Pantelis Kalogiros: Empowering a Generation of Innovators

The 10 Best Entrepreneurs with an Inspiring Story 2020 Vol 2

An imaginative mind can paint a magical picture of usual day-to-day functions that might seem ordinary to most of us. This creativity sets apart the innovative thinkers from the crowd. When Pantelis Kalogiros discerned his fascination for the mechanism of things, he decided to follow his passion and explore the extensive field of technology. His confidence was boosted when he got his first computer as a young boy. Although he grew up in a small city in Greece, his love for innovation motivated him to move to US where he co-founded Fyusion, a machine learning and computer vision company that enables anyone to capture and display interactive 3D 360 images using a regular smartphone.

Co-Founder and VP at Fyusion, Pantelis manages their patented 3D viewer technology and is responsible for engineering a consumer experience with an intent to provide them with a life-like experience in virtual scenes. CIO Views shares an inspiring read on his journey, highlighting the challenges, motivation, and success, crafted from his own perspective and thoughts.

How It All Began

Pantelis grew up in a small city in mainland Greece, son of an Airforce officer. As a child he had a deep fascination with understanding how things work. Advanced technology felt like magic and he had to grasp the inner workings of it. Things got supercharged when Pantelis got his first computer as he was finally able to stop being a passive learner and become an active creator and maker. Pantelis wanted to pursue his passion and soon dropped out of university during the last year of his studies which did not please his parents. He was already working full time as a lead software engineer, built open source software on the side, and performed as a musician and composer nurturing his personal interests. However, challenges are an integral part of the learning experience. Pantelis too, faced numerous challenges as a part of his growth process.

At this stage, too many things were competing for his time. He was confident about his dream but at the same time he had to face the constant rebellious feelings of having to prove to the world that he was ready and has the potential to do things differently. Pantelis was constantly pushed towards finding a job in the public sector, or a government organization. Such positions are viewed as “safe” and can provide a safety net during recessions.

While he was battling with these internal inhibitions, the climate externally was not tranquil. The startup culture in Greece, and Europe in general is much less developed compared to the thriving one in the States. Part of it is economy based where things like equity grants to employees are unheard of, almost exotic. Most companies for example do not have the goal of going public, being listed on the stock market, and concepts such as debt, fund raising, and acquisitions are viewed as highly risky. Another prominent hurdle is culture, wherein an entrepreneurial thought is scoffed at. A culture that instructs you to do things by the book, or not at all. At the same time, immigration problems were also an obvious obstacle. These challenges made it very hard for Pantelis to flourish as a free thinker.

However, despite it all, Pantelis was determined to follow his dreams and attain the success he envisioned. Through his open source work and growing interest in technologies such as computer vision, he met with some amazing people who still work with him to this day. They hacked day and night into that resulted into the founding of Fyusion.

Services of Fyusion

Fyusion is a machine learning and computer vision company that enables anyone to capture and display interactive 3D 360 images using a regular smartphone. Their core technology allows simple 3D capture with any camera, creating interactive images that are viewable on any device. They call this novel format “Fyuse”. It has deep functionality enabled by their computer vision and machine-learning expertise — even with the simplest integration. For the same size image as a high-quality JPEG, their visual format allows up to 360° fully user-controlled 3D images that can be simply added to any web or app build. Fyusion’s platform allows mobile users to record their surroundings and convert these into interactive 3D holographic images. Rather than requiring expensive or additional hardware, people can capture a light field-based image using a regular smartphone, which can then be viewed using an augmented or virtual reality headset within seconds.

Their AI can improve the look of images, and even understand the anatomy and geometry of a human model for tagging products and features purposes. What before has been done using expensive specialized equipment and took time to properly setup up a scene, lights etc, can now be done in seconds with a regular phone.

They are currently applying their technology to various verticals. In the automotive world Fyusion enables their customers to capture and display immersive 360 views of the exterior as well as the interior of a vehicle. This provides a much more immersive and engaging experience for the consumers, as well as much sought transparency for a vehicle’s condition and state. To learn more visit: auto3d.fyusion.com.

Fyusion’s patented technology allows to manually or automatically tag and annotate areas of the car. This can be used to inform consumers of an important feature of the car, or a damage. They are also able to apply various background image effects, removing or replacing parts of the background scene that the consumer might not want present (such as replacing a logo, or blurring a sign), or to even change the whole background, making a car that has been captured in a dusty garage, to look as if it is photographed in a professional setup photoshoot. Just by pointing your phone to a vehicle, they can real-time automatically highlight damaged areas. “We take great pride in making our technology as performant as possible, with most of our offerings running real-time and natively on a phone.”, Pantelis asserts.

Talent is Universal but Opportunity is Not

As a young man, Pantelis had the talent but lacked opportunity. When he started his professional career, he worked as lead JavaScript engineer at a digital marketing agency mostly serving customers in health insurance and pharmaceutical space during the day and during the night, he focused on open source software. He created various libraries, for example, for enabling gesture-control for web experiences. During that time, around 2012, Greece was going through a steep economic crisis. So Pantelis decided to quit his job. To leave a job amidst a deep recession that lasted for years was a precarious move, however Pantelis was adamant on leaving Greece. At that time, the mobile revolution was booming, he could see on the horizon the countless Computer Vision and Machine Learning possibilities that would slowly be made possible by the plethora of sensors and ample computing power mobile devices had. He wanted to work on making this new wave of technology happen. “So, I quit my job and applied for a google sponsored program that funded students to work on open source software. During this program I met Radu (Fyusion’s CEO) and people with whom we work together to this day!”, Pantelis recalls.

Currently, Pantelis serves as the VP of Web. He is responsible for Fyusion’s cloud and services infrastructure. They have a highly distributed architecture, with servers across three continents: America, Europe and Asia. He ensures scalability, expendability and of course uptime and honor service level agreements. He is also responsible for planning software architecture and ensuring performance/optimization metric are not hit. Fyusion being still a fast-moving startup which means they must develop and deploy their technology quickly, while making sure they are able to serve big enterprise customers who value stability above all. While taking care of his responsibilities as the Vice President of Web, Pantelis also tries to get to know everybody by name as a leader. If people are moving in order to work at Fyusion, he always tries to get to know them a bit. “I’m still looking forward to the day where I just can keep track all of our employee’s names!”, he titters.

Pantelis is living his dream at Fyusion. Media usually portrays success as a straight line, steadily going up. It feels more like a roller coaster, of peaks, lows and tons of stress. There are so many highs and lows in starting a company, then taking the leap and moving overseas to focus on it.  Sharing his experience and thoughts as the VP of Web Pantelis says, “Oh I love it. I could not have asked for a more rewarding job and experience. But I would not change it for anything else in the world. It is easy to feel as no progress is made, but slowing down, taking a deep breath, and looking back it is easy to be amazed at the progress that happens sometimes even month after month. More people should do that!”

Scope, Importance and Vision of Fyusion

The team of Fyusion has a unique imagination which is a value add to their services. They believe, the world isn’t flat, then why do their images have to be? 3D photography in simple terms allows you to view more data in a scene. From an end-user perspective, 3D images allow you to view a scene the same way you look and perceive the world around you. It is more natural. In a deeper look it provides contextual understanding of the scene and the objects within. The ability to recognize the scale and shape of geometry boosts our understanding of the data. This is extremely important for machine understanding, and crucial in robotics and AI environments. Where traditional algorithms had to do edge estimation and classification based on tiny grids of color values, the extra available structured data can increase the efficiency and accuracy of such systems. 3D photography is thus more interesting for humans, and far more useful and valuable for machines.

Fyusion is a highly technical company. All their IP is built in house and they have more than 120 patents for their technology. Fyusion’s employees have contributed to systems such as OpenCV, the cafe machine learning framework, and the PointCloud Library. Many of their competitors use such systems in their solutions. “Well, we are the ones who built these systems! We are also trying to be active in the academic community and have submitted papers and presentations to conferences such as Siggraph, CVPR and lightfield display summit. Thus, we are the best positioned to bring new technologies to existing industries that are looking to upgrade their technological ecosystem. We tend to build solutions specialized for the environment and problems our customers have, rather than taking off the self-generic solutions and apply to them.”, Pantelis shares.

From a growth perspective, in just a few years Fyusion went from 4 people with big aspirations and ideas, to a 65-person lively company with people of 22 different nationalities. Outgrew their office space 4 times in the process. Across their applications and services, they have more than 100 million users using their technology. Fyusion’s 360 viewer is embedded in more than 16000 websites. Their investors and customers include large international conglomerates and industry leaders. They are working with companies such as Cox Automotive, Vroom, Lotte and others.

Fyusion takes pride in being a research powerhouse. Their motto is to give your images superpowers. Well, the company is heading to a great future under the guidance of their resourceful leaders. Pantelis is inspired by a famous quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery,  “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” He also believes, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”, as quoted by Einstein. Pantelis is inspired by some of the greatest leaders of our times, but he has his own unique way of inspiring the people around him, who have contributed towards the success of Fyusion to the best of their ability. He has not only contributed to the success of Fyusion but has played a vital role in empowering his team with the same passion that urged him to dream big.