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WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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VREAM, Inc.
Private
Industry Software
Fate Acquired by Platinum Technology Inc.
Successor Platinum Technology
Founded 1991 (1991)
Defunct November 1, 1996 (1996-11-01)
Headquarters Chicago, Illinois, United States
Key people
Edward R. LaHood (Founder and CEO)
Ken Gaebler (Co-Founder)
Dan Malven (Co-Founder)

VREAM, Inc. was a US technology company that functioned between 1991 and 1996. It was one of the first companies[citation needed] to develop PC-based software for authoring and viewing virtual reality (VR) environments.

Company history[edit]

The company was founded in Chicago in 1991 by former McKinsey & Company consultant Edward R. LaHood, who derived the name VREAM from the phrase "virtual reality dream." LaHood was joined by co-founders Ken Gaebler.[1] and Dan Malven[2] in 1993.

In 1991, LaHood created VREAMScript,[3] a scripting language for virtual reality environments that allowed for the definition of complex 3D objects, environment attributes, object attributes, and triggers for cause-and-effect relationships. The company then created a PC-based authoring tool, the VREAM Virtual Reality Development System,[4] to build virtual reality environments and an accompanying runtime player, the VREAM Runtime System, that allowed end users to experience the virtual environments, moving through them in real-time while interacting with the rendered, virtual objects.

The VREAM Virtual Reality System, which included the VREAM Virtual Reality Development System and the VREAM Runtime System, was released for purchase in December, 1992,[5] with a $1,495 price point and with support for a wide range of immersive devices, including the Power Glove.[6]

Initial Impact[edit]

Prior to 1992, rendering real-time 3D graphics had only been possible on high-end workstations, and creating a real-time 3D graphics simulation required strong programming skills. The growing power of PCs, driven by such innovations as the Pentium chip (introduced by Intel in March 1993), made bringing virtual reality simulations to the PC a possibility, and LaHood's strong programming skills allowed him to be first to market with a PC-based virtual reality authoring solution that could be used by non-programmers. (LaHood was not, however, the first to bring virtual reality to the PC; that credit goes to Sense8 founders Patrice Gelband and Eric Gullichsen who, earlier in 1992, introduced WorldToolKit, a VR programmer's library that allowed developers to build "virtual world" applications that ran on desktop computers.[7])

Due to its accessibility to non-programmers and those who could not afford high-end workstations, VREAM's software quickly became popular in the hobbyist virtual reality community.[8] It was used for architectural walkthroughs, manufacturing training,[9] game development, engineering prototyping, data visualization and other simulations. The software was even used in the treatment of fear of public speaking,[10] acrophobia [11] and male erectile disorder.[12]

In addition to its software offerings, the company also provided virtual reality development services. A notable services client was Burger King, which hired VREAM to build a "restaurant of the future" for its franchisee conference.[13] VREAM also created virtual reality product demonstrations for Bombardier Recreational Products for their Sea-Doo and Ski-Doo lines.[14]

Web-Based VR[edit]

In 1994, based on the emergence of the World Wide Web and at the suggestion of co-founder Malven, the company recast its runtime player as a plug-in for Netscape Navigator, dubbing it WIRL. VREAM would later release WIRL as an ActiveX control for Microsoft Internet Explorer.[15]

At a time when web-based software was in its earliest stages, WIRL was quite popular, ranking fourth on the list of downloaded software, surpassed only by Netscape Navigator, MPEG Player NET TOOB and HTML editor HotDog Pro.[16] Within the first month of being available, WIRL was downloaded over 30,000 times, providing VREAM with a very efficient way to promote its software.[17]

WIRL was also used by PC Magazine to test the capabilities of PC graphics cards.[18] Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, and Craig Barrett, of Intel, used WIRL demonstrations in their keynote speeches to showcase the potential of more powerful PCs.[19]

In November 1994, VRML, a standard file format for representing Web-based, real-time interactive 3D environments, was introduced. The introduction of VRML, backed by SGI and other companies, lessened the future potential of VREAM's proprietary VREAMScript language. To mitigate its risks, VREAM adopted the approach of supporting both VRML and VREAMScript in its software products.

In May 1995, VREAM rebranded the next generation of its VR authoring software as VRCreator, and touted its support for "multi-participant VR...across the World Wide Web."[20]

Venture Capital Funding[edit]

In November 1995, based on the company's track record and based on growing interest in the venture capital community for Web-focused software companies, VREAM received $750,000 in venture funding from PLATINUM Venture Partners.[21] At this time, co-founder Malven left to pursue other opportunities.

Competition[edit]

VREAM's primary competitor in its earliest days was Sense8 Corp. of Sausalito, Calif.,[22] which offered a virtual reality programming toolkit for the PC.

By March 1995, however, the VR space was getting crowded, with many authoring tools on the market, including VREAM's VRCreator, Virtus VR, Virtus Walkthrough Pro, and Superscape VRT.[13]

As virtual reality grabbed market attention, a number of new competitors emerged, including Paper Software (founded by Mike McCue), Intervista (founded by Tony Parisi) and Silicon Graphics.

Company Sale[edit]

After Netscape acquired Paper Software in February 1996 for $20 million,[23] VREAM hired an investment banker to sell the company.

While working to sell the company, VREAM continued to work on the next generation of its VRML authoring and browsing software. After releasing a new version, the company's VRML browser, WIRL, received the PC Magazine Editor's Choice award in November 1996.[24]

In that same month, November 1996, VREAM was acquired by PLATINUM Technology, Inc. for $10.3 million[25][26] and became a business unit within PLATINUM.

As the World Wide Web's popularity grew, creating many opportunities for tech companies, interest in VR and VRML quickly faded and many VR companies struggled. The VREAM division of PLATINUM Technology acquired Intervista and the assets of SGI's VR division.[25][27] PLATINUM Technology deployed VREAM's virtual reality software in some of its enterprise software products, but closed down the VREAM business unit[28] just prior to the acquisition of PLATINUM Technology by Computer Associates in 1999.[29] VREAM co-founders Gaebler and LaHood left PLATINUM at that time and started a new venture, BeautyJunglecom, selling cosmetics online.[30]

The closing down of PLATINUM's VREAM Division marked a turning point for the VR industry, which had experienced a flurry of interest, activity and investment during the nineties. Interest in VR would be mostly dormant for the next fifteen years, at which point virtual reality technology company Oculus VR would be acquired by Facebook for US$2 billion in cash and Facebook stock,[31] shocking many VR veterans of the nineties and stimulating significant interest in virtual reality from a new generation of entrepreneurs.[32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ken Gaebler: Executive Profile and Biography", Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  2. ^ "The May Report: August 6, 1999", Ron May (columnist). Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  3. ^ Dave Stampe; Bernie Roehl; John Eagan (1993). Virtual Reality Creations: Explore, Manipulate, and Create Virtual Worlds on Your PC. Waite Group Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-878739-39-1. 
  4. ^ IGIC, Inc. Staff (1 January 1992). Emerging Markets for Virtual Reality. Information Gatekeepers Inc. pp. 177–178. GGKEY:NHD2JD3Y9FK. 
  5. ^ Strattner, Anthony (1991-12-01). "VREAM bringing virtual reality to a PC near you". Computer Shopper. Retrieved 2014-11-30 – via HighBeam Research. (Subscription required (help)). 
  6. ^ Dave Stampe; Bernie Roehl; John Eagan (1993). Virtual Reality Creations: Explore, Manipulate, and Create Virtual Worlds on Your PC. Waite Group Press. p. 85. ISBN 978-1-878739-39-1. Added to VREAM in version .0806 is support for a PowerGlove connected to a parallel port 
  7. ^ "WORLDTOOLKIT Version 1.01 Program Description", ibiblio. Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  8. ^ Ron Wodaski (September 1995). Virtual reality madness 1996. Sams. p. 178. ISBN 978-0-672-30865-9. VREAM is one of the products with many, many good features that are not obvious at first glance. Let me state the value of VREAM up front: it's the most powerful virtual reality software product for the price. Nothing else puts total VR power on your desk for such a small investment. 
  9. ^ Kangning Sun; Shan-tung kung yeh ta hsüeh; Hong Kong Polytechnic University (1997). Modern industrial training towards the 21st century: proceeding of the 5th International Conference on Modern Industrial Training, 26-29 October, 1997, Jinan, China. Shandong Friendship Pub. House. p. 35. 
  10. ^ Giuseppe Riva (1 January 1997). Virtual Reality in Neuro-psycho-physiology: Cognitive, Clinical and Methodological Issues in Assessment and Rehabilitation. IOS Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-90-5199-364-6. 
  11. ^ "Communications of the ACM 40, 8 (Aug. 1997), 34-39, Overcoming Phobias By Virtual Exposure". Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  12. ^ "International Journal of Impotence Research: Multimedia and virtual reality techniques in the treatment of male erectile disorders". Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  13. ^ a b Ziff Davis, Inc. (14 March 1995). PC Mag. Ziff Davis, Inc. pp. 170–198. ISSN 0888-8507. 
  14. ^ IDG Enterprise (7 July 1997). Computerworld. IDG Enterprise. p. 45. ISSN 0010-4841. 
  15. ^ "VREAM, Inc. announces WIRL Virtual Reality Browser for Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0". Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  16. ^ "Wired Magazine, Issue 4.05, May 1996: Most popular Winsock applications". Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  17. ^ Larry Downes; Chunka Mui (2000). Unleashing the Killer App: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance. Harvard Business Press. p. 208. ISBN 978-1-57851-261-4. 
  18. ^ Ziff Davis, Inc. (3 December 1996). PC Mag. Ziff Davis, Inc. p. 286. ISSN 0888-8507. 
  19. ^ "Ken Gaebler, Entrepreneurial Evolution". Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  20. ^ "Powerful Virtual Reality Software Now Available -- VREAM Ships VRCreator Beta Systems". Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  21. ^ "PLATINUM technology and Platinum Venture Partners invest in VREAM". Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  22. ^ "Chicago Tribune: Virtual Reality Enters Office Landscape". Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  23. ^ "Stanford University's Entrepreneurship Corner: Mike McCue", Stanford University, April 20, 2006. Retrieved 2011-02-10.
  24. ^ Ziff Davis, Inc. (5 November 1996). PC Mag. Ziff Davis, Inc. pp. 260–263. ISSN 0888-8507. 
  25. ^ a b "PLATINUM TECHNOLOGY, INC. FORM S-1", November 12, 1997. Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  26. ^ "Keeping Nose to Grindstone Can Make You Invisible", The Wall Street Journal, October 27, 1998. Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  27. ^ "PLATINUM technology to Lead Market for 3D on the Web and Deliver Powerful Visualisation for Enterprise Computing", SourceWire, September 9, 1998. Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  28. ^ "The Rise and Fall of VRML: Part 2", ClickZ, March 16, 2000. Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  29. ^ "CA buys Platinum in $3.5 billion deal", CNET, March 29, 1999. Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  30. ^ "The May Report: October 20, 1999", Ron May (columnist). Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  31. ^ "Facebook acquires Oculus VR for $2 Billion: Gaming Headset platform". March 26, 2014. Retrieved March 26, 2014. 
  32. ^ "Facebook's Acquisition Of Oculus Fuels Interest In Virtual Reality Startups, Irks Kickstarter Backers", March 31, 2014. Retrieved 2014-11-30.

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