James Jenson and Ken Bretschneider are two of the four founders of The Void, a much-discussed virtual reality company poised to change entertainment and education in the coming years. The Void is “physical virtual reality,” an oxymoronic phrase we stumbled upon in the course of our podcast interview with the founders.
The Void Experience
Imagine being strapped into a vest with 22 points of haptic feedback.. Haptic feedback is the use of advanced vibration patterns and waveforms to convey information. What does this mean in practice? It means you will feel the virtual bullets hitting your body. You will feel an avatar punching you in the gut. You will even feel weather experiences from electric stimuli.
Haptics aren’t the only mind-body-bending special effects in the Void. Walking around, you will feel as though you are exploring a world much larger than the room you stepped into. And, if you have experienced vertigo using Google Cardboard, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
That is the crux of the Void, a physical stage for people to fully appreciate the wonder of virtual reality. Each stage, or ‘gate’ as the founders call it, is really just a 60 x 60 feet cutout of a warehouse, but by using redirected walking techniques, gates feel infinite in design. You may believe you are walking straight while in reality are walking in circles. These Void 'centers' will have beautiful entrances; you will step into your own gate where you will be suited up and go into the virtual experience. If all goes according to plan, in the very near future content creators will produce and distribute their productions in Void centers around the country. The Void has an unlimited potential for virtual environments, bound only by the limits of the human imagination.
Ken Bretschneider started off in fine art and painting. Realizing he could not make a living off painting, he transitioned into digital art, then to video game development, then to an assortment of web projects. He founded DigiCert and sold the company in 2012. His passion for art and creativity led him to the field of virtual reality. He invested a quarter of a million dollars to develop the virtual reality experience we are discussing today, The Void.
From a business perspective, the opportunities are endless. It is easy to see that The Void has the potential to become the movie theater of the future, but that is not the company’s primary focus now. In fact, they do not plan to enter the world of real estate at all, but rather the founders intend to maintain their focus on staying at the cutting edge of virtual reality. Their future hiring will focus on building their R&D and content-creating teams, both working to enhance the virtual environment. Further down the road, objectives include developing massive studios, licensing through partnerships with film studios, and housing the content in physical locations.
This is a big opportunity. The movie theater business in the US generates around $17 billion in revenue. The haunted house industry generates around $7 billion in revenue. The Void could conceivably take market share from these industries as well as many other massive entertainment and experiential industries.
At night, Void centers can produce any number of entertainment experiences, such as huge rave party parties with DJs, space explorations, safaris, art experiences, or any other world the human mind has previously imagined. While most theaters have downtime during the day, The Void will have education-based programming.
During the day, while traditional movie theaters sit empty, Void centers will take advantage of B2B opportunities in education. For example, take an industry such as driver’s ed. Children read from a book and then complete their training by driving around safe neighborhoods where the chance of encountering a dangerous situation is slim. With a simulated driver’s education experience, drivers will be able experience near death experiences, without ever having to be near death. Adrenaline will be pumping, and your mind will react as if you are in a perilous situation, but you yourself will be safe in the comfort of a Void studio.
Listen to the full podcast for more information on this fascinating company:
Table of Contents:
4:00 - How they came up with the concept
6:30 - What is your secret superpower?
10:20 - Location based entertainment
11:50 - What is the potential of this business?
13:00 - How the technology works
14:00 - Education in virtual reality
17:00 - Monetizing the business
18:30 - Future Walt Disneys
20:15 - Limits of augmented reality
21:15 - Physical virtual reality: what does that mean?
22:00 - Business to business applications of the technology
24:50 - Raising venture funding for a virtual reality company