Although aliens and unicorns don’t exist, people can’t (yet) travel to Mars, and skiing in Dubai costs a fortune, Virtual Reality (VR) is making all of these achievable by creating a digital-reality-experience. This technology takes people to entirely new places without needing to be physically present – you could believe you’re even sitting on the moon. But far from offering merely entertainment, these Middle Eastern startups are audaciously tackling some of the region's most pressing issues - from mental health to the refugee crisis - and innovating their way to a new reality. Here are 4 pioneering startups using high-tech goggles to create virtual experiences.
1. GigaWorks: Their Dubai Skiing Experience is enough to have you fall head over heels over this UAE startup. Whether it’s using VR to test drive the new Mercedes Benz, or getting an adrenaline rush from drifting and karting, this startup is turning digital marketing into an exhilarating experience for its users - including a VR invitation for the Dubai International Film Festival. But that’s not all - its Lebanese founder, Karim Saad, is setting eyes on something bigger, integrating VR with filmmaking and storytelling. ”There’s massive potential for VR on TV or video on demand, even movie theaters have come after me asking for VR content for consumers," he tells Startup Scene, as he anticipates working on a story for next year’s Dubai International Film Festival.
2. PixelBug: Awarded by MIT as the best startup in the Pan Arab region in 2015, securing a fund from Silicon Valley’s Boost VC and working with leading blue-chip companies, this UAE-based startup is turning heads globally. Their new addition, ColorBug App, generated a buzz in the market and ignited children’s emotions by bringing their drawing pieces to life. Founded by Dany El-Eid, Pixelbug’s mission is to add a touch of magic to corporates' strategies to enhance their customer engagement. They adventurous startup closed three funding rounds with four investors, which totaled up to $443,000.
4. EpicVR: A semi-finalist in the MIT Enterprise Forum and incubated by the top-notch AUC Venture Lab, this startup is revolutionizing and completely removing limitations to the gaming experience in Egypt. Using futuristic-looking face headsets - that is, the Oculus Rift - users can either prepare to swim in space, get up on a frightening roller coaster, or even get their heads chopped off! “We gladly partnered with Face Studios, acting as our sister company, which is actively handling the VR and AR marketing needs for various clients in Egypt and the Gulf region”, says co-founder Ahmad Amin, adding that “this is giving EpicVR the chance to easily explore a broader market and fulfilling the region’s need for a compelling VR and AR marketing solutions.”