It all started with a pair of cardboard 3D glasses. Today, World of VR is one of a few full-service providers of virtual and augmented reality technology.
Around three years ago, World of VR founder Timon Vielhaber donned a pair of virtual reality glasses for the first time. He was instantly captivated by the ability the glasses gave him to immerse himself in virtual worlds. However, at a cost of around 300 euros, virtual reality glasses at that time were only financially feasible for gamers and 3D software developers. They were also not easy to get hold of. Vielhaber quickly spotted the business opportunity. Since then, he has been working hard towards his vision of making virtual reality (VR) easily accessible to everyone.
Every person with a smartphone already has the necessary technology. The only things smartphone users need for a 360-degree viewing experience are an app and a simple viewing frame that can be self-assembled. It’s a realization that struck the World of VR team early on – in part thanks to the pioneering work done by University of Southern California’s FOV2Go project and Google’s Cardboard project. From this point on, World of VR set about developing its VRoggles – affordable VR glasses made of cardboard. With VRoggles, everyday users can experience virtual reality worlds for as little as 15 euros. Over time, Timon Vielhaber recruited a team of specialists from diverse disciplines and World of VR’s offering quickly expanded to include app development and content, such as 360-degree and augmented reality videos. Today, World of VR is a full-service provider that doesn’t shy away from new challenges.
World of VR revealed its VRoogle for the first time at the SCALE11 start-up showcase at last year’s CeBIT. According to Vielhaber, taking part in SCALE11 was one of the best and most important decisions he has taken since starting his company: "We received excellent feedback and met a number of customers who want to work directly with us. Since then, our business has gathered a lot of steam."
No doubt World of VR is also helped by the fact that interest in virtual reality is no longer confined to gamers and developers. For companies, virtual reality technology opens up new opportunities to market their expertise and products as well as themselves, for instance by offering virtual tours of their operations. There are also plenty of interesting applications in the cultural arena. For example, augmented reality technology gives museums the opportunity to offer interactive tours of their exhibits to a worldwide audience.
This year, World of VR will return to CeBIT’s SCALE11 start-up platform where Vielhaber expects even more interest in his company’s virtual reality offering. However, for him, the fair is not just about forging new contacts with customers, suppliers and app developers. He also sees it as a great opportunity to raise the profile of virtual reality technology among the wider public.
Vielhaber is keen to put the widespread use of virtual and augmented reality technology on a more sustainable footing. "For us, virtual and augmented reality is much more than a one-off thrill. We see plenty of concrete applications for these technologies. At the moment the market for these systems is highly fragmented and the opportunities they open up are not clear in most people’s minds. One way of spreading the word is to embed recommendations for new apps in existing ones. That is another project we are currently working on."
Vielhaber’s key messages to other young entrepreneurs are these: "If every member of your team shares the same vision and objectives, you will get a steady stream of brilliant new ideas. In fact, teamwork is the key to everything, including greater cost efficiency. Start-ups need to foster a culture that is not afraid to venture into unknown territory – to try new things that may not work. If you want to be successful, you have to learn to deal with setbacks, always remain flexible and stay close to your market."