Daiji Hanaoka of Total Immersion

Business - August 5th, 2010

A bicultural background and years of experience in the IT and software industry gave Daiji Hanaoka the preparation he needed to establish and run the Tokyo office of Total Immersion. He and his staff are at the cutting edge of an exciting young industry called AR, or augmented reality, working with both Japanese and multinational clients across a broad range of industries.

What is your background and how did you arrive at your current position?

I grew up in Paris, France as a half French and Japanese national, and I arrived in Tokyo in 1997 when I was 20 years old. I did a few part time jobs before I found my vocation in sales, marketing, business development, and management. For more than ten years I have worked in the computer and software industry. I had a few sales management positions in leading software business applications companies including Hyperion (now Oracle), Cartesis (now SAP), and Nuance Communications. In April of this year I decided to stop working in the business applications area in order to join the leading AR (augmented reality) solutions company, called Total Immersion, and to set up their Japanese operation.

Can you tell us a bit about your company?

Total Immersion is the global leader in AR and a pioneer in commercializing this technology. Augmented reality technology integrates 3D objects into live video; the video is digitally processed and ‘augmented’ with the 3D components. In other words, this digital processing mixes real and virtual worlds together in real time. Recently, this technology finally reached maturity in the consumer market. The era of social media, web2.0 and announced web3.0, user generated content, internet and mobile generation, interactive and digital immersion associated with favorable devices and network evolutions is today the perfect grounds for massive augmented reality deployments. Total Immersion is now the main AR platform for both computers and mobile phones.

What do you think are the main differences between the Japanese and international markets?

The Japanese market is more specific than the rest of the world, and has to be considered different even from other parts of the Asia Pacific region. Many foreign executives and managers still forget or do not realize this important point. This is mostly due to their isolation on an island and from their cultural background. Even with the arrival of internet, Japan often developed its own standards and platforms. The country is quite reluctant to use global standards, and mostly wants the market to be treated in a local manner. Long term relationships and partnerships are key for the development of a successful business strategy in Japan. There are always key players to work with and rules to respect in order to enter the Japanese market.

I also think that there is a lack of leadership in corporate governance. This is mostly due to the fact that in Japanese culture, decisions are made by a group and not individually. The most challenging thing is to find solutions that reconcile the difference between a company’s business policy and the Japanese culture.

What sets your company apart from its competitors?

There are several different AR technologies nowadays. The main innovative AR technology is called ‘markerless,’ as it can recognize an image by its contrasts and colors, or a 3D object by its shapes. Since 1999 Total Immersion has provided customers with professional augmented reality solutions with its patented D’Fusion platform, which does markerless tracking as well as face and hand tracking. Beside recognizing and tracking almost everything, users can get an amazing experience with the face tracking for many entertainment purposes, as well as being able to control images in a screen by moving your hands in the air like in the movie Minority Report with Tom Cruise. You do not even need digital gloves to do it! Our technology is considered to be the most robust, scalable and reliable augmented reality platform.

What do you do in your spare time?

Recently, I have been so busy that I have had to give up on few of my hobbies. I used to play tennis and DJ before joining Total Immersion. Fortunately, now the AR industry has become my main hobby, so I do not regret it at all. Nowadays, I try to spend as much time as possible in the gym, as being healthy is important for my professional success. I also like to cycle a lot, which makes me use my car less, meaning less pollution in the city.