About Us

The Virtual Space team of insanely creative, dedicated and talented people have made the projects listed here possible.

The credit belongs to them and I am eternally grateful – Richard McAdam

Grateful thanks to:

Kessuree Srisroy for tremendous creative input

Carmen Swart for great art and technical troubleshooting

Connor Andrews for amazing 3D graphics and video production

Alisa Ndlovu for tireless efforts in production and quality control

Gavin Stein for logistics, design and manufacturing

Dr. Timothy Laseinde for academic and research support

Dr. Olawole Kuti for academic and research support

Pierre Beukes for art and logistics

and many other people who have contributed to this journey

Richard McAdam

My name is Richard McAdam, owner of and lead designer for The Virtual Space virtual reality systems.

Using computers for creating art and programming has been my passion for more than 35 years. I have also had a lifelong fascination with 3D technologies such as holograms, lenticular 3D, polarised 3D movies, LCD shutter displays and so on.

In 2014 I bought one of the first Google Cardboard VR viewers and started playing with it. As the year turned over into 2015, I came to a decision. I had been making my living as a web developer and internet marketer since 1995 and it was no longer fun. So, I pivoted to the new business of virtual reality.

It’s been a wild ride!

Here are some of the things we have made:

Android 360° VR video player with remote control (2015)

This 360° video player is designed for use at events. The player works with both monoscopic and stereoscopic 360° video. The videos are preloaded on the phones to be used, so there are no streaming delays or loss of quality.

360° video wall (2016)

The 360° video wall puts the 360° video on 7 TVs in a circle around the viewer, using much of the same code as the Android VR video player. Although this system worked well, we found that people were not very impressed with what it was doing so we shut the project down.

The FrankenVive (2016)

On August 5th 2016 the HTC Vive tracked virtual reality system was released to the consumer. These systems are on another level entirely, they operate in a room scale space and you can move around and interact with the virtual world within that space.

As the Vive was both expensive and unobtainable at the time we hacked together a FrankenVive using a Cardboard headset as the display with content for the HTC Vive being streamed to it from a PC. This Heath Robinson contraption used a leap motion controller to detect the users hands and emulate the Vive controllers. It worked, after a fashion, but it was way short of the real thing. Still, the Frankenvive was a LOT of fun :-D

Google South Africa then brought in a real HTC Vive and loaned it to me to try out. I was completely blown away and bought two of them in short succession. This type of system with full tracking of the headset and controllers is still the most immersive form of VR available, creating a compelling illusion that can easily make you forget you are in a virtual world. On one occasion I caught myself trying to close a virtual filing cabinet with my foot, which is not visible in the virtual world. We have had people fall while trying to lean on virtual furniture because they forgot they were in a virtual world.

The Imaginarium (2017)

The next project was a VR Arcade using the Vive systems. We rented a shop at 27 Boxes in Melville and called it The Imaginarium. We ran the arcade for 9 months, from January to September 2017. It didn’t make money but we had a lot of fun and learned how people see and experience VR and what makes the experience fun. We also got to know the Vive systems really well.

A Whole New Ball Game (2017)

While at the Imaginarium my shop assistant Pierre Beukes and I built a virtual reality game for the HTC Vive called “A Whole New Ball Game”. Pierre hand painted all the 3-dimensional assets for the game in the VR painting app, Tilt Brush.

27 Boxes is built from shipping containers. This game was mapped onto the shape of our shop container, so that if you ran into a wall in the game you ran into a physical wall in the shop.

We created all the sounds for the game manually by doing things like ringing bells and popping balloons. We ran some competitions at the shop with this game and a lot of fun was had by all :-)

Pioneer Education Kit

Pioneer VR Education Kit for Google Expeditions (2017)

Our next project was the Pioneer VR Education Kit for use in the classroom with Google Expeditions. The teacher controls the experience and each kid gets a headset to view the VR content.

The kits come with five Android phones, five VR headsets, an Android tablet to control the VR experience, a charger for the devices and detailed instructions.

Gateway VR Event Hire Systems (2019)

By 2019 we were doing a lot of VR for events. COVID-19 lockdown effectively destroyed this business but before that happened we had a team of five people with four VR systems, providing exciting VR experiences at events all over, both within South Africa and in neighbouring countries.

We developed our PC based systems into the Gateway VR system. These are self contained, arcade style machines with everything needed for an event contained within the machine. The machines have TV sets and audio on board, so passers by and the audience can see what the person in VR is experiencing.

Goggles VR virtual reality glasses

Goggles VR – virtual reality glasses (2018)

The main project in 2018 was designing our Goggles VR virtual reality glasses, then implementing the manufacturing of these glasses.

Goggles VR are phone based VR glasses compatible with Google Cardboard but made of much tougher ABS plastic. These VR glasses are designed for simplicity, good user experience, toughness and easy branding.

Goggles VR virtual reality glasses are now available for purchase

VR Schools – classrooms in virtual reality (2020)

Play
During the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020 time was available for programming. I used this time to develop the foundation of the VR Schools system, a 3D VR multi user, multi platform virtual classroom environment. There is some more information about this project on our VR for Teaching page.

This system is specifically targeted for use in school and university level education, as part of our “Teach Africa with VR” initiative.

This project has had invaluable support from the Royal Academy of Engineering, University of Johannesburg and Manchester Metropolitan University.

VR Schools is a 3D VR classroom environment for teaching in the virtual space. The teacher needs a full 6 degrees of freedom VR system such as a Valve Index or HTC Vive. The students can join from anywhere over the Internet using various platforms such as phone VR, PC, PC VR or web browser.

This system is now in a live testing stage. Working with UJ and Roosevelt High School I am experimenting with classroom scenarios to find out what does and doesn’t work, as well as attempting to quantify the effectiveness of the system.

Future ambitions for VR Schools include adding live streaming video, the ability to take classes on virtual tours to interesting places and the capability to load curriculum specific content into the virtual classroom.

If you are an educator interested in being involved with this project please contact me to discuss the possibilities.

Custom VR system builds

We have supplied various custom built VR systems over the years, both single user and multi user installations. These include systems at Sun City, University of Johannesburg, Baxter Pharmaceuticals and others. If you are interested in putting together a bespoke VR lab or other installation you are very welcome to contact me at 083 733 5133 to discuss the project.

Richard McAdam

Owner of The Virtual Space