Gijs den Butter is the co-founder and CEO of SenseGlove. He finished his master’s thesis in Industrial Design Engineering in Delft (The Netherlands), the thesis he wrote, which was on a robotic glove for use in the rehabilitation of stroke patients, served as the foundation upon which he co-founded SenseGlove with his former supervisor Johannes Lujiten.
Most of Gijs’ professional career before SenseGlove has been within the start-up environment; he has been a managing director of a start-up consultancy firm and a UX-designer for another start-up building smart thermostat. Gijs recognized early on the missing potential in the current state-of-the-art VR/AR controllers and today he provides thought leadership to both his company and the industry.
1. How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
The SenseGlove force feedback technology originates from a study on affordable robotic gloves for rehabilitation purposes. However, in 2017, when VR was getting popular, SenseGlove was founded. It became clear that controller interactions in a 3D digital environment didn’t make sense. Especially not for business applications like training in VR. Enabling touch in VR, and therefore forcing the user to interact with digital objects in a similar way as in real life was the concept that laid the ground of what SenseGlove is today.
2. What’s your company’s vision?
SenseGlove makes the digital feel real. Augmented and virtual reality will change the way we look at the digital world. In 10 years’ time, our smartphones and laptops will be replaced by a form of spatial (3D) computing. Within spatial interactions, touch is a critical component. In that way, SenseGlove is creating the mouse and keyboard for the future’s go-to mode of computing.
3. What is unique about your business?
SenseGlove focuses on easy-to-use haptic solutions. Our Nova glove, for instance, can be donned and doffed within 5 seconds, only weighs 300 grams and can be used with all standalone headsets. These features are unique for a glove that delivers a combination of force and vibrotactile feedback.
4. What is your biggest achievement so far?
We really value all our customers, every new customer that discovers the richness of force-feedback-enabled interaction represents an amazing achievement for us. Knowing that our products are being used by such amazing companies as VW, Google, the ESA and many more, makes us really proud.
5. How do you see your company in 10 years?
We believe that in the next decade augmented reality will become our main way of computing. Within this form of spatial computing, the main interaction device will require haptics. We see ourselves as the mouse and keyboard of this new way of computing. Let’s say we are the Logitech of XR.
6. What are you like as an employer?
We really value the pioneering spirit of our employees. Our company culture is geeky and there is a lot of freedom to take your own responsibility.
7. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the XR industry? How do you deal with them?
The biggest challenge for the XR industry is to shift from B2B training and B2C gaming towards mass implementation of the XR technology. Therefore we need to keep investing in hardware. XR products are far from perfect yet, but such investments as that of Facebook into Oculus show that it pays off.
8. How do you handle adversity and doubt?
Keep on improving, we know that haptics tech is in a very early stage. Some people will be disappointed that they can’t feel the difference between cloth and wood in VR. It’s our task to manage expectations (no you can’t feel that difference) and keep on innovating to make the experience and interactions in XR even better.
9. If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out in VR/AR, what would it be?
Just start, whether you are creating content or hardware, you will be creating the future of human-computer interfaces. It’s like working with Apple or IBM in the early ’80s.
10. Which habit do you wish you could break?
Having only 24 hours in a day. Seriously, that is way too little with all these exciting things that are happening in XR.
11. What does creativity mean to you?
Creativity means to me… perseverance in solving the right problem. You can conceptually think how to solve a problem but making prototype iterations until you surprise or satisfy your users is where it’s all about in the end.
12. Which book has inspired you the most?
I really like to read biographies of entrepreneurs. In the end, these books made me think about making an impact by starting your own business. But I think today’s most interesting read for the XR community is The Infinite Retina by Irena Cronin.
13. What do you do when you’re not at work?
I just became a dad for the first time, so yes that’s my non-work-life now. No more video gaming for me 😉
14. Who do you see as an inspiration in the industry? (Please name up to 3 people from the XR industry)
The first real VR community that I could be inspired by was the group that was created around the VRDays in Amsterdam, really grateful to Benjamin de Wit for building this inspiring community.
Another great visionary and first mover in this XR community is Malte Hedemann from VW. His team really has set the standard on how to implement XR in a traditional enterprise setting.
Although not so loved by the XR community, and yes, ads on Oculus are a no-go… Still, Mark Zuckerberg deserves a spot in my top 3 inspirators for the XR industry. It’s because of his vision of XR and Facebook’s huge investments into the industry that XR is finally on its way to mainstream.