Our goal at 4Experience has always been to help businesses excel in their field and reach their full potential with XR solutions. We not only creatively and effectively use the best solutions on the market, but a big part of our job is also creating innovations and testing completely new solutions.
If someone tells us something is impossible, we work hard to prove it’s not. This is why we found it fitting to create a dedicated Research & Development Team specifically to perform tasks focused on R&D in software development.
What is R&D in software development?
R&D in software development means looking for new and innovative ways to solve problems. It involves designing and developing completely new solutions or making upgrades and improving existing ones. The result of such research and development can be the final product itself or part of a larger project.
We talk about an R&D project when a client approaches us with an original or innovative idea that doesn’t have established or easy ways to develop. R&D in software development can also have another goal. It can be conducted to discover or create new knowledge and technologies. This can translate into brand new solutions, including products, services and processes.
So what’s the difference between an R&D software project and regular software development?
When developing another standard piece of software, you know exactly what you want to end up with and understand all the steps you need to take to get there. With R&D, you are unsure about one or both of those things. Almost every software project indeed requires a little bit of research. The difference is that R&D products don’t have a clear roadmap, and there are multiple unknowns. So there isn’t just a bit of research, there’s a lot.
When developing regular software, you combine ready components and established solutions to end up with a product that serves a specific purpose. In R&D, you use new solutions or already existing ones creatively – you combine them to create new tools. The product may be made to serve a particular purpose but doesn’t have to be.
R&D in the context of the lifecycle of a product
It’s easy to understand R&D in software development if you look at the lifecycle of a product or service. Most sources state that there are four steps in a product’s lifecycle. Here’s a list that fits the context of R&D in software development.
If a client comes to us with a software project they want to develop, it’s undoubtedly an R&D case if the product is in the first phase. Of course, an R&D project can concern a product in the maturity or rapid growth stage. But that usually means the client wants to expand its functionalities or make it better, effectively creating a new product in the development stage.
Projects that need extended research
It’s worth noting that any software project can be an R&D project. It depends whether the initial idea is original and the efforts of our R&D team are a big or central part of the whole process. So the definition is quite fluid, like with the metaverse, for example.
We use R&D in fields that are relatively new and have a big area for innovation. For example, one field that requires a lot of research is AI and machine learning. Of course, many solutions are already there, so we don’t reinvent the wheel just for the sake of R&D. But because it’s a broad field and still a relatively new one, there are lots of ideas that haven’t been developed or adequately tested yet.
Let’s discuss an AI image processing application for scientific research. To give an example, let’s say a group of historians wants to reconstruct a WWII-era plane. Not a single one survived, plans for it were lost. The only source they have is a few thousand photos, some containing footage of the aircraft.
We already have apps that can search for a specific item in our phone gallery, so one could argue the technology is there. But this is obviously a task for R&D developers. First, we need to do extensive research to find out if this is possible with the technology we have. Next, we need to use the existing methods to complete a project which is an original idea.
On the other hand, if a client wanted an app for recognizing faces in a set of digital photos, we wouldn’t be talking about R&D. That’s because face recognition is a known and frequently used technology with well-established algorithms. Unless the algorithm they wanted had to be a brand new solution.
Why R&D in software development is beneficial and important
With projects that outrun any existing solutions, you have the potential to gain a true competitive advantage and market leadership. And that’s something precious nowadays when competition is tight. Moreover, being an innovative company or brand will also make attracting new investors and partners easier, further accelerating your business growth.
Another significant benefit is the opportunity to generate new intellectual property. This can bring additional financial benefits to you and your company. Besides financial benefits, delivering innovations to your industry carries prestige. In some countries, R&D in software development may be eligible for a tax relief too. To read more about the legal regulations in the USA, check this article by Tri-Merit.
Moreover, you can use our R&D team for projects that may not require it at first glance. Even if a product can be created using template-based solutions, we will be more than happy to conduct extensive research to find better and more efficient ways to solve the problem, providing truly tailored solutions.
Finally, our Research & Development team is ready to help if you’re having a problem with a project or if your developers lack the skills or knowledge to complete it. We’ll verify the problem, research available tools and methods and offer a solution that brings the best outcome. Find out more about how we rescue software projects.
An interview with our Lead R&D Programmer
For this article, I met up with Sebastian Stryczek, our R&D Team Leader. We talked briefly, and he answered a few questions about his work.
Sebastian, what do you like most about your work and what interests you in R&D?
Besides things like self-development and new challenges, I would point out the lack of monotony and the pleasure of working with innovations. Projects that use exciting novel technologies and don’t have a clearly defined, obvious result bring a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction. They give you the sense of excitement characteristic of when you first encounter programming.
So you do your work with true passion. Could you tell us about the biggest challenge you faced working in R&D?
It’s difficult to point out the one hardest challenge from a technical point of view. I believe any idea can be transformed into code. It’s just a matter of time. And that might be the hardest thing, to be honest – setting timeframes and finding a collaboration model that works best for both the client and us. And as always, good communication is critical. I mean everything from determining the goal and project scope, through planning, to exchanging feedback.
But if R&D projects are new and original solutions, how can we be sure they aren’t flawed or poorly optimized?
These concerns are understandable. It’s often harder to ensure great performance in R&D projects. Additional challenging issues may also occur. This is why choosing a team experienced in these projects is important. A team that follows the latest global standards and has its own internal knowledge base.
What’s worth noting, we have a QA department that works with us to remove any errors and ensure good performance.
One more question. Could you tell us about a specific R&D software project 4Experience has worked on?
Of course. Recently a multinational technology company reached out to us. Unfortunately, we can’t disclose their name. The project involved virtual meetings using the Microsoft Hololens mixed-reality goggles (read more about mixed reality here). One of the challenges we faced was recreating realistic avatars of the participants.
First, we had to research a way to solve this challenge. Two methods were examined – cutting out the background and 3D scans of characters. Then, we presented our client with the results of our research, and they decided to go with the first method as the second turned out to be too expensive.
Next, we had to find or develop the best way to use the chosen solution. The first step was to thoroughly analyze and test three different methods, one from a company we worked with, one from Google and one from a freelance creator. Then, having determined which option was best, we started implementing it. However, it wasn’t compatible with all devices, so we worked on combining it with another solution.
Another challenging thing in the same project was creating 3D sound. Although Microsoft provided a sound pack, it wasn’t working. We set up a process to test individual elements of the package and find the problem. Jakub, who was working with me on the project, found errors in the source code and finally managed to fix them. The satisfaction was invaluable.
Take advantage of R&D in software development
More and more of our clients are approaching us with marvelous ideas that haven’t been tried before or have been tried to a limited degree. So we found it more than fitting to create a dedicated team and talk about the matter in this article. If you have an innovative idea, want to develop something new or have a project that other companies couldn’t complete, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Why choose us? We have completed 200 projects, and our staff numbers 60 experts, including business specialists, artists, developers, designers and managers. What’s more, we have a dedicated R&D team. A diverse group is fundamental in coming up with creative new solutions. Finally, we always check the final results of the new solution. Our products are thoroughly tested before being delivered to the client.