Interview with Viktor Sdobnikov, co-founder of a leading provider of augmented reality systems in the automotive market

Viktor Sdobnikov is a graduate of the Institute of Physics and Technology of National Technical University of Ukraine «Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute». He and his team started their own business Apostera, headquartered in Munich. They have managed to develop and integrate their mixed reality technology into Audi in 4 years and they have already earned 14 million euros on this and other projects. You can learn more about the technology at the link.

It resembles a navigator on the windshield. It is a mixed reality technology that has appeared on the market in the new Audi Q4 e-tron model.

Seventeen years ago Victor was an entrant to the Institute of Physics and Technology. After winning the Physics Olympiad, he was advised to develop in the field, but long before that, in about five years, Viktor Sdobnikov already knew that he was going to study in the specialty 113 «Applied Mathematics».

To share how the idea was born, what knowledge was needed and what the secret of success was, Viktor Sdobnikov agreed to give an interview.

«What knowledge has helped you to create mixed reality technology?»

«First of all fundamental knowledge of math and physics, because augmented reality, or mixed reality, seems to be more about programming, but it’s not right. I will give an example. If you had a chance to wear virtual reality glasses 5-7 years ago and use them for 15-20 minutes, you could feel that there is a certain dizziness, and it is not very comfortable. Such effects occur precisely because there is a certain delay in what a person sees compared to what his vestibular apparatus feels. If you embed augmented reality and mixed reality in a car, the same thing happens. If the driver turns the steering wheel to the left, it takes 100 ms until the whole image reacts to such a maneuver, and the driver feels very uncomfortable. This can lead to new accidents. This is just a small example of where physics, mathematical models, control theory, and even statistical models are already used».

Illustration of the system in the car, Audi MediaCenter

«Was this your first job? How did the idea come about?»

«This was not the first job. The first work was a mix between a research project and a commercial project in the Department of Image Recognition and Processing at the International Research and Training Center for Information Technologies and Systems of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) of Ukraine and Ministry of Education and Science (MES) of Ukraine, where I had the opportunity to collaborate with Schlesinger Mykhailo Ivanovych. Then there were food companies, where I was engaged in pattern recognition. Having about 5 years of experience in the industry, where I was doing what was interesting, I got into the automotive industry, and this idea was born. She has matured for some time in the research & development group at Luxoft, — says Victor. — My team and I agreed to finish work at Luxoft, and started to create everything from scratch. We could not use any lines of code from the previous company. It was an interesting experience».

«How many years have passed since the idea was born to date?»

«By the way, when the idea arose, there were no devices that could be used. In fact, knowledge of physics helped to imagine that such devices are possible at all. If we talk from the idea to the first car that can be bought today, it took about 9 years».

«What would you say to yourself, as a student, from the standpoint of today’s experience? Maybe you would have done something different?»

«I was quite an active student. I also took part in various competitions and at the end of my studies I worked on two additional jobs. That is, I would do a lot in the same way, but if I chose what to change, I would probably make more use of the opportunities provided by different student organizations to share experiences. There are venues like BEST, the Board of European Students of Technology, which I unfortunately met at the end of my fifth year and only traveled a little in engineering competitions. I would participate not only in competitions and tournaments, but also, starting from the third year, I would use the time to meet like-minded people, having previously joined the activities of BEST».

«And what school did you graduate from?»

«I graduated from the third secondary school in Kyiv, today it has the status of a specialized school with in-depth study of information technology, but at the time of graduation it was a secondary school. Here I can only point out that I had an incredible physics teacher — Valery Alimovych Staroshchuk. Thanks to him, I became interested in her».

«Which sections of physics are most important? What should you pay attention to?»

«It depends on what focus, what interest. I have acquaintances from the Institute of Physics and Technology  who are engaged in both quantum computing and quantum physics, that is, such rather narrow areas. When it comes to pattern recognition and computer vision, you definitely need optics. I would single out mechanics and classical mechanics as those that are also needed and generally used quite often. This is the transfer of models in the recognition model, and, in fact, their use in such systems under construction. I would also like to single out thermodynamics, in fact a lot of analogies from thermodynamic models are also built in recognition, segmentation, object search and optimization».

Having confidently passed the way of studying powerful disciplines and having achieved great success in a promising field due to his knowledge, skills and perseverance, Victor, to help his future colleagues, takes an active part in developing a new educational program “Methods of mathematical modeling, pattern recognition and computer vision” . He tries to focus the program on the needs of modern innovative companies in the field of artificial intelligence.

According to Victor mixed reality technology is closely linked to the content of this educational program.

«What advice can you give to students who want to follow in your footsteps?»

«Probably the first piece of advice is not to follow in someone’s footsteps, you need to follow in your footsteps, to understand what is interesting to you in the first place».

We hope that our educational program will help each student to realize his dream and achieve success.