Image courtesy Contact CI
Virtual Reality (VR) tech is evolving at a staggering rate. A technology that lets users experience other worlds using the sense of sight and hearing is now moving to a new human sense: touch. It’s called VR haptics and a company in Cincinnati is at its forefront.
Craig Douglass, along with Tom Buchanan, co-founded Contact CI, which has created a proprietary system of biomimicry, called Maestro. Maestro is a haptic glove that allows its users to touch and feel objects in the VR environment. Cincinnati Future spoke with Douglass about the road to Maestro and what the future holds for the company.
What led you into this field?
Douglass; I was an undergrad at Syracuse University during what I call the Oculus awakening period of the VR industry. I was wearing the Oculus Rift to do a holo-eleven experience. It felt like I was truly going back on an Apollo mission. It was that well done. While I was in “zero gravity” I saw a pencil float past but I couldn’t reach out and touch it. That’s how the tech is built--you just interact with the controller. That’s what we wanted to address.
How did the company launch?
Douglass: Well, Tom and I spent almost a year living out of my parents’ house. Then our office started incubating out of a Blue Ash company called Axiom Product Development. At the time they were doing some industrial design work for us and they gave us office space to let us have official desks to be going in.
We won a couple of engineering competitions during our senior year, which paid us $15,000 for each. When we graduated we got our first investment from someone here in Cincinnati. We officially registered the company in 2015.
Are you a tech engineer?
Douglass: I have a self-taught tech background. My degree is in finance and accounting. Tom has a biomedical background.
Who is your customer?
Douglass: Right now we’re focused on the enterprise, not necessarily consumers. We’ve partnered with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital on a surgical application that we built haptics into. They built their own application called UNITY and we plugged our software development kit in to introduce bio-mimicry. We created what we call exotendons that mimic the way tendons work in real life.