San Antonio’s Merge VR Talks Consumer Interest in Virtual Reality

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things like sweat and makeup and contaminants. In the future, we’re adding an antimicrobial element into the foam itself. That’s why we were able to get it patented. We have the utility patent, the unibody construction made out of any soft, compressible material. It’s a broad patent, and we were thrilled when we got it.

X: How much venture funding do you have?

AT: We’ve raised just about $3 million of investor funding. The company was formally established in January 2014. Late in 2014 was when we got serious seed money. That included four people who were previously involved in Oculus, including their former patent attorney, SoCal IP Law Group. We kind of rocketed after that happened, with investors kind of piling in.

X: And you’ve started selling some of the product?

AT: We started shipping in November of 2015. Until recently, just being able to finance the inventory was one of our biggest challenges, but we got that problem solved a couple weeks ago when we got a $1 million line of credit from one of our existing investors. This year, it’s going to be expand everywhere. We’ve got different retailers, some distribution channels are taking us into multiple different countries. We’re going to be introducing some of our new product lines as well.

X: Like what?

AT: Our extender pack software will allow you to use a forthcoming controller, which has motion sensing capability like a [Nintedo] Wii. We read the motion and acceleration. We have all the sensors on the circuit board, inside the controller. We’re actually doing the sensor fusion calculations on the circuit board, so you’re just sending a little bit of data to the app to digest more quickly. Rather than asking the phone to do that calculation, and burdening the phone with that, the controller is going to do it. Because it’s a small data pack, we can use Blutooth LE (low energy), which is much longer data life. The batteries can also last longer. Am I cracking a whip, am I moving a wand, am I swinging a golf club? Where our goggles are your eyes, these controllers will be your hands.

X: There are a few categories of virtual reality, right?

AT: Yes, though I’m not going to pretend that this is how the industry is structured, but this is Andrew Trickett’s view: You have virtual reality applications, where you have a completely constructed artificial world. Augmented reality is where I’m imposing digital data, artificial data, on top of the real world. I’m mixing the two. Then there’s 360 video, which is, whether it’s live-streamed or actually rendered, filming the real world with one of these cameras that’s got this seamless ability to go all the way around me. Let me give you a fourth category that most people don’t think about. This surprised me. This could be the savior of 3-D video. When we fly on trips for business meetings, we’ll watch movies in 3-D on the plane using our goggles. Don’t underestimate good old 3-D video.

X: Augmented reality?

AT: For augmented reality, you’re using the phone’s pass-through camera, so you can see the world around you, but we’re imposing digital imagery around it. Some people call it mixed reality. Let’s call it merged reality [which is where the company’s name comes from]: The merger of the real and unreal, of the physical and the digital.

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