Students stay ahead of curve with virtual reality start-up

Vassar students Matthew Griffiths ’16, Harris Gordon ’15, Casey Hancock ’15, Alejandro Dinsmore ’15, Jarret Holtz ’15, and Henry Rizzi ’16 have formed vcemo to create a platform for virtual reality. Photo By: Jacob Gorski
Vassar students Matthew Griffiths ’16, Harris Gordon ’15, Casey Hancock ’15, Alejandro Dinsmore ’15, Jarret Holtz ’15, and Henry Rizzi ’16 have formed vcemo to create a platform for virtual reality. Photo By: Jacob Gorski
Vassar students Matthew Griffiths ’16, Harris Gordon ’15, Casey Hancock ’15, Alejandro Dinsmore ’15, Jarret Holtz ’15, and Henry Rizzi ’16 have formed vcemo to create a platform for virtual reality. Photo By: Jacob Gorski

Vassar students are known to be a brilliant and industrious bunch. And, as the company vcemo (vee-cee-mo) demonstrates, students don’t have to wait until graduation to do great things. vcemo is a company comprised of Vassar students Matthew Griffiths ’16, Harris Gordon ’15, Casey Hancock ’15, Alejandro Dinsmore ’15, Jarrett Holtz ’15 and Henry Rizzi ’16 whose purpose is to create a platform for virtual reality content. “The one sentence pitch is that we’re a YouTube-meets-Vimeo hub for virtual reality videos,” says Gordon. As virtual reality grows in popularity, so does content for it; as of yet, there is no one place to access that content or to browse through it. vcemo is going to change that.

The initial idea for vcemo came from the media itself. Co-Founder Griffiths, a film major, found himself interested in virtual reality and 360 degree films. However, the more digging he did, the more apparent it became that something was missing. “I started looking into [virtual reality] more and just found that there was no one making a platform for it yet. The market needed it,” Griffiths explained. Eager to take on the task of creating this platform, Griffiths knew that he needed a team; to assemble this team, it was as simple as an email to the Computer Science Department. “It was hilariously serendipitous, because the kind of ‘exciting moment’ is Matt sending out an email,” Gordon laughed.

And, ironically enough, this email did not even find a computer person; rather, it resulted in Gordon joining the team.

A cognitive science major, he knew a bit about computers and programming, but not enough to be the computer guy for the company. Instead, he handles things like outreach. In another moment of serendipity, Harris was walking through Main one day and noticed Hancock sitting in the VSA office. “Immediately after I told him what we were doing, he was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that.’ We had him meet Matt, and then we just started to move forward,” says Gordon. From there, the rest of the team gathered over time.

Though still in its developmental stages, vcemo has hit the ground running. Griffiths knew that time was of the essence, and that the faster vcemo could launch, the better. “I knew that there were a lot of corporations like YouTube who were going to try to do it themselves too, and they’re…just known to not be about the users. They’re all about profit,” Griffiths remarked. vcemo, however, is user-centric and places focus on the filmmaker.

This is where Griffiths really shines: As a film major, he understands the time and effort it takes to create a quality 360-degree movie. vcemo was designed with this in mind, and as such boasts a professional design and approach. “We have a lot of very unique features…that other people haven’t done before,” adds Griffiths.

Currently, vcemo’s main focus is gaining funding for their project. Though they currently have an ongoing kickstarter which has already raised $9000, the vcemo team is looking bigger. “[We are reaching out to] people who have experience with new technology and who have funded it, who have a good basis for advice and guidance, and who are willing to venture into something new and take that risk with us,” Gordon explained.

Once these funders have been secured, Griffiths explained, vcemo hopes to grow both in notoriety and in numbers. They hope to hire additional staff and to move the company into the city, and to provide a space for senior programmers to go directly after graduation from Vassar. vcemo wants to keep going on the project and to keep the current team together.

In order to do this, Gordon has been preparing a pitch for possible funders. A daunting task, Gordon cites one resource as imperative to the process. “The Vassar Alumnae/i Network has been the most helpful thing for all of us, and I encourage anyone who is doing anything to use it,” Gordon said.

The Alumnae/i Network has given him access to a number of individuals who were willing and eager to give advice on technology, running a company, etc. Gordon remarked that the alums are incredibly friendly and are very willing to get on the phone with students and simply give advice to them.

As for the content for which vcemo is providing a platform, virtual reality is only just beginning to hit its peak. “We think it’s going to take off and become mainstream and consumer ready…first, the gamers are going to adopt it…then, it’ll start moving to regular people,” Gordon predicted. The Oculus rift will be coming out sometime in the next year or so, and vcemo intends to be ready when that happens. Virtual reality marks the next advancement in gaming and in media as a whole.

As such, its applications extend beyond movies and video games. “There are so many applications for virtual reality that are really untapped, and I’m curious to see how that’s going to change over time,” Gordon remarked. In fact, for his thesis, Gordon is looking at using virtual reality as a teaching mechanism to do something like shoot a basketball.

The passion the vcemo team has for virtual reality shines through in their platform, and is really what keeps the company going. “I love [virtual reality], I love this stuff. You can’t really predict the future, but if I could be working with this and doing this the rest of my life, I would be more than happy,” Gordon said.

vcemo is a necessary addition to the booming market of virtual reality. Its user-centric design created with the creators as well as the consumers in mind will prove to be an effective method for making virtual reality content more readily available, and as the company continues to grow it will only improve on this. As Harris said, “This is the perfect idea at the perfect time.”

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