A new VR start-up aiming to make location-based VR arenas as common as your local movie theater or shopping mall is emerging from stealth mode. Nomadic is an immersive entertainment company that creates tactile VR adventures for neighborhoods everywhere. Nomadic will facilitate, deliver and help to implement modular VR arenas that provide deeper levels of immersion through real world props and carefully designed spaces. Its novel model for location-based entertainment provides theaters, malls, resorts, arcades and other venues a turn-key technology solution to transform existing commercial spaces into VR attractions.


What It’s Going To Be Like

Nomadic, a new location-based VR experience company launched just recently is capitalizing on the growing buzz around virtual reality. Where owners of consumer systems like the high-end Oculus Rift or Samsung’s mobile Gear VR have limited physical movement, if any at all, systems like Nomadic’s allow for sprawling experiences inside big spaces that give users a sense of walking around cityscapes and interacting with physical objects like doors and guns.

Those environments are likely to be 40-foot by 60-foot spaces, and the experiences will last up to 15 minutes, either for individuals or multiple players. As for pricing, Nomadic isn’t yet saying exactly how much it’ll charge. But it does seem like the startup wants to keep the cost to roughly the same as a movie ticket to ensure the experience is affordable, especially when you consider an entire family wanting to try it out.


Unlike the typical, hoodie-wearing geeks of the Silicon Valley, this young company is full of industry pioneers from the worlds of video games, theme parks, retail environments and Hollywood special effects. It was founded by a group of entrepreneurs with former experience at Disney, ILM and Electronic Arts. The Nomadic team has worked on film franchises including Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Matrix.

We’re creating a new medium of entertainment. Our goal is simple – for everyone to walk away saying ‘wow!’



To prove its concept, the team build a simple experience designed for just one player that lasts only five minutes. During a recent demonstration at the company’s office, a warehouse space in San Rafael, California, Nomadic’s staff handed reporters PC-backpacks connected to an Oculus Rift. Bur don’t worry, the team is working with the Rift just until they find a suitable substitute, so they are not going to use it when the products actually start to ship.

The first users were excited to share their impressions: “it’s difficult to convey what a cool feeling it is to reach for a virtual object and get the perfect tactile feedback you expect”. A real-life, bulky flashlight with a real button that triggers the same flashlight in the virtual world. A set of leaky pipes let off some real hot air. A file cabinet actually has to be opened to retrieve a real-feeling gun replica. Making the way over a narrow and extremely rickety plank in order to cross a wide gap to another rooftop the user can hear ambient noises and feel a fresh breeze that instantly convinces his brain it is both outside and up high. That is to say, the Nomadic experiences are definitely designed to play with user’s mind and emotions.


Business Model

Obviously, Nomadic isn’t the first company to add physical cues to virtual reality experiences. But the company does have an original concept of getting these kinds of experiences out in the marketplace. Instead of building and operating its own VR locations, Nomadic wants to partner with bigger players that already have s real some estate and are now looking for the next big thing to retain and monetize audiences.

In the last few years, people have turned more and more to their mobile devices for just about everything, from watching movies to shopping. No wonder sales at shopping malls and movie theaters are dropping down every year. The company’s strategic plan centers around developing partnerships with the owners in these industries who are desperate for new kinds of businesses to bring in and keep potential customers, ideally with the whole family in tow.



Furthermore, not all of the experiences will feature shooting drones. Nomadic also plans for family-friendly experiences, so that theaters or malls may one day run multiple experiences targeting different audiences, much like they now show a number of movies at the same time.

However, the company, which has only six full-time staff right now, doesn’t want to build all of these experiences itself. Instead, it wants to cooperate with VR studios and traditional content creators to adapt their stories for this new world, in which VR headsets play as much a role as flashlights and wooden planks. Over time, Nomadic imagines a variety of experiences ranging from all-original content such as a Journey To The Center Of The Earth-esque adventure or perhaps escape-room challenges. It’s also hoping to build experiences around existing movies, games, and toys.


IKEA flat pack of VR

One can easily call Nomadic “the IKEA flat pack of VR”. To make operating VR experiences easier for its partners, the start-up is planning to build completely modular sets that can be reconfigured within a few hours based on simple instructions. The idea is that space runs an experience for two to three months, and then simply downloads the next one to its computers with an instruction set on where to place doors, furniture, levers, heaters, fans and other physical cues.

Instead of constructing a multi-million dollar arena with one or two dedicated experiences that will stand for months or even years, a theater or mall spaces would only have to make set changes that is as easy as to build a Lego model. Nomadic will simply ship the necessary parts to the venue which would then be able to snap everything together on the grid. “Everything we are doing is built for scale,” says Griffin.

It’s way too early to tell if Nomadic has a future. The biggest obstacle to its success is getting people to try it out for the first time. The company got off the ground with $1 million from family and friends and recently raised an undisclosed amount of venture capital. It plans on hiring up quickly, and hopes for the first locations to be up and running by the end of this year.


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