Dr. Bob Crockett
Co-founder and Lead Engineer, AxonVR
People come to me to pitch their wildest ideas.
I signed myself up for this when I founded Proof of Concept, my early-stage technology development company. Over the years, people have walked through my door and pitched perpetual motion machines, zero-point energy devices, and all manner of other physically impossible doodads.
So you can imagine my skepticism when Jake Rubin, then a 20-year-old college dropout, cold-called me claiming he had plans to build the holodeck. I was ready to dismiss him as another crackpot on a fool’s errand.
But as we talked, it became clear that Jake had done his homework. He provided a technical executive summary that showed an impressive level of research. Still, I worried that he had unrealistic expectations.
Above all else, one thing made me take him seriously:
Jake asked the right questions.
He didn’t ask, “Can you build this for me?” He asked, “Can you help me figure out how this system can be built?”
These are very different questions. The latter shows a mark of maturity that you don’t see in the crackpots.
We agreed to move forward on the project, and I undertook a challenge.
I tried to prove why this CAN’T be done.
We brought our best ideas to the table, and we took turns poking holes in each other’s arguments. This felt less like an engineering task, and more like a game of chess.
The architecture we landed on is largely a realization of Jake’s initial vision: a full-body suit, and a station that this suit snaps into. In order to get there, we had to come full circle.
We took the idea apart conceptually and rearranged it in every way we could imagine. We poked into all the corners of possibility. It took nearly two years of research before we committed to the vision.
My skepticism morphed into cautious optimism.
This wasn’t what I expected. I thought I’d help Jake create a technology roadmap, then we’d part ways and he’d go about his own business. But Jake and I formed a strong working relationship in tackling these complex challenges.
We transitioned to performing proof of concept tests at my lab in Cal Poly. The prototypes proved the principles behind the key components of the system and marked the beginning of building the AxonVR team.
After our successes in the lab, we started to think bigger. Our partnership escalated from an agreement to draft a timeline, to a commitment to form a company.
This project once seemed impossible. Now it’s inevitable.
This is exactly the kind of project I had hoped for when I established Proof of Concept, but I never expected to take a project of this scale so far. You can see where we came from by reading Jake's technical executive summary here.
Though we've learned a lot along the way, you'll see that AxonVR closely aligns with Jake's original vision. The most obvious change is in our name: Jake originally called the project "Vireon.”
It goes to show you that you can pitch the impossible. Do the research, explore every possibility, and ask the right questions.
Think big. Holodeck big.
Unless you’re thinking about perpetual motion machines. Don’t bother me with those anymore.