By Andrew Tan
When sisters Jhanvi and Ketaki Shriram graduated from Stanford, they could only dream of working together.
Now they run their own company.
In December 2016, both sisters were at Stanford — Jhanvi B.A. ’10, M.B.A. ’17 studying at the business school and Ketaki B.A. ’13, M.A. ’13, Ph.D. ’17 working on her doctoral degree in virtual reality from the Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL). Together, they created Krikey, a mobile augmented reality gaming app, with a mission to break the barriers between fantasy and reality.
The app requires no additional equipment besides a mobile device. The platform consists of various solo and multiplayer games –– from sports to role-player games –– and integrates social media so that users can share results and reactions from matches.
Inspiration for the startup came while Ketaki was working at VHIL on projects at the intersection of technology and generating empathy. Though Ketaki was excited by the creative applications that virtual reality (VR) could pave the way for, she realized that the immersive experience of VR was accessible only to the select group of people with the means to obtain the necessary equipment.
With the aim of improving the accessibility of immersive technology and a vision for helping entertainers tell non-traditional stories, Ketaki and Jhanvi founded Krikey to allow anyone with a smartphone to experience the playspace of a similar technology to VR: augmented reality (AR).
Jhanvi took post as chief executive officer and Ketaki as chief technical officer. In growing their startup, the sisters say that their skill sets complement each other well and that working together has been one of the most enjoyable parts of the company’s development.
“It was a stroke of luck that we ended up down such varied paths and were able to bring our skill sets back together,” Jhanvi said. “We’re treasuring every day that we get to wake up and come to work together.”
Aside from making AR more widely available, Jhanvi and Ketaki created Krikey to give users positive experiences that inspire them to interact with the world around them and create their own content.
The duo strives “to build games that are not only entertaining, but also drive people toward positive action or [a] positive feeling after they’re done using the app,” Ketaki said.
This mission goes beyond just product development. According to Jhanvi and Ketaki, each decision that they have made in the first two and a half years of Krikey’s development has been thoroughly deliberated –– even the startup’s untraditional name. The sisters happened to be traveling in Australia while they were submitting paperwork for incorporation and needed a name under which to file it.
Both fans of Australian TV personality Steve Irwin and his show “The Crocodile Hunter,” the pair decided on Krikey, a modification of Irwin’s iconic interjection “crikey.” They felt that the word, which signifies surprise or delight, epitomized the feeling they wanted their users to have when using their product.
Part of what the creators believe generates this sense of wonder are elements of the Krikey app that are unavailable on any other platforms. For one, the app contains one of the largest game catalogs on the market, and for another. In each game, the user is able to customize the display’s background with any image captured by the phone’s camera. Another unique element is Krikey’s social media function, where a player records their reaction to the game result using the selfie cam, edits the footage and sends the video to friends on the app or through other social media channels.
Of all the features, though, the one for which Jhanvi and Ketaki most pride themselves is the app’s multiplayer aspect.
“We really believe that the key application of mobile AR is to bring people up and out of their physical location and really have a special social interaction,” Jhanvi said.
To date, Krikey has released several mini games including golf, basketball and a Chinese New Year themed pig race. They also partnered with Sony Pictures’ Goosebumps in October to create a few narrative AR adventures.
Looking ahead, the sisters seek to introduce games with more levels, characters and narrative structure to give their users a truly comprehensive AR experience.