Point and shoot: AI generates location-specific photo inspirations
New Velocity company Lookr maximizes photography ideas in seconds
Lookr, a new company at Velocity, University of Waterloo’s startup incubator, takes inspiration beyond the search engine and uses on-location spatial information and artificial intelligence to inspire creators to capture the perfect shot.
Photographers, journalists, and content creators — anyone producing quality photography content — can point their camera to a desired backdrop, Lookr’s AI generates ideas, and, in a matter of seconds, the user can capture the shot using angles and concepts that could otherwise be missed. The company joined Velocity earlier this fall as it looks to scale the distribution of its proprietary artificial intelligence-powered app.
“Lookr scans where the user is and understands the spatial attributes, puts that into an AI model and generates inspirational photos,” said co-founder Yuki Li (BASc ‘22). “Lookr’s core feature is search efficiency: instead of inputting keywords into a search engine, users can just scan their surroundings — the inspiration is directly related to the user’s reality.”
Co-founder Bill Chi is an artificial intelligence researcher whose work has been published in popular science journals such as Nature.
He said Lookr’s ethos is to empower creators to use AI to enhance their work, not to outsource creative work to computer models.
“Artificial intelligence is a useful tool for creatives and Lookr believes that it can be a powerful source for content creators,” Chi said. “Using Lookr, creators can get inspired in real time and increase their output — it doesn’t replace human creativity, it enhances it.”
As a student, Li was involved with Velocity on campus when he established a different startup, which he has since shuttered. But it was through that work that he turned entrepreneurship into an established career path.
“My last company opened my eyes to understanding the startup world better and confirmed to me that I’m a startup person — I can carve my own career path,” Li said. “And I realized that one of the keys to success is finding a complimentary co-founder.”
Li and Chi met through an online matching site for startup founders. They divide their time between San Francisco’s Bay Area and Toronto, and joined Velocity to access networks that otherwise would be harder to reach.
“Being partially based out of the U.S., obviously we know how talented Bay Area engineers are, but right now we want to focus on hiring engineers from Waterloo because, from my own experience, I know their strength,” Li said. “I’ve been aware of Velocity’s reputation for years and dividing our time between our geographic locations and Velocity is the best way to grow our business.”
Velocity accelerates entrepreneurs’ growth from ideas to early-stage startups and beyond. These founders have access to unmatched resources, collaboration space, funding and an expansive and experienced network made possible only by the University of Waterloo — Canada’s top university for founders. In the 15 years since its inception as a University of Waterloo residence, more than 400 Velocity companies have netted more than US$26 billion in enterprise value.
The University of Waterloo acknowledges that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is co-ordinated within the Office of Indigenous Relations.