#32: Nathan Burba on creating custom VR hardware & untethered VR experiences with Survios, living out action-filled fantasies, & playing games as a part of our fundamental humanity

Nathan Burba of Survios talks about some of the custom VR hardware, software and games that they’re developing after recently receiving a $4 million dollar investment.

nathan_headshot_200He talks about the Zombies on the Holodeck experience, and what they’re creating in order to have a more untethered VR experience where the user doesn’t feel constrained or limited by being in VR. They’re goal is to create a more natural user interaction within VR in order to create a deeper sense of immersion and presence.

Nathan also talks about his response to the Ben Kuchera’s article about “Let’s put down the guns in virtual reality, and learn to pick up anything else.” He sees VR as an opportunity to live out our action-filled fantasies of having light-saber battles or shooting zombies in the face.

He also makes the observation that you have to innovate one step at a time with the VR medium. For example, recreating the experience of going to the beach requires all sorts of haptic feedback to make it feel real, that it becomes one of the most challenging problems to solve. Shooting things in video games is a well-establish game mechanic that is fairly easy to implement, and that’s why they started there. Plus zombies aren’t real, and it’s one of his action-filled fantasies that VR allows him to live out with their Zombies on the Holodeck experience.

He talks about his ideas of the mobile, PC and IMAX-location based type of tiers within VR, and how Survios is going down a path of creating optimized hardware and software so that VR isn’t limited by computer systems that exist today. And finally, he shares his vision of the potential for VR as being able to allow us to return to our fundamental humanity of running around and playing games, exploring exciting virtual worlds, and allowing us to express our full creative potential.

Reddit discussion here.


  • 0:00 – Intro to Survios, Hardware, Software and Game development
  • 0:33 – Recent $4 million round, new tech and new product to push VR forward
  • 1:07 – Zombies on the Holodeck. Feel like you’re in an 8x8ft space. Visceral experience where there’s natural interactions to have a tremendous amount of presence.
  • 1:54 – Tracking technology, wearable, server, optical camera, VR HMD, Hydras to give sense of presence and be free within a world
  • 2:30 – Going for an untethered experience where you don’t feel any limits or constraints
  • 2:53 – Safety issues with untethered VR. Pieces of tech to help out with that
  • 3:15 – Project Holodeck at USC doing Kinect Research, and learned everything he knows about VR HMDs from Palmer Luckey. Take VR and make games with it rather than just art-based and academic research. Wanted to
  • 4:39 – Ben Kuchera article talking about tired of shooting Zombies in the face. Don’t innovate on too many aspects at once, and so taking an easy to implement idea and starting there.
  • 5:59 – Response to violence in VR. Hard to simulate going to the beach because it’s a felt experience. Killing Zombies is an effective experience. VR is about living out our action-filled fantasies.
  • 7:37 – Nonny de la Pena’s immersive journalism and untethered VR experiences. Using VR for emotional appeal. Push the VR medium forward to make it easier to make this type of content
  • 8:49 – VR tiers: mobile, PC-based, and IMAX location based approach. Based upon computing systems that we have in society today, consumer PC and then super powerful, location-based computers. The best virtual reality experiences will be on nextgen computer systems that are tailor-made for VR — something that Survios is focusing on.
  • 10:10 – Don’t want to be limited by computer systems that exist today
  • 10:41 – VR will let you run around and let you feel human again, and run around, jump, play sports and play games. Games are fundamental, and VR will get us back to our fundamental humanity of running around playing games with each other, exploring worlds, and manifesting our creative potential.

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio