Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are two technologies that have the potential to revolutionize a number of industries. Most people think of movies and gaming, but there are so many other commercial applications, like remote training, virtual shopping, real estate tours, and virtual vacations, just to name a few. It’s no surprise that many startups are focusing on VR. What may be shocking to some is the fact that Dallas/Fort Worth is a major hotbed of virtual reality innovation.
Dallas is becoming known for its robust startup community. Within that community is a vibrant subset of individuals and companies dedicated to VR. A number of significant enterprise companies provide a strong foundation for VR and AR efforts. Samsung Electronics America Mobile has its headquarters right here in Richardson. Samsung manufactures one of the most well-known and affordable virtual reality headsets, the Samsung Gear VR. Samsung is serious about getting Gear VR units onto consumers’ faces. Customers who buy the new Samsung Galaxy S7 or the S7 Edge are now eligible to receive a free Gear VR.
The biggest name in VR, Oculus, has a Dallas office headed by the company’s Chief Technology Officer, John Carmack. If that name sounds familiar to you, it should. Carmack was the co-founder of id Software and the lead programmer on groundbreaking games like Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D. Oculus, which was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion in 2014, makes its own headset, the Oculus Rift, and it provides the technology that powers Samsung’s Gear VR.
So what makes Dallas the perfect place to launch a VR company? The community. Dallas has all the right pieces working together, so the sum truly is greater than all the parts. Our universities have award-winning gaming programs that experiment with new methods and applications for VR. The SMU Guildhall has a VR program, as does the University of Texas at Dallas, which has a complete motion capture facility and VR lab. The University of North Texas is looking at how VR games can be used to provide neuropsychological assessment and rehabilitation. In addition to higher education VR programs, Dallas has the VR hardware and software development companies like Oculus and Samsung that are continually working to improve and enhance the VR experience. Cutting-edge, beta VR headsets are often made available to local developers for testing. Dallas is home to several startups that produce VR video assets, as well as startups that create complete VR content. Developers who want to get plugged into the VR ecosystem have plenty of options.
Dallas is a great place to be for VR and AR solution providers. Businesses from a variety of industries have learned that it’s vital to experiment with new ways to reach customers. Virtual reality, and 360-degree videos, are becoming increasingly popular for businesses trying to figure out what the next big thing in sales and marketing technology will be. With so many corporate headquarters of successful businesses located in Dallas, when the decision gets made, here in Dallas boardrooms, to explore VR solutions, local startups have a clear advantage over competitors in other parts of the country.
Dallas/Fort Worth has several forward-thinking school districts that are reaching out to community businesses in an effort to rethink the entire education process. Lewisville ISD, located in North Dallas, recently rewrote its core beliefs and goals in order to express its commitment to transforming education with disruptive innovation, and it’s partnering with community stakeholders to make that happen. It embraced technology by providing every student with an iPad. The immersive nature of VR will have a profound impact on primary and secondary school education, and Dallas-area schools are in need of ideas and tools to enhance the education experience. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a Dallas-area school district provide each student with a VR headset next.
In the following weeks, we’re going to be spending time with some of the Dallas area VR industry leaders to see what they’re up to and to help make connections in the Dallas startup community. We’ll be visiting with the team here at Samsung’s Global VR headquarters, and we’ll chat with the folks at Oculus Dallas. We’re going to check in with local game development companies, big and small, like id Software, Gearbox, Playful, and independent VR developers like the creators of Faceted Flight and Evil Robot Traffic Jam. Some of the most prolific VR content creators reside here in Dallas, such as ReelFX and GrooveJones, and we’ll be stopping by their studios to see what they’re working on. Dallas is a major player in the world of VR, and Launch DFW is the key media source for the VR startup community.