InvestMaryland Challenge: Q&A with VisiSonics
Check back for Q&A profiles on all the competition finalists.
The first-ever InvestMaryland Challenge is down to its final round with just 33 companies competing for more than $300,000 in grants and business services. The final winners will be announced during the Governor’s Cup Awards Ceremony on April 15.
One of the companies, selected out of more than 250 applicants, is College Park-based VisiSonics, founded in 2010. To find out a little more about this high-tech company, we spoke with President and CEO of VisiSonics Ramani Duraiswami.
Q. What does VisiSonics do, and how would you explain it to the average person?
A. Our product presents sound as naturally as if you’re listening to something on the scene. When you listen to music on headphones it sounds a lot different than how you would have experienced the music at the concert. If you see a movie at a high-end theater with a very high-end sound system, it sounds quite a bit different from the way a movie sounds when you watch it on your iPad or tablet. So our software makes that sounds as natural as being present at the real scene. We hope it will have a major impact on the way people consume media, such as games, movies and music on mobile devices.
Q. What kind of successes has the company had so far?
A. We’ve bootstrapped operations so far. We’ve had close to a half-million dollars in sales. We are right now in negotiations with very large companies trying to get our technology into their hardware, games and movies. We are gaining traction and we hope to be a very successful and very big company.
Q. Tell us more about the unique and innovative things your company is doing. How is it moving the industry forward?
A. Our product was born out of 10 years of research at the University of Maryland, which was funded by over $6 million in federal funding. Initially, we were trying to understand how people perceive sounds in three dimensions and how we could replicate that using software, how people could have a better sense of virtual reality whether they were meeting others online or presenting audio to blind listeners. Based on this research over 10 years, we developed a suite of technologies on how to present the sound in 3D using software and how to capture real sound scenes so that the 3D information is retained. We license out this technology exclusively from the university. The university has a share in our company, and we occupy space at the university’s incubator at the College Park campus.
Q. If VisiSonics were to win prize money in the contest, how would it use the money to further its goals?
A. Initially, we were hoping to just bootstrap the company, but now we’ve realized that we need to raise some more money because the time to market is very important for getting our software ready for all the different platforms we want to tackle, different kinds of smart phones, tablet devices and gaming platforms. We will need to hire a couple of highly qualified software engineers, and winning the prize would help us get to that goal quicker and make us successful sooner. We could also use the money to update our website.