A Portland Startup Was Creating Virtual Reality Work Places Before the Pandemic. Now, Quarantine Has Expanded Its Market.

The Wild is a technology platform that lets people collaborate in virtual reality.

WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.

According to Gabe Paez, COVID-19 lockdowns have probably sped the adoption of virtual reality by three to five years.

"We got to this universal perception that we need a better way to work together from anywhere on this planet," says Paez, founder of Portland startup The Wild. "We need a more sustainable way to work together from anywhere on this planet. The commuting we're doing to and from an office really doesn't make sense."

The Wild is a technology platform that lets people collaborate in virtual reality. Founder Gabe Paez started the company as a way for architects and engineers, mostly, to imagine buildings before they get built. But quarantine has expanded his mission, and his market.

We've all become accustomed to doing so many things by Zoom and other video platforms, and virtual reality will make those systems seem like the telegraph. Already, you can scan your office and make a virtual version of it.

After the pandemic ends, people will almost certainly go back to bars, restaurants and sporting events. But they probably won't drive in to work as often, and they may never fly to New York from Portland for a one-hour pitch meeting. For those things, there will be virtual reality, delivered over devices like the Oculus Quest 2 (starting price: $299).

On a Zoom conference call, you can't lean over and talk to the person next to you, or stand up and address the group, Paez says. With The Wild, you can.

Paez talked to WW about how virtual reality could help keep us sane during the pandemic, and the VR checkers tournament he and his team held at The Wild, which Paez lost, badly.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.