By Leon Hui
As an ARwall co-founder and chief technology officer (CTO), I manage all things relating to technology for the company. This includes overseeing software and technology development, designs, engineering, IT, troubleshooting and everything in-between. Launching the company, I solely developed the critical pieces of technology required to achieve the ARwall concept overall.
I came into augmented reality (AR) as a game development software engineer, and that plays a big role in how I approach this new medium. Stepping into ARwall, it became my job to produce artistic realtime graphics for AR backdrops and settings, while also pursuing technological advancements that will move the AR industry forward.
Alongside CEO Rene Amador, the best way we found to make sure the company retained artistic values was to bring on highly talented artists, coders and engineers with a diverse skill set in both art and tech. It’s our mission to not let the scales tip one way or the other, and to focus on bringing in both artistic and tech talent.
With the continuing convergence of entertainment and technology, it is vital for a creative technology company to continue to advance, while maintaining and nurturing artistic integrity.
Here is what we have learned along the way in striking this balance:
Diversify Your Hiring
Going into AR, or any other immersive field, it is very important that one understands realtime graphics.
So, while it’s useful for my company to hire engineers that have graphics and coding backgrounds — as many game engineers do — it’s still crucial to hire for the individual strengths of both tech and art. At ARwall, our open roles could be combined for one gifted individual, or isolated with an emphasis on either artistry or coding, for those with specialties.
Because we are dealing with high-quality realtime graphics, the ARwall team would be similar to the team profiles of any AAA game studio. We never deviated from an artistic trajectory — we just brought technology along for the ride. We think of talent recruitment as a crucial process in our advancement and always have our eyes out for our next game developer to fill roles ranging from technical, environment, material and character artist to graphics, game engine and generalist engineer.
Expand Your Education
If someone with a background in film or TV post production came to work in a new tech industry, like AR, they would need to expand their own education. It’s challenging, but not impossible. While my company’s current emphasis is on game developers and CG artists, the backgrounds of fellow co-founders Rene Amador, Eric Navarrette and Jocelyn Hsu sit in ad agencies, television digital development, post production and beyond.
There are a variety of toolsets and concepts left to learn, including: the software development life cycle; Microsoft Project or Hansoft; Agile methodology; the definition of “realtime graphics” and how it works; the top-dog game engine tools, including Unity and Unreal Engine 4; and digital asset creation pipelines for game engines, among others.
The transition is largely based on ones game development background but, of course, there is always a learning curve when entering a new industry.
Focus on the Balance
We understand that the core of a “technology company,” as we bill ourselves, is still the foundational technology. However, depending on the type of technology, companies need staffers that have a high-level mastery of the technology in order to demonstrate its full potential to others. It just happens that with AR technology there is an inherently visual aspect, which translates to a need for superior artistry in unison with the precise technology.
In order for AR technology to showcase and look more appealing, high-quality artistry is very much needed. This can be a difficult balance to maintain if focus or purpose are lost. For ARwall, we aim to hire talent that excels at art or engineering, or both.
ARwall expanded its offerings to stake its claim as a technology company, but built on each founders’ roots as artists, engineers and producers. Tech and art aren’t mutually-exclusive; rather, with focus, education and time to search for the right talent, technology companies can excel with invention and keep their creative edge, all at once.
Leon Hui brings to the team 20+ years of technical experience as a software engineer focusing on realtime 3D graphics, VR/AR and systems architecture. He has lead/senior technical roles on 15 AAA shipped titles as a veteran of top developers including EA, Microsoft Studios, Konami Digital Entertainment. He was previously TD at Skydance Interactive. ARwall is based in Burbank.