What sparked your interest in virtual reality?
"I have a background as a graphic designer and I have always wanted to make something visually striking on computers. When I first tried virtual reality goggles, I understood that the VR world combines exactly the things I have wanted to work with. The goggles available at the time did not have very mature technology. Some twenty minutes of goggling an Italian landscape would give you a bad headache.
Our company operates now in four different countries. We make innovative projects that have to do with visuality and technology. Zoan is currently Finland's biggest VR-focused company."
What are the factors defining entrepreneurship in Helsinki?
"Entrepreneurs receive many different kinds of support in Helsinki. There are many other entrepreneurs here from whom you can learn things, in addition to being a part of the city's buzz and culture. The start-up culture is very strong. You can’t really compare it to anywhere else. When I was founding a company in Brazil, I was quite alone. There is no similar ecosystem there.
Helsinki's size is perfect. If you approach people in the right way, you can get a meeting with almost anyone. The culture is open, people want to help each other.
It is quite unique that big companies want and dare to work with start-ups. This is not the case in many other places where large companies tend to work only with other giants. Here the big companies want a slice of the speed and energy of start-ups and they are willing to work with even small companies and give them responsibilities. That is very cool. We have also had big companies as clients already in an early stage."
What role will virtual reality play in the future?
"Virtual reality will really arrive when devices become more advanced and people start to have VR goggles at home.
At the moment, virtual reality is being used for instance in city planning. Another use is different interior decoration and construction efforts, where one can try different options beforehand through virtual reality. In addition, virtual reality makes it possible to train employees to prepare for difficult or dangerous situations.
I am interested in and inspired by the possibilities of virtual travel. When the use of devices becomes commonplace in the future, we can bring people from all over the world to meet each other in virtual Helsinki. Perhaps some day there will also be a full-employed virtual tour guide.
Some years ago, nobody would have believed that one could be employed in social media. Nowadays it is completely normal. Following this thinking, the future can hold jobs which are located in virtual reality."
Zoan is a Helsinki-based virtual reality studio focused on high-quality VR solutions and 3D modelling. The aim of Zoan's Virtual Helsinki initiative is to create the most realistic VR experience in the world in a collaboration with the City of Helsinki and Business Finland. The virtual travel experience can be used, for example, to deepen a physical travel experience and boost the travel industry through sustainable means.