When NASA comes knocking

The virtual reality market is a relatively small one, in Australia at least. One Melbourne-based company has launched its technology into the stratosphere... literally.

It's not every day you get to experience life on the International Space Station - well, simulated life, at least.

But that's exactly what the team behind the virtual reality game, Earthlight, has created.

Turkish migrant, Emre Deniz, is director of 'Opaque Space,' a tech business established just this year. The virtual reality and emerging technologies company is backed by electronics giant, HTC.

A developer explores space in virtual reality.
A developer explores space in virtual reality.

"The investment for us meant that we had a very strong technology partner, that is now a stakeholder in our company," Emre says. "As well as a good signal for future investors, that the right due diligence has been performed and that we're heading in a good direction."

HTC helped Earthlight along in the early days, through a VIVE X Accelerator Program.

"It's very highly sought-after, because it provides, essentially, a very high level of seed funding towards studios in both software and hardware development, who are looking to push the boundaries of virtual reality," Emre explains.

Opaque Space's current project has reached meteoric heights after NASA came across one of their social media posts showing a demo of their technology.

NASA uses Earthlight to help astronauts learn what it's like to walk in space
NASA uses Earthlight to help astronauts learn what it's like to walk in space.

"I went to bed, posting the screenshots up, and there were millions of views and hundreds of comments and a number of private messages from different facilities, both JPL and Johnson Space Centre."

Then, the invite that would rival any career highlight: a large scale tour, of the Johnson Space Centre, in Texas.

"We were invited to go there and speak to multiple laboratories and start collaborating with them and a number of different calls were arranged, and interviews with flight directors and astronauts."

Then, NASA came down under and had a tour of their humble office of 12 staff. 

A space walk in virtual reality.
A space walk in virtual reality.

They liked what they saw, and suddenly, Earthlight had matured into much more than a game.

NASA started to integrate more of the team's work, to train astronauts in its own human space flight projects.

In turn, it was an opportunity for the Opaque Space team to leverage that collaboration for investment - and they've since landed projects worth millions.

Emre estimates the company will bring in more than 20 million dollars by year's end.

"NASA gave presentations to the public where they showed that some of our assets were being actively used at their facilities now, to help with future training programs."

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