INSIGHT

When real life improves virtual worlds

A reality check for VR

Just ten innovative businesses were chosen for the inaugural Virgin Media Business Accelerator, powered by Techstars and sponsored by Liberty Global. Their ideas were vastly different, but they shared bags of enthusiasm, a hard work ethic and the enterprising nous it takes to succeed. So, six months on, how are they faring?

When people think of virtual reality (VR), they imagine a headset revealing a whole new world. But while the picture may look real, for the person to really explore the world they need to be able to take their first steps in it. Literally.

Meet Wizdish: creators of the ROVR - a VR treadmill that allows people to walk around, as if they were actually ‘there’.

Putting 'real into 'reality'

Julian Williams, founder of Wizdish, says the physical aspect of VR - the ability to move your body - “makes your mind think it’s actually happening”.

“With a headset alone you can’t get a sense of spatial awareness. For example, if you want to walk around a VR building you’d want to move your legs - because that’s how you perceive the world you’re in,” he says.

One natural fit for the Wizdish ROVR is gaming - particularly in vast worlds you can explore, or sports games such as snowboarding.

But while the consumer is likely to benefit at some point, it was initially intended as a B2B product. And it’s already had interest from a wide range of businesses, including marketing, universities, nuclear power generating companies, arcades and healthcare. 

A slow moving market

Since coming up with the idea in 2001 and getting a patent for the product at the end of 2008, the company has taken small steps to get where it is today. Williams compares VR to the early days of the internet: it’s a slow-moving market. Which is a good thing – if technology was advancing more quickly, a small company like Wizdish wouldn’t be able to make a big difference.

The Virgin Media Business Accelerator definitely boosted Wizdish’s timescale. Williams says the funding enabled them to hire a professional industrial designer, and they’ve managed to get exposure from media outlets – even leading to an invitation to audition for Dragon’s Den.

Prototype to production

Since taking part in the accelerator, Wizdish has gone from a plastic prototype to a full production version of the device. “This is what people are hoping to see, rather than the polymer frame we had previously – it’s enabled us to become much more professional,” says Williams.

He’s excited about the future of VR – both the quality of headsets arriving from Qualcomm and LG, and the knock-on effect of developments in augmented reality (AR).

“Our R&D took many years but the great thing is that VR is really popular now, so people are more interested than before. To be honest, it felt like we had to wait for the rest of the world to catch up with us,” he said.

Indeed things have come a long way since the early days of VR. Microsoft has even built its Mixed Reality, which blends real-world and virtual content to create interactive experiences, into Windows 10. Julian reckons we’re on the cusp of a VR explosion.

He says, "Microsoft’s Mixed Reality will make a big difference before the end of this year. If you recall when mobiles started to become popular and then suddenly that market took off massively, I would say VR is currently at that point. For us it is very exciting.”

It gets even better. Unlike traditional telecommunications services, Cloud Voice operates on a licence-based model, so you pay a fixed monthly fee based on your usage – there are no nasty surprises.

Moving telephony and call handling to a single, hosted, managed network makes it easier to predict budgets. And that’s the kind of freedom that allows you to grow, disrupt, surprise and thrive.

Tim says, “We’re creating cost certainty for businesses on their telecoms spend. Previously an organisation would have to buy a PBX regardless of whether they had 200 employees or 2000. With the scale and agility of a cloud-based PBX, a business only needs to buy as many licences as it has employees. It’s easy to scale up or down, so you can respond quickly to the unexpected.”

Good luck to Julian and the Wizdish team as you take the next steps in your journey!

http://www.wizdish.com/

This is the last article in a 10-part series about the 2016 Virgin Media Business Accelerator participants.

It gets even better. Unlike traditional telecommunications services, Cloud Voice operates on a licence-based model, so you pay a fixed monthly fee based on your usage – there are no nasty surprises.

Moving telephony and call handling to a single, hosted, managed network makes it easier to predict budgets. And that’s the kind of freedom that allows you to grow, disrupt, surprise and thrive.

Tim says, “We’re creating cost certainty for businesses on their telecoms spend. Previously an organisation would have to buy a PBX regardless of whether they had 200 employees or 2000. With the scale and agility of a cloud-based PBX, a business only needs to buy as many licences as it has employees. It’s easy to scale up or down, so you can respond quickly to the unexpected.”

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