As I first walked into the Exhibition Hall at last weekend’s VRLA Expo I scanned left to right to take in the sights. One of the first things that caught my eye was the shiny metal stepvan of Exit Reality. At first glance I wasn’t sure what these guys were all about so I approached them for a better look. Even up close I wasn’t entirely sure what I was seeing. They had the van with a line of people queued to enter it and they had a metal pod with a line of people queued to enter it as well. It was clear that both the van and the pod had Vive headsets, so I got why people were in line, but I didn’t really understand what Exit Reality was hawking. It was about an hour long wait in line until I was able to enter the van. My friend and I put the time to good use by getting to know the people of Exit Reality.
Their business is two-fold: they have VR pods that they deliver to venues and events so that people there can try virtual reality and they have a van that they park on the street, invite people into, and deliver VR experiences within it. I’ll start with the pods because the pods make more sense to me. They’re four-sided, metal boxes with a portal on one side and whose interior space is designed for virtual reality experiences. The walls are lined with padding that absorbs sound and light, and do double duty by absorbing the occasional blow from vigorous hand movement. All of the tethers and sensors that are needed to create room scale mobility are safely overhead. The PC and a monitoring station are outside of the pod, just to the side of its entrance.
The core idea of Exit Reality is that they want to bring virtual reality to the people. They needed form factors that match that goal so the pods are designed to compact down for portability. They set-up in a ten foot square footprint and run off of basic electricity. The plan is to place them into hotels, bars, health clubs and really any place that’s trying to create that energy. Certainly event planners will want to access to venues sporting VR pods. Exit Reality went with an industrial meets futuristic aesthetic to generate an anachronistic look that captures imaginations. Their metallic shells definitely stand apart from modern interiors, akin to seeing the TARDIS where it doesn’t belong.
So if the goal is to travel VR around, their truck idea begins making a lot more sense to me. It’s an old delivery van. They’ve removed most of the interior so that now there’s a driver’s seat, a PC mounted on the wall, and whole lot of empty space that’s perfect for room scale. Sensors and tethers are all towards the top of the van. The back door opens and wooden steps are placed beneath it. The passenger door slides open as well. The PC currently runs off of a battery unit (I think he said it’s a Tesla Powerwall(!)) but future trucks will be all-electric and will run off of the vehicle’s power supply.
The van drives and parks where it chooses and delivers virtual reality to those nearby. It’s also available to be hired for events. Like the pod, the truck delivers instant excitement to a scene. Since it doesn’t compete with any brick and mortar business I imagine it’s pure boon for whatever it parks near. Food trucks are at odds with restaurants, but the VR van delivers crowds without poaching customers. I tell you, I love this business model.
The hardware and software is currently Vive and Steam. I was told they’re not married to these, but they just make the most sense for now. I know that HTC has worked hard to create a platform conducive to arcades. For all of my time in line I was able to get my first try at Tilt Brush. I’ve only had a few chances to wear a Vive so this has been a long sought-after experience for me. I’ve heard it said that you never forget your first Tilt Brush experience. Well, I had mine in the back of a van. That’s a story I’ll always have now.
While I had the chance to talk to many of the people involved with Exit Reality I really want to give a special thanks to its founder, Yehonatan Koenig, for taking time at a busy event to talk to me about his idea. Of all of things I got to see and do at the Expo, talking to him was the highlight. It’s really great to meet the people behind the things I enjoy. Hearing him explain his vision and motivation was really a fun encounter.