Expanding the experience of virtual reality gaming has landed the omni-directional treadmill manufacturer Virtuix $3 million in its first institutional financing.
Banking on the company’s premise that it can make the experience of virtual reality gaming more immersive, new investors including Mark Cuban, Scentan Ventures, Maveron, Scout Ventures, Partech Ventures, StartCaps Ventures and undisclosed private investors all piled in to Virtuix’s round.
Their investment comes on the heels of Facebook’s much larger $2 billion bet on virtual reality’s future with its Oculus VR acquisition.
And while Oculus’ goggles allow you to see virtual worlds, Virtuix’s omni-directional treadmill lets a user feel like they’re actually exploring them.
For Virtuix chief executive Jan Goetgeluk, the Facebook acquisition was just another reminder of just how big the market for virtual reality will be.
Goetgeluk began developing the Virtuix technology in the wee small hours of the morning after clocking out of his day job as an investment banker in JP Morgan’s natural resources group. “I would oftentimes come home after midnight and work on the omni for a few hours,” Goetgeluk says.
“The problem that hadn’t been solved in virtual reality was how do you move around in a virtual world and for that you need an omnidirectional treadmill: one that is affordable and compact and allows you to move effortlessly,” Goetgeluk says.
A longtime believer in the promise of virtual reality, Goetgeluk sunk his life savings into developing the Omni over a three year period. Last year, the Virtuix took its first outside cash in the form of a Kickstarter campaign which netted the Houston-based company $1.1 million from 3,000 backers. Those backers will be the first recipients of the Omni when it begins shipping later this year.
“The Kickstarter funds were used to develop the Omni and bring it to market,” says Goetgeluk. “These funds are designed to broaden the market. We’re gearing up for a commercial launch later this summer.”
The company is partnering with manufacturers in China to bring the Omni treadmill to market. In fact, Virtuix’s chief operating officer, David Allen, previously worked for manufacturers like Flextronics in China and spent 20 years in the country.
“We see a lot of demand and a lot of excitement about virtual reality,” Goetgeluk says. “There’s a variety of devices that will hit the market in the next twelve months.”
“We see virtual reality as a medium that will be used by millions of people,” he says. “To be able to walk around in a virtual world creates that feeling of presence. And we want to offer the full virtual reality experience.”
Photo via Flickr user Raghavendar TS