Stephan van den Brink | Manus VR
How do you prepare for a trip to space? NASA astronauts are using a virtual reality glove to simulate aspects of what it is like being a few hundred kilometers above ground. The glove is developed by Eindhoven startup Manus VR. Stephan van den Brink co founded the company two years ago.
What is the most difficult aspect of developing a virtual reality glove?
"The supply chain! Making the electronics is still manageable, but the combination of the hardware and the fabric of the glove really is new territory. There are hardly any machines for that part of the production process."
Within two years time, you got NASA on board as a customer?
"Yeah, it is really exciting to have such an important client working with us. Every year we make sure to join a few international technology conferences. On one of these events, we came in contact with NASA who wanted to use our VR glove for training their astronauts."
How is it to get a startup off the ground in Eindhoven?
"For us, the availability of smart people here is an important factor. Eindhoven was named the smartest region in the world by Forbes. In this area, you will also find a higher average of autistic people, even in our team and it is going very well. All of us feel kind of proud to be working on this VR glove. "
"Eindhoven is an ideal place to develop hardware."
Stephan van den Brink
Do you collaborate a lot with local tech companies?
"Very much so. I can only say that the ecosystem in this area is really great. The fact that Philips has been here and created so many spinoff companies is a real advantage. It is one of the reasons that we have been able to grow this fast. Philips headquarters has moved but the technical knowledge is still very much here. Eindhoven is an ideal place to develop hardware."
Is it difficult to find funding here?
"I think there is definitely room for improvement. Although we did manage to get our first phase funded by local investors. We got a lot of support in those early days from HightechXL, an accelerator program in Eindhoven for hardware startups."
Do you have international people working in your team?
“We have people from different nationalities working with us. Through the Expat Spouses Initiative, for example, we came into contact with an Indian woman. Her husband is an expat who works for Philips and she is now working with us. Her specific knowledge of the supply chain in the textile industry is of great value."
You started your career as a specialist in tax affairs?
"I have worked with EY as a tax consultant for a couple of years. We started Manus VR with two friends two years back. Initially, I was doing everything next to my job. I spent all my holidays and free time on making our company grow. EY has always been really supportive throughout this period. At a certain point, I had to choose though. I left EY and am now working fulltime with Manus VR."
What excites you the most about VR at the moment?
“The developments on mixed reality! Adding "real" elements to the virtual world. At NASA, we have added a rack to the VR simulations for astronauts. That rack is standing in the 'real' training room but is also visible in the simulated space environment that they see through their VR goggles.” Stephan laughs: “And in the office, we like to try out things as well. Recently we put a track on one of our barstools. It is a funny experience to see that barstool moving through your VR glasses while actually holding it in your hands at the same time."