Theia Interactive develops on the cutting edge of technology

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The head of Theia Interactive talking about the company. Photo credit: Keelie Lewis

Ulises Duenas

If you were to walk into Theia Interactive’s office you’d get the impression that it’s an internet cafe or some kind of arcade. Don’t let the decor fool you, the people within those walls are constantly hard at work in creating cutting-edge virtual reality (VR) spaces and augmented reality tools.

Most of Theia’s work involves creating virtual reality spaces based on things that companies want to create in reality in the future. Hotel rooms, offices and restaurants are painstakingly crafted to be as accurate as possible. Being in one of these spaces feels different from any VR game I’ve played. Since the focus is on realism instead of interactivity, the environments look as close to real as you can get in VR.

Theia wants to increase the level of interactivity in their environments later down the road. A highlight of my time there was picking up a remote in a virtual hotel room and turning on the TV that was in there and having a movie trailer play. It’s that level of detail that makes their work so appealing to companies.

Most of their work is done with the Unreal engine, which was made by Fortnite developer, Epic Games. Mark Pullyblank, the head of Theia Interactive, said that Epic reached out to them because they want to unreal to be something more than a tool for video game creation.

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The head of Theia Interactive talking about the company. Photo credit: Keelie Lewis
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Two of the Theia Interactive designers hard at work. Photo credit: Keelie Lewis
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Designers at Theia Interactive working at their desks. Photo credit: Keelie Lewis
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Some of the posters around the Theia Interactive office. Photo credit: Keelie Lewis

“They wanna show off their game engine in industries other than just games, ” Pullyblank said. “There’s other companies that do what we do (…) according to them, we do it better.”

Mattew Shoust, one of the founders of the office, said that with the rapid expansion of the company in terms of contracts he hopes to double the team’s size by the end of next year.

“We’re probably staying in Chico for at least the next year, but we’ve looked at some places in the East Coast, depending on where our customers are,” said Shoust.

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A member of Their Interactive working on new designs. Photo credit: Keelie Lewis
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Two members of Theia Interactive showing their Virtual Reality equipment. Photo credit: Keelie Lewis
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The Theia Interactive virtual reality equipment. Photo credit: Keelie Lewis

One of the most impressive things Shoust showed me was an augmented reality recreation of a motorcycle that had every last part included in its simulation. Using an iPad, I was able to see a one to one scale replica of the motorcycle as it sat on their pool table. I was able to use sliders to slowly explode it out and make every small piece of it observable. A tool like that would be invaluable to people who restore old cars and bikes.

Mark Pullyblank was able to give the history of the building they work in. When asked about the many movie posters in which artwork was based on various works in pop culture, he said that it was put in by another founder, Bill Fishkin. Before Theia moved in, their office housed Synthesis a college magazine.

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A member of Theia Interactive demonstrating one of their devices. Photo credit: Keelie Lewis
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In the hallway leading up to Theia Interactive, the walls are covered in unique photos. Photo credit: Keelie Lewis
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One of the Theia Interactive employees working on designing more material. Photo credit: Keelie Lewis

“Bill collects this stuff (…) this is what it looked like when I came in here four years ago,” Pullyblank said. “It was an entertainment magazine and it went national, so he had all these contacts. A lot of the artwork on the walls – he knows the artists because that’s just the way he is, he made all these connections.”

Pullyblank jokingly used the word “nauseating” to describe the color scheme inside the office. Oziel Magana, owner of Mondo’s Coffeehouse, was also present and said that the colors were a perfect fit for Fishkin’s personality.

“I always thought that’s what it was, a representation of Bill’s philosophy,” Magana said. “Like we’re not gonna do what you typically do, we’re gonna be a little bit different.”

Ulises Duenas can be reached at [email protected] or @OrionUlisesD on Twitter.