By Scott Meacham
The Tulsa World
Copyright © 2014, BH Media Group Holdings, Inc.
One of the fun things about the business we’re in is working with cool new companies that are on the very leading edge of technology and emerging industries.
There are few things that are cooler than virtual reality. The VR market is forecasted to reach more than 25 million users and billions in revenue by 2018.
VR solutions require products from multiple hardware, software and applications providers. Developers across the industry have to collaborate.
Mega names — think Google or Oculus VR (the headset company acquired this spring by Facebook for $2 billion) — are developing headsets that run applications that need controls other than a keyboard, joystick or mouse.
ZarthCode, a two-founder startup in Tulsa that recently graduated from i2E’s Immersion program, is developing a versatile and affordable data-glove for the virtual-reality industry.
“Being so small and as early as we are, the hardest part was to think seriously through our business model and sales flow,” said co-founder Jeremy Skinner. “Immersion helped us get a handle of what’s on the table, what we are going after and why. Our business plan is different now than when we started out.”
ZarthCode’s Mantis-VR glove is designed to allow a person’s hand to manipulate the virtual environment.
“You put on a VR headset and you are somewhere else — on a roller coaster, at Yellowstone Park or in London,” said cofounder Anthony Clay. “Once you are acclimated to virtual reality, you see something and want to reach out and touch it, but you can’t. Our glove provides a perfect real-time skeletal model of the user’s hand. A user can interact with the VR screen using natural gestures.”
Through Immersion, ZarthCode received seed capital that enabled the team to travel to potential customers, make key industry connections and create a fourth generation beta.
But while the virtual reality market may be fun, it is definitely not all games.
ZarthCode’s product has potential applications in both the gaming and the simulation training markets. Think of flight simulators where pilots can manipulate the controls in a totally virtual-reality environment.
There are all sorts of business applications in medicine, military and public defense, firefighting, transportation, industrial training and travel, among others.
That happens a lot with innovative technologies. Startups find early adopters in one industry and then expand to others.
That’s why we encourage companies like ZarthCode toward the Immersion Program — even at such an early stage.
This model helps young companies narrow their focus on a quick prototype to market to test their value proposition early and fast. There’s nothing virtual about that reality.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology.