June 1, 2023

At the moment I’m very proud to publish an interview with Jan Goetgeluk, the CEO of Virtuix. Virtuix is without doubt one of the first VR startups I received to listen to about after I began with VR. I used to be doing full-body VR with Kinects at Immotionar, when Virtuix began its Kickstarter marketing campaign and generated numerous hype. I nonetheless keep in mind their first trailer with Palmer Luckey attempting their gadget. They have been a competitor for my startup at the moment they usually have been doing one thing very cool.

Now, after a few years, many difficulties, and plenty of battles we each fought, I’ve lastly had the pleasure to talk with the top of that firm, and praise him for the lengthy highway he’s been via. As a result of it’s outstanding that however all the issues, Virtuix remains to be right here, and has simply began transport the primary models of Omni One, the primary Virtuix gadget that goals on the client market.

You will discover my interview with Jan (whom I thank for his availability) within the video right here under. We talked concerning the lengthy story of Virtuix, its new product, the Omni One, and the way forward for VR. I’m additionally reporting a (barely edited) transcript with the video timestamps for individuals who favor studying to watching. Take pleasure in!

Table of Contents

I’m very excited to be right here right now with you Jan Goetgeluk, the CEO of Virtuix. It’s a bit emotional for me as a result of we began roughly the identical years in working in VR and we each labored on full physique and pure actions within the digital worlds. It’s a bit like we’ve at all times been a bit related, as a result of Virtuix was one of many first cool VR initiatives I found. (0:00)

Thanks. Yeah, it’s been a protracted highway. That was ten years in the past. We have been early.

We have been younger and pleased, earlier than going into 23 winters of VR like now. So these have been the great occasions. Since you will have this lengthy historical past, are you able to inform us the story of Virtuix. How has it began? (0:57)

Yeah, I at all times joke about this with our crew. Our greatest accomplishment up to now is that we survived. Plenty of firms didn’t survive among the many ones that began with us in these early days, so 2013. We began with a Kickstarter marketing campaign approach again within the day after we did a $1,000,000 Kickstarter marketing campaign in 2013. It was one of many greatest campaigns at the moment, there was numerous pleasure.

VR was purported to be, you understand, the subsequent large factor by 2015, with hundreds of thousands of headsets shipped within the subject. And naturally, it took a very long time. It took for much longer than most individuals anticipated. We really needed to pivot to the industrial market simply to outlive. We refunded all our Kickstarter backers and pre-orders with curiosity and pivoted to the industrial market the place we did fairly effectively. We introduced out two merchandise within the industrial area, the Omni Professional after which Omni Enviornment, which is our e-sports attraction for industrial leisure, for large leisure venues like Dave and Buster’s. We’ve an providing for that market and now we’ve come full circle. Now we’ve simply began transport our third product, which is the Omni One, which is our first Omni designed for the house, for customers. So we’re again to the unique imaginative and prescient we had from the beginning, an Omni system for the house, and that’s what we simply began transport this 12 months in in beta for now to our traders. Nevertheless it’s right here, it exists and we’re very enthusiastic about it.

I keep in mind when your product got here out on Kickstarter, everybody was dreaming about having this at house. However then, at a sure level, individuals began being disenchanted as a result of everybody realized it was not potential. Why did you need to pivot? What was the issue? (2:53)

You realize, the demand from the patron area wasn’t that prime in these early days. The buyer marketplace for VR simply wasn’t there but. Know-how was a problem. We couldn’t bundle our system as an entire system since you at all times wanted a PC to strive VR, there have been numerous cables concerned and so forth. Now the Omni One is an entire system the place we are able to bundle the treadmill with a standalone VR headset. That’s undoubtedly been a giant breakthrough in VR for all of us additionally as a result of we are able to bundle the treadmill with the standalone VR headset and provide the entire system to the tip buyer. This wasn’t potential again then.

Additionally after we began growing the product, it turned out to be extra of a industrial product. Prices have been increased than we anticipated. It was very sturdy, laborious to ship and again then with Kickstarter…you understand you mentioned we have been younger and pleased, and likewise younger and naïve… Kickstarter simply supplied your product to everyone all over the world. Again you then couldn’t filter out completely different international locations. So sure, “right here it’s, everyone on this planet can have this, this large product for the house”. Properly, we have been naive, simply wasn’t potential to begin transport merchandise like that everywhere in the world and supporting them as a small firm. So there was numerous issues that simply weren’t doable. It simply wasn’t sensible to ship a product to properties all over the world at the moment for a lot of causes.

After which we needed to make the tough determination. Sadly, we needed to refund our backers and a few of them have been very upset nonetheless to this present day.

A lot of our backers are actually upset, even calling us a rip-off. However wait, this isn’t true. We refunded individuals with curiosity, so we tried what we might to be appropriate. Nevertheless it’s disappointing, was disappointing for me as effectively as a result of we had a really vibrant and robust group. I actually beloved our group after which having to say “look, sorry, can’t ship proper now. We’ve to focus commercially first, simply to outlive”.  That was a tough determination, but it surely’s a call we would have liked to make… and right here we’re right now.

Since we’re speaking concerning the Omni one, do you wish to inform us a few of its options? What are the brand new issues that individuals can discover on this gadget? (5:52)
Omni One trailer

The Omni One presents an unmatched freedom of motion. So that you now not held up by the help ring like within the Omni Professional. You may totally kneel, and do crouch jumps. It presents full freedom of motion, which is absolutely neat. It’s additionally optimized for customers. So it’s very simple to place collectively, no instruments are wanted to assemble it or disassemble it. It rolls round. It’s designed for the residing rooms. It seems to be prefer it matches into an inside. So it’s optimized for house use.

What’s the headset that it really works with? (6:40)

We’re transport with a Pico headset, as a result of Pico is our headset associate. Proper now, we’re transport with the Pico Neo 3 Professional. Pico 4 just isn’t out there but within the US and PICO has been a terrific associate of ours. The headset is personalized for us. So once you activate the headset, it exhibits Virtuix. So it has our software program on it, our recreation retailer, and we work hand in hand with PICO to customise their headset for our software.

Does it work with different headsets? Can I join it with one other gadget? (7:13)

Sure you possibly can. The Omni One is an entire system, but it surely’s not a closed system, so you possibly can nonetheless join it to a PC and play PC-based VR video games with your individual headset in the event you’d wish to.

And what about Quest 2 or Pico 4?

Quest 2 is a closed system, so we are able to’t make our treadmill work with it.

The Pico 4… it’s a great query. You realize we’ll seemingly ship with a Pico 4 for ourselves at a sure level, however once more, a model personalized and optimized for our system. However I’m undecided at this level in the event you can join it to a daily Pico 4. We’re positive it’s appropriate with PC, however with different standalone headsets it’s not plug and play sometimes. So we’ve received to take a look at that.

I wish to know what video games can be found, as a result of possibly somebody is watching this video and wish to play Half Life Alyx or Gorilla Tag with it… (8:26)

We’re engaged on that proper now. We haven’t introduced our launch titles but, however you possibly can assume that every one the favored VR video games or any good VR recreation that has a locomotion facet or a motion facet could be a terrific match to play with the Omni. So we’re actively working with these builders to carry their video games to our retailer, to our platform, which isn’t numerous work. We’ve an SDK software program improvement equipment, which is pretty simple to implement, so it’s not that a lot work for builders to.

Okay, so if some developer is studying this interview, possibly might think about porting his/her personal recreation to the Omni. However please, inform me, often what’s the kind of content material that individuals like essentially the most? Is it FPS video games or health or what? (9:20)

It’s slightly little bit of all the things. I imply, definitely first individual shooters are a blast with the Omni as a result of they’re laborious to play with out the Omni. It’s laborious to play a shooter recreation by standing nonetheless utilizing a thumbstick… it will get individuals sick… It simply just isn’t what you envisioned to do. In order that’s traditionally been a terrific match for us, however actually any recreation… and even past video games, each leisure software that makes use of motion the place you’re strolling round is simply an unbelievable expertise on our gadget… so the entire above.

And the way a lot area does it occupy at house? And the way a lot does it weight? Is it one thing I can carry on my shoulders from the grocery store or would I want some form of assist? (10:27)

It ships in a giant field. It’s definitely not one thing you carry in your shoulder. It’s like a treadmill to your house, that form of product. However you possibly can transfer it round. You may see that it’s not large, it matches in a house. It’s about let’s say 4 ft diameter. So in meters about 1 meter, 20 centimeters diameter. Perhaps you want about 1 and a half meters throughout to have sufficient area to play, however the gadget itself is about 1.2 meters in diameter.

What’s the function of this gadget you’re most happy with? (11:15)

It’s a great query. Once I got down to make an omnidirectional treadmill again in 2012, I had three standards for myself.

One was that it had to slot in a lounge. Two was that it needed to be reasonably priced, considerably reasonably priced to customers, and three was that it needed to work effectively, it needed to provide the impression, a minimum of to your mind, that you simply’re strolling round inside VR.

And that’s what I’m most proud about: it’s that with the Omni, you’re strolling round inside that digital world. And I discover it unbelievable. I need you begin utilizing the Omni. It’s very laborious to return to VR with out it since you’re so used to only strolling round in VR, then all of a sudden having to push a button on a joystick is like “Overlook about it” So yeah, it’s cool.

You simply went for the crowfunding route. Why you went this fashion and never via VCs or Kickstarter once more? (12:16)

Truly we’ve performed the entire above. You realize, we now have enterprise traders as effectively. Mark Cuban is a giant investor and we raised over $35 million up to now from traders, together with VCs, together with large traders.

But additionally fairness crowdfunding it’s at all times been a terrific match for us. We love doing it. We love having our group as traders in our firm. We love having our clients be traders in order that they’re not simply clients. They’re actually evangelists that consider what we do as an organization and are a part of our journey, a part of our story. So we love doing it and it’s a terrific match for us as a result of numerous our followers and gamers wish to spend money on our firm.

And in order that’s why we do fairness crowdfunding. It’s a good way for us to boost cash as a {hardware} firm. You want numerous capital. It’s very capital intensive. In order that’s why we raised some huge cash through the years, together with with fairness crowdfunding. Actually, we’re doing a marketing campaign proper now. For any of your viewers who wish to maybe spend money on Virtuix or are all for studying extra, you possibly can go to invest.virtuix.com, and we’re presently doing our sequence B spherical.

And one factor we’re doing is that our traders get a reduction on the Omni One in the event that they wish to purchase the product and they’re their first in line to get the product as effectively. So in the event you make investments $1000 you get a 30% low cost price $780 on Omni One. It’s a pleasant perk for our traders who grow to be a part of our group and our journey forward.

And the way a lot do you ask individuals within the crowdfunding marketing campaign?

The minimal is $1000, the minimal.

So everybody that’s enthusiastic about your product can grow to be an investor, that’s cool. I’ve heard that now you began transport some models already to traders… (14:35)

Yeah, we’re. We began transport beta models to our investor group, as a result of our traders are the primary in line to get models. And so we’re first doing a beta program for our traders. Over a thousand of our traders have utilized for a beta unit. And so we simply began transport what name beta models. After all, it’s {hardware}… as soon as the fashions are made, there’s not a lot change you can also make. So it’s not that the product is gonna change drastically from the place it’s right now, however we name it beta. The software program, the video games are nonetheless within the beta section.

So we’re transport and we’re delivering Omni One to properties as we converse.

What if somebody doesn’t wish to make investments however simply to purchase a unit? (15:28)

It isn’t out there but for basic sale, once more as a result of we give our traders the prospect to get one first and we now have 1000’s of traders that need one. So it’ll hold us busy for positive via the remainder of the 12 months. Normal launch availability to most people is coming typically subsequent 12 months.

First or second half of the 12 months?

Will depend on what number of traders need a unit, it is dependent upon them, as a result of we’re gonna fulfill that demand first.

I wish to have the chance to strive it sooner or later. Getting again to the previous, you grew so much in location-based VR, organizing additionally tournaments with large prizes. I wish to speak a bit about location-based VR as a result of it’s often a sector we overlook, particularly after the COVID appeared to have killed it. How are issues going for Virtuix on location-based VR and the way is the market normally? (16:16)

That’s been our key marketplace for the previous few years with our flagship product Omni Enviornment, which is an e-sports attraction. It consists of built-in e-sports contests with a $100,000 prize pool that we sponsor. Each time individuals play, they’ll win actual cash via weekly and month-to-month tournaments which can be simply constructed within the system. We bought that system to large leisure venues and that’s particularly for the US market. The US has 1000’s of these household leisure facilities and massive chains, like Dave and Buster’s, Sky Zone, you title it, trampoline parks, bowling chains, you title it. That’s our core market and that market has performed rather well. 2020 with the pandemic was actually laborious. However then after 2020, it was one large social gathering. So many venues had their finest 12 months ever in 2021 and in 2022. So it’s been a terrific marketplace for us and that market is alive.

So is the market again to pre-pandemic ranges? (18:09)

The larger leisure venues had their finest 12 months ever in 2021, after the pandemic, and 2022 was additionally excellent, so they simply had two unbelievable years. It’s been nice for that market right here.

As an entrepreneur, as somebody that creates a product, is it the identical to your engaged on the customers and the placement based mostly VR market? What satisfies you extra, what excites you extra? (18:39)

I’m engaged on a client product. I’d say it’s the most enjoyable as a result of it has the most important scale. I imply, the Omni One can grow to be a multibillion greenback enterprise. We predict we are able to carry Omni One to hundreds of thousands of properties all over the world. There’s a lot demand for, a lot pleasure about it. That’s thrilling. Engaged on a client product is enjoyable… engaged on a industrial product is enjoyable too.

Nevertheless it’s completely different and definitely client VR and industrial VR are very completely different. The video games, for instance, are after all very completely different for LBE or client use. So there’s numerous variations, but it surely’s enjoyable, numerous engaged on merchandise and constructing merchandise. It’s one of the crucial gratifying issues you are able to do in your profession.

What are the variations between a recreation made for the patron market and one made for the location-based one? (19:56)

Simply the size of it, to start with. Omni Enviornment experiences or video games are about 7 minutes every. For a industrial expertise, we’ve discovered it to be the candy spot. It’s 7 minutes and you need to take out all the things. That’s tough, proper? Every part must be simple to play, laborious to grasp as a result of you will have 5 minutes to offer any person a great time and that may be any person who’s barely performed video video games ever.

So you possibly can’t have any menu programs, can’t have any tough management programs, you need to simplify all of it. However you then nonetheless must construct within the design sufficient depth in order that an skilled participant nonetheless finds it difficult and nonetheless desires to play it many occasions, like with Omni Enviornment.

For us, it’s all about repeatability. A few of our high groups have performed over 300 occasions, so there’s gamers which have performed over 300 occasions, which is sort of unbelievable. In order that requires very sensible recreation design to make a recreation interesting to play so many occasions whereas additionally interesting to any person who performs it for the primary time and doesn’t know what he’s doing. So it’s not simple to do. And I believe we now have a great system. We discovered how to do this.

Watching movies of individuals taking part in with a VR treadmill is cool and plenty of of them have grow to be viral. However at any time when I attempted considered one of them I had at all times the impression of sliding on ice, not of strolling. Why is that this? And can we ever clear up this problem? (21:21)
virtuix omni one player
An individual taking part in with the Omni One (Picture by Virtuix)

No, it’s a great query. And we now have to be very sincere about that. We pressured this and everyone who desires to purchase our product, we ensure they know that, we are saying them to go strive it first. This isn’t like strolling on the road. It feels completely different. You’re strolling on a concave dish with our design. We’ve tried to make it as simple as potential. Once more, we’re very profitable in industrial leisure. So we now have 5 minutes to offer any person a great time. So inside 5 minutes, any person has to have the ability to stroll on it and really feel like they’re strolling in VR. It will probably’t take days to get a dangle of it, in order that the training curve must be fairly fast and I believe we nailed that. In any other case we wouldn’t achieve success in these large leisure venues.

Nevertheless it’s an excellent level, Tony. We’ve to be sincere about that. It’s not like pure strolling. It’s not for everybody very like snowboarding just isn’t for everyone or, you understand, some individuals. For those who’re utterly uncoordinated it’s most likely not for you since you’re gonna be flailing on it. And I already know you’re not going to have a great time, as a result of it’s not like strolling on the streets. It takes a while to getting used to and individuals which can be extremely coordinated are those that get the dangle of it like that, they usually have a blast. And other people that aren’t coordinated… possibly it’s not for you and we now have to be sincere about that.

However do you assume that this downside may be solved over time? Have you ever performed some R&D to make the strolling sensation extra sensible? (23:19)

Properly, I believe that our resolution is fairly shut. I’d love so that you can strive it, Tony, and you’ll inform me what you assume however the resolution we now have is the one the place you stroll on a concave low-friction base with low-friction footwear. So it’s by no means going to be like an actual strolling resolution, as a result of an actual strolling sensation would require one thing just like the Infinadeck, with shifting belts and motorized belts. And that’s a $60,000 machine, proper?

So sadly, in the event you wanna make one thing that’s reasonably priced for customers and matches in a house, a passive gadget, and the passive design, I believe is the most effective resolution. That’s why I selected for that route. However you’re strolling on a concave, low-friction base and in the event you do it a couple of times or thrice, I believe your mind thinks you’re strolling. It looks like strolling and also you’re simply strolling in VR. However there may be that that jiffy of studying curve that you have to recover from.

What’s the way forward for your product? I don’t assume you wish to cease right here… (24:51)

There’s extra we are able to add, haptics to the bottom, haptics to the vest… I discover haptics add so much to the VR expertise at a suitable price. In our case, it already may be in-built as effectively. So I believe that’ll be the subsequent addition to make it much more sensible and enjoyable.

After which we’ll see from there. We’ve a number of concepts.

Do you assume that this product will ever grow to be, let’s say, mainstream because the PC? In order that most individuals having a VR headset at house in 10 years from now, they’ll have a strolling treadmill as effectively. (25:28)

It’s my imaginative and prescient as a result of I believe it makes VR so significantly better. It makes VR a lot extra fulfilling to stroll round in VR, no person envisions teleporting in VR or pushing a thumbstick. Folks envision strolling round in VR, and that’s what our gadget allows you to do. Once more, it’s not for everyone. You want some area for it. It’s $2600. It’s not tremendous low cost, so it’s not for everyone. It’s most likely not mainstream like a console.

I believe there’s a giant marketplace for it. I believe many individuals will wish to have it. I believe it’s like within the film Prepared Participant One. Not everyone has an solely directional treadmill, however the cool children have one, proper?

That’s a terrific comparability. And normally, what’s your your imaginative and prescient for VR, and the M-word? (26:33)

Properly, I simply learn yesterday that the metaverse is lifeless…

We’ll put together a funeral later at AWE most likely…

As anticipated, the Metaverse is lifeless. Right here it’s. You realize, I knew that final 12 months… that these articles would come out simply round this time. Very predictable. But additionally irrelevant.

Finally, I believe VR is a expertise and a medium that will likely be extensively utilized in society for leisure, and different purposes as effectively, but it surely’s simply so good and it’s solely getting higher. I believe it’s gonna get to some extent the place the colour… the visible Turing take a look at… your mind will now not be capable to discern whether or not you’re watching one thing that’s actual or digital. After which it turns into such a terrific expertise.

I believe VR will likely be extensively utilized by many individuals each day. I consider that after which our gadget allows you to stroll round inside VR, which is I believe even higher.

Let’s say if somebody that’s listening to you possibly desires to do your job or one thing comparable, what are the teachings that might you inform this individual? I imply, all of us have a protracted historical past of, you understand, laborious battles…(27:44)

[Laughing] The primary recommendation is at all times don’t. Don’t do it. Don’t don’t, don’t do that at house . I’ve been working 80 hours, 80 hour-weeks for 10 years. It’s very laborious in the event you wanna begin a enterprise.

[Laughing] And I say possibly do software program versus {hardware}.

I do software program and belief me, we work so much as effectively. So don’t work laborious. That’s most likely the lesson… I’m joking, after all

For those who do {hardware}, you need to understand it’s a protracted highway. However look, I really like what I do. I really like our product. Our crew has been with us for seven, 8, 10 years. You realize lots of our crew has been with us since day one and we keep collectively as a result of we consider in what we do after which we consider in our product. So on the finish of the day it’s all worthwhile.

Yeah, however do you will have some form of life lesson to inform to individuals?

I’ve a e-book of life classes…

Decide one.

Oh it’s a great one. Work laborious, work laborious. I believe the younger era appears not desirous to work laborious or they assume they’ll have shortcuts in life. I don’t know. There’s no substitute for exhibiting up and doing issues.

You realize, concepts are like buses. There’s one each 5 minutes. Everyone has concepts, however you need to execute them. It’s all concerning the execution and pursuing them and dealing laborious and attaining them.

I like the thought of comparability between concepts and buses. That was nice.
So it’s time for my regular final query: you probably have one thing else so as to add… now it’s time to say it! (29:44)

This was a terrific dialog, Tony. I believe we coated most of it. To the those that need extra data. I’d say go to speculate.virtuix.com. It summarizes our story to date, Omni One and the highway forward and I’d like to welcome individuals as potential shareholders in Virtuix and grow to be a part of our group and a part of our journey.

I underline once more this invitation. I at all times like to fulfill with individuals that basically fought a bit like me, for a few years on this complicated subject. If you are able to do one thing for Virtuix and Jan, after all, please go to the web site and let’s attempt to construct one thing collectively. That’s additionally what I say on daily basis. Let’s push digital actuality all collectively. So thanks once more to your time. It’s been enjoyable. (30:22)

Thanks a lot, Tony.