Run Linux Desktop on (standalone) VR/AR headsets.
Batch: 2018 Summer
Status: Unsuccessful


Run Linux Desktop on (standalone) VR/AR headsets.
Batch: 2018 Summer
Status: Unsuccessful


Run Linux Desktop on (standalone) VR/AR headsets.

We’re making the world’s first VR Linux distro, runnable as a standalone OS on any Head-Mounted Display (HMD) or VR/AR-equipped computer. We’re doing this because we believe the following:

(T) Most people think that the future of VR is in games and entertainment, but it is also in office work; in particular, VR is going to replace screens and laptops.

Because of (T), the VR industry is too biased towards Windows (where PC games are traditionally deployed); moreover, nobody is thinking about how VR can be optimized for (i) clear text resolution and (ii) having multiple 2D and 3D apps simultaneously running in a shared workspace.

The product will work like this: simply plug in your headset, install our OS (or its window manager), and all of your existing 2D and 3D Linux applications will float in a shared work space (3D applications reside in either “cuboids” or “2D portals”, as shown in our demo). This will give users unlimited virtual screens (of any size), crystal clear text resolution (something the OS will be optimized for), and Linux. Initially, the OS will be able to run on any VR ready computer, but our ultimate goal is for manufacturers to be able run it as a standalone OS on their own HMDs (which increases our distribution upper bound; see below).

1. Value proposition for consumers: A distraction-free, highly immersive and unlimited VR workspace that is 10x better than using physical screens. Literally: users can have 10x as many screens as they currently do. Each of these screens is more than 10x cheaper (i.e., free) than any physical alternative. A VR headset is even 10x smaller than a multi-monitor setup, and can fit in a bag.

2. Value proposition for HMD manufacturers: A free and open-source VR OS they can modify and deploy on their headsets without having to pay Microsoft for any licensing fees.

Something analogous to (2) held for Android in the late 2000s. During this period, Apple was closed off to smartphone manufacturers, while Microsoft’s mobile platform had expensive licensing fees and closed-source barriers to the hardware. This created an opportunity for a Linux-based OS to take off – an OS which is now installed on over 1.5 billion devices. In this sense, Simula wants to be “Android for VR”.


We have a prototype that works for the HTC Vive, alongside 6 alpha testers (20 signups) and 4 active developers working in monthly sprints. Other metrics:

GitHub stats: 205 stars / 20 watchers / 6 contributors / 9 forks
1 active chatroom:
6 Monthly Update Emails, which you can see here:
Our immediate goal: Get our prototype so good that a single one of our alpha testers uses Simula for more than 1hr/day.

Current engineering plan: Our current prototype uses an ad hoc rendering system that is inadequate for serious usage. To address this, we’ve decied to incorporate Simula into the Godot (open source) game engine, which just recently has added support for OpenVR/HTC Vive. This will fix our current rendering problems (low FPS, stutteriness, etc), and get us to a prototype that will actually be usable for serious work in VR.

Our most valuable customers are people in the intersection of VR Enthusiasts ∩ Linux Enthusiasts. We think we can take an immediate monopoly of this small market since there is literally no competition for it (see our answer to “how will you get users?”).

We have 6 people who have alpha tested our current prototype (out of 20 total signups). It is however still clear that what we have is not quite good enough to be usable for more than 1hr/day, so we have focused everything on making the product better.

Our ultimate goal is to get the number of people using Simula for more than 1hr/day from 0 to 1, and then grow that number 10% week-over-week until we can convince an HMD manufacturer to install Simula natively on their headset.

1. We have updated our prototype to support the HTC Vive (as opposed to the older Oculus D2K) and tested it against 6 alpha testers. It is still not good enough for a single one of these testers to use it for more than 1hr/day, so we’re continuing to focus on product development at the expense of everything else (we don’t have a website, vanity metrics, etc).

2. After working with us for a year, David Kraeutmann – the person responsible for most of our codebase – has been added to our founding team.

3. We started sending monthly updates to our network to increase transparency/pressure; you can see our monthly updates here:

4.Carl Wheeler has been funding the project entirely through crypto market activity (in particular: by syndicating and participating in the pre-ICOs of other startups). This sounds crazy, but it has given us the ability to fund the project without raising money, and increases the chances we’ll be able to survive long enough to have an impact. It has also, as a side benefit, opened our minds to the possibility of a token-based business model (see our answer to “How could you make money?”).


We picked this idea for the following reasons:

1. 10x Technology: We want to build a 10x product, not an incremental one. If we are successful, this idea could non-trivially change the way that millions of people physically interact with computers.

2. Contrarian: The idea is highly contrarian, and follows from 3 key beliefs we have about the future of VR that most people don’t ѕhare (see “what do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don’t get?”).

3. Selfishness: We are users of our own product: we have been running multi-screen Linux rigs for years. We already work in VR (even though the resolutions are low, the only option is Windows, and the future will be much better).

4. Monopoly: The idea has a chance to scale from a small monopoly to something large (see “how will you get users?”).

5. Timing: The timing is right: While the big tech firms are struggling to popularize VR as an entertainment/gaming platform, the timing is perfect for a startup to start building on the technology as a work platform. This is the killer app that VR is missing, and one that could impact millions of people.
6. Aesthetics: The technology is aesthetically pleasing to work with, since it lies at the intersection of programming, mathematics, and hardware.

7. Human Nature: The idea is consistent with our theory of human nature, which is that humans evolved to think and process information spatially (ideally while moving freely about their environments) and not hunched over keyboards staring at tiny 2D screens.

The old: laptops, dual monitors, oversized screens. The new: VR, or

- 10x the screen real estate
- 10x the immersion and focus
- 10x less physical space taken on your desk

With VR Desktop, anybody can have a workstation more impressive than a Wall Street trader.

What we fear the most: bad timing/VR Winter. In 2017, VR failed to meet the industry’s growth expectations, suggesting it has not reached its moment of ascension on the hype cycle curve. This could require the founders to survive a “VR Winter” by staying lean and keeping the project alive long enough to be around when VR takes off (that, or try to be the reason VR takes off: providing the killer use case that the rest of the industry was missing). We have been handling this by finding clever ways to fund the project internally (see our answer to “If you’ve applied previously with the same idea, how much progress have you made…?”)

Other risk factors:

- Explicit competition. Microsoft Holographic is providing the well-polished, proprietary VR OS in the Windows ecosystem; meanwhile, other VR Desktop startups (BigScreen) are based in the MS ecosystem. In addition, some headset manufacturers appear to be making their own VR OS’s internally (i.e., Magic Leap), but haven’t actually released anything. Other than this, nobody is explicitly targeting Linux Desktop users like we are, primarily because it is such a small market (1%-2% of all PC desktops run Linux).
- Implicit competition. We also fear that Valve’s SteamVR could organically evolve into a viable VR desktop environment (to the surprise of people who think of it primarily as a gaming/entertainment platform). The same holds for Google Daydream or Oculus.
- Headset Friction. The friction of having to mount and unmount an HMD just to access your OS might prohibit VR Desktops from taking off.
- Lack of Open-Source Durability. Open source projects are easily forkable. Simula lacks long-term durability until it can find a way to protect itself from other competition.
- Poor Text Resolution. You can’t spend 16 hours a day in VR Desktop if the text resolution is poor. Industry improvements to GPUs and HMDs might solve this for us, but if it doesn’t there might be other techniques (vector-based 3D text rendering) that we can try.

Our idea follows from 3 contrarian beliefs:

(T1) Most people think that the future of VR is in games and entertainment, but it is also in office work; in particular, VR is going to replace screens and laptops.

Because of (T1), the VR industry is too biased towards Windows (where PC games are deployed). Ours is based on Linux (small and overlooked starting point). It’s not focused on video games or entertainment experiences (SteamVR, Daydream, Oculus), but on “boring”, 2D work applications.

(T2) Most people think that VR is about single-purpose 3D applications, but VR is just as much about multi-purpose 2D applications.

Simula aims to let 2D and 3D apps reside and communicate with each other in a single shared workspace (see our prototype). Contrast this with existing VR applications (like Tilt Brush), which run once at a time.

(T3) Most people think that VR should be optimized for terrain and video display, but VR should also be optimized for clear text resolution.

Clear text resolution is a requirement for VR to become a viable work platform: people must be able to read code, spreadsheets, and information with 100% clarity in order for VR to be truly 10x better than physical screens.

1. Marketplace (possibly token based). Simula could be used as a platform to build a marketplace for 3D work applications. In particular, we have considered the possibility that a cryptoasset model might be adequate through some sort of decentralized app marketplace (emphasis: this would be a long-term decision, and not a scheme for the stakeholders to get rich quick off of an ICO).

2. Licensing Fees. Right now we intend for the OS to be free and permissively licensed, but perhaps down the line this could change into a dual-license model.

3. Search Ads. Canonical monetizes Ubuntu by putting Amazon affiliate links in their start menu search results. We could try to do something similar with Simula.

4. Strategic Asset. We don’t know much about tech M&A, but it’s conceivable that a bigger company could swallow us. For example, Canonical might purchase our window manager to meaningfully differentiate Ubuntu from Apple.

(1) is our favorite option. This would incentivize the creation of innovative 3D office applications, and could give us a valuation comparable to other large app stores (i.e., in excess of $10BB). (4) is our least favorite option.

1. 0-10,000 Users: Target the overlooked intersection of VR Enthusiasts ∩ Linux Enthusiasts, especially those that are interested in working with significantly more screen real estate (i.e., Our value proposition to these people: “take your Vive, plug it into your Linux system, and multiply your screen real estate by 10.” For these people, our product should be so good that they want to use us for more than 1hr/day.

2. 10,000-100,000 Users: Ensure that the absolute best 3D office applications are made available on our platform/marketplace (while others are focused on games/entertainment, we we will be focused on office work). It should also be easy to virtually collaborate with others, adding extra incentive for people to join the platform.

3. 100,000 - 1,000,000+ Users: Distribute Simula as a standalone OS that comes pre-installed on VR/AR HMDs.


If you want to listen to a book that hasn’t been converted to an audiobook, you can download its PDF and listen to it via Text-To-Speech engines, which have gotten surprisingly good over the past few years. Perhaps Voicery (YCW18) might even able to make these PDF audiobooks indistinguishable from human read audiobooks in the future.


This time: because we received an email saying we were in the top 10% of last winter’s applications. In general, YC and San Francisco are the two best places in the world to learn how to scale a project into a business.


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