Two years ago, I entered a nondescript office building in Bellevue, Washington. It was for a job interview, though I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d applied for. The startup was in stealth mode. They didn’t have a website. I couldn’t find anything on Google. I only knew the company was called “AxonVR.”
I walked down brown and beige hallway adorned with flickering fluorescent lights and small office rooms with mahogany veneer tables. This was the kind of place you’d find your uncle’s accountant, not a breakthrough technology startup. I’d soon be reminded that looks can be deceiving.
The interview started with a non-disclosure agreement. Then a video played. It took me a few minutes to register what I was seeing: people walked suspended in mid-air. Exoskeletons guided their motions. Virtual avatars mimicked their gait. People touched objects that didn’t exist. This tech looked straight out of sci-fi. This was virtual reality you can feel.
I didn’t get to try the technology, but I was sold on the vision. Still, I had a lingering question:
Me: Why is the company named “AxonVR”?
Interviewer: ‘Axon’ is a part of a nerve. It’s like the connector that enables us to feel sensations. So AxonVR is the connector that makes you feel virtual reality.
Me: That’s great! … But what if people stop calling it virtual reality?
Interviewer: …It’s been called VR since the ‘90s.
Me: And couldn’t this technology have applications beyond VR?
Interviewer (growing frustrated): Let’s move on.
Note to job applicants: It’s a bad idea to critique the company name during your interview.
My line of questioning proved prescient. The past two years have transformed the virtual reality industry and its nomenclature. In this time, AxonVR grew as a company. We doubled the size of our team. Our engineers in California built out a bona fide lab in San Luis Obispo. Our Washington headquarters moved from the dingy Bellevue accountant office into a swanky new Seattle space that’s a stone’s throw from Pike Place Market.
Along the way, we learned a tremendous amount about our customers and how our technology provides value. And most importantly, we’ve learned we’re more than a VR company. We’re a haptics company, and we’re determined to reshape the way we interact with technology.
That’s why AxonVR changed its name to HaptX.
The category-defining company in haptics
“Haptics” is the science and technology of touch. Although it’s not yet a household word, it’s well on its way. Every person I meet in the technology industry knows about haptics and recognizes the need for innovation in this field. As technology becomes more immersive, we need to engage the senses beyond sight and sound. Touch is essential.
We simulate touch sensation with a level of realism previously thought to exist only in science fiction. HaptX technology marks a giant leap forward in the capabilities of haptics. We’ve shared our prototype with innovators, investors, journalists, and researchers, and we’re pleased they agree. Touch is more nuanced than what vibrational technology can produce. We’ve taken a holistic approach to haptics and developed a wearable that extends what’s possible in virtual reality. It’s more than haptics. It’s HaptX.
VR is the future, but we might not call it “VR.”
Like any new field, the language we use to describe immersive technology is evolving. If I had a nickel for every time I heard the phrase, “VR/AR/MR also known as XR,” I could retire from HaptX and build my own virtual border wall.
Haptics (and HaptX) applies to each of these fields, so it’s restrictive to limit HaptX to “virtual reality.” Having VR in our name hangs the future of our company on the use of “VR.” Dropping “VR” from our name in no way diminishes our bullish outlook on virtual reality. The future is immersive. Tomorrow’s stories will engage your mind and body through sight, sound, and touch.
HaptX has that last part covered.
Many Axons, only one HaptX
An axon is a part of a nerve that enables us to feel sensations. Clever for a haptics company, right? It turns out we weren’t the only clever ones. There’s an Axon phone. There’s an Axon trucking software company. TASER International, a producer of non-lethal weapons, is now known as Axon.
I’m sure these companies and products are great. After all, they have an impeccable taste in names. But HaptX has a technology unlike anything else. So, we should have a name unlike anyone else.
We’ve used “HaptX” for the past year as the moniker for AxonVR’s technology. The name came from a long struggle to brand our tactile technology. We tried e-Skin and AxonSkin, but didn’t love either option. After throwing out 10,000 terrible ideas, I came up with “hap-tex,” short for “haptic textile.” We liked the sound of it and shortened it to “HaptX.” We liked it so much, we began using it to refer to our entire technology stack: the HaptX Platform. People liked that so much, they told us we should just call our company HaptX. When we decided to rename our company, HaptX was the only option we considered.
AxonVR’s name change to HaptX coincides with the announcement of our first product: HaptX Gloves. You can see a prototype of them in this snazzy new video. The prototype delivers an amazing experience you need to feel to believe. We’ve shared the gloves with a lot of companies already, and we’re excited to demo the technology for more businesses to learn how they plan to use HaptX Gloves to reinvent work, training, and entertainment in virtual reality.
Fully immersive VR is closer than ever before, and we hope you join HaptX on our journey toward making virtual experiences feel real.
Director of Marketing, HaptX Inc.
November 20th, 2017