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!   

Are innovators born or made?

The entire western world talks about innovation. It’s the key for the development of western economies, and it’s a one-way street. All of the engineering and math-oriented work passes through globalization to overseas engineers. It combines low operational cost with high productivity. However, in the case of innovation it is really complex. Actually, there is no consensus on how innovation works.

Numerous products such as book or pieces of art are made each year, but how many of them actually obtain an exceptional place in the market? Engineering plus creativity gives birth to innovation. It’s not a coincidence that great innovators were not just engineers or scientists; they were also artists in their own fields, in their own community.

One-inch

It is true that innovative minds can be taught, to some extent; but not the regular way. Arts and  Humanities is that one-inch that makes the difference. Is it possible to imagine Mac OS without art? However, markets are not always in favour of the best technology. Mac Os is vastly superior than Windows OS in many aspects, but the latter dominates the markets. Believing  that every product or skill deserves the share that it takes is a big fallacy. It may be true when talking about low-level service and measurable skills, but it’s not about innovation. It’s almost trivial to give credits on to someone or something that is already established.Any wise analyst can see all the critical points that made the difference of that one-inch and claim “I knew it, I knew it, I saw it!”. Bullshit! Nobody takes into consideration the billions of products that never surfaced because of flawed timing, funding or many, many other reasons that we may find afterwards.

Start wherever you are!

In the real world with real considerations and a well-structured market, skills and abilities will be expressed and rewarded somehow. But that could be anywhere! What they say? ‘History is repeated!’ Nonsense! Just nonsense! Every path is unique and, the dots can only be connected by looking backwards. All innovative newbies are fighting for a ticket in a theatre where the performance is never, ever repeated. The roles are changing upon the stage and the script is nothing more than trash.

The best way of learning is by doing..

A YouTube founder once said: I am not impressed by our success, we planned it! Hah They planned it! They planned to receive in a couple of years a bunch of millions. When Google came to light, its founders  wanted to sell their idea but nobody wanted to buy it! They couldn’t see any commercial value in a multi-billion-dollar business idea that changed the flow of information in the whole world! Who really knows? Trial and error was the most effective method that has ever existed, and it still might be.

The point is that the harder you work, the luckier you get. Perseverance can make the difference. The vast majority of inventors, innovators, and scientists  around you – they are not as charismatic or talented as you think – they are persistent.

Give it a shot!

Credits for the article go to: Antonis Vatousios
Find the original article here 

#5 tips you need to know to start working remotely

The way of working is rapidly changing as a new professional culture is emerging, one that is swaying away from the traditional ways of doing business. This culture is evident in startups but is also gaining ground in more traditional companies throughout the world that are adapting to this reality.

The new era is bringing modern aspects to the workplace, and one of those is the concept of the remote worker, a professional who does not need a single workspace and is able to travel by bringing their work to any part of the world. But working remotely is not as simple as it sounds, it takes some skills and habits that most people don’t have and you can only master by trying and trying again. When you are juggling with work and traveling, if your don’t do it right you can ruin both experiences.

If your are aware of the possible risks and you are one of those who wishes to experiment with freedom while working, this list is for you! We present to you 5 tips to help you become someone who doesn’t need a permanent workspace.

#1 Find a workspace

It may be tempting to work from home or trying to bring your laptop to the beach or to the mountains to work, but for the sake of your productivity, you have to ultimately find a place that would minimize your distractions and that would help you do better in your work.

Most people think about working in the comfort of their home, coding, designing or writing in their underwear while laying in bed or the sofa. This might work for a few, but using your home as your workspace might mean that you don’t feel comfortable enough neither as a home or workspace, and being isolated or even start to feel lonely might affect your productivity in the long run, and even your mental state.

That’s why most of the remote workers recommend that you find a neutral place, that isn’t either your house or your office, some of them recommend to work on cafes, where you have food and good coffee, which is pretty useful if you find a cafe that suits your needs, and also, make it easier for you to travel and work in other places. The only drawback about working in cafes is the noise, especially if you need to present your work or make an important phone call and sometimes, the Internet connection is not on your side either.

To address that need, there are many coworking spaces that you may find in almost any city and they offer a professional setup to accommodate your needs while you work. At the same time, a shared working space offers great opportunities for meeting different people and business networking, that’s why such places are filled with remote workers and digital nomads all around the world.

#2 Plan and prepare

This might sound obvious but it’s always good to remember how important is planning yourself before starting working out of the office. You won’t have anybody to remind you what you have to do and when you have to do it. This freedom is great but you have to learn how to control and manage effectively your time and how to use your freedom in your favor.

To build your own work schedule and to work whenever you want is great and probably the quality of your work might be even greater because you mind and inspiration will be at your own time, but it is easy to lose focus and to procrastinate when you are not in your everyday office and routine.For that reason, building a schedule and organizing your tasks is a great thing to do and will help a lot with your productivity.

There are a lot of tools on the web to help with your task management and your organization, like Trello, that you can use on your computer and your phone and help you to organize your tasks and remind you when the deadlines are coming, Evernote, that is useful to keep your notes and to remember your tasks, and if you prefer analog methods, the Bullet Journal will help you organize our day to day tasks and do things efficiently.

#3 Improve your communication

Nat Turner once said that “Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity”, and his words are very meaningful when you think about working remotely. If you do not meet with your coworkers or with your clients at a physical office space, you need to make the communication between you clear and effective or you won’t be able to collaborate successfully and deliver your goals..

Most communication may be achieved with on-line appointments and frequent calls or emails, but your time and your colleagues’ or clients’ time is precious, so, take extra care in making your points clear and make sure that at all times you understand and balance expectations on both sides. This will make easier to approach them after the meetings.

#4 Know exactly what you do and how much it costs

Pricing is a common hurdle that most remote workers face, especially when they are starting off. Once you don’t work in a specific place, it is hard to measure how much time a day you are working, and normally, people forget to count the time that they are spending searching for clients or having meetings, even though this is an important part of their work.

To runaway for that mistake, the best thing to do is to know exactly what you can offer, to define the services you provide and how much they cost on the market you specialize. Then you price fairly, and when you do that, you keep in mind that you need to be able to compensate for all the hours that you spend looking for your clients and all the extra things that you have to take care to keep your business running. We know, this is not what you are meant to do or your profession but hey, being self employed comes with a toll.

#5 Make contacts and meet people

Being independent is great, working for yourself is amazing, but you need to meet people and make contacts to work remotely, because you work for people and with people, and networking will help you to get through the hard times that you might find in this adventure that is working remotely.

Exploring the places that you visit, and talking to people you meet is a difficult task, but it gets easier the more you practice it, and it will be a rewarding experience for you, try to connect with the people that you speak, ask their opinion and bring out yours too, if you know someone that could be useful for other people that you have met, bring them together, they will feel grateful to you, and they will be happy to help you when you need.

There are a lot of networking events happening all the time and you can use Meetup to find about it, most of the people in this kind of events are looking forward to the same things that you are, and they will be happy to talk to you, so be open to that.

To that end, coworking spaces make serendipity interactions smoother, because you will find yourself amidst a lot of people working and you can improve your networking all the time. As simple as it is,  it’s important to get out of the house and meet people, and this spaces are built for that.

If you are working remotely or want to try it out, and you are interested in keeping up with new business trends, follow Stone Soup on Facebook and come to visit our coworking space, we could be exactly what you’re looking for!