SciFutures, a California-based futuristic tech startup, is leading a truly revolutionary market of sci-fi prototyping. The team, led by CEO Ari Popper and CTO Scott Susskind, is focused on bringing sci-fi technologies into reality, collaborating with some of the largest multi-billion dollar companies and organizations including Visa, Ford, Hershey Company and Intel.
Over the past few years, SciFutures has been collaborating with Fortune 500 companies to enable futuristic and sci-fi like technologies to come to fruition. While “moving Fortune 500 companies from storytelling to storydoing,” as the company proudly claims, the SciFutures team has garnered expertise in highly innovative markets and sophisticated technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality, robotics, 3D printing and nascent technologies.
During product development, the company undergoes a thoroughly planned series of five phases including information, imagination, creation, refinement and transformation to prototype previously unimaginable technologies for industry leaders and large-scale companies.
One of SciFutures’ most accredited and respected projects is the HoloRoom, a project which the team led to help Lowe’s Companies Inc. to install a 20-by-20-foot space for buyers and investors to analyze and evaluate the hardware giant’s products. Within the HoloRoom, buyers and customers can visualize the implementation of certain products by selecting sample products and integrating them into a 3D image of their personal homes and buildings. The augmented reality and 3D imaging technology-based project is still SciFutures’ most popular concept to date.
Utilizing 3D imaging and printing technology again, SciFutures partnered with The Hershey Company, a $21 billion corporation and the largest chocolate manufacturer in the US, to 3D print chocolate products.
Prior to the launch of a joint project between Hershey and SciFutures, it was revealed that an innovation group at Hershey had already created a system to 3D print chocolate. Fast Company stated that Hershey CEO John Bilbrey encountered a 3D printing company executive at a conference and asked Jeff Mundt, Hershey’s innovation group manager, to figure out a system to 3D print foods.
However, after the Hershey innovation group successfully developed a system to 3D print foods, Mundt struggled to visualize a commercial application for the technology. He was skeptical towards the concept of 3D printing chocolate products, as it was still a niche market that could fail to intrigue its general mainstream customer and user base.
“We have created very intricate [chocolate] shapes, but now what? What’s the commercial path for this? If people are going to use it, what might that look like? Are you really going to print out your breakfast while you’re sleeping?” Mundt asked.
To discover a business model around the technology and a road map for the 3D printing foods system, Mundt collaborated with SciFutures to come up with a practical and viable approach. As SciFutures did with its previous clients, the California-based company approached the Hershey-3D printing dilemma with a unique and innovative vision. As Mundt described in an interview, the two companies worked with a comic book-like narrative, setting visualization and imagination as the core components of the project to come up with a prototype.
For a conservative company like Hershey, Mundt explained that the SciFutures approach turned out to be successful.
“We are a conservative company, and what you get from working with SciFutures is something that looks like a comic book,” Mundt said. “It’s actually an illustrated narrative, but a senior manager at a conservative CPG (consumer packaged goods) company might be looking for Nielsen data, [and might ask] ‘Why would I do that?'”
SciFutures CEO Ari Popper agreed with the remarks of Mundt, who emphasized that the approach Hershey and SciFutures took was an unorthodox method of prototyping and building strategies. However, Popper stated that one of the most valuable characteristics of the company is its ability to acknowledge certain processes and understand at which point to stop or continue the development of the targeted technology.
With futuristic technologies, monetization becomes more difficult as the targeted market is substantially smaller. Thus, it is crucial to set up a tight and strict plan to ensure that the allocation of capital, manpower and product development does not negatively affect the company.
“There’s definitely a healthy tension between being too close in, where you’re not really disrupting and pushing, and so far out where it becomes ridiculous and meaningless,” said Popper. “[We] know how to really get the best out of both worlds, so it will be disruptive and imaginative enough that you’re pushing the boundaries, but have enough of a link back to today so that you can build to that.”
As companies become increasingly aware of 3D printing technology and, most importantly, methods and ways to monetize and distribute the technology, the market for 3D printing and its potential customer base will exponentially grow. Discuss in the 3D Printed Chocolate forum at 3DPB.com.[Source: Fast Company]