TK Business Magazine - Winter 2016

Page 79

Jay is co-founder and CEO of MembitTM, a geolocative photo-sharing app that allows pictures to be placed and viewed in the location they were taken. Users can find and view images left by other users, and can also take photos and leave them as membits for others to enjoy. “Our use of augmented reality is an illusion, but it’s an emotionally compelling one. The image is on the user’s phone, but to the user it looks like it’s floating in space in front of them. When you make a membit, you feel like you’ve left your mark on the world,” Jay says. The tech industry has taken note. Macworld called it, “The closest thing we’ve seen to a time machine,” while naming Membit in its list of 20 best apps at Tech Crunch Disrupt in September 2015.

A TOPEKA CONNECTION The Membit story actually begins in Topeka. It was at Topeka West where Jay, the son of Lynn and Marjorie Van Buren, discovered a passion for the arts, specifically painting, which led him to the University of Kansas where he remembers seeing the World Wide Web for the first time. “I had this strong feeling that the Internet would change the world. With my painting, I also understood how really good art could affect people’s emotions,” Jay

recalls. “I realized almost immediately that there would be opportunities to combine both, and this is ultimately how I would focus my career.” Jay’s talent as an artist led him to graduate school in New York City in 1997. He followed his instincts and took a position with a website company that provided financial information to investors. “I had really good timing, because websites were just coming into their own as a communication medium,” Jay says. Early Adopter now thrives as a boutique website development firm, specializing in design of oneoff websites. INTRODUCTION TO AUGMENTED REALITY Jay’s single greatest development was meeting Katy Garnier in 2006. Jay and Katy would marry and start a family. With Early Adopter going well, everything was in place.


It was Katy who suggested using augmented reality in 2012 for a project at Avenues World School in Manhattan, where she was working on ways the school could better use the non-classroom spaces of the building for educational purposes. Jay used an early augmented reality technology (Layar) that allowed the team to turn a wall into an interactive learning experience for the students. He saw firsthand the potential of augmented reality, but ended the project frustrated with the state of technology. The limitations of GPS made placing digital content in a precise relationship to the real world difficult, and computers lacked the ability to lock AR content onto anything but static scenes. Seeing an opportunity, Jay went to work. In 2013, Jay presented at several conferences on augmented reality, and began to put


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