Jessica Powers | Jul 14, 2022

In the 1990s, virtual reality was the ultimate catfish. It tantalized, we fell in love, but there was a problem: It didn’t really exist — at least not in the way we all wanted it to.

Pop culture helped fuel massive interest at the time — the decade opened with The Lawnmower Man, closed with The Matrix and crammed Virtuosity, Strange Days and Johnny Mnemonic in between — but the revolution never quite arrived.

Virtual Reality Companies

  • Oculus
  • Microsoft
  • Samsung
  • Supernatural
  • Vicarious Surgical
  • Talespin
  • Virtualitics
  • AppliedVR
  • Owlchemy Labs
  • WEVR
  • Unity Technologies

Even though an envisioned future of ubiquitous headsets and haptic gloves failed to materialize, VR has nonetheless made some great strides and found a home in a variety of industries. The global VR and AR market is expected to reach $454 billion by 2030, along with the estimated creation of 23 million VR-related jobs

Sure, it’s still widely considered a gamer technology, and a niche one at that, but it’s also proven a valuable tool in e-commerce, retail, medical training, employee development, technology and non-gaming entertainment. It might even help treat your anxiety.

“The largest companies in the world have invested billions of dollars in VR — and they did that well before a single device had been officially sold in stores,” Wired correspondent Peter Rubin wrote in his 2018 book Future Presence: How Virtual Reality Is Changing Human Connection, Intimacy, and the Limits of Ordinary Life. “Why the optimism? It’s not just because VR can create the coolest video games we’ve ever seen; it promises to upend every industry you can name.”

We’ve compiled 34 virtual reality companies that are making the VR dream a reality.


Virtual Reality (VR) Companies to Know

Location: Redmond, Virginia 

In 2017, Microsoft released its Mixed Reality line of products. The company offers both headsets and VR controls as well as PCs that are compatible with VR equipment. One popular product is the Microsoft HoloLens, which allows users to experiment with augmented reality. The development edition of the headset lets users code and create their own mixed reality experiences.


Location: Los Angeles, California

Supernatural offers users a unique home workout solution that combines full-body exercises, enthralling experiences and expert coaches within a single platform. Created for use on the Oculus Quest VR headset, Supernatural workouts allow users to get their heart pumping while being immersed within realistic environments like Machu Picchu or an Ethiopian volcano, with new workouts ranging from cardio to meditation added daily.


Location: Bellevue, Washington

Samsung is another major tech company that has jumped into the VR industry. In 2015, the company released Gear VR powered by Oculus. Samsung’s VR products are specifically designed to be compatible with Galaxy mobile devices and strive to make VR easily accessible. Gear VR products allow users to connect with friends in VR games and share 360 video.


Location: Waltham, Massachusetts

Vicarious Surgical is reinventing surgical technology and capabilities to provide patients with better outcomes and less risk or invasiveness when undergoing abdominal procedures. The system features two components: the patient cart, featuring two robotic arms with exceptional reach, mobility and camera-enabled visibility, and the surgeon console that drives the robot and is controllable via a 3D screen, a VR headset and the system’s proprietary software. Although the technology is still being developed, the Vicarious surgical system is expected to have 28 sensors per arm and will require just a single 1.5cm incision.


Location: San Francisco, California

Unity has expanded beyond the gaming industry with VR as it has found footing with automakers, who use its virtual reality imaging as a prototyping tool, as well as filmmakers, who employ it to combine various production tasks. Still, it remains a powerhouse in gaming, with its development engine purportedly laying the groundwork for half of all mobile games and more than half of all virtual or augmented reality content, including Pokémon Go. Among its VR standouts is Coco VR, Pixar’s first foray into standalone virtual reality filmmaking, made in collaboration with Magnopus.


Location: Pasadena, California

Virtualitics provides organizations with a rapidly deployable suite of AI-enabled products that preprocesses and fuses data sources to build predictive models and make data visible and understandable to all users. The 3D visualization platform allows for exploration and collaboration in either desktop or virtual reality environments, with advanced machine learning techniques.


Location: Sunnyvale, California

Anyone who has ever house-hunted knows there’s often a very long gap between getting early info on a prospective property and actually stepping foot inside, especially with a long-distance move. This had led to the blossoming of 3D imaging tours in residential real estate. Matterport’s approach incorporates computer vision to “read” even complex layouts. Once a space is mapped, users also have the option of a VR tour that’s even more immersive and truer-to-life than a computer stream.


Location: Cambridge, United Kingdom

Qualcomm Technologies is known for its work with semiconductors, 5G and wireless technologies but it also hopes to influence the way we approach VR. The company is striving to create fully immersive mobile VR that users can easily transport with them wherever they are. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR1 is an enhanced VR headset and platform that allows users to have a variety of display options with hardware accelerated composition, 3D overlays as well as and support for graphics APIs including OpenGL, OpenCL and Vulkan.


Location: Menlo Park, California

Any discussion of VR must begin with Oculus, which Facebook famously acquired for $2 billion in 2014, thereby igniting the second major firestorm of VR hype. It launched the Oculus Rift headset in 2016 — the so-called Year of Virtual Reality, which also saw the release of HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. In 2019, Oculus brought to market the wireless, no-PC-required Quest, which features excellent maneuverability but also has some power and price hurdles. The Go and Quest headsets both support Amazon Prime Video.


Location: Redmon, Washington

Project Archer is an augmented reality studio that is working to activate AR applications in the retail space. The company’s team of engineers, designers, innovators and creators combine diverse data streams with personalized information to make shopping experiences more productive and entertaining at the same time.


Location: Fully Remote

“Performing live” takes on a whole new meaning with the tools of Stage11, a company reinventing the way music artists interact with their fans. Harnessing the potential of gaming technology and virtual reality, Stage11 is empowering artists to create immersive experiences in the metaverse.


Location: Culver City, California

Talespin offers access to immersive learning content, a skills insights platform and a content creation tool in equal parts. The platform leverages the power of extended reality to accelerate skills and learning development in workplaces, helping programmatically transfer knowledge and build employee experience through roleplay and job simulation before their first day on the job. The software deposits employees and managers into virtual sales cold calls, performance reviews and other stressful on-the-job situations.


Location: Los Angeles, California

Applied VR was founded based on 30 years of academic research, working to determine the most effective ways to work virtual reality into the healthcare process. The VR platform uses immersive therapeutics to help users prevent, process and manage chronic pain. The groundbreaking tech has been utilized by over 200 hospitals and 60,000 patients.


Location: Austin, Texas

Phaser Lock produces video games and cinematic experiences for use on various VR platforms, mixing animation with compelling stories to create brand-new worlds. The developer’s flagship game is Final Approach, a simulator that allows players to utilize naval ships, fly airplanes and manage an airport. The studio has since released a sequel to Final Approach called Final Assault and more games are expected in the future.


Location: Santa Monica, California

Lucid Sight has created a myriad of VR games that span across a range of titles, including MLB Champions, Crypto Space Commander and Z-Strike. The company acquired Colyseus in 2021, empowering Lucid Sight with an open-source multiplayer solution built on Node.js.


Location: Austin, Texas

Owlchemy Labs is amongst Austin’s most prominent VR studios, emphasizing design and delight throughout its products to create engaging user experiences. The company’s best known game is Job Simulator, released for use with the PlayStation VR headset to emulate cubicle busywork. The game showcases the studio’s counterintuitive wit and has received a strong wave of press. Additional games from Owlchemy Labs include Vacation Simulator and Rick & Morty Virtual Rick-ality.


Location: Venice, California

When looking at VR through the lens of leisure, we tend to first think of gaming. But VR-as-entertainment might just achieve mass appeal in the shape of something more akin to traditional filmic storytelling. Wevr has been driving in that lane for more than a decade, releasing projects with everyone from Reggie Watts to Run the Jewels to Deepak Chopra. The company also worked with technophile blockbuster director Jon Favreau to create a virtual-reality film.


Location: Los Angeles, California

Before he became a VR studio CEO, Chris Milk was a tech-forward music video director, with a CV that includes Arcade Fire's “We Used to Wait” and Johnny Cashs “Ain’t No Grave,” both of which are noteworthy for their interactive animation elements. So it’s no surprise that Milk is perhaps the most prominent evangelist of virtual reality-as-artistic medium. Since launching in 2014, Within has shepherded an impressive roster of short animated, horror, experimental and music films, plus some incredible documentary collaborations with CNN, The New York Times and other media outlets.


Location: New York, New York

Spectator sports are a hand-in-athletic-glove fit for virtual reality. LiveLike has presented the Super Bowl, the FIFA World Cup and other marquee matchups through its VR platform. Along with the live game feed, it adds features like Jumbotron feeds, live stats, multiple movable vantage points and an in-the-stands sense of immersion — everything except the smell of spilled beer. With former NBA commissioner David Stern among the company's investors, LiveLike has also trained its eye on mobile, which ups the platform’s social capabilities.


Location: Austin, Texas

Working with VR, AR and 360-degree video, Subvrsive has developed videos and experiences for the likes of Amazon, Google, MTV and Walmart. Subvrsives VR portfolio includes a decentralized training portal — built to run on Oculus Go — to train new hires at Simi Winery in California. It also includes an ultra-detailed combination AR/VR documentation of an iconic Austin mural made ahead of its relocation. The company also offers products that let retailers re-create their spaces in 3D online and allow brands to build their own AR content directly to the web.


Location: Austin, Texas

One downside to VR is that you’re limited by your physical space. Virtuix built a workaround to this with the Omni, essentially a 360-degree treadmill that lets gamers run through virtual lands while staying put in a real one. While its bulkiness makes it suboptimal for the home market, Virtuix’s four-Omni “arenas” are attractive draws for venues. In 2019, Omni made its debut at Dave & Buster’s in Austin.

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Location: Palo Alto, California

Even some of the biggest names in cross reality have voiced concern about how VR might be too immersive, but for patients dealing with chronic pain or anxiety, such total immersion is a feature not a bug. Limbix is among the forerunners in VR patient care, offering a wireless, internet-free system that hosts portals designed for exposure therapy (these can be lifelike, but no-stakes, simulations of actions like public speaking and driving), anxiety management (such as breathing exercises and single-object-focus meditation) and more.


Location: Torrance, California

One way to puncture the fear that VR games encourage isolation is to socialize with them. Survios — the VR game publisher behind Creed: Rise to Glory and Raw Data — also operates its own brick-and-mortar arcade in California, where gamers can gather and play a plethora of titles that include Survios and many others. There’s even a weekly After Dark night, which caters to young professionals who might be intimidated by VR’s perceived early-adopters-only vibe. It’s part of a larger trend toward VR arcades, which give dabblers a chance to chip away the barrier of entry posed by relatively pricey at-home options.


Location: Berkeley, California

Some 77 percent of virtual reality users want more social engagement from VR. Bigscreen looks to scratch that itch, allowing users to watch movies and sports, game, collaborate for work or otherwise hang out together in one of 20-plus virtual environments. (Think movie theaters, office settings, even campfires.) You can stream your screen directly into your chosen VR room or select content from the Bigscreen TV, a platform of some 50 channels. Options run from news to sports to mocking movie commentary.

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Location: New York, New York

Decorilla uses the 3D room modeling concept, but applies it to home decor. Customers looking to give their space a facelift can choose from a range of furniture and decor options based on their aesthetic, budget and room size. Then a detailed 3D rendering — which can also be viewed via headset in hyper-realistic virtual reality — gives them an even greater preview of their prospective makeover before they take the leap.


Location: London, England

You’ve seen the digital handiwork of Oscar-winning visual-effects craftsmen Framestore in movies like Spider-Man: Far from Home and in TV shows like Black Mirror. The company brings that same visual pizzazz to VR too, working on the Fantastic Beasts experience for Google's Daydream headset and building a virtual-reality tour of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.


Location: Santa Monica, California

Steven Spielberg has a pretty solid track record when it comes to transportive, effects-forward entertainment. While he’s not involved creatively beyond some consulting, the legendary director’s investment co-sign speaks to Dreamscape’s approach. The Dreamscape room offers three free-roam VR adventures, each with a strong focus on narrative and wonder (think a galactic zoo, underwater exploration and an Indiana Jones-esque adventure). Everyone in the room with you shows up as an avatar, so expect a higher-than-average sense of interactivity.


Location: Boise, Idaho

From the Power Pad to Wii Fit, fitness gaming has a long history, but it tends to be “active” only relative to the most sedentary joystick jockeying. Black Box VR plays a different game, setting up shop inside gyms and using virtual-reality missions to simultaneously distract and encourage gym-goers during hardcore resistance training and high-intensity cardio reps. (We know what you’re thinking and, yes, the sweaty headsets are decontaminated after each use with a nifty, bacteria-killing device.) If this San Francisco Chronicle tale of a skeptic-turned-believer is representative, it delivers the goods.


Location: Los Angeles, California

8i base jumps into the uncanny valley. The company’s studio uses volumetric 3D image capture to create preposterously lifelike hologram versions of human beings, which can then be integrated into virtual, augmented or mixed reality worlds. Industries like education and communication can benefit from 8i’s technology as real people can be brought into digital spaces. 8i has been used by outlets like Google, MTV, Sony and TIME, according to its website.


Location: Gates Mills, Ohio

Most people probably think that neurosurgeons should have as much practice as possible before slicing into actual brains. Surgical Theater is backing this belief by providing virtual training platforms for doctors to rehearse ultra-complex neurosurgical procedures. It’s part of a growing ecosystem of companies that harness VR’s promise as a tool for both healthcare and a training space.


Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Meow Wolf is a media-captivating arts collective that stages outlandish exhibits which are part interactive installation, part psychedelic sensory-overload theme park. In 2017, the collective began its work to implement VR into its various projects. Meow Wolf uses VR in its immersive experiences by combining digital storytelling with a physical installation that visitors can explore. Meow Wolf has several permanent installations in the United States as well as pop-up style events and projects.


Location: Santa Barbara, California

WorldViz offers VR products and software for training and collaboration across industries, including education, military training, healthcare and academic research. The company’s products range from projection VR for group immersion to headsets and eye-tracking software to VizBox, a portable VR system that can be used anywhere. Businesses and universities can also use WorldViz to create a VR lab where researchers can conduct experiments and observations. One VR lab at Stanford University is used to study how people interact with one another in immersive VR simulations and video games.


Location: Breda, Netherlands

Bricks and Goggles uses VR to transform construction plans and designs into 3D simulations. The VR platform is compatible with modeling tools such as RHINO, SketchUp, ArchiCad and Revit. Its 3D models can be viewed with Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or via smartphone. The company aims to improve design plans and expectations between clients and designers.


Location: Chicago, Illinois 

Immersive Touch is another example of how VR impacts the healthcare industry. The company’s platform converts 2D medical images into 3D spatial models, enhancing surgical planning and training. It also allows users to train with specific equipment and surgery techniques, as well as use custom, patient-specific anatomy. Immersive Touch transforms patient CT and MR scans into DICOM files to make them compatible with VR simulations.

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