Meet Jack founder of Massless
We live in a 3D world, we have 3D dreams, but we’re only able to use 2D tools to bring those dreams to life. This limitation means we’re only touching the tip of our potential creative powers. Changing this paradigm means challenging our preconceptions of how we interact with the digital world, what tools we use to do so, and what that means for our lives.
Meet Jack, the founder of Massless, who is on a mission to empower a world of creatives. He is passionate about making tools for both the virtual and physical world to help people solve problems more intuitively and efficiently. We sat down with Jack to hear what drove him to start Massless, what challenges he’s faced during the journey, and what the future looks like for 3D, design, and society as a whole.
What inspired you to start Massless?
It was while I was studying in Oxford, it was massively intimidating. I didn’t quite feel like I belonged there, my Essex accent gave me away immediately. I felt like I had to work harder than everyone else to earn my place there. I was modelling on a computer to demonstrate how to sequence DNA. It meant I was working with a lot of 3D information, and I was so frustrated by the interface I had to use to get the data into the computer and then extract meaningful information.
Massless was inspired from my frustration of working with computers. The world we live in is 3D, we think and create and dream in 3D, but we use this totally imperfect 2D screen to access it. It’s an illusion, it’s so limiting. It makes it really hard to spot problems quickly when designing. I hated that I felt totally limited. I felt slowed down, I couldn’t express these inventions that I had in my head. That’s when I started thinking about what could be done to make this better.
When did you start inventing things and what drove you to do it?
I’ve always loved to invent. My first invention was when I was about 6 in primary school, it was a pair of ‘mole gloves’ so you could dig through the ground more efficiently. I think I might have peaked then. Since then I’ve had a bunch of ideas, a remote control bin for the elderly, so they could throw stuff away without moving. I always wanted to invent things that relieved people’s limitations. I also invent silly things, I made bunch of computer games, a version of Lights Out, a remote control railgun, loads of things. Oh, and that secret agent laser tag game from The Big Bang Theory. I actually made that and it worked, I still think that would do really well, it was so much fun.
Seems like you are really passionate about making a difference. What do you hope you will achieve with Massless?
I am hoping to solve the problems we aren’t seeing. We’re in a paradigm we just accept without realising it. There’s a scene in Blues Brothers where they’re living next to these unbearable train tracks, and they say “How often does the train go by?” “So often you won’t even notice it”.
How we interact with 3D is like that, we’re used to it, so we forget how much of a problem it is, how much it limits what we can do, but imagine if you were trying to put together a piece of Ikea furniture using just your finger and nothing else, it’s so limiting. That’s what interacting in 3D is like with a monitor and a mouse. It’s insane.
Before Massless, I was getting really lethargic, just sitting at a desk all day long. I don’t want to be shackled to the desk, I want to move, I want to be dynamic! All other creators, carpenters, chefs, they get to move around and interact with their medium, but anyone working in the digital world doesn’t have that. They can’t have that connection, they can’t move around and use their hands, and it’s so sad. People feel better when they move.
When I was in University I had this epiphany. I could envision a set of tools that I could make to help other creatives and engineers solve the biggest problems in the world. My feeling was this: You can either work on one technology, or you can create the tools to help other people solve those problems better. That’s why I started Massless. These big global challenges are getting more and more important for humanity, and they can’t be solved with our current tool set. I know where I fit now, it’s creating those tools to help people solve the world’s problems.
How was going from this concept to a company?
I came up with three things we would need to be able to see, interact and create spatially in 3D. In order to see we need low-cost, high-quality 3D glasses. Now we just call this a VR headset. They didn’t exist when I started thinking about all of this, at least not until 2012 when Oculus revealed their first headset. That was so exciting to me, it was one of the pieces of the puzzle that I needed.
I got one of the first Oculus headsets and a Leap Motion, a basic hand tracker, I was blown away by the Oculus, but when I tried the leap motion, I felt just as separated from the world as I had done with a mouse and monitor. It wasn’t reliable enough or precise enough, so I realised this is where Massless had to start.
I prototyped my own version that overcame some of those problems, and applied for a grant from the UK government to work on it. It took months to write that, and even longer to hear the results, and after all that, I got rejected. That was really crushing. I didn’t know what to do, I’d never raised any money for a project before. I asked around and was recommended to talk to the Royal Academy of Engineering in London. I took my prototype and showed it to them, got to the final interview, which was the most intimidating moment of my life.
At this point I’d made the leap inside myself, that I wanted to become an entrepreneur, but it’s a big leap of faith, you know? It means quitting your career to start another one in something you feel totally unqualified to do. Waiting for the results was tense, but I knew that even if I didn’t get it, I’d keep going. Something amazing happened. I got the fellowship. This is where everything changed for me, I redoubled my resolve and fully committed to the mission of changing the way the world interacts with 3D. I had some amazing early opportunities, one of them was to speak at the global grand challenges conference in Beijing. This is a collaboration between the British, American and Chinese academies of engineering. I was selected to represent the UK for the future of work. This community identified that virtual reality had an amazing potential to change the way we work forever.
We worked as hard as we could to keep that momentum, building a team and founding a company in 2016, launching the Massless Pen in 2017. We shipped the first version to early adopters in 2018 and enterprise in early 2019, now we’re ready to scale.
So what does that future look like?
When you walk into an office now you see computers on the desk, I imagine a future where you wouldn’t see anything, at least not until you entered the virtual world. The whole of your work design life would be there. There’d be other people, some of them in the room, some of them are in the virtual space, but porting in from New York. I see the world of work completely living in that digital space, where you use your entire body to communicate, to create exactly how you think, and not only create.
You can create things, but you can also assign them logic and function, simply. You can programme these objects, make the world real. I’m not trying to make a dystopian future where you exist only in this digital space, we’re making tools that let you make things for the physical world. We see this as fitting super closely with the progression of 3D printing. Imagine designing something in 3D, pressing a button, and it being printed out, existing in reality. That’s the future I want to make. But it’s exciting in a less tangible way too.
So what’s next?
We’ve been developing an awesome set of hardware input devices, and the software, Massless Studio, that allows you to make those creations in a limitless way. That’s the first step, bridging the gap between people and the 3D space so that they can create more intuitively and solve harder problems.
One of our products is called the Massless Pen. We’ve been working with enterprise for a while and we’ve finally gotten it to the point that we can lower the price, and give it to everyone. To do that, we’ve decided to do a crowdfunding campaign. We want to democratise creation, it starts with the Massless Pen and Massless Studio, but that’s not where it ends. We want to listen to people and make what they need to do what they do, better.
Do you have any advice for people who might want to start their own company?
-Don’t do it.
Is that it?
Wow, that’s unexpected.
It’s the best advice I could give someone if they want to start a company. If they’re put off by that, they haven’t got what it takes. It takes everything you’ve got, you have to be 100% committed to your idea, to your dream, but if you have that, if you can keep the energy up, it’s the greatest thing you’ll ever do.
Massless are on a compelling, game-changing journey that is becoming increasingly hard not to notice. With Jack at the helm, what started as a crazy idea has grown into a company, a mission, a movement. A world where creatives can use a 3D digital space to bring to life their greatest and yet discovered ideas to life is on the horizon.
Massless are crowdfunding in February of next year. If you want to be a part of their journey, then you can register your interest now to get access to super early bird pricing, updates and more, link: https://massless.io/Crowdfunding-3D-VR-Pen/