Control VR, a motion input solution for VR that raised nearly $450,000 on Kickstarter, appears to be in critical condition, unable to deliver on its promises without significant help.
A June 2014 Kickstarter for Control VR, a motion input device capable of tracking arms, hands, and fingers, nearly doubled its goal, raising $442,227. The capable-seeming team from the world of professional motion capture promised Kickstarter backers it would deliver the system in December of that year. 1,161 backers supported the project, with the bulk purchasing the $600 tier for the ‘Body and Double Arm Control VR Dev Kit’.
After sparsely communicating with its backers following the successful Kickstarter, a new updated shared by Control VR suggests that the project is currently dead in the water:
Dear Kickstarter Community, we are grateful for your trust and patience in our project. We understand that many, if not everyone, are frustrated at the pace of development and delivery schedule. Unfortunately, after many months of doing everything in our powers to develop, refine, and deliver on our Kickstarter promise – the project cannot be fulfilled without significant organizational restructure and additional financial investment. To ensure success, we are actively recruiting a new management team and are in ongoing talks with potential investors. We hope to put into place a new management team and raise the necessary capital in the coming months.
The blunt update mentions nothing about a potential refund should the necessary restructuring and investments not come through.
Since interviewing the company’s CEO & CTO, and testing the product at E3 2014, Road to VR tried several times throughout 2014 and 2015 to get in touch with the company but received no response.
Finally, in June of 2015, a former member of the Control VR team told me that “I have had nothing to do with its management since late September 2014,” just three months after the Kickstarter ended. “They wanted me out and they got me out. They don’t tell me anything and they don’t ask anything, even though I am here at their service if they wanted anything.”
Reddit user ‘Tekorc96’ purports to be a backer of the Kickstarter campaign and emailed the company demanding a refund. The response, alleged to be from an unidentified member of the company, elaborates on the plans from the beginning, which seemed to involve repurposing motion capture hardware from another company.
Maybe it’s somehow unclear and sorry for the confusion but we were selling Synertial’s very expensive motion capture suits and rebranding them Control VR because Synertial owned 1/3 of Control VR and the idea was that the high-end motion capture industry was slowly dying and we saw an opportunity in VR to push our chips into the middle of the table and go for consumer adoption asap.
“Synertial” was not mentioned anywhere on the Kickstarter page.
The alleged response goes on to defend accusations of fraud by the company:
Nothing we did at Control VR was fraud. We thought we were making history by offering this incredible tech at $600 (basically giving it away), and we believed the tech was good enough for consumer adoption. However, as the tech was put through more and more paces, the performance started unravelling quickly and what we believed to once be a good enough benchmark for consumer adoption, the hardware and overall system was coming up signficantly short of.
We realized we had to go back to the drawing board and significantly improve the system on both the hardware and software side of things, and that’s how everything went upside down very quickly.
It further suggests that the company is still trying to keep the project alive, despite needing to hand over the reigns to someone else.
So what are next steps then? We believe there is an opportunity for a fresh start, with a new team altogether. We believe money is still interested in a particular restructuring and we are trying to make that happen.
This whole process has been so frustrating, painful, and a nightmare for us at this company. And all we care about now is hopefully being able to pass the torch off to another group of people who can take it from here. Our hope now is to be able to say that we were apart of what eventually became a great thing.
Looking at the official Control VR website, you’d never know the behind-the-scenes breakdown. Pre-orders for the $600 dev kit system are marked as “Sold Out”, with an estimated shipping date of “Q4 2015”. Meanwhile, the company’s blog hasn’t been updated since October, 2014, with its social media channels going dark around the same time, just a few months after the Kickstarter ended.