Tag Archive for: innovation

Startups in Athens: Innovation made with ROKOKO

Petros Stone Soup Athens Coworker

Have you ever wondered how your favorite animation or video game is so life-like and realistic? Well, it’s probably because the developers used motion capture hardware and software, like the ones designed by Rokoko, our latest members!

We had a chance to speak with Petros, the Administrative Director of the Greek tech hub of Rokoko in Athens. He shared with us how it’s like to work with Rokoko, the competitive advantages of their tech products, and how online platforms help to build a digital community of creators.

The mocap technology 

Motion capture is the process of making human (and sometimes animal) motion digital. With the help of optical sensors or in Rokoko’s case, small sensors, an actor transmits the motion data to a computer. The captured data is then used for animating 2D or 3D models. In-game development and filmmaking, motion capture is an unparalleled method for making animated characters move more realistically. Rokoko has developed the Smartsuit Pro and the Studio software in order to deliver a complete service.

A Danish Startup in Athens

The Rokoko headquarters and the company’s supply chain are based in Copenhagen, while in Athens there is a tech hub focusing on tech support and software. Petros explained how the Greek branch sprang in Athens back in 2015. It all happened by chance! Some members of the Danish team visited Greece for a private event and met a Greek developer. At first, they started a loose freelance collaboration. As the time passed, the team grew organically from five to twenty people! The Greek company was officially set up in 2020 and has been expanding since then. 

So what’s it like to work for a tech startup in Athens? Petros noted that Rokoko is a startup in a scale-up process. Growing “from 5 people to a village” means that things are constantly in flux. A tech-oriented and relaxed work environment in the center of Athens proves truly exciting, especially for young professionals. Another appealing asset is that working in a creative tech position means that one must take ownership of the projects. It’s also really interesting that Danish and Greek cultures clash so it’s kind of a shock for Greeks who are used to a hierarchical system in the workplace. Adapting to a horizontal work culture means that team members can go with the creative flow and enjoy a relaxed environment. 

Some ongoing research projects might be used for commercial reasons or might be thrown away. That’s how innovation works and this is one of the most exciting aspects of working for a tech startup like Rokoko, according to Petros.

Making technology accessible to all creators

But how is innovation transferred into the market? Rokoko’s main competitive advantages are accessibility, affordability, and the way it offers a full-body tracking solution, covering body, fingers, and face. Big studios use point systems of reference that a camera has to detect for motion capture. Rokoko, on the contrary, developed hardware that uses sensors on the  Smartsuit Pro and the Smartgloves, which do not require a camera. As a result, the whole operation is much more affordable. This is the reason why Rokoko equipment is accessible to small and independent creators who make up more than 80% of the company’s customers. In addition, using their Studio software to gather all the data, you can get hyperreal results straight into your screen! Petros also revealed to us that we should expect much more to come in the future.

One such upgraded product is the Smart Suit Pro II that will be out in early 2022 and anyone can pre-order already! 

Can you imagine being able to impersonate your favourite video game character? Well, Shutter Authority’s VFX videos are #madewithrokoko!

Are you a fan of Lil Nas X? His video clips are #madewithrokoko!

Building a community

How to bring creators together? Petros underlined the importance of scaling up the digital community that Rokoko has been building. Users share stories on Instagram adding the hashtag #madewithrokoko while all creators can interact and share tips through a Discord channel. Rokoko’s customer base consists mainly of independent creators so bringing them together in an active and sharing digital community is crucial for strengthening their voices. Apart from learning more about possible ways to create content, another incentive for creators is the chance to win hardware and software prizes (last year the company awarded one of the biggest bundles ever)! In a digital world, there is no need for a formal submission so #madewithrokoko is all that it takes to register! 

What’s coming up?

Rokoko established a tech hub in Athens just before the pandemic. Because of that, they didn’t have the chance to host any networking events. Open innovation is one of their values, so Petros highlighted their effort to cooperate with universities. They try to approach educational institutions so that students can do their academic projects while getting professional experience in Rokoko. The buzz expected from the launch of the Smartsuit Pro II is going to be huge so more events are coming both in Athens and abroad! We are beyond lucky to have them in our workspace and we can’t wait to see what realities they’ll take us next!

Digital Art in Athens and beyond: a curator’s view

For Foteini Vergidou, 2020 was a milestone year for digital culture and contemporary art. Our new member is a curator, researcher, and project manager based in Athens. 

“2020 was a year of living online and I don’t know if there will be any difference between art and digital culture from now on.”

Her curatorial practice focuses on the impact of technological advancements on human relations, on human-machine relations, and between humans and their ecosystem. She explores issues related to cultural identity, climate change, surveillance, and big data.

We had a chance to speak with her about the current digital art scene of Athens and the value of digital media for contemporary artists. 

Foteini coworker member at Stone Soup

Exploring digital art: getting exposed to experiences abroad

Foteini represents a brain gain example. She obtained an MA in Interactive Media: Critical Theory and Practice from the Goldsmiths University of London. While studying she explored the contemporary art scene in London and indulged in her research interests before moving to Berlin to work in the iconic transmediale festival.  She stayed in Berlin for 3 years and worked as a gallery manager in DNA Berlin. Such an international and multicultural environment equipped her with an open mind towards work-related issues. As a result, living and working abroad made her realize that there is no center of experiences and no bipolar divisions between “us” and “them”.

She returned and settled in Athens in 2015. In that year,  Foteini worked as Coordinator and Project Manager for Kappatos Athens Art Residency Program. During this period, she collaborated with international artists such as Martin Creed, Roy Ascott, and Santiago Sierra. She also curated the Web Art exhibition category for the Athens Digital Arts Festival in Greece for the 11th and 12th editions. Most recently, she curated the Hysterophimia Pavilion, the Greek Pavilion for the 4th edition of The Wrong Digital Art Biennale (2019 – 2020) exploring the contemporary culture around Images, from selfies to big data. 

Since 2018, she has worked as Curatorial Advisor and Project Manager for the artist Kalliopi Lemos, developing research upon themes that center around migration, human rights, and gender injustice. At the same time, she worked on different projects in Athens and abroad promoting artists through digital media.

Online culture and physical community: two sides of a common goal

For Foteini, the experiences triggered and gained abroad can be developed in one’s own country. Physical and online interaction with audiences and other creative professionals, input and output of experiences, drive a successful exposure.

Thus, community and network building play an important part in her career. It is actually the first thing she advises every new artist to pursue through physical and digital media. On one hand, this is the reason she joined a coworking space. It offers a physical chance of socialization, necessary to bring together different perspectives and ideas among professionals. On the other hand, artists can achieve digital interconnectivity and exposure through investment in up-to-date online platforms and social media like Instagram. In the last few years, digital art and media became an upcoming field in Athens. The pandemic boosted this relatively new way of promotion and highlighted the importance of the transition to online representation.

Foteini coworker member at Stone Soup

Tips for new artists: digital platforms are the future

But how can an artist take advantage of the digital media available to promote their body of work? Foteini describes a few fruitful moves they can make: network building, social media, research in up-to-date websites, platforms, funding. An artist’s online presence should include a social media account, like Instagram, where they promote their artwork. Through this medium, their physical network can interact with them and give them feedback. 

Also, for Foteini the curative process is connected with a certain amount of research. Every exhibition is the result of a body of research that she deals with at a particular moment. Since 2017, she is an editor and writer at FerociousUrbanites.com, where she conducts research around issues that derive from our relation to technology. This is also an example of an up-to-date website with a strong focus on promoting Greek digital artists to an international audience. Browsing websites like this can offer artists and art lovers inspiration and information about online culture and digital art.

Since 2019, she is an active member of the TILT platform, bringing together creative people including artists, researchers, and theorists. She is always seeking collaboration with other professionals, coming often from diverse disciplines and practices, in order to develop synergies and joint projects. Her main goal is to conduct collective research, while forming an exhibition or a public intervention, in order to reveal different perspectives. The exhibition “Iasis” she curated for the TILT platform presented a body of work, artworks, educational seminars, and workshops, that investigated the political and social dimensions of global human activity. The TILT platform is an example of a network-building initiative for artists. Foteini compares it with a coworking space where members can interact and share their ideas and projects.

Foteini in an open coworking space

Picks ‘n tips for digital culture events & art-lovers

Foteini thinks that the contemporary Athenian cultural scene is experimental, as is the city itself. The pandemic has boosted the transition to online representation even though she agrees that there are limits. For example, both theatre and art exhibitions had to offer the audience an experience mediated by the Internet. Big and small institutions had to adapt to the new condition and the results are appealing to many. She points out that the initiatives to promote online culture from Onassis Foundation and the PCAI are worth “browsing”. Furthermore, digital media like Instagram are basic components of projects curated by 3137, an artist-run space in Athens. On the international side, she suggests visiting the  Top Museum (Tokyo Photographic Art) and the Overkill festival.

Foteini’s expertise as a curator is to manage all these tasks! And you are welcome to contact us and get in touch! She acts as a mediator between artistic expression and public perception. Nevertheless, she is a strong supporter of the “artist’s fee”, the payment that every creator must demand in exchange for the presentation of their work. She admits that the current focus on digital art, both in Athens and internationally, can pose new challenges for artists. Her advice to them is to always seek copyright and legal support before participating in online exhibitions.

Foteini in an open coworking space

“Always reinvent yourself and be adjustable”

This is what she learned and suggests to every art worker in the post-pandemic world. There is no need for a laptop if a creative professional pursues exposure and openness, values that she found in a coworking space. For her, coworking offers inspiration through interaction without the extra layer of workplace stress. And in these crazy times, a casual chat in a safe space can be more creative than ever!