Two local tech companies are getting some high-profile placement for their virtual reality products.
Arch Virtual has developed an app for the Oculus Rift headset that takes people on a tour of the Sacramento Kings’ new arena — even though the building won’t be completed until fall 2016.
WebRacing will be part of the July 5-6 opening weekend for the Tour de France, with a 30-bike virtual reality cycling installation at the Yorkshire, England, starting point.
“It feels good” to be working with a client like the National Basketball Association’s Kings, said Arch Virtual’s Jon Brouchoud. “It’s been absolutely amazing how much interest we’ve had in the past six months.”
Facebook’s $2 billion purchase of Oculus Rift in March turned up the spotlight on the Irvine, California, company that got its start on Kickstarter in 2012.
Enter Arch Virtual, where co-founders Brouchoud and his wife, Kandy, have been working on 3-D virtual reality applications since 2006, turning game technology into programs for education, corporate training and architectural viewing.
With Oculus Rift goggles, the user can see “stereoscopically into space,” tracking head movements and letting the user look around, Brouchoud said.
“It’s so incredibly immersive ... it puts you in another place,” he said.
For the new basketball arena, the Sacramento Kings sent Arch Virtual a digital file of the architectural model, which the company translated into a virtual reality experience, he said.
“It feels like you’re standing in front of the arena. You can actually stand in center court and their star player, DeMarcus Cousins, comes out and gives you a ‘high-five,’” Brouchoud said.
To do that, the company took very high-resolution images of Cousins’ body and did a 3-D scan, tattoos and all, Brouchoud said.
Another recent project involved creating an Oculus Rift app for the Suzuki Swift car, in cooperation with Sahaj Interactive Solutions. The app lets users “drive” through the Himalayan mountains in the Swift, which was featured at an auto expo in Mumbai, India, in January.
Arch Virtual has been a virtual company, with contracted workers as far away as Canada, Vietnam and Australia.
In the next few weeks, though, Arch Virtual will move from the Brouchouds’ home in Oregon, Wisconsin, to 100state, 100 State St., Madison, where some of the company’s six to eight full-time employees will work.
Racing avatars for
WebRacing focuses on fitness, using virtual reality with indoor cardiovascular equipment.
One Tour de France sponsor invited WebRacing to set up a 30-bike group for the opening weekend so schoolchildren, pedaling the bikes, can watch themselves on a screen that looks like they’re actually riding on a leg of the race through the French Alps, said WebRacing founder and president Bruce Winkler.
“Each person is represented by (his or her) own avatar on the screen. As they pedal faster, they jockey past other riders in the pack,” Winkler said.
“No one can get too far ahead or behind. If you’re a slow person, you’re going to still be part of the pack,” he said.
Established in 2007 and with about one and a half employees, WebRacing, 2702 Monroe St., became a “full-fledged company” just last year, Winkler said. It was one of 13 finalists in the 2014 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan competition.
Winkler said the technology is meant to change people’s perception of exercise. “It takes your mind off the sweat and the pain and makes fitness fun. It gives you sensory immersion,” he said.
WebRacing’s installations also include the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas, as part of the H-E-B Body Adventure exhibit.
Winkler, a serial entrepreneur who spent five years as director of global innovation for Madison-based battery maker Rayovac Corp., now part of Spectrum Brands, said he is trying to raise $1.5 million to grow the business.
He said WebRacing turns all sorts of indoor fitness machines into a virtual reality experience — skiing for elliptical machines; running for treadmills; boating and kayaking for rowing machines.
“We’re not trying to sell somebody a new piece of fitness equipment,” Winkler said. “We’re trying to breathe new life into old equipment, to turn it into a 21st century, socially connected piece of equipment.”