Five Questions With: Eric Hall, Aaron James and Kevin Murphy

Eric Hall, Aaron James and Kevin Murphy are co-founders of Nexperience, a Providence company developing virtual-reality experiences for the Oculus Rift headset. Hall, James and Murphy spoke with Providence Business News about the company’s new “tech pod” open at the Warwick Mall and the potential they see in the virtual-reality market.

PBN: What is the Nexperience “tech pod,” currently open to the public at the Warwick Mall?
The Nexperience “tech pod” at the Warwick Mall is a mall kiosk where people can visit with us, learn about our company and see what our college student-interns have worked so hard to create. There are two chairs and two Oculus Rift devices which are supported by a computer within the kiosk. People can try out our experiences and support our company so we can continue to develop experiences and software to put Rhode Island back on the map and bring some pride to the gaming and software development community in our state. There’s so much negative press about 38 Studios and now, it’s time to turn the page and show what Rhode Islanders can really do. Unfortunately we’ve been the unsung heroes and the underdogs in the technology world even though there’s so much talent here. Now is our chance to shine. With Rhode Islanders’ support, we can bring pride back to Rhode Island.

PBN: How do you see Facebook’s recent $2 billion acquisition of Oculus driving virtual-reality development?
Facebook’s recent $2 billion acquisition of Oculus was a long term strategic move by Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook interactivity is the past and present and virtual reality is the future. It isn’t pervasive now but in a few short years it will be. It will be everywhere. Mark Zuckerberg has a way of predicting the future and, in some ways, when he can’t predict the future, he tries to create it by moving the consumer market towards his own ideas. The acquisition of Oculus was like a skeet-shooting exercise. Facebook aimed ahead so it could hit the target at a future time and place. Virtual reality is the future of not just gaming but computer technology itself. Those who embrace and master this technology early will master the markets that it creates in the near future. It’s happening now and that’s why Nexperience launched now. We want to be a pioneer and leader in this technology today so we’re still at the forefront in the future.

PBN: What makes Nexperience unique in this marketplace?
Nexperience is unique in this marketplace because we are one of the early adopters of this technology. We’re easily the first in the state – and perhaps this region – to embrace this technology and recruit talent to develop experiences in such a methodical way. We’ve already held countless meetings, executed nondisclosure agreements with key businesses and industry leaders, held training sessions and software-building competitions, created team-building exercises, and launched the first “tech pod” in the industry. After months of development and training, we decided to launch the tech pod. It’s not something that happened overnight. It took months of planning and preparation to arrive at this point and share this level of sophistication with the public at large. We’re proud of our accomplishments but we’re not going to rest on our laurels. We’ll continue to push the envelope with this technology so we can continue to create and launch the best games and make ourselves known in this new and exciting industry.

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PBN: What kind of reactions have you received from visitors to the Nexperience tech pod?
The reactions have been great! Everyone is intrigued by the technology, the company name, virtual reality itself, the banner, the vibrant colors of the company banner and the uniforms of our workers. It’s quite a sight and quite an experience when you visit! As far as people’s comments, we hear a lot of “wows” and “whoas.” Some people giggle and wiggle. Some laugh and some grip the chair in fear and awe as they “ride” the virtual reality roller coaster. Either way, no matter how they react to the technology, all have been interested, impressed and supportive of what we’re doing at Nexperience and how we’re trying to change the landscape for tech and software companies in Rhode Island. They want us to succeed and bring recognition to our state and it’s a great feeling to have people in our corner.

PBN: When will the “tech pod” experience go on sale, and what others plans for Nexperience do you have moving forward?
We have big plans moving forward but aren’t prepared to discuss them at this time. For now we are encouraging people to come to the Warwick Mall and be one of the first people to try the virtual reality experiences we’ve created.