Katmai, a technology startup founded in 2020, has recently raised $22 million for its innovative approach to remote work by introducing a new 3D virtual office platform.
The New York-based company is now stepping out of stealth mode with its mission to transform how people work remotely by utilizing a combination of avatars, video cameras, and 3D virtual offices.
The company’s approach to virtual workspaces combines video conferencing and a real-time 3D engine to create immersive, photorealistic environments. This approach can be seen as a step towards the metaverse, a virtual universe where people can interact with each other.
The platform fosters authentic human interactions by using real video instead of cartoon avatars, which allows people to see and interact with each other as they would in a physical office, thus creating a more lifelike experience.
During an interview with GamesBeat, Katmai CEO Erik Braund said that the company’s realistic office environment allows remote workers to feel like they are working alongside others.
“I tried out a demo and it worked pretty well in making you feel like you’re both in an office with other people and still taking advantage of being remote,” Braund said.
Details of Katmai’s metaverse office concept
FlexJobs’ Career Pulse Survey reported that 65 percent of respondents want to work remotely full-time, while 32 percent prefer a hybrid work environment. As a result, business leaders are grappling with developing post-pandemic work strategies that balance the advantages of a physical office with productivity, employee well-being and company culture.
Katmai has created a virtual office solution that merges the benefits of working in a shared physical space with the comfort of remote work. This platform paves the way for a more inclusive work model.
The 3D virtual office incorporates a mix of private and co-working spaces, personalized environments that vividly showcase your brand and products in the virtual realm, spatial audio and spontaneous interactions.
Braund said that Katmai wants to create a work future where employees can work with more flexibility, leaders can quickly connect with their teams, and productivity can be improved. “In a world where companies are striving to do more with less, our product is designed to offer businesses a competitive edge,” Braund said.
During a demo in Katmai’s beta virtual office, the company used video instead of 3D-animated avatars to communicate with colleagues.
“Using actual videos can convey emotion and help people build a rapport in a way that is more natural, more genuine,” Braund said.
Katmai’s user experience prioritizes simplicity and ease of use. Braund said no proprietary software or hardware is required as the platform runs in-browser on any webcam-enabled computer.
When using the platform, users participate in a first-person environment and can interact with other users through their own remote video rather than a 3D-animated avatar.
As Braund explained, each user is represented as a real person, and the participants’ section of the screen indicates who can hear them. When a user leaves a room, their name disappears from the list, and when they return, other users receive a notification.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Katmai primarily focused on audio and video production. Soon after, the company pivoted towards addressing the challenge of virtual meetings.
Katmai has been collaborating with several companies since the launch of its closed beta in 2021. One such company is The Marketing Store (TMS), which drives transformational change for leading brands through technology, marketing and sourcing. TMS engaged Katmai to create a digital version of its Chicago headquarters.