Austin’s always been ahead of the game when it comes to tech, and the world of virtual reality is no different. South By Southwest started the fun with an inaugural virtual reality/augmented reality track in 2016, and continued with a complete Samsung (among other major companies) VR takeover in 2017.
As a city known for its artisan class, Austin has a group of artists, musicians and other creatives who are looking to harness the power of VR and AR to enhance their performances, as well as tech startups capable of creating virtual landscapes to showcase creative games, concerts and more.
So which Austin companies are doing big things in the VR world? There are many, and new VR startups are emerging almost every month. A few of them have made big headlines recently, like when Google acquired Owlchemy Labs and when Upskill, a Washington D.C.-based AR company acquired Pristine, an Austin-based augmented reality startup.
And there are likely more deals to come.
So, let’s take a look at five of the hottest VR startups in Austin right now.
TheWaveVR CEO Adam Arrigo (courtesy image)
Founders: Adam Arrigo, Aaron Lemke
What They Do: TheWaveVR is perfect for music lovers. They can view, host, and socialize in music shows anytime, anywhere.
Why It’s Cool: Musicians can reach a much broader audience by creating this virtual reality venue, and an audience can see a cool show in real time.
Other Fun Information: The company recently raised $4 million, and co-Founder Arrigo helped create another musical innovation, the Rock Band video game.
Founder: Mike Love
What They Do: Thrillbox procures customer data from virtual and augmented reality campaigns. Thrillbox data is available from mobile, web and gaming VR campaigns.
Why It’s Cool: Rather than knowing if someone watched a VR media ad, or where they watched it, brands and companies can now see what a particular audience member actually watched.
Other Fun Information: The company recently raised another round of funding, doubling its investment from 2016.
Virtuix (courtesy image)
Founder: Jan Goetgeluk
What They Do: Run, walk, jump, skip and fight -- all in virtual reality. The Virtuix Omni actually gives users a virtual reality platform that enables natural movement within a variety of settings.
Why It’s Cool: Think about being a police officer and getting to train in all sorts of scenarios, all in one area… that’s what the Virtuix Omni can do.
Other Fun Information: Goetgeluk was on Shark Tank hoping to get a $2 million dollar investment, but unfortunately was rebuffed by sharks Kevin O’leary and Robert Herjavec. The company, however, has absolutely crushed it with crowdfunding.
A screen shot of Owlchemy Labs' Job Simulator game.
Founder: Alex Schwartz
What They Do: They are a game developer that puts an emphasis on using your real hands. Owlchemy Labs is most known for the development of the game Job Simulator, satirical look into the day-to-day life of a person’s occupation, and its new Rick and Morty VR game. The company was acquired by Google for an undisclosed amount on May 10.
Why It’s Cool: Owlchemy brings VR games to the masses, and in pretty funny formats. And you don’t need a remote for Owlchemy’s games.
Other Fun Information: Owlchemy didn’t start as a VR studio, but it was one of the first studios to work with the Oculus Rift.
Founder: Soren Silkenson
What They Do: Duelboot is also a game developing shop. Silkenson is currently developing a game called Verde Station, a first-person VR experience game set on a space station. (See a clip above.)
Why It’s Cool: Imagine yourself as an astronaut, working for a year on a spaceship. Plus, the game reacts differently depending on the decisions that you make.
Other Fun Information: Silkenson was the voice actor of Gordon Freeman, a character on the Half-Life video game series.