In May 2016 we joined Y Combinator Research (YCR). Today is our last day there, and possibly our last day at all.
For the couple years previous, we were hosted by SAP. Both YCR and SAP have been remarkable in their trust and openness in allowing us to do our best research without external pressures. Particularly Alan Kay, Vishal Sikka, and Sam Altman have been nothing but supportive of our long-term research vision.
With these years of support, we’ve done some remarkable things:
- Created the first 360 web video player, the eleVR Player
- Developed the theory of panoramic twist for 3D 360 cameras
- Co-created Parable of the Polygons, an explorable explanation of systemic bias that has been played over 5 million times
- Designed the first 3D spatial programming language
- Co-created Hyperbolic VR, room-scale non-euclidean spaces for virtual reality
- Produced hundreds of 360 videos, developed cinematography techniques
- Developed the VR Office of the Future, a humane post-desk work environment
- Given at least a dozen talks and workshops, and published a bunch of papers
…and of course, nearly every week we’ve posted tech posts, new open content, media theory, reviews, tutorials, etc.
We haven’t been all too public about our diminishing funding because we’ve been spending all our time and energy trying to work within our existing network, which has gotten pretty big and powerful over our past few years of work! We think our best work is yet to come. We’re starting to understand what VR actually is, through working constantly inside of it together, rather than designing from flat screens.
Unfortunately, a combination of forces in the world make nonprofit long-term research a tough sell right now. It doesn’t matter how good we are at what we do. Everyone is overextended trying to solve all the world’s problems at once, and we’re in the unpopular space of being neither for-profit nor directly and immediately philanthropic.
We think investing in the future of VR/AR is crucial now, while it’s still malleable, while it can still be influenced in the direction of empowering humanity. We think people’s big lofty visions of how VR/AR will revolutionize education, and understanding, and communication, and human expression, are not big enough—it’s going to allow humanity to see, think, and feel in entirely new ways. But it takes a true believer to trust that vision above the more immediate problems to react to in the world, and that kind of belief and trust takes time to develop.
Basically, while the four of us are going to try and stay together and look for a new home and new support, we’re feeling pretty unfundable right now. If even our extensive and powerful network hasn’t been enough, we’re not sure what a blog post can do.
In the very near term, things aren’t dead quite yet! On September 28th we’re showing the Venn Diagram Museum at the Exploratorium (and giving a talk), and we’re giving the Seminar on People, Computers, and Design at Stanford on the 29th. Also, M just gave a talk at the Santa Fe Institute’s “Complexity of Platforms” meeting at HPE, which should be online soon.
If you have ideas, send us a note. Our elevr.com email address is no longer a thing, and our YCR addresses are no longer a thing, but you can reach us at elevirtual at gmail. A fancy 2-pager about our group is here.
-Vi Hart, Evelyn Eastmond, M Eifler, and Andrea Hawksley