Envelop VR Raises $4M in Seattle’s Revved Up Immersive Tech Cluster
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“pre-alpha,” he warns me, which is to say very early stage. The plan is to distribute software development kits to select VR developers this winter, ahead of the wave of VR headset releases.
I slip on an HTC Vive VR headset—the company is building software to support as many “good” VR platforms as possible, Mavor says—and place my hands on a standard keyboard, situated below a camera. I open my eyes on the image of an office that would make a billionaire blush: We’re in the glass-encased pinnacle of a tall building. A black-and-white marble tiled floor gleams below. Giant windows look onto surrounding office towers of some thriving technopolis. A brilliant digital sun sets in the distance. And there are my real hands, floating in front of me on the keyboard.
All around me in this workspace are open computer windows: a word processor, a Web browser, various others. I can see them as I look around. There’s my mouse cursor. It takes some getting used to, but in a few moments, I’m dragging the word processor front and center and zooming in to begin typing. The live image of my hands isn’t necessary after a while. I can just touch-type. It’s also easy to imagine voice input and gestures coming into play here; Envelop intends to support an array of input devices.
If I want to check information in another open window, it’s as simple as glancing at it. No minimizing one window to clear screen real estate for the one I need. It’s all just there, arrayed around me. I can also click and rotate the entire environment, as though I’m sitting on a swivel chair at the center of a sphere of screens.
“We want you to be able to build your ultimate work environment—how you want to be able to interact with stuff,” Mavor says. “This is the work environment of the future. It’s completely unhinged from needing to worry about monitors. The resolution on the current headsets is OK for doing this, and it’s just getting better as we move forward.”
Mavor says he’s doing production work inside of the EVE. “To me, it’s actually pretty relaxing to spend time inside of VR,” he says. Contrast this expansive digital workspace with the 12-inch monitor he stared at all day when he first started coding.
But he acknowledges that the physical experience will vary considerably with each individual. While modern VR hardware is much better at preventing the motion-sickness-like symptoms some people experience, software is another matter. I stood up from a driving game demo at SEA VR feeling woozy.
Envelop’s software is being built with this problem in mind. It creates a barrier between applications and the VR environment to prevent the former from screwing up the latter by doing something that would slow the frame rate, for example. “Security and integrity of your experience are key in VR,” Mavor says.