MassChallenge Texas: Meet the Denton‑based Development Studio That’s a ‘One‑Stop Shop’ for VR Training

From the Future tackles tough challenges and high-risk industries with its proprietary virtual reality training software. VR Hololab, which can manage multiple trainees across different locations, is enterprise-ready for licensing.

Ed. Note: Dallas Innovates teamed up with MassChallenge Texas to highlight entrepreneurs and their high-impact companies in the current Texas cohort. Find them here.

Denton-based From the Future thinks the next generation of training is in virtual reality—and it wants to be on the forefront of that.

The startup, founded and run by CEO Mike Christian, is meant to be a one-stop shop for VR training.

Its proprietary software platform is designed to dramatically improve the quality of learning by solving issues related to VR content creation and delivery. In all, it offers third party libraries, a learning management system, classroom support, and custom content creation.

“Our platform supports high levels of focused interaction and immersion and is able to deliver to a classroom full of more than 20 people at a time, as well as support group training in the same VR world,” Christian told Dallas Innovates. “Our VR training aims to save companies money and improve the speed and quality of training. Training errors cost an estimated 250 billion in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.”

According to From the Future (FTF), 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies are now using VR for training. And, the nine-person team sees that number growing rapidly. They say by 2023, VR training is expected to be a $6.3 billion industry.

Christian sees VR solving a shortage of skilled labor. By attracting younger generations and training people faster, VR is able to serve as a convenient replacement to traditional classrooms.

In about five years people will look back and ask, “How did we train before VR?”

“High risk industries, such as fire and rescue, can not effectively train safely,” he says. “Industries that require costly equipment can train more affordably through VR simulations and train remotely without shipping equipment out or people in.”

For example: From the Future has developed a VR boom lift training class for a U.S. construction company. Through a combination of workbench activities and fully immersive scenarios, students are able to learn how to inspect and safely operate a boom lift.

The module is supported by an application called XR Command, which enables a trainer to control a full classroom. Results are captured and stored in a learning management system for the company’s record keeping.

“FTF’s XR training platform (SaaS pricing model) allows a trainer to manage 20-plus trainees and assign VR headset with content by trainee. FTF’s VR Hololab can manage multiple trainees across different locations in VR training scenarios,” Christian says. “The system includes VR analytics, cloud integration, classroom management, LMS integration, and employee authentication that’s faster, has a higher task completion, and improved performance.”

The FTF team has worked together for decades in various technology businesses, but founded the startup a few years ago to focus on VR training and education. Up next is having a market-ready version of its XR training platform and VR Hololab available for enterprise licensing.

Learn more about From the Future and what’s next in our Q+A with Christian below.

[Photo: Courtesy From the Future]

Meet From the Future

Dallas Innovates Q+A (Images: Istockphoto)Why did you start From the Future?

We started our company because our tech skills were in demand to solve the hard problems with new technology. Eventually we learned we could have a more profound effect on society as a whole through VR training and education.

In about five years people will look back and ask, “How did we train before VR?”

How did you name it?

The founders built a reputation for being forward thinkers and solving difficult problems with new technology—as if they were From the Future.

Some examples of new tech challenges the company developed: the first American Airlines iPhone app, a VR experience for the movie “Pacific Rim” for the first public showing of the Oculus Rift VR system, and a VR experience for the US Tennis Open for the first public showing of the HTC Vive VR system.

What would success be for From the Future in the next year—and longer term?

1. Completion and licensing of FTF’s XR Platform and VR Hololab.

2. Approval by NIH for our proposed VR autism study.

3. Hiring 20 great new employees.

What are you most proud of in terms of your startup?

Being part of a revolution in training and education that will save and improve lives. Our VR training leverages decades of gaming technology to provide a unique, quality learning experience that can support remote training with multiple avatars in highly immersive environments where you are “learning by doing.”

What do you wish people knew about From the Future?

Our extended reality (XR) training platform has a combination of features that are unrivaled. We are able to deliver a quality experience on the most affordable, mobile VR headsets which makes VR more accessible to a broad range of industries.

How do you expect that being accepted to the MassChallenge summer cohort can make a difference to your team?

MassChallenge has been an excellent source of startup knowledge through online presentations and conferences by world class people. The structure and framework forces us to focus and execute on plans for growth. Networking with peers and connecting with mentors has added to our knowledge base in large, meaningful ways.

How are you funding your startup?

2018: NIH Grant, $180,000
2019: Client Projects, $700,000
2020: SBA PPP, $105,000
2020: SBA EIDL, $150,000
2020-23: City of Denton Economic Development Incentive (in review), $250,000
2021: NIH (in review), $450,000

What can you tell us about your company culture and/or mission?

Our team has established the new standard in industrial training and eLearning by applying our unique insight into virtual environments to real-world safety training.

Through the expertise we provide, our clients can achieve increased efficiencies, higher ROIs, and greater overall performance.

We like to establish a strong trust and bond with our clients through honesty, humor, and transparency. Our day to day is full of a mix of fun and friendly attitudes, hard work, and dedication to achieving results.

What sector trends are you most excited about?

Companies will begin incorporating AI into VR Training to increase responses, randomization, course progression, and more. More training will be hands only and controller free. Blockchain certification will be added.

Has the pandemic and social environment shifted your plans this year?

Yes, it has delayed customer contracts. It has delayed our economic incentive program with the City of Denton. And it has changed our marketing strategy with cancellation of trade shows.

Ultimately, we feel like our business will be in a position to help those affected by the pandemic through our remote training features and accelerated learning.

Tell us how your company might be able to help businesses or people right now, in the current, fast-changing environment?

VR offers training, selling, and meeting with employees or customers remotely in a virtual setting. This feature can reduce travel costs. VR can replicate real life scenarios, thus reducing risks to people and equipment. Trainees have the freedom to fail without repercussions of real-life mistakes.

Training becomes visually immersive: the learning process in VR results in cognitive improvements over traditional learning including higher recall, more successful task completion, performance improvement, and faster execution.

Have you made any changes at your company due to the economy or COVID?

We are working 100 percent remote. But it has been easy as many on our team have remote work experience and we had the systems and communication tools in place.

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