Cambrian Helps Customers See Colorful Change at Home


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Trying to find the right paint color for a room is a struggle. The process typically involves at least one trip to the hardware store to gather paint swatches and perhaps paint a sample on the wall before deciding.

Computer software firm Cambrian Tech developed Home Harmony, an app that uses augmented reality and artificial intelligence, to change the way consumers see color before a drop of paint is applied.

Visualize Possibilities

The app helps people to realistically visualize paint colors on the wall by selecting a color and touching the place to be painted.

“Personally, I’ve used it in every room of our home that we’ve painted. It helped me select a deck stain by being able to visualize the stains before buying them,” said Heather Spalding, who co-founded Cambrian with her husband Joel Teply.

Cambrian is working on another feature that enables people to visualize both flooring and paint colors with Home Harmony.

Founded in 2011, Cambrian is poised for growth as its app attracts companies interested in licensing its software development kit (SDK). The company’s proprietary home interior augmented reality software is designed for mobile, web and embedded systems.

Cambrian was chosen to participate in the fifth cohort of ScaleUP! Kansas City, a selective program designed for growth-
oriented businesses. It offers classes, peer mentoring, professional guidance and more.

“It will address a lot of the questions we have moving forward over the next few years,” Spalding said about ScaleUP! “It’s exactly what we need right now, as we’re hoping to begin scaling over this next year.”

ScaleUP! Kansas City, which is offered by the UMKC Innovation Center and the U.S. Small Business Administration, is available to those who have been in business for at least two years, generate at least $150,000 to $500,000 and are in a market capable of supporting more than $1 million in sales.

See How It Works

Cambrian’s founders set out to create Home Harmony as “the most realistic augmented reality software in the space of home improvement.” The app has grown exceedingly popular with consumers and companies that incorporate the SDK into their own technology.

Spalding said, “We also want it to be as simple as possible for the user.”

The app works by first using a mobile device camera to “see” the room. When a user taps on the wall, the app knows what is supposed to get painted and what is not. Then it uses augmented reality to execute the visualization component. The app’s underlying software runs extremely complex segmentation algorithms and artificial intelligence.

“Augmented reality basically refers to the overlay that you see. It’s something added to your real world,” explained Spalding. “For example, we can change our carpet to a hardwood floor and walk around our space and see how it would look, or even change the matboard around a painting to see how it looks in the room or complements the painting. We are beginning to branch into other areas of augmented reality as well—anything you might want to visualize.”

Ideas in Development

Prior to launching Cambrian in 2011, Spalding worked as a lab tech at KU Med in molecular neuropharmacology and molecular and integrative physiology. Teply worked as a software developer at EyeVerify. While employed full-time, the couple spent several years working on Cambrian part-time, developing apps and starting a family.

Teply began developing color visualization technology in 2010 and app prototypes that eventually led to Home Harmony. Spalding’s knowledge of receptive fields in the retina were integrated into algorithms that helped an app execute the desired visual effect of projecting color onto a wall.

Spalding and Teply launched the app Wall Painter in October 2010. By the following day, thousands of people had downloaded the app. With Video Painter, launched in 2012, users could paint their wall and see it through their mobile device as they walked through their space in real time.

Overall, Cambrian has developed 10 apps, mostly to test new technology, and have found success with most of them.

“Collectively, we’ve had millions of users worldwide,” said Spalding. “We maintain only one app now, Home Harmony, which will be a showcase of everything we’ve learned so far.”

ScaleUP! will help Cambrian prepare for its next stage of growth, which is licensing its SDK.

“The people in my cohort come from different backgrounds and have completely different businesses, but are facing the same issues and questions,” said Spalding. “They are such a great resource for advice. It’s really easy to get caught up in working in the business and not working on the business. ScaleUP! pushes us to think about really hard questions facing our business and addressing how to overcome them to get to the next level.”

Written by

Pete Dulin is a freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. He is also the author of Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland, KC Ale Trail, Last Bite: 100 Recipes from Kansas City's Best Chefs and Cooks, and Expedition of Thirst: Exploring Breweries, Wineries and Distilleries in Central Kansas and Missouri. // www.petedulin.com

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