How do you spell 'virtual reality' in French? Immersis. It's the name of a new VR technology by French startup Catopsys, that has just been funded through crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter. It hit $101,135 of the $100,00 funding goal in little over a month. As of yesterday, the project had 176 backers, with six days to go.
Virtual reality was a big thing at Consumer Electronics Show (CES), earlier this year in Las Vegas. That's when Immersis launched the Kickstarter campaign, basking in the spotlight of a segment which has yet to deliver, but shows a lot of promise.
This is not a headset like Oculus Rift, the popular gadget that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acquired last year, and that's the point. Immersis promises to "turn your living room into an immersive, social virtual reality" without having to wear a headset.
Here's how they put it: "Immersis is an alternative to the VR headset model that Oculus popularised." Note that Oculus Rift is not yet a commercially available headset - it is still in the works.
"Thanks to sophisticated image processing algorithms and a 180° LED video projector, you can now have a virtual reality experience of your video games and panoramic videos in your living room with your friends without having to wear a headset", Immersis explains.
So it's a projector, that we connect to the computer. "If the content is two-dimensional, the projection is flat. If your content is panoramic, 180°, video games or 3D applications, the projection will be at 180°."
The user can choose to integrate a television, monitor or tablet into the projection, while continuing to use existing controls (game controllers, keyboard, mouse/trackpad), the company says. In the Kickstarter page, Nvidia is quoted as saying, "We definitively feel that Immersis technology is very promising and would like to make sure we provide the means to help Immersis succeed.".
Next step for the French startup is presenting its creation at South by Southwest, in Austin, and at the Futur en Seine FrenchTech technology festival, in June, in Paris. Catopsys, founded in 2013 by a team of optical engineering experts at the University of Auvergne, will now focus on getting developers to create plugins for Unreal and Cry game engines.
A virtual reality filled future is more than certainly in the works. At CES, a discussion panel focusing on virtual reality and emerging trends in gaming featured Jason Rubin, head of worldwide studios at Oculus VR. He said the company has not released the final hardware of Oculus Rift because it is aware we're still in very early stages of the technology. "We believe people will use virtual reality in lots of areas," he said.
While Oculus is still holding back, two other companies, Razer and Sensics, joined forces and created OSVR, an open-source headset that is now available has a 'hacker developer kit'. Product shipment is due in June and it costs $199.