As a part of our ongoing mission to showcase the virtual reality industry’s hottest startups we headed over to River, Rothenberg Ventures’ new accelerator program for VR, for an inside look at (a ‘VR Snapshot’ if you will) each of the 13 companies (selected from a group of 200) in the program, before their big demo day Monday.
In the music industry, when a group of famous artists get together and form a band it is typically dubbed “a supergroup.” Oculus has formed quite the supergroup, assembling the likes of John Carmack, Michael Abrash, Palmer Luckey, and Brendan Iribe to create the Cream of VR teams. But if Oculus is Cream, Solirax may be Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
The main team at Solirax is comprised of Karel Hulec, of RiftUp and VRUnion fame, and Tomáš “Frooxius” Mariančík, the brilliant mind behind the award winning Sightline: The Chair, which to date is still among the best experiences in VR. Right now the team is hard at work on a whole litany of things related to VR, from hardware with the “Claire” HMD (an industrial grade virtual reality headset) to an ambitious project they are calling Neos (previously, World of Comenius) which will be a universe where you can create and learn. Beyond all that the team has also been up to some pretty crazy light field rendering experiments. Even more impressive is they aren’t doing this in Unity, Unreal, or Cryengine – but in a custom engine designed by Frooxius himself called “Frooxengine.”
I sat down with Karel Hulec to learn more about some of the things the team is hard at work on.
Who is Solirax?
We are building a virtual reality universe. One where you can create stuff with your own hands. Learn, teach, have fun. Instead of just reading and listening, you can do it, be there.
What is the team’s background, how many are you? What is everyone’s role?
We went to universities, but spent most of the time doing something else. Back then, Tomas, designed his own award winning CPU architecture (Intel ISEF 2012) . I put together my first team to mass-mine Bitcoin and design cryptocurrency blockchains.
The rest of the team was freelancing and getting ready for their big future soon to come. We are now ten people including hardware division and growing fast.
When did you guys start working together?
Once the smartphone screens got to 720p, it was obvious VR is coming. I’ve started making HMD prototypes and Tomas mind blowing VR games. We learned about each other activities later trough DK1 backer list and did chat here and there.
There was a breaking point a year ago. We asked ourselves a question: What VR application will have the biggest positive impact on the world and people? Education.
And here we are. Working to make the world a better place. All of them.
Where are you guys at with your projects?
Building Neos – a massive multiplayer virtual reality universe with avatars, user content creation, professional content import capabilities, monetary system etc. is a very complex task that takes two years of our lives.
Closed beta of Neos will start early 2016.
To not go crazy during this time and have a connection with real world and valuable feedback, we are releasing demos showcasing some features of the universe. We did natural objects manipulation, block building, 3D drawing and even a whole Human Anatomy Pilot project at an actual school with actual students (about 300 of them) and teachers. They absolutely loved it.
Right now, we are releasing the Neos: The Universe demo, an experience that opens people’s eyes on how vast and beautiful our universe really is. It enables you to travel fluently through 50 magnitudes of scale. From electron to the whole known universe and everything in between.
UPDATE: Neos: The Universe has been entered into Oculus’ Mobile VR game jam. You can check out some more screenshots on the experience’s challenge page.
Why are the things you are doing important for VR?
Your brain is not made to learn while sitting in boring rooms listening and reading. Your brain is made to learn through experience, doing, trying and being shown by the best ones your tribe. The world is now a one big tribe, but our brains are the same.
Have you received any funding? If so, from whom?
We will accept external funding only when it makes sense. Joining River is the one single best thing that happened to us. They are not a company, they are like a family to us.
How can people experience them for themselves?
The best things in life are worth waiting for. That said, feel free to try one of our early demos or just take a look at a very amusing lets play.
UploadVR will be eagerly following the team’s progress as they graduate from River. Be on the look out for a more in depth piece on the Claire, as well as the rest of our profiles as we continue to track each of the River startups before their big graduation day Monday.