nicolas loeillot's blog

猫の瞳, the eye of the cat in Japanese, is a blog from Nicolas Loeillot.

I founded LM3LABS 10 years ago. We develop algorithms and interactive technologies. Our focus is using computer vision to create natural interactions. We have recently been exploring new fields with Xloudia. I will try to keep the discipline to communicate more about our evolutions on this blog.

A permanent resident of Tokyo, I try to raise 2 teenagers to great human beings, balancing multiple cultures.

Big air breather, green-minded guy, I spend time in my house in South of France that I try to turn into an eco-house.

I practice Kendo more as a religion than as a sport. I recently started Kyudo, the Japanese archery.

I document my thoughts and life with some photographs, I have no other ambition in this domain than just documenting. A complementary documenting experience is on nikoroe.com


Re-inventing currency convertion

Currency conversion is nothing new on mobile and there is a galaxy of apps in this domain.

We took this precise topic as a first exercise in a long series: "How can we re-invent such a conventional topic?" 

First of all, we needed a demo app of Xloudia. People we daily meet have no idea about what do do with this technology. We do have many. We are not app developers, we are technologists in computer vision and we are technologists with vision.  Mobile apps are just a way. We won't make money with this app.

The main objective of this exercise was to create the simplest link between a real object, money, and digital content, to make the user experience simple, fast, smooth and pleasant

Then, we wanted to demonstrate Xloudia capabilities: its speed of recognition, its capability to sort a bill from thousands, its accuracy.

Of course, we wanted to make it available to Android and iPhone users. 

The task of giving the value of thousands of banknotes is more challenging than it looks as banknotes are very similar, within their country but also from country to country. They feature complex and subtile patterns which can confuse algorithms. A recognition error is immediately visible as the exchange value appears wrongly on the application.

The other challenge is of course to get the reference images of banknotes without infringing the laws. 

I designed the interface to be as simple as possible and using motions as the main design feature (my trademark these days): graphics are over simplified but motions make them interesting. 

A second choice was to make the camera flow as the permanent background of the application. I like the idea as it is how future devices will work (Google Glass, etc..). 

Menus are contextual and semi-transparent. Their shape remains unchanged while their purpose and contents change in time.

Fonts are elegant so that users have pleasure to come and come again.

Direct access to the main feature was a priority. Users must be able to access instantly to the app function.

We selected 11 currencies out of the 126 which are recognised by Xloudia Converter. The 12th currency is Bitcoin, the growing digital currency. The exercise is interesting as it allows people to visualize the value of a Bitcoin to their usual banknotes. 

The result is a very smooth flow:


What is next? 

We will continue our series of "re-inventing the conventional". We have a series of ideas that we must priorities. 

In the meantime, you can download the app on Google Play and iTunes.

The book of the Revolution

Is it because I live in Japan that this book feels so good ?


A few years ago I met a guy I was in touch with online for some years. We finally decided to meet for real. The first sentence he told me, right before shaking my hand, at the moment he saw me, was: "oh, but you are not an artist".  

For many years, checking and commenting my work, he thought I was an artist. But his image of me was ruined by his own definition of Art. I am an artist. I am an artist as long as we stick to excellent Seth Godin's definition of doing art. 

This book is a must read in 2013 and I hope this guy will do too.

Reading this book I cannot help thinking about the people rioting in the streets or the Anonymous, with these questions: "what do you expect guys? What are you waiting for? Why are you outsourcing your life to people you hate so much?" . Get you guts and make you own life. Build your ideal life, your ideal world. Show us your guts. Become artists of your own lives.

We are in the connection revolution and we must adopt artist's key qualities: going beyond conventions, inventing, connecting to people, sharing deeply human values. Artists have no authorisation to ask to anyone. It is all about guts, vision and your best human side.

It probably starts with your own self revolution (inside your mind and heart). You might have to change sunglasses. The one you see the world thru. You might have to forget most of what "they" have taught.

There is no need to be dressed as a designer to be an artist. It is all in your actions. 

A must read. 

Irasshaimase! - the "kuroko" spirit for web services

Data Visualization.jpg

Xloudia is a technology but it is also for us an experience of marketing positioning. If you followed the launch our Xloudia, you noticed the dull marketing of the service. Do not misunderstand it.

We are trying to create a service as efficient, customer focused and discreet as a serviceman in Japan.

What is service in Japan:

  • customer is king
  • customer can ask anything
  • customer's ego is flatted
  • all customers are treated equally
  • answers to client are straight, clear, technical, without bullshit
  • servicemen are dull ninja behind the curtain, making sure the customer is always free from any trouble. I would like to refer to the "kuroko", black dressed stagehands in traditional Japanese theater. They serve but are made invisible.

Now, let's have a quick look at some mobile AR operators:

  • Aurasma: "You must put our brand on all your work. With a Splash that last a century".
  • Blipar: "We position as the center platform for content. You all brands will have to go thru us to augment your products".
  • Total Immersion: "By the way, who are you? We are French and you follow our instructions in French"

Ok shortening a bit here but they all have a very Western approach of customer service.

All Westerners visiting Japan are amazed by Japanese service quality. As we are Japanese, why not leveraging this precious intangible asset to offer it abroad, online.

We position Xloudia totally the opposite of these guys. Xloudia is a "kuroko":

  • We make minimum marketing. No bullshit. We have specifications, they are our best marketing. Xloudia with its marketing will not hide any customer's marketing.
  • Limited brand visibility, limited communication. No appearance in forums, no appearance in events, limited press communication. We approach our targets like ninja.
  • When installed in our customer's application: no splash, no visible brand, no reference to us, nowhere. We remain invisible.
  • Everything is possible: we adapt our technology to any requirements (keeping in mind that client is king, technology is God).
  • We treat all customers the same: large corporation like independent app developers. You are all welcome.

I must admit that LM3LABS is a personal experience of mine for 10 years now and that Xloudia is nothing else than an other step in this experience. We try invisible marketing, invisible operations.

Object recognition

I made a quick and dirty movie about Xloudia object recognition. Virtually any object can be recognised. I am working on an application that should help foreigners living in Japan and China and hope to presenting it next week in its beta version.

Finally into the online world

Xloudia for m-commerce and publishing

Xloudia for m-commerce and publishing

After years evangelising about the digital leaking into the real world and while it happens today, I am taking a slightly reversed direction. The reason is mostly operational: as our technologies are mature, moving into the mass adoption world, it is time for us to find new ways to reach larger markets. We started this spring to develop Facebook plug-ins for some products. Nothing really exciting here but addressing customers' need.

Then we moved all our technical support online. A thing we should have done earlier but we always postponed, It will save us a lot of time and effort and it is already paying off.

We also opened our online shop. The purpose is not to create a catalog as this is not how our products sell. The philosophy is more, here again, to streamline our operations, create cross-sales between products, clarify and simplify our resellers eco-system management. Machines have something good. You do not argue with them. Nobody bargain with a ticket dispenser and I so many times wished our partners could focus more on adding value than bargaining our prices. There are a lot to come on the online shop side. I discovered many interesting models that I want to test in the very near future.

The more interesting and important shift for us is Xloudia. Xloudia could be an Inc. of its own. Maybe it will become in 2013. As for now it is a semi-stealth mode.

Xloudia is the porting of some key algorithms to the Cloud, fitting others to the smartphone scale, and offering a service to large companies as a "brick" in their existing web system. We have built a similar successful web service a few years ago for a large Japanese real estate portal providing photo stitching capabilities to thousands of agencies in Japan. We have been able to build our own offices in central Tokyo thanks to this. Since then, we know it is the way to go. Since then, we are in gestation.

So what ?  Xloudia ? Well this "little" technology exercise can dramatically change the way we use image recognition and augmented reality in the future.

The real limit of image recognition in 2012 is CPU capabilities. Despite marvellous iPhone 5 CPU capabilities, it remains a dual core at 1.3GHz. It is a cool stuff but it cannot compete with unlimited numbers of octocore CPUs on Amazon EC2. The arrival of 4G is also a driving factors for Xloudia.

The Cloud + super fast internet access make image recognition virtually without limits and this is where the good flows from.

It opens doors to new applications. Figure it out: you are in your kitchen with your smartphone in hand and "flash" all products to order them on your favourite e-commerce site in a click. You browse your favourite catalog, watch the products in 3D and order them from your smartphone. Ultimately, the cloud lets users create their own patterns to augment cities, business cards, ...to decipher kanji signs.

Applications are so considerable that we are very humble about our position. We want to let talented entrepreneurs or multi-national companies embrace the opportunities. We propose "plug and play" templates to integrate into Objective C and Java projects and all the necessary infrastructure to launch new business models. Xloudia is a new business models enabler.

So. Does it mean it is the end of gesture control solutions for LM3LABS? Definitely not. 2013, will be an amazing year on this page too with the launch of a new 3D sensor in the second half of the year.

You are in the circle.