We developed completely new technology for 3D reconstruction with drones

Formed as a spin-off company at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology – Skopje, Vision Dynamix developed a product that is competitive with those who are developing by the Silicon Valley startups. It becomes a choir for software platform (Dynamix Mapper) that creates 3D maps with high precision, using the state-of-the-art algorithm for Simultaneous Localization And Mapping (SLAM), opposite to the existing and obsolete photogrammetric techniques. Besides precision, the unique competitive advantage of this innovative solution arises from speed, with a review of the fact that the whole system is 20 times faster than the competition.

How an ambitious master’s degree work can grow into a startup, the story will be told by Dushko Murtovski, Vision Dynamix’s co-owner of Skopje, a specialized company for 3D mapping software development.

Dushko Murtovski’s postgraduate thesis in the field of 3D modeling was realized at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information technologies under the mentorship of prof. Mile Stankovski.

Dushko and his mentor realized that the problem processed in the master had the potential to be developed into a commercial product and they decided to found a startup company.

They received a grant shortly afterward from the Innovation Fund and with those funds they started the development of the algorithm that led to their final product. After some time, their idea and work were recognized by an investor from the Netherlands who invested certain funds in order for the development of their product to be continued.

“However, the complexity of the algorithms required much more labor and development, and additional funds were needed to continue with the process”, says Murtovski, telling us the story of Vision Dynamix.

The X Factor Accelerator from Veles appeared at that time with their programs, Murtovski, and prof. Stankovski saw their commitment and accepted the challenge to enter their program for supporting startup companies. “Since the first meetings with the X Factor’s representatives we saw that we can cooperate and get a partner in our development. We received tips to improve our development even though we were already in an advanced stage of development. I think such a program is very useful for startups that already have passed the initial stage of development. My advice for the startups with good ideas and programs is to apply for such programs where their idea will be tested once again and if it’s confirmed they can get funds to realize it. Representatives from X Factor Accelerator along with their consultants who are at a highly professional and expert level can evaluate the idea of ​​the company and with appropriate advice to promote it and give it an appropriate course in development to the final product. We advise young people startups to apply for support programs offered by the X Factor Accelerator,” says Murtovski.

The manager of the X Factor accelerator Milan Dimitrievski in an interview for Kapital recently said that the product that Murtovski develops with his team is competitive and compared to those who are developed by direct world competitors from Silicon Valley. And therefore, not coincidentally, Vision Dynamix, together with another Macedonian startup, Matrioshka, received financial support from

accelerator of 100 000 EUR each, as winners in the accelerator program that took place in 2020.

Vision Dynamix’s product, called Dynamix Mapper, is a software solution for 3D mapping and reconstruction using drones. The idea is to extract spatial information and generate a so-called 3D point cloud from the drone records with the video camera or images in two dimensions.

“So, with our software, we get a 3D model of what can be seen on the captured video. This is quite an interesting area and represents a completely new technology from the field of robotics. Currently, on the market, there are two techniques that achieve the same. One of them is using laser scanners or Li-DAR, which are hardware devices that can measure and create a 3D reconstruction of the area that is observed. The other technique is called photogrammetry, a software solution which is doing 3D reconstruction from images.  Our solution does not belong to any of these techniques and represents an innovation that implements algorithms used with autonomous vehicle systems.

We have managed to develop a product based on these algorithms that generate a 3D map of the space with high speed, almost in real-time. With that we want to position ourselves in the market as a direct competitor not only on existing solutions but also as a level of technology, ” Murtovski explains.

The difference with photogrammetric solutions is that our system is much faster and can cover a larger shooting area in one flight. “We are talking about processing speeds between 12 and 17 times faster than the competition. For example, in the same area that our system processes for 20 minutes, a competitive system will need about 5 hours. That makes our system interesting for use directly in the field after capturing the video, unlike the competition where processing needs to be done in specific office conditions. “, adds our interlocutor.

The idea of the Vision Dynamix team was to reach processing speed and accuracy as well as LiDAR scanners, but with much lower operation costs.

Their system, as Dushko says, is tenfold cheaper than LiDAR systems and does not require much maintenance or specific training.

The product is currently in the commercialization phase.

They have released a beta version, a few months ago, that is already being tested on real client projects. Also, they are intensively working on a promotion to domestic and foreign companies. The target group is companies that deal with measurements and spatial reconstruction, in our country they are geodetic and construction companies. Except for them, the solution is applicable to other companies and industries such as inspection of facilities and inaccessible areas, watercourse monitoring, reconstruction of areas affected by natural disasters (floods, earthquakes etc.).

However, as Murtovski says, it can be used wherever generation on 3D models from real locations or objects is needed. An interesting application in the future could be movies and the computer game industry.

Construction and surveying companies are the first users

Depending on the financial condition, the product in

Vision Dynamix was developed with occasional interruptions

until the beginning of 2020 when X-Factor Accelerator joined the story. With their investment and professional help, we managed to expand the team and complete the product.

“It was not easy at all because at first, it was difficult to ensure

financial and professional assistance, in doing business area. Besides, it’s about technology that is not so well known, was not

developed, and was not proven to work in real or say industrial conditions. That imposed a need for a specific profile of people who will develop the solution. We do not have such people, and they are a rarity in world frames. We started with engineers who had just

graduated but were well prepared theoretically and had a strong desire and motivation to work on this. All the people who were involved in the development were very motivated and ambitious people without whom there would be impossible to achieve the goal and complete the product. We were lucky in that regard, for example, one of our engineers who was working on 3D visualization, returned from Sweden to Macedonia to work with us.

Many of the people who worked on this have continued to specialize in this area, which we consider a success because it creates a basis for technology development which until now was not present in Macedonia, and It is becoming very popular worldwide.” explains Dushko Murtovski.

We asked him what his interest in the product is so far, is satisfied with the number of customers and from which target groups they mostly come. Dushko says that, because it is a complex solution designed primarily for companies, sales and contacts are realized in person with presentations and introduction to customers the software’s capabilities and functionalities. So far, there is interest primarily from construction and surveying companies, however, Vision Dynamix starts activities in other institutions as well companies that would benefit from their software.

Besides the software, they also offer training services, recording, mapping, and consulting mapping services using drones. The product is primarily intended for the foreign market, so that’s the next challenge for the startup team. The idea is to offer different packages that can be downloaded from their website.

Bigger and faster changes are needed in the startup ecosystem

Because it is an about completely new technology in the field of 3D mapping, their technology can be used as a development platform

for different products. They have a lot of ideas for new products that will be based on the existing system. One of them is a real-time mapping system with their own drone. In fact, the current product

aroused from the initial idea for mapping with drones in real-time using a single camera. They will continue to develop their own product, improving it based on market demands.

Finally, I asked Dushko how he assesses the current ambiance on the startup scene in Macedonia, where he thinks that we have progressed the most in recent years, and what still needs to be done.

“We have been on the startup scene for 5 years. Since then, now as a country, I think we have ascending line. The Innovation Fund, for example, is a bright spot that except financially, through the

consultants he had, helped us a lot to grow as a company and to start thinking from a business perspective. An idea without people who would realize it, has not worth much, and people especially software engineers cost a lot. Business accelerators are also a good example.” Murtovski.

However, he thinks that if we want to keep up with other countries, we need bigger and faster changes, not only in terms of larger investments but also the way of thinking in relation to startups and creating new companies.

“For a country like ours, innovations are ideal a platform for achieving rapid economic growth, because they offer large profits for relatively small investments. I primarily think of innovation in the IT industry, where large is not required initial investment in people and equipment. For that, greater investments are needed, not just from investors or business accelerators, but also companies and individuals should be actively involved in it process. “

Angel Ajkoski

GIS & Survey engineer