By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Daniel Buchanan epitomizes the persistence that any entrepreneur needs to have, particularly if it involves a technology-based undertaking.
The Knoxvillian’s day job is as an Account Executive at Agilibility, a company owned by his wife that does web development, 360-degree video production, social media marketing, E-Commerce and last, but certainly not least in Buchanan’s mind – virtual reality.
It is this last area, more commonly referred to as VR that has become his all-consuming passion, a commitment that has manifested itself in Buchanan either starting or helping launch five VR-related companies in the past year.
The latest undertaking finds Buchanan aligned with Mark Fagiano, a former Assistant Professor at Emory University who recently joined the faculty at the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus (UTK). While living in Atlanta, Fagiano founded Empathy Vision, Inc., a company offering training programs that teach individuals and members of organizations the skills of human empathy.
As noted on the company’s webpage, “Empathy starts with the habits and behaviors of individuals within an organization, and when individuals and leaders learn the skills of empathy, their contributions and creativity help to develop highly functional behaviors, which impact organizational goals.”
Today, the duo has combined Fagiano’s research about empathy with Buchanan’s knowledge of virtual reality to explore several sectors, including an opportunity related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“The ACA has changed reimbursement for doctors, and patient satisfaction becomes more important,” Buchanan notes. One might say that this manifests itself in the patient’s view of the physician’s bedside manner. Is the doctor empathetic to the patient’s situation and his or her family?
With real dollars on the table, Buchanan sees a significant opportunity for virtual reality-based training programs. He describes the opportunity as developing modules that allow doctors to enter a VR environment where they can observe how patients respond to the interactions they have with other physicians in simulated situations.
“We think this type of training, using virtual reality, could help improve patient satisfaction scores,” Buchanan says. He is Chief Technology Officer at Empathy Vision.
Starting a new business is nothing new for Buchanan. He launched GetMorePC in 2004 as an independent technology consulting firm and joined with his wife to found Agilibility. He says the latter company has had success capturing compelling 360 video and creating virtual reality experiences for a number of organizations.
“I worked with the UT Athletics Department and Joe Harrington to help them build their Virtual Reality Quarterback training,” Buchanan says. “I even got to run through the T with version 1 of my camera.” A link to that video on the WATE-TV website is available here.
Agilibility has also donated time recording experiences for the Knoxville Veterans Day Parade and the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital “Fantasy of Trees.” That content is on this YouTube channel.
As Buchanan’s passion for VR has grown, he was motivated by local entrepreneur Lee Martin and others to start VARDnet.org, the virtual and augmented reality (AR) developers’ network in Knoxville.
“About 20 people on average show-up for our monthly meetings at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center,” Buchanan says. Those are held on the fourth Tuesday of each month.
The number of people in Knoxville interested in AR and VR is clearly growing as evidenced by the fact that VARDnet has 110 members.