His grandma gave him $1,000 when he was 13 years old, and he invested it in bitcoin. A year and a half later, he cashed out, netting $100,000. At 15, he turned that into Botangle, an online tutoring service.
Now that he’s 17, Erik Finman is jumping into the world of virtual reality.
Finman launched his Indiegogo campaign Wednesday to help fund Marvel, a VR headset that works with Android smartphones.
The Marvel isn’t exactly like other VR headsets on the market — the aim isn’t simply to allow users to experience 360 VR content. The Marvel wants to replace your computer.
After plugging in your Android phone, the headset shows you the applications you have open in a semi-circle around you, hovering over whatever background environment you choose to be in, whether it’s a sandy beach or the the surface of the moon. By turning your head left and right, you can look at your different apps, easily changing your focus between full-window web browsers, chats and more. For ease of use, you can hook up a keyboard and mouse via Bluetooth.
If you open up a virtual reality app, the Marvel will recognize that and put you in the app’s 360-degree environment. Unlike some other VR headsets, it’s equipped with sensors that enable it to accurately track movement when you look around.
The Marvel looks a lot like the Oculus Rift; it’s a black headset with an expectedly bulky “visor,” large enough to hold a phone. Like the Samsung Gear VR, all the headset requires is a phone, but the Marvel has a longer list of compatible devices. Finman says it can work with any Android phone running Lollipop or higher.
For those features and compatibility, the Marvel comes at a higher price than the similarly positioned Samsung Gear VR, which costs $100. Finman is selling his headset for $250 ($200 for early birds). The Indiegogo financial goal is $500,000, and he plans an initial run of about 2,000 headsets.
The team behind it
If you’re worried about Finman’s business savvy, he’s not doing it on his own. There are seven or eight people working on the project, Finman told Mashable, including some with experience in manufacturing and shipping electronics.
Although I am new to manufacturing, these people are not
“For me, I’m glad that I’ve hired people that have a lot of experience in shipping and a lot of experience with third-party logistics providers, and a lot of manufacturing and developing experience,” Finman said. “Although I am new to manufacturing, these people are not.”
Finman is staying conservative with his timeline, pushing the expected shipping date a few months later than what manufacturers quoted.
“We already got the manufacturer and we already got the quote, so once we give them the thumbs up then they’ll start production,” he said.
Finman’s own brother, Ross, helped develop the Marvel using his background in robotics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
It all sounds like a fine plan, though Finman has yet to encounter the multitude of issues first-time crowd-funders experience: Manufacturers can fail to deliver up to spec, shipping can hit major delays, and partners can drop out.
Nonetheless, Finman is hopeful his campaign will be able to garner as much as $1 million in donations, and he even has the lofty goal of eventually moving production to the U.S. If he’s even a little successful, the budding world of mobile VR could get a lot more interesting.
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