A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: VirtuSphere.
What: VirtuSphere, based in Sammamish
Who: Chief Executive Alexis Palladin
Walk in cyberspace: With virtual-reality software, users feel like they’re moving even if they’re actually sitting on the couch. VirtuSphere wanted to create a device that would allow the user to move limitlessly while using such software — without bumping into walls or falling over.
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The solution: VirtuSphere, founded in November, created a giant hollow ball that works like a spinning hamster wheel. Wearing a head-mounted display, a user can step inside the 8.5-foot-tall sphere and experience physical movements while the mind is in cyberspace. “The purpose is to enable natural motion,” said Palladin. “You can walk and there is no limit.”
How it works: As the user moves, the ball rolls, sending coordinates to a computer. The computer evaluates the information and relays it back to the user’s display in the form of a changed view. The sphere, which costs between $50,000 and $100,000, can be made compatible with any computer-based simulations.
Who’s buying: 12 customers, primarily the U.S. military and law-enforcement professionals.
Edu-tainment: Using a grant from the Washington Technology center, VirtuSphere has teamed up with the University of Washington’s Human Interface Technology lab to develop educational and entertainment uses for the sphere. Palladin said potential uses include helping patients overcome phobias and spicing up a treadmill workout. He also wants to create a cheaper version for home use.
Man and machine: Russian inventors and brothers Ray and Nurulla Latypov wanted to create a way for people to move instead of just sitting while accessing a virtual-reality world. Their first effort looked a lot like a treadmill, but users would have to be attached or fall off. It took an estimated 40 years of man-hours and seven different models to create the current form of the sphere. The inventors recruited Palladin, who worked at Microsoft and Intel, to run the business.
The next step: VirtuSphere isn’t forgetting about smell, touch and sound. The company wants to add buzzers to simulate a hit during virtual target practice or smells to make a game more lifelike.
— Christina Siderius