customer support for commercial, government, and military clients. He has fond memories of providing US government agencies, US Navy, and the Canadian military with rapid mapping capabilities (integrated camera payload navigation systems with rapid-orthophoto generation) so they could support the Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy emergency responses, and Afghanistan/Iraq military operations.
Ernest is a professional geomatics engineer in Ontario, Canada, and he graduated from the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary. His interests include the convergence of robotics, 3D mapping, and mixed reality applications. Ernest is a known subject-matter expert in the geospatial industry and is a contributing writer for xyHt magazine.
Sonal Ranjit, Co-FOUNDER, Engineering
Sonal Ranjit is a co-founder and engineering lead of Shapetrace. He joined Shapetrace in 2016, and immediately made an impact by re-designing the initial construction solution, which led to a commercial release of the product in six months. Then, he implementing a streamlined software development process, which enabled Shapetrace to take the product from an academic prototype to a commercially-viable solution. Since then, Sonal has led the Shapetrace development team to architect, design and develop mobile apps, web applications, and backend web services.
Sonal specializes in cutting edge augmented reality, 3d gaming platforms, open source technologies for construction and mapping, and backend web services.
Sonal has experience in startup production environments having worked for two tech companies. As the geospatial data specialist at MapYourProperty, he created the processes to automate data scraping of open GIS datasets and uploads, then created a data reliability framework for their web application, enabling a full public launch of the platform in six months.
In 2014, Sonal was part of Wand Makers that created a "magic wand" prototype. The device consisted of an inertial measurement unit and an Arduino Micro that recognizes hand gestures and compared movements to a magical spell movement library. Once a spell was recognized, a laser was activated and enabled users to have digital wand fights. This led to a successful presentation at the Tangible, Embodied and Embedded Interface Conference TEI2014 in Munich Germany.
Sonal has a background in geomatics with a B.Sc in Earth Science from York University. He regularly contributes his time to Civic Tech Toronto and the Toronto Nepali Film Festival.
DR. Julien Li-Chee-Ming, Co-Founder, R&D
Dr. Julien Li-Chee-Ming is a co-founder of Shapetrace and is responsible for research and development. He has a Ph.D from York University, where he also obtained a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Geomatics Engineering, and a post-doc from Ryerson University. Julien's began his research in low-cost navigation systems, rapid mapping, and urban 3D modelling. This expanded to applications involves utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles in real-time mapping, monitoring, and tracking applications.
During Shapetrace's construction phase, Julien's R&D work involved indoor navigation using 3D CAD models as reference, automated location initialization using 3D CAD, automated 2D blueprint to 3D overlay, 3D reconstruction using extracted 2D plans, and various SLAM augmentation algorithms for tablet-based 3D mapping and rapid re-localization. His technical leadership led to the filing of a provisional US patent in 2017.
Most recently, Dr Julien's research has focused on 3D localization using object recognition, real-time collaborative SLAM augmentation for multi-user localization, and next-generation indoor navigation using 3D CAD.
Julien has won numerous awards for his research and his publications can be found on his LinkedIn profile. Follow Julien: LinkedIn