On the outskirts of the Bay Area, my Lyft driver jokingly asked me if I wanted to leave him my number in case I didn’t return from where I was headed. I would soon be descending a set of stairs into the basement of a newly-built, largely empty office complex where I was going to try an “experimental virtual reality experience.” I’ve seen enough Black Mirror to be skeptical of what might be coming next.
After being introduced to the team at Nomadic VR, a small virtual reality startup founded by ex-Lucas Film special effects wizards, I was outfitted with a headset and backpack gaming computer and left walking down the creepishly quiet hallway of a virtual noir-styled office building. What was magic about this office was that it was a VR space designed to be touched. As I was urged to take a seat at a desk, I sat down on a physical stool that was being tracked virtually and looked at a computer monitor I could actually touch with my hands.
In an industry filled with a surplus of acronyms and terminology, Nomadic VR falls through the cracks of catch-alls like “virtual reality” or “mixed reality.” Nomadic is a bit of an outlier, with consumers strapped into virtual reality gear while being placed and tracked by infrared cameras in physical spaces specifically designed for the experiences. Reach out for a door handle in the game and you grab a real one, walk towards a railing and you bump into it, walk into a new room and feel the temperature change as the Nomadic-designed experiences play with your mind and emotions.
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