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Aviv Shapira, Co-Founder & CEO at XTEND – Interview Series

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Aviv Shapira, is the Co-Founder, and CEO at XTEND,  a revolutionary human-guided autonomous systems allow any operator, with no flight experience, to remotely perform extremely accurate maneuvers and actions.

Could you share the genesis story behind XTEND?

The genesis of XTEND began in 2018 when our CTO, Rubi Liani, first translated his passion for drones into finding a solution to the incendiary balloons threat on the Israeli-Gaza border. Rubi was convinced that drones could be used to neutralise the balloons, while offering a safe, remote way for professionals in various scenarios to do their jobs better.

My brother, Matteo, and I, who are extended reality specialists, teamed up with Rubi and Adir Tubi, a defense specialist, who is now our CQO, to develop a range of drones and most importantly, XOS, a uniquely scalable, affordable, and infinitely flexible operating system, which allows humans to connect and interact with drones, robots, vehicles, smart devices, and smart machines remotely, safely, and intuitively.

Today XOS is revolutionizing ‘human to machine’ interaction. Letting almost anyone to control multiple remote machines simultaneously – using advanced VR technology, on top of an AI layer. Alongside defence, XOS is now providing a new way for public safety, inspection, and homeland security professionals to interact with machines virtually in various non-combat scenarios.

Your previous VR company was sold to Intel and was rebranded as Intel Sports, what was the inspiration behind this company and what was it specifically? How did that inform/shape your ambition for XTEND?

We founded Replay Technologies in 2011 and were acquired by Intel in 2016, at which point Intel rebranded the business into Intel Sports Group (ISG). Replay provided unique 3D video rendering capabilities, which we called “free dimensional” or freeD™ video. freeD allowed sports fans to get a 360-degree view of key plays in a range of sports. Freezing action from any angle, then rotating around it, a bit like bullet scene special effects we saw in the Matrix movie. I spent 2 further years as Senior Director of Operations and Production for Intel Sports Group, where we applied freeD in various extended reality scenarios across several sports.

There is no doubt that those experiences shaped our vision for XTEND and XOS. Igniting our passion for augmented reality, virtual reality, robotics, and AI, and understanding how best of breed technology could be used to revolutionize ‘human to machine’ interaction.

XTEND Systems has designed an interface to interact remotely with machines, could you elaborate on how this works?

The drone industry has taken off like a rocket, especially when it comes to “remote operations” and an operator’s ability to control drones from remote locations. For the past four years, XTEND has been developing a new and innovative technology called Remote Interactive Operations (RIO). The advantage of RIO is that it not only allows professionals to de-risk their operations by interactively operating drones or robots from a remote location, but it also allows them to make real-time decisions and change the way they carry out complex tasks in real time.

While many companies provide remote operations capabilities, we are hyper focussed on ‘human to machine’ interaction and bringing interactive features to drone operations. We follow one major rule – “seeing” the remote environment isn’t enough. We believe we need to incorporate more human senses and capabilities, such as touch and sound, into the process.

This goes completely against what many in the industry are doing, as they attempt to eliminate human operators from remote operations. But we firmly believe the advancement of machines does not need to come at the expense of human operators, and when the two are paired together, they unlock a world of endless opportunities.

With the user and that need for human capabilities at the focal point of our vision, we developed XOS, our very own patented Operating System to enable true human and machine collaboration. XTEND’s Operating System (XOS) enables anyone to easily connect and interact within remote environments using drones and other smart machines, without the need for prior knowledge or training. Allowing operators to move, see, interact, and run 3rd party applications on remote machines precisely, intuitively, and immersively – using a blend of augmented reality, virtual reality, robotics, and AI.

What are some ways that XTEND Systems uses AI?

XTEND’s drones all use AI to power critical functionality like detection, facial recognition, and tracking. By building our XOS operating system XOS from the bottom up, we were able to create a patented ‘App Store’ which makes every piece of robotic hardware that uses our operating system much more capable and flexible by using software applications, including hundreds of AI apps.

XOS also allows humans to be present at the most critical point of remote missions with its “last mile capabilities”, in which a human operator remotely “enters” and takes control of a machine at its final stage of a mission or when our automated machine alerts tell an operator that human intervention is needed.

For readers who are unfamiliar with the term extended reality, could you define what it is and how it differs from augmented or virtual reality?

We coined the phrase ‘extended reality’ to describe how XOS extends the possibilities of ‘human to machine’ interaction. Connecting people with machines in a new way, by blending the latest AR, VR, and robotics technology with AI, to give operators the ability to be remote yet present, irrespective of whether they are thousands of miles or a few feet away.

The technology has the potential to save lives, could you walk through some of these use cases?

Every day people are risking their lives to make our world safer. Our aim is to create a world where humans don’t have to go where they shouldn’t go. XOS is perfectly suited to operating devices in civilian scenarios, providing a new way for humans to interact with machines virtually. Meaning a range of complex tasks that require human to machine interaction can be carried out at a safe distance by first responders, inspectors, and security professionals, who are experts in their field, rather than expert pilots or drivers of the machine they are using. XOS is being used by hundreds of defence and security personnel across the globe, enabling machines to go where humans should not.

XTEND Systems was recently awarded a multi-million-dollar contract  to modernize their use of drone technology. Could you share some details regarding this?

Yes, we were recently awarded a $25M contract by Israel’s Ministry of Defence for the development and supply of a first-of-its-kind multi-drone operating system.

The new joint project with MAFAT, the Israeli Ministry of Directorate of Defence Research & Development, will see XOS enable the remote, safe, and intuitive operation of dozens of human-guided semi-autonomous drones simultaneously, utilizing the latest virtual reality, edge processing and AI technology.

XOS will allow XTEND’s drones to be deployed remotely by military units in various scenarios precisely, intuitively, and immersively. The unique and ground-breaking joint initiative, which embodies the IDF and XTEND’s shared vision of enabling drones to become more than just another “eye in the sky”, will enable operators to control, interact, and run 3rd  party applications on the drones remotely, keeping forces out of danger, while fusing an operator’s expertise with machine autonomy, VR and AI.

What are some of the other use cases behind XTEND Systems?

After three years of live operations, we are expanding into new markets to ensure Remote Interactive Operations are accessible to everyone. Our aim has always been to make XOS the operating system of choice in a range of scenarios, outside defence. Allowing a range of professionals to control remote-powered drones and smart machines and carry out complex tasks that require human interaction and decision-making remotely. We are currently driving applications of XTEND’s technology, and our scalable and infinitely flexible XOS operating system, in public safety, homeland security, and inspection. Our aim is to begin revolutionizing human and machine interactions in manufacturing, logistics, travel, entertainment, and other civilian markets very soon.

What is your vision for the future of extended reality?

 Our world doesn’t have enough resources or solutions to address our urgent needs.

We must find new ways to extend our capabilities. Our mission is to create extensions to human-machine teaming. Where machines go where people shouldn’t.  And do what people shouldn’t.

The world doesn’t have enough people to keep it safe. Until now.

Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit XTEND.

Antoine Tardif is a Futurist who is passionate about the future of AI and robotics. He is the CEO of BlockVentures.com, and has invested in over 50 AI & blockchain projects. He is the Co-Founder of Securities.io a news website focusing on digital assets, digital securities and investing. He is a founding partner of unite.AI & a member of the Forbes Technology Council.