The Helmeton story: how it all began

Let's talk about how we got into VR

The Helmeton story: how it all began

Our story began on July 8, 2016 with the opening of the virtual reality club "Sintez" in St. Petersburg.

The name Helmeton was not yet in the plans, and the idea to start a business related to virtual reality came by accident. The founder of Helmeton, Nick Anisimov, was engaged in another business, which was associated with the development of websites and the creation of online and offline advertising campaigns.

In 2016, the first modern HTC Vive VR glasses were released, starting the current era of virtual reality. In fact, the birth of the sphere of virtual reality has occurred. VR glasses have existed before, such as the Oculus Rift DK. The key issue was that people were getting motion sick while wearing VR glasses due to poor tracking and low image quality. At that time, VR glasses were more like a monitor. There was no full-fledged control of joysticks, which means that there was no full-fledged immersion in the virtual world. Users did not feel connected to it due to the inability to perform actions in it. Therefore, VR glasses could be seen on attractions in shopping malls, where people had fun riding roller coasters, but using VR as a tool, for example, for user education was simply impossible.

The advent of HTC Vive changed everything. What was the revolution? The Vive had full joystick control, acceptable image quality, and normal user tracking. Adjusting the helmet wasn't too hard either. All the key problems of VR devices at that time were solved. The first acquaintance with HTC Vive showed that the prospects for VR technology are colossal, it remains only to find an application for it.

Therefore, our founder Nikolay decided to launch a VR-club. There were no such places in Russia yet, and the cost of the equipment was quite high for the Russians. It became obvious that at first people will look for places where they can get acquainted with VR devices and understand what virtual reality is, and finally, on July 8, 2016, the club was opened.

The main goal of opening the club was to search for potential opportunities for the use of virtual reality in various sectors of the economy. From the moment he got acquainted with VR, Nikolay Anisimov understood very well that VR can be applied in a huge range of industries. It was hard to say where exactly VR would fit best. As you know, time and money are very limited resources, so it was necessary to understand where to go. The place began to attract interest immediately after opening. The Sintez club quickly gained its regular customers and aroused interest from the media, city portals and bloggers. Soon, virtual reality clubs began to open in Moscow and St. Petersburg in large numbers.

The first direction that proved to be promising for VR in Russia was the event industry. Companies have used VR to showcase their products and services, to talk about innovations, and to show objects. This is how the Sintez Event company was born, and the development in the direction of events and marketing with VR began.

During peak periods, the Sintez Event team held up to 8 events in one day. Despite the fact that the VR sphere in events grew very strongly, it was a very hard work, and besides, there were no clear prospects for growth in this direction. Therefore, it was pointless to develop the direction of events. Along with testing the direction of events, other industries were also tried. For example, the development of a line of own accessories for HTC Vive glasses was started. Wearing VR glasses permanently requires replacement of face pads, as the person's face sweats and the pad gets wet over time. Constantly changing the pads is especially important for virtual reality clubs.

The overlays that were then sold in Russia were incredibly expensive. So we contacted factories in China that made similar products and agreed to produce rubbers for us under our own brand. We were lucky, and the pads turned out to be of high quality and coped with their task. The problem turned out to be different - in Russia there were almost no owners of VR glasses, and most clubs saved as much as they could, so they did not buy overlays. For the same reason, we refused to create a repair service for VR glasses - there were no customers for this business at that time. Selling accessories for VR glasses as an idea was not promising, we continued to buy overlays in China for our own purposes.

In 2019, we noticed a significant increase in requests for the development of educational applications. Unlike all previous projects, we were asked to develop not a small application for an event, but a full-fledged educational application with different modes of passage and wide functionality within the training course.

Our development team simply could not carry out projects of this level, and the development partners also did not have enough competence for such projects. At that time, an important but difficult decision was made - the company should evolve into a VR developer, and all other areas of activity should be closed.

There were many reasons for this decision:

  • Firstly, a large stream of orders for VR training showed us that you can earn much more on this than in other areas.
  • Secondly, there were no teams on the market that really knew how to do this well, so this was a good opportunity for us.
  • Thirdly, we had a lot of negative experience with intermediaries and small companies, so we firmly decided to focus on working with large clients.

In the middle of 2019, we began to think over the rebranding of Sintez Event, deciding to create a VR / AR application developer based on this direction. The idea for the company's name appeared absolutely spontaneously.

In reality, in choosing the name of a company or project, one should not start from some idea with a beautiful name, but from the presence of a free trademark and domain name. In simple terms - before you name something, you need to check which names and domain names are already taken.

This is exactly the problem that the Sintez trademark has faced. During the registration process, it turned out that it was almost impossible to register such a name, since too many companies created and registered the Synthesis trademark. And for this reason, we decided to completely abandon the name Synthesis and generally no longer have any connection with this word. We understood that this could create significant problems in the future.

The idea to rename the company to Helmeton was born quite by accident. We immediately abandoned very popular phrases such as VR Games, VR Space, VR Team, and so on. Due to the large number of names with the prefix VR, information noise appears, and remembering the name is not so easy. A key factor in the decision was the realization that VR in the future may become too narrow a concept, and virtual reality will be much broader. Therefore, we decided to use abbreviations in the names of future products, and give a neutral name, but at the same time having a separate connection with the virtual world. The name Helmeton was just born from a phrase that we very often spoke in Russian: “Put on the helmet.”

We also often used this phrase when communicating with our clients, when we told them that they need to “Put on a helmet” first, then it will become clear. As a result, after selecting various variations, Helmeton sounded best of all. At the same time, the name well characterized our activity. After checking the domains and being able to register a trademark, we approved a new name, renamed the Sintez Event to Helmeton, and started closing all other projects.

It should be noted that the closure of all projects that are not related to VR development turned out to be a visionary idea. Just a couple of months after the closure of the Sintez club and the completion of event projects, the first lockdown occurred due to Covid-19. Of course, we've also been hit hard in development as many projects have been canceled or rescheduled. Many companies also began to break payment terms, but in those days it was commonplace. This, of course, does not characterize the Russian market in a positive way, since we fulfilled our obligations to our team and contractors on time and according to our agreements.

2020 has been a real test for us. We were a new company, albeit with a lot of experience, but we managed to build processes and strengthen relationships with important and large clients in Russia.

In 2021, the market situation got a little better, but the consequences of the pandemic were still very strong. Large corporations were still afraid to launch large projects, and uncertainty had a strong influence on all market participants. 2021 has been a year of discovery for Helmeton. We were able to communicate with true market professionals, ranging from the heads of large companies to well-known international investment funds. At the end of 2021, we made the decision to move our headquarters to San Francisco.

Thanks to the feedback received, we managed to get an important vision of the future of VR / AR technologies not only in Russia, but also in the world. Our first decision was to partially stop working with AR solutions. The reason was the lack of necessary devices for development. Microsoft Hololens or NReal Light glasses were not officially supplied to Russia, so there was simply nothing to create projects on. We decided that we would leave AR projects for later. We still consider rare augmented reality projects for mobile devices in order not to forget the technology and keep abreast. It is in AR on mobile devices that we believe the most, since everyone now has a phone.

The second and most important decision was a gradual transition to product development - creating our own products and selling licenses for them. The needs of customers began to be gradually typified, they became similar to each other. In addition, it became obvious that customers still do not understand the VR technology itself, so it is much easier and more comfortable for them to study finished products than to create from scratch for themselves.

Of course, there will always be companies that prefer products that are designed exclusively for their needs and maximally tailored to their business processes. But 80% of companies prefer ready-made solutions, it is more convenient for them, and we are guided by the wishes of our customers.

We didn't have to think long about the concept of our own product Courz® . We had a rough understanding of the finished solution a long time ago, it only remained to come up with a name for it. Since our main product with virtual reality is training courses, it didn’t take long to come up with ideas.  The main idea of Courz® is to automate learning with virtual reality. We offer our clients both ready-made courses and a course builder, and most importantly, a system for managing these courses in the form of LMS (Learning management System).

Our idea is that users no longer need various VR contractors (hard skills training is done by one contractor, and safety training is done by another). Full-fledged course builders do not actually exist, so this market immediately seemed very attractive to us. Time will tell which path Courz® will take, now it is our main product, in which we believe the most.

We definitely believe in the great future of VR and AR in various industries, so we do not give up on virtual reality, for example, in sports. We are confident that the significant growth of VR will be in such areas as school and university education, medicine and entertainment industry. We will definitely come to these directions as well. Augmented reality also has a great future, but for now we will see a boom in social networks and entertainment, where social networks themselves, and especially Oculus (Facebook / Meta) and TikTok (ByteDance), are making great strides.

If you have any questions about the article, we will be glad to answer any of your questions. Contact us via the contact form.

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