This unique startup seeks to provide customers with the means to connect art, technology and emotions.
--BY MANISHA BALAMI
Art develops in distinct forms, and as technology proceeds to expand the boundaries of the human imagination, it has allowed creativity to be expressed through unique avenues. A prominent illustration of this development is the ability to transform sounds into artwork, which is an alluring proposition.
Founded by Kushal Pokharel, Eclipse Labs, an interactive art and science-based technology and research, art and design creation company is pushing the boundaries of art. A student of electronics and computer engineering, Pokharel was actively engaged in small projects during college, which helped him come up with several ideas to do something new and innovative.
Pokharel focused on sound art and established Eclipse Labs. “The recorded sounds are converted into graphics through a unique algorithm and are printed on the customer’s material of choice”, he says.
After doing extensive research for a couple of years, he formally registered the company in 2018 after the completion of his college programme.
Although Eclipse Labs started with sound art, the company now provides additional services such as t-shirt design, fashion design, logos as well as interior designing. “But this is not what we exactly want to do”, he claims. “Like sound art, we want computers to generate those designs. We want to develop interactive designing technology around Nepal. Besides, we want people to be able to connect or relate with those designs and art personally”, he adds. Unlike human-made design, the designs of Eclipse Labs are generated through computer software and programmes. “We are creating a kind of ecosystem around the technology”, he says.
According to him, the sound art that is printed on paper starts from Rs 2,000. Although more than Rs 300,000 has been invested in research and operation costs, he says that he has tried to keep the price of the products in keeping with the market value. Pokharel believes that the company’s way of looking at designs from a technical perspective makes them unique.
Challenges and Opportunities
Pokharel says that the technology they are using today had already been developed during the 1980s. The technology is known as generative graphics. “Such technology is used in movies, whereby a story is connected by using art and technology, while sound art tries to connect many stories to personalised picture art”, he claims. He further says that he is trying to find various ways to connect people interested in art and design with the technology. “But replacing paintings with sound art is not my vision”, he says. “Instead, we aim to connect emotions with art using technology”, he adds. If somebody wants to gift their near ones, they usually purchase an already designed product. Pokharel says he wants to change this scenario and that people should be able to gift their own customised products. In this sense, he says that they can apply sound art principle in product design such as bags and t-shirts, fashion design, interior design and rug design. “The designer oriented market can be changed to a customer-oriented market”, he adds. This trend has already started in other countries. He says that his company is currently in the research and design phase. “But after we take off, I think there is a possibility of reaching the international market”, he says.
Pokharel says that being a one-product based company is not sustainable. Initially, as they only had sound art as a product, they had to face market challenges. To figure out ways to cope with the market challenge was another hurdle for Pokharel. Further, he did not focus on social media marketing and wanted organic customers.
Financial struggles are standard for any startup. Despite this, hiring staff members was not difficult for Pokharel as he had built a network before formally starting the company. He knew many people who supported the idea and were ready to help him. By hiring interns, he is researching on ways to identify other areas where his company can grow.
Customers have a couple of material options for printing their sound art – one is canvas paper, and another is photographic paper. Likewise, there are two to three sizes available. He says, “Customers can also customise the colour, size and material as per their wish. Even if they want their sound art to be printed on their room’s wall, it can be done”. Currently, customers can also print their designs on t-shirts.
The products of sound art can be gifted or kept as a memory. Pokharel shares that customers can relate to their religion as well. He says, “People wear different religious rings on their fingers to connect with their religion. Likewise, through sound art, we could connect with our religion as well. Religion is something that is deeply connected within us and we want to reflect it in some product, and sound art can be a new form of religious connection”, he adds. One of the customers wanted to convert the Hindu mantra ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ into sound art. “He was delighted and satisfied with the result,” shares Pokharel.
Other customers of Eclipse Labs are couples who want the words ‘I Love You’ designed. The sound art of a bride and groom saying each other’s names are also used for wedding purposes.
Collaborating with Technically Sound People
It has only been a year for the inception of the company, and it has already come up with additional sound art visualisation and about ten unique products of sound art. Eclipse Labs is yet to reach a point where it can register profit, but its growth in terms of research, product and sustainability has been positive, according to Pokharel. “To be able to discover the wide range of areas where we can work on is also a success for us”, he states.
He also realised that sound art could also become a corporate solution, in the sense that it can be used in designing carpets, paintings or other forms of interior design and fashion design. Pokharel has been operating the business for a year now through his own investment. He says that he has not taken a loan from anywhere. The company isn’t actively seeking investment, he says, but the workforce related to the field is welcome. “We are open to collaborating with people with expertise in the field of fashion, product design or interior design”, he says.
Although new products can always be created with ever-evolving technology, the lack of technically sound people is still a problem. “Whenever we are hiring an employee, we still have to train them a lot to make them sound enough”, he says, “But we have to appreciate that there has been a gradual improvement”.
He also has some practical suggestions for new start-ups. “It’s all right to be late, but enough research needs to be done before starting any company. The option of minimising possible risks is in our own hands”.