Silversky3D was established in 2014 as a spinout from the Department of Psychology of the University of Cyprus, following funding from the European Research Council (ERC) and the Ministry of Labour and Commerce of the Republic of Cyprus.
According to Dr. Kleanthis Neocleous, co-founder of Silversky3D, what makes the company different from other technology companies is their combination of advanced technical skills in developing Virtual and Augmented Reality applications with a strong background in cognitive psychology and neuroscience. This allows them to build evidence-based applications that are empirically validated by rigorous laboratory research.
‘The first idea, in 2014, which received funding from the Ministry of Commerce, was in the field of architecture. How can I see something that doesn't exist?’ Dr Neocleous explains.
Today, Silversky3D offers services to professionals and scientists who can benefit from advanced visualization and interaction with virtual environments. In addition to 1:1 scale architectural models for Virtual Reality, the company develops a wide array of applications including interventions for phobias, interactive educational lessons, skill assessment scenarios, and training tools.
‘We generally offer services to whatever there is a need from clients, from advertising to research and training. In an advanced stage of development is a product we have for overcoming public speaking phobia’ says Dr. Neocleous. ‘We also see,’ he adds, ‘our company as an incubator for ideas and new products. We create products in collaboration with other companies and partners. There is no limit to what we can offer. This is due to the know-how we have accumulated. The company started in 2014 but we have been involved in Virtual Reality since its emergence. Our experience shows that Virtual Reality technology has more value and impact in education and training and that's where we focus’.
The people behind the company are Mr. Tasos Zacharopoulos and Dr. Kleanthis Neocleous, who is also the head of Immersive Technologies for Intelligent and Creative Applications at the CYENS Centre of Excellence. Dr. Neocleous noted that along the way Silversky3D has acquired different expertise compared to other Virtual Reality application development companies, due to their ten-member team’s varied backgrounds. The team, he explains, comes from academia, closely linked to the University of Cyprus and CYENS, with programming and graphic design experience, as well as in experimental research. ‘We collect data as the user interacts with a virtual environment to create profiles in training applications in the maritime or sports sector, two areas in which we are developing new products’ Dr. Neocleous commented.
Many of Silversky3D’s team members have worked for some time in the past as researchers at the Experimental Psychology Laboratory at the University of Cyprus, which has maintained a high-quality Virtual Reality system since 2006. The Experimental Psychology Laboratory uses Virtual Reality to study the way people perceive and remember spatial information. Therefore, beyond technical skills, team members have a strong theoretical background on how the human brain processes and encodes spatial information.
The main funding comes from services provided to clients but also from European and national research programmes. In recent years, Silversky3D has seen stronger growth in its business, allowing them to better finance their operations. Dr Neocleous said that there have been discussions about raising funding from investors, and although they are open to such a possibility, at this stage they’re not actively pursuing it, stating ‘if there is a proposal, we are open to discuss it’.
VR Architectural Models
You're building a house and you want to see what it will look like in real life. Silversky3D can recreate it digitally and through Virtual Reality you are able to "live" inside your new home. Dr. Neocleous told us that "we design accurate and realistic models of either existing environments or to-be-built spaces using a combination of architectural plans, graphics, and digital photography. These models can then be experienced with a variety of modern devices (e.g., 3D TVs and monitors, stereoscopic projectors, tablets, the web etc) as well as in 1:1 scale Immersive Virtual Reality set-ups.
At the company's premises or elsewhere the customer can experience the model in 1:1 scale using an advanced immersive system. In this system, the model is experienced through a special Head-Mounted Display helmet that the user wears on their head and which, by completely cutting the user off from the real world, immerses them in the virtual model. The use of magnetic/optical sensors and other specialised equipment such as omni-directional treadmills allow the user to move through the virtual model, experiencing it as if it were real. Thus, the company enables its clients (architects, civil engineers, private individuals, etc.) to experience spaces under construction or under decoration in the most realistic way and before investing any money and time in it.
Through Immerseav, a subsidiary company in partnership with Prevention at Sea, Silversky3D works on an application for maritime training. One of the biggest problems of seafarers is that they live for a long time at sea away from their families, which affects the psychological state.
Experimental research and literature show that when a person is in a state of high arousal and psychological stress, some of the basic cognitive mechanisms, such as attention, perception, and working memory, do not function as they should. This often results in making wrong decisions, leading to mistakes and potentially causing damage. Sailors with the app are introduced, virtually, to environments and scenarios in which they work.
The second problem that the maritime training app seeks to address is the training of seafarers on board ships, who come mainly from Asian countries and often lack the appropriate skills. In practice, shipping companies find it difficult to assess the skills of the seafarers they are asked to recruit. The application, developed by Immerseav offers the possibility to assess the seafarer in realistic conditions, e.g. in handling a lifeboat or performing work in the engine room.
The product is currently in the prototype stage.
A second subsidiary company, named MentisVR, specializes in the assessment and exercise of cognitive skills, such as attention and perception, in athletes. MentisVR is a partnership between Silversky3D and former international goalkeeper Urko Pardo. MentisVR has developed two products. SpeedPad is a Virtual Reality application that assesses and exercise reaction speed in athletes of fast-paced sports. VkeepR is a more specialized Virtual Reality app that focus on assessing and exercising cognitive skills in goalkeepers. Both apps are in a pilot phase and are currently used by selected football teams. VkeepR has received funding from RIF’s SEED programme.
Major Research Projects
Funded by the Marie-Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network, the project aims to apply the Research Domain Criteria approach, a novel framework for understanding psychopathology, to the study of the mechanisms of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, in order to inform and begin to test appropriate treatments. The project is led by the University of Cyprus and has a budget of €4m. Beyond Silversky3D, beneficiaries include the University of Jyväskylä, the UC Louvain, University of Edinburgh, University of Crete, University of Athens, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Regionaal Instituut voor Dyslexie B.V, and the Nilo Mäki Foundation.
CLIPE addresses the core challenges of designing new techniques to create and control interactive virtual characters, benefiting from opportunities open by the wide availability of emergent technologies in the domains of human digitization and displays, as well as recent progresses of artificial intelligence. It’s funded by a MSCA-ITN grant of €4m. CLIPE is led by the University of Cyprus while beneficiaries and partners include several renown universities and companies, e.g., University College London, KTH Stocholm, Trinity College Dublin, Inria, the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, the Max-Planck-Institute for Intelligent Systems, Amazon, the BBC, and Ubisoft.
EnterCY aims to provide an enhanced tourist experience, before, during and after the visit to Cyprus, by suing cutting-edge technology such as Virtual and Augmented Reality and interactive content that includes reconstructions and storytelling. EnterCY is funded by the Research Promotion Foundation of Cyprus with an Integrated grant of €1m and is coordinated by Frederick Research Center. In addition to Silversky3D, partners include the University of Cyprus, CyRIC, the Association of Cyprus Travel Agents (ACTA), the Cyprus Tourist Guides Association, the Department of Antiquities, IMH, and the Deputy Ministry of Tourism.
Virtual Reality (VR), often associated with pastime activities with little productive value, has been emerging as a vital component for training and education, as well as finding a unique role in architecture, sports, design, aerospace, military and medical industries. These newfound roles are expected to drive the growth of the industry in the coming years, according to Grand View Research, a market research firm. VR’s applicability is vast and can be used for anything ranging from viewing building design prior to construction to psychological and cognitive analysis and assistance. Although hardware accounts for roughly two thirds of the revenue of the VR market, software is projected to have the largest CAGR between 2021-2028, partly due to the growing demand of data analysis and more precise feedback. Furthermore, the commercial segment, including retail and real estate, account for over half of VR’s application, followed by consumer, and aerospace and defence.
The dominance of the commercial segment in VR application demonstrates its marketing potential as well as capacity to increase sales such as in real estate by allowing developers to offer potential house buyers a better virtual viewing experience. Additionally, the automotive industry, alongside gaming, will make the greatest contributions to Europe’s VR industry, expected be the fastest growing region.