It’s not every day you hear about a video game-device company that is creating a system to let gamers “move naturally” in a virtual reality game.
When Robert Brackenridge, founder of Houston gaming startup Game Factor-e, first told me about a new Houston company called Virtuix, which has created a device to allow gamers to play their favorite computer games in virtual reality — meaning they can do things like run and jump in all 360 degrees — I was completely taken aback.
As he described the Houston-based gaming-device company that raised more than $800,000 in startup funds on Kickstarter, it seemed dubious to me.
As it turns out, yes, a Houston gaming-device company is pretty rare, and it’s possibly even more rare to have local startup raise close to $1 million on a crowdfunding site. But it exists: Jan Goetgelukm, Virtuix’s founder, can prove it, and his story is almost as mind-bending as his product.
First off, Goetgelukm is a first-time entrepreneur who is following his “American dream.”
A former Houston investment banker, Goetgelukm worked on developing Virtuix’s product, the Omni, in his spare time, tinkering away on a new type of virtual reality interface he dreamed up.
After more than two years of experimenting and prototyping, Goetgelukm quit his job to focus on the Omni.
“It’s hard to walk naturally in a virtual space,” he said. “This was a problem that hadn’t been solved yet, and that’s why I started working on the Omni.”
Goetgelukm described the Omni as similar to “a treadmill in 360 degrees” that solves the problem of walking in place in order to walk in a video game — his device is more natural.
Design for the Omni has now been completed — it requires special shoes, which come with the device, and a virtual reality headset, which customers can purchase from other vendors — and the first devices are slated to start shipping in January 2014.
In order to raise money for the Omni’s production, Goetgelukm turned to the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, and his success has been monumental.
Goetgelukm told me that in just three hours on June 4, Virtuix met its Kickstarter goal of $150,000. Now, it has raised more than $840,000 from more than 2,300 backers, and it still has 34 more days to raise money.
Sometime in the near future, Goetgelukm is planning on introducing the Omni to the world at a Houston launch event. I plan on being there to see in person how people react to the device and what the local startup and gaming scenes think of it.
However, in the meantime, be on the lookout for a story about gaming business trends in a future Houston Business Journal issue.