By FERNANDO TARNOGOL
It's been quite a while and we've been overly silent.
During the past year and a half, we were faced with some tough decisions. As it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who's been keeping tabs on the progress of this new generation of immersive technologies, Virtual Reality has been taking longer than expected to take off. And so has venture capital's willingness to invest in VR projects.
From the beginning, we have strived to maintain a slow cash burn in order to keep us in play and don't go the way other VR companies have taken as of lately.
Reality is that even though we are still absolutely convinced that VR will be a key technology for mental health, that reality still lies a few years away.
High-end hardware is still expensive and the learning curve is steep since users need to learn to interact within virtual worlds with -still gaming oriented- motion controllers.
On the other hand, mobile VR is still technologically limited technologically to become an effective tool.
We've always known that we were developing for a niche within a niche. Namely, VR for Mental Health. Truth is current market conditions do not justify an investment in the millions to develop something which does not have enough public to be sustainable.
With these and other scenarios in play, a few months ago I started experimenting with Apple's take on Augmented Reality and personally tested some barebones scenarios with people. I was sold on the idea almost instantly. Augmented Reality not only could be used as a practical tool, but 34% of mobile users already have a compatible device in their pockets.
That is why we decided to take this technology seriously and start developing 24/7 to catch up with lost time and release a first version of PHOBOS AR as soon as possible.
"We are working full time towards releasing PHOBOS between the end of October and beginning of November 2017."
What happens to PHOBOS VR?
PHOBOS has been a terrific learning tool for us. It also enabled us, and a handful of universities around the world, to do serious and necessary research for this technology and its applications in mental health.
Actually, before 2017 is over we will be publishing our paper on Presence and Anxiety, which was Argentina's first independently funded research program.
Effective today, we are setting PHOBOS VR in hibernation mode in terms of active development and making its source code freely available, upon request, to those parties interested in using or modifying it for their mental health related research.
We are working full time towards releasing PHOBOS during November 2017.
Given the short time frame we've had to work with Apple's technology -it was announced just a few months ago-, logically PHOBOS' feature set will not be complete; but it will be a great piece of software to start working with.
We will offer a discount for educational institutions that need to purchase copies of PHOBOS in bulk.
More importantly, we want to focus on our users and their priorities. This is why we have decided to prioritize feature requests based on user feedback. We will still maintain our own internal milestones which will enable this user-guided progress.
We have set up the PsyTech Forums as a catalyst for the community which you can freely use to discuss your experience using PHOBOS AR, requesting functionality or reporting bugs.
We are really anxious to show you what we've been working on and finally be able to release a tool that we believe will truly complement your professional work and slowly but surely, also provide those who suffer an anxiety disorder with an App that they can also use to complement their therapy sessions.
Lastly, and in order to be completely open with the community, you will find at the top of the Main Page navigation's bar, a link to our Public Development Dashboard where you will be able to track our progress and items being addressed.
Once again, we are really excited to venture into this new road.
PHOBOS AR has a long road of development, culminating in the not too distant future, where we could ditch smartphone screens and migrate the experience to smart augmented/mixed reality glasses.
I personally believe that the moment true augmented/mixed reality hardware gets wide user adoption, it will trigger the actual VR golden age. Convergence is the logical road for immersive technologies to take. Opposite to what we believed a few years ago, Augmented Reality will push Virtual Reality usage and adoption into the mainstream.
In the meantime, we still have cutting edge and affordable technology to experiment and work with.
There is no limit.