A central theme of science fiction over the past 20 years has been the dystopian future of humans, laying on couches, connected to machines that feed them and process their waste, while they interact with a virtual world. Advanced versions of this technology let you move around or relax in a comfortable creche.
Today we call it VR. I wish the abbreviation, which seems so harmless, had never taken hold as the phrase “virtual reality” helps remind us, just a tiny bit, of what we are talking about.
Ever since Jaron Lanier popularized the phrase virtual reality when I was in college, I’ve struggled with it. When my friend Warren Katz introduced me to the idea of a head mounted display in the late 1980s, I was simultaneously thrilled and disturbed. When Lenny Nero figured out what happened to Iris, I simply was disturbed. Yet, when John Underkoffler created the Minority Report user interface to the precogs in the early 2000s, I was enthralled. When Amazon decided to pull out of NYC in 2019, I wasn’t surprised.
Wait, that last sentence was for a different blog post. Just checking to make sure you are still here and paying attention.
I don’t believe humans want to strap a headset on, block out all the stimuli they are getting, lay down in a creche, attach themselves to biosensors that handle their meat puppet, and immerse themselves in a virtual reality, without being able to simultaneously interact with the world around them
There’s no question that VR has an enormous potential market in online gaming. This isn’t anything new – the online gaming industry and the porn industry are two of the most aggressive adopters of new technologies. It’s not difficult to imagine going from your couch to your creche. It would be easier to play esports if you didn’t have to eat or go to the bathroom.
But, beyond that, I don’t buy it. Outside of video games and esports, my bet is on holograms and augmented reality. See you in the future.
At Foundry Group, we always look for companies that we think build magic into their products. Occipital has been one of those companies. Three years ago, they launched Structure Sensor, which pioneered bringing dense 3D sensing to mobile devices (and it’s only just now that are we seeing some of the world’s biggest tech companies catching up by launching similar technology to consumers).
Since that launch three years ago, the team at Occipital has been quietly at work on their next product. Today, they’re announcing Bridge.
Bridge is a headset for iPhone. But it’s different than much of what we’ve experienced so far in mobile VR. Once again, Occipital is a pioneer by launching a headset that brings not just one, but two of the most anticipated experiential mediums to developers well before anyone else.
Bridge uses Occipital’s Structure Sensor to add inside-out positional tracking to mobile VR. That means you can actually walk around, not just look around. They’re also bringing obstacle avoidance, a feature that automatically brings real world objects into view as users are exploring virtual worlds.
More significantly, however, is that Bridge brings immersive mixed reality to a mobile headset.. Using Structure Sensor to both map the user’s environment, as well as to track user movement against it, Bridge lets virtual content reside in the real world as if it were really there. We believe it is breathtaking to experience.
To see Bridge for yourself, head over to https://bridge.occipital.com.
I love being involved in magical stuff. One of our portfolio companies, Occipital, just announced their newest product, the Structure Sensor. It’s available for purchase right now on Kickstarter – they blew through their $100k goal in the first four hours of being up. But this is a “show don’t tell” classic, so take a look at the video below and prepare to have your mind blown.
So awesome. Jeff, Vikas, and team – you guys are amazing.
For a limited time, Occipital’s Panorama 360 is free. If you don’t know why this is such an awesome app, watch the short video demonstration below.
We closed our investment in Occipital last week and I wrote about it in the post titled The World Is Just A Bunch Of Pixels. The Occipital gang is going to create a bunch of amazing stuff and now’s your chance to get on board with a one minute iPhone download. And, if you are reading this after the free offer expires, it’s still worth getting for the couple of bucks they are charging.
Yesterday, we announced that we have invested in Occipital. You may know them as the creators of the popular iPhone app 360 Panorama, the creators of Red Laser (acquired by eBay), or just a gang of the smartest computer vision guys you’ll come across. And when I say “computer vision”, I don’t just mean the technical part, but also a vision of where it’s going. For example, from the Occipital blog post announcing the investment:
“Your smartphone’s computational reach into its surroundings ends at its touchscreen surface. To your device, the real world isn’t a canvas of interactivity. Instead, it’s little more than a grid of pixels that might as well be random. We’re changing that. We’re using computer vision to make real world environments computationally interactive and fun, thereby extending the computational reach of your device into the visual space around you.”
I met Jeff and Vikas in 2008. They are brilliant and have always had a huge vision. In Do More Faster, they wrote that you should Be Tiny Until You Shouldn’t Be. Red Laser was step 1. 360 Panorama was step 2. 360verse is step 3. And we are really psyched to invest and to help out with step 4.
Just for perspective, with my iPhone, I was able to create a pano of where I’m staying in Tuscany. It took 7 seconds and I’m a pretty mediocre photographer.
We now have three investments, starting with the letter O, in teams that just blow my mind with what they can make a computer do. We’ve talked about Oblong many times in the past. And our friends at Organic Motion just released an amazing new version of their markerless motion capture system.
Here’s to the letter O, as well as the machines getting a little bit smarter, every day, and in every way.
It is so nice to be back in Boulder after my 10 hours trip home from New York yesterday that included a lot of time on tarmacs, a diverted landing in Colorado Springs, and an I-25 road trip. I really want a personal portable teleportation machine.
I’m about to head out for a run but thought I’d toss up a few fun posts and videos that I saw when scanning through my email and news this morning.
First up is a story from my dad about why He Loves His Pogoplug. It turns out that he is Pogoplug customer #1 and he tells the story of it. He was also in my office last week when Dan and Jed Putterman (the Pogoplug co-founders) were there for a board meeting and they all had fun hanging out together. I love when technology and family cross over.
Next up is a great interview by Steve Bell with Vikas Reddy of Occipital. Late last week eBay announced that they had acquired the RedLaser product from Occipital. I subsequently crowned Occipital the Bootstrappers of TechStars Boulder class of 2008. And, if you watch the video carefully, you’ll see a Pogoplug to the left of Vikas in parts of the video.
Finally, here’s episode #5 of the TechStars Founders 2010 video series titled Risk Takers.
Another TechStars company has been acquired. Well – part of it has been acquired. Today it was announced that eBay has acquired the RedLaser product from Occipital. The Occipital guys tell the story in their post titled Arrival at the Launchpad.
Occipital’s founders – Jeff and Vikas – are the epitome of bootstrap entrepreneurs. Every TechStars class seems to have one and Occipital wins the bootstrapper of TechStars Boulder 2008 award. At the end of the program they had a few chances to raise money but weren’t happy with the valuations so decided to hunker down and just bootstrap things. They reinvented themselves several times until they launched RedLaser which has been a runaway hit (over two million copies sold to date.) As RedLaser took off, they had another set of interesting investment offers but no longer have any need for outside capital.
While they were on their way to creating an interesting mobile ecommerce company, they wanted to work on a much bigger set of technical challenges than RedLaser in computer vision and augmented reality, their areas of passion and technical expertise. In their travels they had a few inquires for an acquisition of the company, but really only wanted to sell the RedLaser product, not the entire company. Fortunately, eBay was very interested in the RedLaser product and the match worked extremely well for both parties.
Given this sale, I expect Occipital is now a long way from ever raising outside capital. Jeff and Vikas are now extremely well funded, are scaling up a very interesting team, and going after a huge vision. Oh – and RedLaser is now free in the iPhone AppStore. Congrats to Occipital, Vikas and Jeff!