OPAL AI is an ambitious augmented intelligence (AI) company positioned to enter the emerging immersive reality market through the strength of its founder Dr. Ryan Alimo, one of the few established researchers in the AI and machine learning field.
The company’s iOS application ScanTo3D leverages commercially-off-the-shelf hardware (e.g., iPhones 12-13 Pro, iPads Pro) to allow users to scan a property. Proprietary algorithms then use machine learning to generate an accurate, measured, and labelled 3D computer-aided design (CAD) and 2D floorplan of a property within a few hours.
OPAL AI’s Beginnings
Ryan started OPAL AI in his garage on October 30, 2018, after his sister Audrey, a California licensed architect, approached him with a problem she faced in the real estate industry: how to quickly build floorplans within one-inch accuracy using a mobile app. Ryan aimed to leverage his experience working as a lead machine learning scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to solve his sister’s problem. After six months, Ryan concluded that he could not achieve the requested one-inch accuracy with the current technology available. However, based on his work with NASA, he expected that Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and Time-of-Flight (ToF) technology would soon come to smartphones and tablets. He hired a PhD student from UCSD and a MS student from CSUN and began to prepare a minimum viable product based on this insight.
OPAL AI gained further momentum when Ryan was approached by a UCLA Anderson student seeking an internship. This student completed extensive market research that confirmed there was a tangible market opportunity for OPAL AI’s technology. In addition to the architect clients identified by Ryan’s sister, potential customers included structural engineers, inspectors, insurers, appraisers, brokers, construction managers, and homeowners. Inspired by this student’s excellent work and the recommendation of a close friend, Ryan decided to pursue an MBA himself. OPAL AI hired more student interns and released its app for iPads in late 2020.
Ryan is now enrolled in the fully employed MBA program at UCLA Anderson, which has allowed him to grow as a company founder and take advantage of additional opportunities. OPAL AI was selected to join the USC Incubator program in 2021 and was recently awarded $256,000 through the National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research Phase I grant. This grant is offered to teams aiming to revolutionize a field and positively impact society; OPAL AI is one of the first companies from UCLA Anderson to receive this prestigious grant.
The competitive landscape for OPAL AI is significantly more crowded now than when the company was founded three years ago. Occipital’s Canvas and Matterport are major competitors. Both companies spent years developing hardware that is no longer needed due to the presence of LiDAR and ToF scanners on smartphones and tablets.
Unlike other existing solutions that rely on human annotators to provide measurements and build a floorplan, the AI-driven app offered by OPAL AI quickly and autonomously reconstructs layouts of indoor spaces based on images captured using modern smartphones or tablets. This differentiation allows OPAL AI to offer floorplans at significantly lower prices and guarantee same-day delivery while competitors require two business days to provide a floorplan. OPAL AI also offers editable CAD models rather than the schematic floorplans offered by other solutions including Matterport.
OPAL AI’s technology has the potential to substantially accelerate remodeling projects in a diverse range of markets, including small businesses, restaurants, and residential structures. The OPAL AI-generated floorplans provide an accurate, convenient framework that can be used to easily design substantial renovations. Property technology like OPAL AI is anticipated to save billions of dollars per year and enable remodeling projects that would not otherwise be attempted.
With the company’s technology and business plan developed, OPAL AI is shifting its attention to growing its customer base. There are currently about 10,000 free users of the ScanTo3D app, and OPAL AI aims to build its paid user base to 1,000 in 2022. The company will initially focus on word-of-mouth marketing but also plans to build marketing efforts in conjunction with the release of its marketplace application Kakatu, which aims to solve another pain point in the real estate industry: reaching and identifying customers. Homeowners can upload their floorplans to find professional real estate agents and interior designers. This marketplace app will work seamlessly with ScanTo3D and tap into that app’s growing user base.
In the long term, OPAL AI plans to join the emerging augmented and immersive reality market. It will focus on new functionality that is compatible with virtual reality and consumer-grade smart glasses, positioning itself to build the “physical” architecture of the Metaverse for professionals.
With the big achievement of receiving a National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research grant, OPAL AI is now seeking investors in the AI space who can help the company grow its market, including its commercial partnership and B2B opportunities. The company is also looking to hire talented sales, finance, and product manager staff who are willing to take risks, explore a growing industry, and democratize AI to make it accessible to more people in our society.