Earlier this month, Virtuix Omni, the omnidirectional VR treadmill, was shown to a national (U.S.) audience when featured on the venture investment reality show Shark Tank. Virtuix CEO Jan Goetgeluk shares inside details about the experience with Road to VR.
After watching the Shark Tank segment featuring the Virtuix Omni, with a healthy realization that ‘reality TV’ is generally anything but, we had some questions for Virtuix CEO Jan Goetgeluk to get this thoughts on the outcome:
Road to VR: How did the Omni end up on Shark Tank? When was the segment recorded?
Goetgeluk: I applied for SharkTank in the spring through a quick email submission and, a few months later, received an email stating that Virtuix had been selected to continue to the next round. However, that round required filling out lots of paperwork and preparing a short video. I re-evaluated our participation and decided not to apply, taking into consideration that we were a serious and visible company with an established community (through Kickstarter), and ultimately not the right fit for a reality TV show.
After letting the deadline expire without sending in the paperwork, I received a phone call from a producer who expressed deep disappointment that we had not applied and urged us to reconsider. At that point, I realized this was a good opportunity that should not be ignored. I filled out the paperwork and made a video in a matter of days, and submitted our application. We got approved and in September of this year we traveled to LA for the taping of the show.
Road to VR: Why was the Oculus Rift logo taped over?
Goetgeluk: Oculus had to sign a standard IP release form to allow the producers to show the logo on TV; unfortunately, Oculus was not able to get the paperwork signed in time.
Road to VR: Did you notice any major edits to what happened compared to what made it into the final cut?
Goetgeluk: We were in front of the sharks for 45 minutes and had a great and upbeat discussion about the Omni and virtual reality. Those 45 minutes were reduced to 6 minutes of reality TV. My response after each shark’s “I’m out” was a confident “certainly, no problem”; however, that was replaced by some dramatic looks and close-ups, ha. I think SharkTank is a great television show and we had a great experience.
That said, I hope our following and the VR community understands that what you see on TV is not necessarily what happened in the Tank. I had great counter arguments to all the remarks the sharks made, and they even agreed to my arguments; however, that was left out of our segment for the sake of drama and emotion. No problem with that, I appreciate good TV, and that’s what we signed up for.
Road to VR: How did you feel about not landing a deal with the Sharks?
Goetgeluk: That was perfectly fine. We were never the right fit for this type of investors, and had no intentions to believe so. We went in, showed a great Omni demo, had a good discussion, and left. Mission accomplished. I believe our appearance brought VR one step closer to becoming a mainstream medium. The Rift came out nice, too.
Road to VR: What did you think about the Sharks’ reasons for not supporting the Omni?
Goetgeluk: Their reasons were flawed. The main argument was that gamers are lazy and don’t want to exercise. That is untrue. Many gamers do like to be healthy and in shape. We have many gamers come up to us at tradeshows to express how excited they are to finally be able to exercise and burn calories while gaming with the Omni.
One shark’s argument was that no one wants the Omni in their homes. Well, the Omni is smaller than a regular treadmill, and many people have treadmills in their homes. The Omni is also easy to disassemble and store away; you can take the top part off and put the Omni aside, just like exercise equipment.
Finally, the Guitar Hero and Rockband products took up a lot of space too, with those drum kits, however close to 40 million units have been sold worldwide. Space is not an issue for products that are fun, functional and aesthetically pleasing. Bottom line: the Omni is an incredibly fun and immersive experience that takes gaming to the next level, and you stay in shape while having fun. That is a great value proposition that appeals to a broad audience.
Road to VR: Did you see any new interest in the Omni from the publicity that came with being on the show?
Goetgeluk: Yes, our sales are booming, and our inboxes are flooding. Our daily pre-orders have quadrupled since the show. The marketing and publicity of our appearance has proven invaluable.
Road to VR: What’s the latest on Omni production? (have you tested the capacitive tracking prototype yet?)
Goetgeluk: Everything is on track and working well. We might have more to show at CES!See All Virtuix Omni News