Ignition Immersive are an award-winning Melbourne-based company founded by Darren Vukusinovic and Wing Cheung. The pair are passionate about compelling storytelling and pushing the boundaries of innovation to elicit empathy and empower their audiences to learn, engage and interact.

Since the company's inception three years ago, Darren and Wing have built their business leveraging their combined years of experience in traditional filmmaking and mixing it with applications in 3D, CGI (computer generated imagery) and photogrammetry to deliver rich and engaging VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality) and MR (mixed reality) experiences.

Ignition Immersive Video: Yarra Valley 360-degree experience

The CivVic Labs Accelerator program

In late 2019, Ignition Immersive were successful candidates in LaunchVic's CivVic Labs Accelerator program. The program involves a government department or agency presenting a challenge to the startup ecosystem, inviting proposals for solutions from Victorian startups.

Their company was selected as one of the 12 startups to participate in the Pre-Accelerator program – an eight week intensive to refine and perfect their pitch: a VR Safety Training Platform.

Taking part in the LaunchVic CivVic Labs program provided Ignition Immersive with the ‘know-how’ of building great products for customers, adopting a lean startup approach, and ensuring they develop a strategy focused on the concept of ‘market-product’ fit. The experience has provided the company with a rigourous understanding of their customers’ need for safety training, and why realistic live-action VR is a unique way to deliver it.

The pitch

The pitch took place in front of a 30 strong panel of judges. With just three minutes to present their idea, strategy and plan, they were one of two companies selected by Worksafe Victoria and have been on the Accelerator Program since mid-February.

Essentially their VR Safety Training Platform was designed to meet the challenge of reducing fatalities and injuries in the work place. Workplace Victoria worked with them to identify the research and data that caused work place incidents, and focused on using the content in their VR Safety Training Platform as a behaviour change driver to achieve this aim.

Participating virtually in the latter part of the Accelerator program when the coronavirus restrictions were enforced, CivVic Labs and Worksafe worked hard to accommodate their needs, understanding some pivots the company would have to make given the changes in circumstances.

Darren, Wing and their team have been learning essential new skills through mentors within CivVic Labs and Worksafe, and their VR Safety Training Platform prototype will be ready mid-year 2020 for customer trials.

Victorian Government – helping Victorian businesses grow

There are several key areas that being part of the LaunchVIC CivVic Labs Accelerator has helped the business.

The experience has helped them better navigate working with Victorian Government Departments and Agencies, given the complexities and in some cases, the time in takes to get things done. This has enabled them to better manage expectations, and also look for ways to add value to our existing Victorian Government clients.

And the contacts they've made through the program has helped secure mentors for their business, leads for sales opportunities, and improvemed their product development.

Finally, the coursework associated with the Accelerator program has given them great foundations and validation of some of the processes that a lean startup needs to incorporate, and enables them to continue to successfully grow their business.

Ignition Immersive's next phase

Ignition Immersive has spent the past three months developing a prototype or an ‘alpha’ of their VR Safety Training Platform. The next phase is to continue the development with Worksafe Victoria, specifically starting with the construction industry and embarking on more customer trials with more content.

They'll also be conducting follow-up research on changes in behaviour, and look to release the VR Safety Training Platform into the market in the second-half of 2020.

Export capabilities

Interest in using AR and VR technologies to promote tourism and build stronger relationships across various industry sectors is on the rise, and Ignition Immersive looks forward to creating experiences for businesses from across the globe.

They've had initial conversations with a range of media, marketing, and entertainment businesses across Asia (in China, South Korea and Vietnam), in the UAE, UK and the USA.

The company has built strong connections across the tourism, agricultural and educational sectors. In the past, it took significant stakeholder meetings and long approval processes to get the right people on board using this new technology.

The current situation with coronavirus has forced everyone to pivot, and be more bold with their choices. Ignition Immersive have seen a huge need for solutions that allow clients to take their events and space virtual, and the company have been fortunate in being able to collaborate on helping businesses do that.

Through the work they've been doing with Worksafe, the company is now looking to enhance the platform for mixed reality training experiences that could be licensed to businesses, and are building a library of content for the tourism industry.

The company is also very excited about  VR's next step in the journey of cinema and have a number of narrative projects in development.

Recovery from the crisis

Ignition Immersive are big fans of the productive paranoia and this quote from the book Great By Choice:

“The only mistakes you can learn from are the ones you survive. Leaders who stave off decline and navigate turbulence assume that conditions can unexpectedly change, violently and fast”.

As a startup, and one in a field that still requires educating your potential clients on its use, the company have never found themselves in a position to be complacent. This has equipped them with skills to deal with these times of uncertainty. They pivot, adapt and use lateral thinking.

While working from home, building up their team and working on challenging new projects has been essential for the company to keep their team spirit forging ahead, sharing skills and fostering creativity. They've also just leased a new studio space the team are looking forward to moving into. Part of that space will be dedicated to an XR hub and a place for local artists to display their work and collaborate on projects.