Virtual reality? Oh, it’s not so hard.
“There’s a certain burden when people interact with very high-tech electronics,” said Tony Yi, the cofounder of Paralo, a new VR hardware maker. “Google Cardboard is brilliant but it’s made out of just cardboard.”
Paralo has created what he and his team thinks is the best VR headset so far. It uses the open-source mechanics of Google Cardboard, but replaces the cardboard with high performance silicone. He thinks the design is comfortable and durable, which would make it easier for children (and others) to use.
“It’s flexible and it’s really tough,” Yi explained. “It’s also very soft against your skin.”
Google is leading the charge in virtual reality in a different way from its tech competitors. It created Google Cardboard, a cheap and simple product that takes the basic principles of 3D imagery — distorted images, different lenses for each eye — and encased the necessary items in a cardboard VR mask looking at a smartphone. The idea was to make it very easy for people to replicate and improve on the design. Google is also building a lot of the VR software and making games available on its Google Play store.
Yi likened Google’s strategy to how it developed the operating system for Android, but left phone manufacturers to create the hardware. Google has even taken note of Paralo’s project.
“They contacted us and said it’s one of the best designs they’ve ever seen,” Yi said. Google encouraged them to patent and license the product. Now the team is trying to raise $38,000 to manufacture and test its model.
Yi started the project several years ago, when he was a design student at the Pratt Institute. He became interested in VR, an interest that was shared by his friend and classmate, Shirley Lee. They decided to try to make their own headset and brought on Shirley’s business school friend, Ke Lou. All three have full-time jobs of their own, but they make time on the weekends and after work to build Paralo.
One of Paralo’s recent projects was a demonstration of the headset in Washington Square Park. They set up a booth and allowed people to try it out.
“It was so fun!” Yi recalled. “They walk to us and say, ‘What is it?’ All we have to do is ask them to put it on and look around. We get so happy looking at their face, like, ‘Wow holy shit!'”
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