The world of virtual reality hardware and software is rapidly evolving, and a couple of Boise developers are at the front of the pack. IonVR has an award-winning headset that just snagged a lucrative deal with one of the biggest tech companies on the planet.
In 2013, when the now well-known Oculus Rift headset hit the market, Dan Thurber started playing around with it.
"I'm one of the people who, when I put it on, while I didn't feel very good in it, it wasn't amazing -- I saw the future and the potential and was able to immediately recognize that," he said.
Part of that future, was going wireless. Thurber and his partner Brooke Linville began brainstorming a stand-alone headset that creates a 360°experience when you slide an ordinary smartphone into the front of it.
They started putting their design to the test.
"I tried to walk down stairs in virtual reality. Don't recommend it," Linville said.
They went from a cardboard-and-duct-tape model to a Lego model they called the 'Blockulus.' Eventually, they started using 3D printers to make prototypes of individual pieces.
"As we are going forward we can say, 'Okay, this works' or 'No, this doesn't work,'" Thurber said.
From there, IonVR has the headsets mass produced using injection molds.
Though some users feel nauseated by the immersive video experience, these headsets have a built-in optics system -- Motion Sync -- so you don't get motion sick. It gets rid of motion blur by controlling light in a more natural way -- closer to how we perceive it in reality.
All these designs and improvements in hardware impressed Intel so much the chip maker partnered with IonVR to give them access to a new phone that's not even available to the public yet.
"It has sensors on the front that allow you to kind of get 3D depth as you're moving in the space, so it maps the world around you," Linville said.
Those capabilities got the Boise company invited to the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas this year, and even won the team awards in two different innovation categories: Wireless Handsets/Accessories, and Gaming and Virtual Reality.
"It was really groundbreaking," Linville said. "The kind of technology and the kind of experience we could show was something that hadn't been done before."
Now, they'll be sharing that immersive experience over and over again. IonVR expects their device to be used with virtual reality content from real estate, tourism, and even medical fields in the near future.
The headset will be finalized this fall, and should be in stores in time for the Christmas season. The company is already taking pre-orders.