Into the world of Animation, AR, and VR

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Rohan Ponniah and Vesley Carrasco of Fat Hamster Studio chat with NT BUZZ on why animation, Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR) is in vogue right now

DANUSKA DA GAMA | NT BUZZ

It was over a casual chat with friends over a few beers in a local pub in Panaji in 2018, that Zambia-returned Rohan Ponniah and Goa-born Vesley Carrasco came up with a brilliant idea of starting an animation, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) studio here in Goa.

“Vesley and I have been friends and colleagues for a long time. One evening, we were catching up with a friend and got talking about starting this AR and VR studio. The friend set up a meeting with an investor. They loved the idea and from there on things moved quickly,” says founder and partner, Ponniah.

Two years later, their initiative Fat Hamster Studio, anchored in Goa, is now an animation powerhouse with a global presence in multiple markets in India, Africa, Middle East, Europe, and the US.

“We are now a team of 11, working on some very interesting projects for clients from across geographies,” says Ponniah. In fact, with an impressive roster of projects for clients ranging from Netflix to Byjus and HDFC to Nickelodeon, the studio is engaged in a range of animation, AR and VR
intervention.

“Some of the cutting-edge projects we are working on for national and international brands are still in the developmental phase. Restricted non-disclosure agreements don’t allow us to speak about them,” says
Ponniah, chuckling.

And according to Ponniah, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality technologies which fundamentally accentuate realities, not only have the potential to add value to Goa’s reputation as a heritage destination and scenic natural bounty, but can also provide jobs to local youngsters skilled in the craft.

Carrasco agrees. “AR and VR need creative and tech professionals, something which Goa has in abundance,” he states.

Born and brought up in Mapusa, Carrasco feels that young talent in Goa has sound grounding in theory, but lack practical knowledge, especially creative problem-solving techniques. That is where young companies can help to add value to their ability to think, troubleshoot on-the-go, and get them employment-ready. He also believes that small tweaks in early education modules could help students get ready for a future where fast-evolving technology is expected to play a big role.

“With the world rapidly making advances in technology, it would be important to commence some form of training at school level. Kids are fast learners and can pick up new skills quickly. It is encouraging that in some schools, coding is already being taught as a subject. Kids are already learning to code games and work on designs at an early age,” says Carrasco.

Also, according to Ponniah, with the mushrooming of the new tech outfits in the state, Goa could be in a position to set in motion a process of ‘brain-gain’, by attracting Goan techies who had to migrate for professional reasons.

“Besides fresh talent from Goa, there are experienced professionals working in other parts of India and even abroad who want to return home to Goa and work here. We encourage talent to return and set up base in the coastal state,” he says.

Further, the COVID-19 pandemic, he believes, is adding to the trend of Goans wanting to return home, if there are options available.

“The use of technology has allowed people to work remotely from any region. The large number of skilled professionals is looking to relocate back to Goa and work from here or set up entrepreneurial ventures of their own, which is great for the industry as a whole,” says Ponniah.

The pandemic has also triggered an upswing for the technology industry, with business processes and sectors like education moving online.

And the AR and VR verticals, according to Ponniah, offer a variety of career opportunities for artists, engineers, coders, illustrators, animators, project managers, 3D artists, graphic designers, and a host of other professions which will constantly be in demand in the future, given the integration of technology in all spheres of business.

AR and VR also have potential to provide new dimensions to Goa’s tourism industry by accentuating the state’s heritage and natural wealth. Citing the example of our capital city, Ponniah explains: “It’s a beautiful heritage city built along the river with trees lining the streets, beautiful heritage structures and graffiti art painted on buildings. There is art everywhere you look around. We could possibly build an option where the art can come alive on our phone if we point towards it, with a detailed descriptor. We can create programmes where animations pop up and out of our handheld devices when held over a
brochure for example.”

And with augmented and virtual reality being looked at as game changers across fields, the duo states that tech giants are now looking at investing heavily in these areas and thus there is opportunity that lies untapped for creative and tech professionals in the near future.