Startups

What can VR can be used for? Gaming, of course — but also, STEM education and storytelling

As Milwaukee-based Foresight Studios' founders look to bring their ElectroSwing virtual reality game to the Oculus Quest Store, they're also looking to the future of the metaverse — which includes the next generation of its builders.

Foresight VR founders Jeff Fleetwood (L) and Hector Borges.

(Courtesy photos; image via Canva)

A Milwaukee-based virtual reality startup is taking a swing at building in the metaverse.

Foresight Studios, led by developer duo Jeff Fleetwood and Hector Borges, have released ElectroSwing, the company’s first VR game to be submitted and approved for inclusion in Meta’s App Lab. The platform allows developers to distribute their apps directly to consumers without the technology giant’s official approval to join its Oculus Quest Store.

The achievement is considered the first step before the game is considered for download in the Quest Store — a move that could serve as a game changer for the emerging startup. While EletroSwing is admittedly a passion project for Foresight, Fleetwood said any success gained from the gaming app in the metaverse could effectively boost the company’s consulting, design, and development services in the real world.

Not that the startup isn’t looking to capture a small piece of the pie. Globally, the augmented and virtual reality market is valued at more than $14.8 billion and is projected to reach $454 billion by 2030. As more people embrace augmented reality in sectors as varied as healthcare, entertainment and education, Foresight Studios sees immense opportunity in standing on the forefront of the technology.

“At our heart, we are game developers, but we’re trying to [bring] the fun and excitement of gaming into non-gaming sectors,” Fleetwood told Technical.ly. “People feel like the VR thing has peaked, but it has not. The advancements coming to these headsets is something we’ve never seen before. This could be revolutionary.”

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But back home in Milwaukee, the potential of virtual reality applications hasn’t quite caught on in the business community. Fleetwood and Borges are aiming to change that. Since launching the business in 2019, Foresight Studios has slowly gained traction with corporate partners, educational groups and cultural organizations that have looked to the technologists to build immersive experiences to advance their initiatives.

Perhaps, the most visible of Foresight’s projects is Code the Hoan, a STEAM partnership with SHARP Literacy, Light the Hoan and Milwaukee School of Engineering. The project was designed to encourage youth to pursue careers in tech by teaching Milwaukee Public School students programming fundamentals as they explore a virtualized city landscape and learn about the technology behind the Hoan Bridge’s lights. Foresight Studios worked behind the scenes to build the virtual world and gamification within the program.

“We added so many fun things and that makes [programming] more interesting,” Fleetwood said. “Part of the goal was to inspire kids to try STEM. One of the things we have a passion  for is encouraging kids to get into technology. We see the power for ourselves once you get into it.”

"We feel like this technology is in its infancy."
Hector Borges, Foresight Studios

In 2019, the developers also completed a two-week residency at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum where they helped pilot a special VR exhibit for immersive storytelling of the Ringelblum Archives, a collection of artifacts and writings from Jewish people trapped in Warsaw during the German occupation of Poland.

“I really love the times where we feel we can build some software and make a difference — that’s a big ticket thing,” Borges said. “As a couple of college students, and to make this whole VR project and bring it to a museum, for example, that was eye-opening for me.”

Avid gaming enthusiasts, Fleetwood and Borges met as classmates at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Borges, fresh out of high school, was working as a printing press operator at the time. Fleetwood was a long-time advertising sales representative exiting broadcast media. When he returned to college in his 40s, he couldn’t have predicted launching a career in augmented reality.

“Hector and I felt the hardest-working people in the class,” Fleetwood said. “We really had that fire and passion for [development] and it brought us together.”

“We work well together and share a common vision, so it just keeps working,” Borges added.

As the duo awaits advancement in Meta’s app store, the founders are working on securing new projects in the educational and training space and exploring the metaverse for all of its future potential.

“We feel like this technology is in its infancy,” Borges said. “We haven’t seen a whole lot of people working in our field. I would love to see that grow. There is so much opportunity in this industry.”

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