Meet Our Start Up in Residence: Hyperspace XR
“What we’re working on here at the Science Center is more than your at-home virtual reality (VR) experience. It’s taking it a step further with what we call, “extended reality” or XR,” Jeff Ludwyck, CEO and Creative Director of the local startup Hyperspace explains.
Hyperspace is a Seattle-based tech startup working at Pacific Science Center as part of the What is Reality experience. You can find them inside Ackerley Family Exhibit Gallery behind the canvas drapes of the previous “Insecta-sideshow” tent. Here, they are creating a never-before-seen, transportive virtual reality experience that opens a portal to new physical realms by layering an immersive virtual experience onto a large physical set where guests of the Science Center will enter a new world, traversing it over a 20+ minute period.
This new frontier or immersive technologies includes Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), Virtual Reality (VR) and now Extended Reality (XR) adding in all of the senses and large environments to immerse the player to the fullest. There are a small number of competitive companies focused on large scale XR experiences but Hyperspace is taking a novel approach to the technology. Instead of blanketing the virtual space with cameras mounted on a grid over the player and around the space to track the player, all of the tracking is done from onboard the player looking out. Using technology similar to a self-driving car, Hyperspace enables the player’s suit to view the environment and communicate to the game where they are in the space; a much more seamless and elegant approach to this kind of problem.
“A virtual reality experience can only be so immersive, especially at home, when you’re about to run into your coffee table. We wanted to be able to allow guests to traverse out across bigger areas, touch physical environments, feel the wind hit their face, and smell the world they are walking through so their minds will fully accept they have been transported to another world.”
That is where the backpack, AKA “the spacesuit” comes in. Hyperspace has built a wearable PC that connects to a fully virtual headset that tracks your movements in an already mapped area. This spacesuit allows you to move around in larger spaces without being connected by a cord. It’s fully immersive not augmented reality. With augmented reality, you see the real world around you through the headset, then virtual items are layered on top of that space. Virtual reality is only part of the experience. What they are doing is creating a completely virtual view and building a physical set and experience to replicate that. This physical environment provides the tactile experiences: touch, sound, and smell left behind in other VR technologies. For example, if the environment that you’re experiencing virtually is a forest, you can walk up to a rock that you see through the headset and feel the rough exterior, or pick it up and feel the weight.
“You will be able to feel rumbling through the ground. You will be able to feel coolness, heat and wind. Imagine walking through a cave where you will actually be able to smell the dirt as you enter or feel the wet cool interior. Or if you walk up to a campfire, you’ll smell the smoke. If you walk up to something, like a barrel, you can touch it with your hands. We do not want to create an experience that is surface level. We want you to really feel like you are there.”
Jeff envisions that this technology will be used to elevate all forms of entertainment; from theme parks, to theaters, to museums and science centers like Pacific Science Center. “My passion is attractions. Creating experiences that brings authentic joy is what inspires me. I’m also inspired by seeing people use something I created that makes them think and ignites curiosity in a new way.”
For Hyperspace, the Science Center is an ideal location for them. Each day, several beta testers walk feet away from their workspace, so Jeff’s team can test and refine their technology. For the Science Center, it’s an opportunity to offer guests a hands-on experience with technology that could change the future.
It’s also an opportunity for guests to learn first-hand about Seattle’s active startup sector and lessons learned through navigating a sometimes ambiguous landscape. Although startups are common in our region, it’s not often you get to see inside what makes them tick. Over the coming weeks we will dig deeper and explore what it’s like to launch a new venture and build a company like Hyperspace.
What’s next for Hyperspace? Hyperspace is currently raising their seed round of funding and looking for the right partners to team up with. The seed round is generally the funding round a startup enters once they’ve proven that their product can perform like they envisioned and that the market actually wants it. In the case of Hyperspace their 12 person team has proven they can build the technology to build an experience like this at scale and Pacific Science Center is the proof of market needed to move forward in their venture. We are excited to see, and feel, all of what’s in store for Hyperspace.