The guy that never seems to eat

You will usually find this guy with headphones over his ears, typically referred to by the people in Potato as, "The guy who's always drinking Coca Cola" or, "The guy who never seems to eat".

Lynette Chua

May 31st, 2021

If you visit our Potato office, you will often see Jeremy, the head of VastPotato and Iko, tinkling with some tech product. He is at the forefront of Potato’s venture in tech, fronting a variety of projects involving 3d technology such as 3d printing, event installation, interactive platforms, AR apps, and many more.

Currently, he is developing a health imaging product under the newly formed Iko – Potato’s first foray into the healthcare industry.

Let’s hear more about his experience of working with technology and what his take is on the future that technology can create.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

People in Potato typically refer to me as, “The guy who’s always drinking Coca Cola” or, “The guy who never seems to eat”. You’ll also usually find me with headphones over my ears as I satisfy my audiobook addiction. (I’m beginning to wonder whether my salary should be paid directly in Audible credits.)

I also own not one, but two “portable” typewriters. (The concept of “portable” was quite different 70 years ago.) One of them, a ’51 Smith Corona, was manufactured right here in Singapore so it’s good to bring it home.

2. What do you like about technology?

As someone who is really bothered by seeing things done inefficiently, I find technology exciting in what it can offer us.

However, I think I’m also a little more skeptical of technology than many in the industry, and there are plenty of occasions where I am the luddite in the room. I’m a big believer that technology has a lot to offer the modern world, but I’m not the type to try and hammer it into every problem.

3. What is a project that you have done that you are most proud of?

A few years ago, VastPotato formed a joint-venture, Iko, to develop our proprietary imaging technology for a medical imaging device for clinical screening and diagnosis of skin cancer.

This has been a big project, and our first expansion into hardware development (which, as the adage goes, is hard) but it’s been great to push the limits of what we’re able to achieve with a very small team and exciting to be nearing the production and go to market stages of the product after so many late, coffee fuelled nights.

4. What can we do to reduce people’s resistance towards a VR, AR or MR product?

I think there are a few key issues with the technology and how it’s used presently.

Firstly, the technology is still rather crude and remains relatively expensive both for the end-user and production. I see mixed reality as having the most real-world applications in the future, but the technology is still expensive and clunky, and with the recent collapse of a major player, Meta, it’s not clear when the next big leap in this technology will occur.

Secondly, many of the applications of augmented reality are a little gimmicky and rarely offer real solutions to any problem. We’ve used augmented reality in the past for this exact reason, as it can be a useful hook to grab people’s attention. However, the longevity (or lack) of these sorts of applications need to be acceptable to the project goals. Virtual reality has a clearer offering in terms of gaming and simulation, however the market here remains rather small due to the associated costs. I am however excited about the potential for training (augmented reality) and telepresence (mixed reality) in the future, and it’s something I dabble with in between other projects.

5.  What are the essential roles that you would get on your team to do a 3D project?

For purely software projects, the basic requirements are simply designers and programmers. (Best if both are in the one person wherever possible, as I’m no fan of silos.)

However every project is different, and “designer” and “programmer” are very broad titles, with a whole suite of specialties within. 3D technology can also be quite unique, and it’s not something everyone is comfortable with.

6. What kind of future do you hope to create with new, disruptive technology?

Improving efficiency, reliability and engagement while allowing people to be people. As someone with first-hand experience as a patient in several areas of the healthcare system, I see it as an industry that is ripe for improvements. Modest but effective improvements in healthcare technology offer not only improvements to patient outcomes, but offer the tantalising promise to ease the ever-increasing burden of healthcare costs on society in general, while making the process smoother for patients who have better things to do with their time.

7. If budget is not an issue, what is a secret project that you hope to do with 3D technology?

It’s a secret, so I can’t tell you.

But seriously, I usually have a few dozen ideas rattling around in my head at any given time. As someone who truly hates video calls and with COVID continuing to keep us apart, I would love to tackle a truly 3D, mixed reality telepresence system that enables more normal, intuitive remote communication. (Maybe it’s time to invest in a HoloLens?)

8. What are the most common misconceptions people have about you when they hear about your job?

I’m rarely faced with misconceptions when trying to explain my job, with confusion being the more common response. I’m sure I’m responsible for a large share of the blame for this, as spending all my days with tech people has definitely taken a toll on my ability to communicate my work without a lot of jargon. Maybe we need a class in this. It could be called, “Speaking like a normal person!” and would require participants to engage in prolonged eye contact with a real human. Attendance may be poor if not mandatory, I suspect.

9.  If you could learn a skill immediately, what would it be?

Cooking. I’m a terrible cook, however I am exceptionally good at making instant noodles, having survived on them for multi-year stretches in that impoverished time of life we call university. I used to be able to make a passable egg fried rice in my student days, however considering that was a time when discount frozen dim sum was the height of cuisine our limited funds could attain, it’s quite likely I’m misremembering.  

10. What are the most common misconceptions people have about you when they hear about your job?

1. My cat. He would be of no material use as he’s quite fat and lazy, but he provides great moral support.

2. An axe, since it would be important to build shelter for my cat as he has grown accustomed to a standard of living befitting a prince of a small, oil-rich nation.

3. Large plastic sheets, which would be useful for gathering fresh water. Until my cat shreds them, of course.

If you would like to have a chat with Jani for more information on VastPotato’s translation services, click here!