Sensiks is a glimpse of the direction multisensory virtual reality could be heading.
One of the obstacles VR faces is delivering visceral, skin-deep sensations. Amsterdam-based startup Sensiks is trying to solve this problem with “sensory reality pods,” or SR, as its CEO calls it. Put simply, the “SR pod” is a high-tech booth emitting artificial heat, wind and more while you wear an Oculus Rift headset.
I had the chance to try out Sensiks at VR World London and interview CEO Fred Galstaun this week.
“We make multi-sensory experiences,” Galstaun said. “You can take any virtual reality content and we add wind, smell, extra sound effects, vibrations, heat fluctuations.”
When I tried out the mythical forest-like “Longing for Wilderness” experience, I found the booth’s heated panels to be overwhelming as I floated through a burning wood into the clouds. The “wind” and smells were a bit of an afterthought, if hardly noticeable. And the audio didn’t have the deafening quality you expect from a virtual rollercoaster ride at Disney Land or even a movie theater. Though, I admit: My ears and nose aren’t great.
There’s always room for improvement, but Galstaun claims the company’s main focus right now is content.
“We are really focused with connecting with the content creators,” he said. “Our product is as good as the content, so we really need top-notch content.”
The startup provides a platform where VR creators can “sensify” and sell their content for use in the booths. Sensiks takes a 20 percent commission with the remaining earnings going to the developer. As of today, the company has around 50 SR experiences available.
Sensiks has attracted clients such as the European sports retailer Intersport and airlines Thomas Cook and Lufthansa. Galstaun said Sensiks can help you “feel before you book” a vacation or get shoppers “in the summer mood and then they want to buy more bikinis.”
But the booth also has therapeutic uses, Galstaun said, it can help people who are sensory deprived like dementia or chemotherapy patients. Next week, a pod commissioned by the pediatric cancer non-profit Prinses Maxima will open at a hospital in Utrecht.
“During the chemo, you can go to another place,” he said.
When asked how much a booth costs to make, Galstaun wouldn’t share a specific number, but he did reveal the computer alone costs more than $2,500. And when it comes to how much to buy a booth: “It depends on who’s asking.”
Galstaun says since Sensiks’ initial launch at last years annual SXSW in Austin, Texas, the company has shipped 25 of the booths with another 50 currently on back order.
“We are really happy with that,” said Galstaun. “For us, it’s going quite well.”
Galstaun said the company is completely self-funded but does plan to raise money through an initial coin-offering (ICO) in October. People can use the upcoming cryptocurrency tokens for experiences in a pod or to discount or buy an entire booth.
Image Credit: Dieter Holger / Sensiks