A Letter from KAT VR's CEO - Kaye Pang
This letter is dedicated to ACpablo, as well as to everyone else who has been supporting us throughout the 7 years of our adventure. Special thanks to our Kickstarter community and everyone who has helped us bring this project to reality
KAT VR IS A GROUP OF FOOLS WHO CAN ONLY DO ONE THING
It has been six years since the birth of our first treadmill - KAT WALK. And it has been seven years since the birth of KAT VR. After all this time, we are finally close to achieving the dream which has brought us together back in 2013 – the dream to make a VR treadmill we could offer to VR enthusiasts like you – The KAT WALK C.
Why did it take so long?
Because achieving a dream is a long and winding road - much harder than one could imagine.
Since 2013, we have made more than 200 samples OF 6 totally different kinds of VR treadmills. Throughout this time, we have heard mANY doubtful voices, most of which asking – It is just a rack and platform for keeping you in place, how hard can it be to make it?
We would love for it to be as simple as that. But no, it is not just a rack, same as VR glasses are not just glasses.
From the research perspective, each technological aspect, including the mechanical structure, ergonomics, materials, sensors, motion capture algorithm, software, and game adaptation must all be polished to the smallest detail.
From the functionality perspective - each aspect of the experience needs to be considered - from the freedom of movement, through safe squatting range, natural walking, smooth turning around, comfortable waist harness, adaptivity, safety, force limitation, and low latency, to the software. They must all be polished to the smallest detail.
There are only a few who know how difficult it is to integrate all of these functions. Why? Because most of them are contradictory with one another at their very core.
Natural walking requires low friction, turning around smoothly requires quite the opposite; the freedom of movement needs a non-restrictive structure which may contradict with the user safety; small squats are not enough while large amplitude may cause hidden dangers; stability and safety require strength and durability but what about the size and weight?
There are only few who know that a few grams of excessive weight of certain components may ruin the user experience, the same as the parameters, which need to be optimized up to even 1°.
And this is just the beginning
Productization is even more complex. From the design, through hand proofing, trial batches, manufacturing molds, component and material selection, supply chains, white box and black box testing, quality inspection, certification, patenting, packaging, logistics and transportation, and import and export organization to complete after-sales service.
What’s the hardest part? Cost control.
Knowing that there is no field for compromises and none of the above can be given up upon, ensuring the consumer-friendly cost of the final product is the hardest part.
In the past seven years, the most common feedback we have heard from many sides stated:
- "It seems very simple. Why is it so expensive to sell? It's a fraud!"
- "It's not slippery enough to walk!"
- "It's too slippery to walk!"
- "Why is the simulated movement different from the real one?"
- "Why not use motorized belts?"
- "There is no future for VR treadmills."
The hardest of them all to hear has always been the last one. And probably the most frustrating one. And not because we felt it’s wrong, but because we were so ashamed and annoyed that we cannot prove it wrong. We believe that everyone who came to this conclusion did so not because he lacked the faith in the bright future of immersive VR locomotion, but because there was no product that could persuade him to believe in it.
We have always felt it is our responsibility. We have always felt we have to work harder to achieve it and offer it to you.
WE ARE FOOLS
We are just a start-up company, which only thanks to these of you who believed in us and our vision, has been built from nothing. And after 7 years, we still have a long way to go.
We do not have the capabilities and unlimited resources to provide ideal systems like that of Facebook, HTC or Sony. We cannot ignore all the obstacles on our way, while chasing our dreams. But your support gives us the strength to fight them fiercely when chasing the balance, even if we cannot always win.
We are a group of complete fools who have always been passionate about VR and always believed there is more to come. There MUST be more to come. Regardless of the ups and downs of the VR industry and the voices claiming that VR is dead, we are still here. We persist. And thanks to you our confidence in the bright future of the virtual reality is and always will be unshaken.
Because of you.
Every single time I can’t find a moment for a sip of water or a bite of food, every single time I work relentless with no sleep, and without leaving the office building for a month, I look into the messages that we receive from all over the world, and it gives me power. It drives me and my team to persist. We know there are so many of you who have not had the chance to experience the fun of using a VR treadmill as we had.
And there is nothing else we can do but continue to push forward with our dream of changing it.
SOME GAVE UP
There were many others like us who decided to dedicate themselves to the development of VR treadmills. But many gradually had to give up. And giving up was often the smart way, while KAT VR has been choosing the way of struggle
VR treadmills are not easy. They are complex. The market is still developing and a treadmill is not the first-demand product. Many accepted the challenge and many gave it up after facing these struggles.
CONSUMER MARKET HAS NEVER BEEN EASY
There are others like us who decided to forge a consumer-dedicated product. And many had to give up. And giving up was often the smart way, while KAT VR has been choosing the way of struggle.
Many decided to focus on the enterprise market only and it was a justified business decision. The return on investment and price-performance ratio speak for that. Uniformed customer demand, higher customer budgets, and higher company profit speak for that.
After all, why not give up the struggle? Why not focus on making a profit rather than re-investing it into years of research and development of consumer solutions with no guarantees of return? The setbacks that increase the temptation have always been there.
But the company I have always admired the most is Razer. They have always been saying what they stand for very clearly – “For Gamers, By Gamers”. Every time I heard these words, they were feeding my dreams – the dreams of a personal virtual reality treadmill designed for VR enthusiasts.
After starting a business, there were days of joy and there were many more of tears and struggle. I have always been reluctant to give up on my dreams, no matter how difficult it was, and no matter how many doubtful voices I could hear. The dreams should never be abandoned.
THE FUTURE OF VR TREADMILLS
No solution is perfect. Some of you may not have been convinced by KAT Walk and KAT Walk mini. Others may not be convinced with KAT Walk C. But we will never give up until the dream of immersive gameplay becomes a reality for every VR lover, and until the VR treadmills give the spark to the new generation of gaming. Spending 7 years to complete this mission is nothing. As long as there is a single soul that believes in our mission, we are going to spend another 10 or 20 if that is what it takes.
OUR MISSION, VISION AND VALUES
KATVR is just a small start-up company, but we have big dreams, and we are not the only dreamers!
Our mission is to let people like us dive deeper into the beautiful virtual worlds, into the experience that continues to inspire and drive us. We want to become the best supplier of walking simulation solutions in the world to achieve our dreams. Dedication, passion, and continuous development have always been the most important to us.
This is KATVR's small but proud mission. And we are honored to continue it with you.
MAYBE WE ARE NOT FOOLS?
We may not be fools after all, but we are certainly stubborn dreamers. We are never going to abandon our mission. Thanks to you, we know we are not alone. We know there are many people like us, who love the virtuality, who understand the youth and imperfection of the VR technology, but decide to embrace its growth nonetheless and pave the way for others. And it fills us with pride.
KATVR will continue to embrace the dream of VR treadmills no matter the cost. Nothing can stop us, because we are not alone.
Always believe in VR treadmills
CEO of KATVR, Kaye