November 14, 2014
“I think it’s important to recognize that a startup can come from many different places and disciplines,” says Chuck Olsen, co-founder and CEO of VidTiger. “There’s a sort of mono-culture around the whole process of tech startups, but Futurekave started as an art project.”
And an art project it has remained, set up in installations at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design as well as the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. However, Olsen and his team are also exploring a realm of technology that not many outside of Oculus VR have tapped: virtual reality.
Futurekave is an immersive installation that uses technologies developed at VidTiger, and it’s inspired by humanity’s solitary, digital experience staring at one screen. The installation is set up on connected screens and uses the Xbox Kinect to map user-movements.
What are these users doing exactly? They’re creating virtual planets using their body movements. The in-person experience becomes the product of real-world social interactions and physicality, prompting humans to connect physically and socially around great technology.
“The intersection of virtual reality and the real world presents a tremendous opportunity for creativity, social connection, and engagement,” says Olsen.
The earliest versions of Futurekave that were put on demo didn’t hit home for the audience though. Most of the time Olsen and his team were met with blank stares and frank criticisms of the concept.
However, that moment was not without lesson for the Futurekave crew; they realized that iterating and showing early prototypes for feedback is incredibly valuable. And once they had a chance to lick their wounds from the showing, they created a more dynamic experience.
“We also learned the whole team shouldn’t go out to dinner at the same time during an event, because lightning will strike and Futurekave will bring error messages instead of pure joy,” says Olsen.
The initial roadblocks have been overcome though, and Minneapolis has been a friendly city for the budding company to lay down roots. The startup scene is small, but growing; there’s a lot of supportive media, co-working communities, and events.
“Minneapolis has had some big successes in the Internet of Things., but a lot of the investor culture is focused on B2B instead of B2C, owing perhaps to our industrial/agricultural past and the nature of Fortune 500 companies here,” says Olsen.
Regardless, the Futurekave team is staying motivated by imagining where the technology could take, not only their company, but the world as they keep building toward the future.
“Our biggest and craziest vision is to connect people around the world with Futurekave, blending virtual reality and physical reality in a way that ignites the human spirit,” says Olsen. “What does that look like? Experiment after experiment, building connections and people and ideas until we get to inspiring shared experiences with artists, technologists, strategists, and storytellers actively collaborating.”
And if there’s ever a bad day, a happy home and well-stocked beer fridge usually turn frowns upside down.
“Futurekave is fun, weird, creative and unexpected,” says Olsen. “We call it virtual reality for a better reality.”
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