Rising coronavirus cases have canceled many summer vacations, but not all hope of summer sightseeing is lost. One Texas entrepreneur has created a virtual alternative.
Houston-area industrial design startup Armstrong Innovations recently launched two Oculus Go app games, aptly named Escape. The virtual reality app was designed with relaxation and meditation in mind but has doubled as a new way to relax and sightsee without leaving your home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The sights and sounds of our new app assist with mindfulness and meditation," says CEO and founder Derek Armstrong. "It's about focusing on the sights and sounds, especially with the virus growing. It's a quick getaway without having to physically go anywhere."
The project began a year ago and was completed in March — right at the start of stay-at-home orders that paralyzed everyday life — but just launched this month. The Oculus Go experiences aim to ease the mind and spirits, but with the rise of coronavirus, Escape can also serve to calm frayed nerves.
The app is based on popular View-Master toys and stereoscopes from the 1800s. There are two different experiences to choose from: Escape: Roma, named for its old-world-inspired poolside lounge, and Escape: Utopia, which brings outer space to life in front of an Oculus user's eyes.
"The app has already gotten a lot of traction in places where people are not able to go out in the world," says Armstrong. "It's so easy just to pop on your Oculus headset, open the app, and zone out or relax for a few minutes."
Armstrong's startup was founded in 2018 and has also released a few music packs for Unreal Engine projects, a real-time 3D creation tool that serves as a game engine for creators to deliver interactive experiences.
"Our company is focused on creating engaging gamified experiences," says Armstrong. "The inspiration for our packs and now our new app came from my interest in treating PTSD and how virtual reality can help ease the symptoms of anxiety in some cases."
Armstrong Innovations hopes to grow into new areas of the industrial design world, especially in military-driven technologies and other video game opportunities, in the next year or so. Product keys for Escape can be purchased online now, available worldwide for maximum relaxation.
This story originally appeared on CultureMap's sister site InnovationMap.