NullSpace VR wants to add a little more reality to the virtual reality experience.
The company, founded by Morgan Sinko, Jordan Brooks and Lucian Copeland when they were students at the University of Rochester, makes a suit players can strap into and feel the impacts of their virtual reality experience on their arms and chest.
Though founded in Rochester, N.Y., the company just set up shop in Seattle a couple weeks ago. Right now, NullSpace has an office at SURF Incubator in downtown Seattle. NullSpace has six employees total, and Sinko said the staff is growing.
When asked why the company chose Seattle, Brooks responded: “it’s the center of everything gaming and everything VR.” It was down to Seattle or Silicon Valley, and proximity to leading VR companies like Valve, and cheaper office space were the main factors that put Seattle over the top.
NullSpace is one of more than 40 virtual/augmented reality companies based in the Seattle area, according to a recent study. The local VR scene includes the biggest tech giants building their own headsets, including Microsoft’s HoloLens, Valve and HTC’s Vive and Facebook’s Oculus Rift, all the way down to small startups like NullSpace.
Right now, NullSpace’s suit is not available for purchase by the public, but the plan is to eventually sell it to users. NullSpace is talking to developers who could integrate the suit into other virtual reality experiences.
Sinko said NullSpace has closed a round of funding, but he would not disclose an amount or names of investors. The company is looking at doing a crowdfunding campaign in the near future.
The suit started as a pair of gloves meant to work with the Xbox Kinect. Sinko’s older brother would get frustrated playing games using the Kinect because there was no feedback on actions, so the team sought to improve on the experience.
The project expanded to work with the Oculus Rift, and then the team decided to go with a full jacket model. But that was way too hot, Copeland said, since users are moving and even running while playing. That’s when the more minimal version of the suit became the focus.
The team has made a lot of changes as a result of thorough testing. For example, women using previous versions of the suit found it uncomfortable, so the team changed it. They also wanted to make sure it worked for people in wheelchairs.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure we can keep the cost down and keep people involved and not feel like ‘oh, that’s not a product for me,'” Sinko said.
GeekWire got a chance to try out NullSpace’s suit as well as a game demo at the Immerse 2016 virtual reality conference in Bellevue, Wash. Using the HTC Vive headset and a pair of controllers, players are armed with six-shooters and tasked with fending off a speedy army of scorpions rushing at them in the desert from 360 degrees. When a player is hit, the suit vibrates that part of the body, giving the indication of where the impact is coming from. At the end, a series of discomforting tremors leads to the appearance of “Walter,” a giant scorpion that always wins no matter how many times a player shoots him.
Lynne Robinson, a member of the Bellevue City Council, also got a chance to use the suit. Her run through elicited a couple of screams, and she also succumbed to Walter. Robinson said she liked the effect of the suit, and it made the game more realistic.
“It felt like the ground was rumbling,” she said. “Even though nothing was moving, I felt like my whole environment was moving, so that vest is pretty impactful.”