Manus VR combines real life with virtual reality

9 August 2021 16:20

Astronauts use them, and so do filmmakers and aircraft manufacturers: the virtual reality gloves from Manus VR. This invention helps astronauts prepare for their journey into space, makes animations more realistic, and simulates aircraft repairs. Specifically, these 'smart' gloves allow users to see and use their own hands in a virtual world. And who is the Eindhoven-based scale-up’s first major customer? NASA. We interviewed co-founder Stephan van den Brink.

Manus VR combineert real life met virtual reality

Preparing optimally for their trip into space has been a long-running challenge for astronauts. Although weightlessness can be simulated with ‘parabolic flights,’ how do you know whether you’re really ready to start work in space? Virtual reality can be a godsend here, since it brings real-life situations into focus. But there’s just one problem: your hands have no function. Manus VR solves this problem with its virtual reality gloves. Through hundreds of sensors, these data gloves send data to a computer. “The VR gloves helps astronauts imitate their real work and, for example, build complex productions. Not only do the gloves prepare astronauts for high-altitude conditions, they also save costs. Astronauts can see which problems they will encounter and where ‘mistakes’ are currently being made, prior to their journey. Thanks to our gloves, high-end companies can fully immerse themselves in the digital world,” says Stephan.

Games, films and series

This invention, originating in Eindhoven, is not only used to develop new aircraft and take test rides into space; the virtual reality gloves are also used extensively in the creative world. The gloves turn out to be a smart application for creating animation films — a line of work in which sensor suits were already commonplace, but the hands were always drawn in later. “That was incredibly time consuming. Now the computer creates the animation based on the actor's movement, which accelerates the process. I feel very proud when I see a Netflix movie that was made using our gloves.”

Collaboration with Rabobank

It’s evident that there is a lot of demand for Manus VR’s technology. “Our company has expanded dramatically. We now have 40 employees and we want to scale up quickly. Later this year, we will be opening a branch in Munich and also one in Los Angeles. That has been our dream for quite some time, but it does require funding.” That’s why the scale-up has been working with investors for years. Recently, Rabobank has also become involved. “Together with the bank's innovation team, we looked at our growth plans. The foundation is sound: we have a solid product, we have plenty of regular customers, and our numbers are in order. This has made it easy for us to take the next step and borrow money from the bank.”

Account Manager Vincent Ruis explains: “Although Manus VR operates in a rather complex market, they have been able to listen carefully to their customers. They investigated which problems arise and how they can offer solutions. They’re on the right track for large-scale roll-out. I see them as an example for other start-ups and scale-ups.”

Tips for other entrepeneurs

These are words of praise from the Account Manager. How does Manus VR manage to stand out from the rest? “The best tip I can give other entrepreneurs,” says Stephan, “is to know your customers, especially when it comes to new technologies. And also to continue to follow your customers. Our Customer Success Manager gives every customer a follow-up call. This way, we know whether a customer is satisfied or whether there are problems that we can solve. I can recommend this to every company – you learn a lot from your customers' stories. It allows you to go the extra mile every time.”