Waterford virtual reality firm Emagine is exploring the past and training for the future
The immersive virtual reality studio has enjoyed significant growth through the training side of its business
Emagine, a Waterford city based virtual reality (VR) studio, plans to expand into the US in the next year. The company is starting out focused on the south-east of the US and has already developed several leads in the region.
The business was started by Aaron Jay and Peter Grogan in 2001. It currently has 16 staff and had an annual turnover last year of €1 million.
Emagine develops VR experiences, primarily for tourism and immersive training. The experiences involve wearing VR goggles to either learn new skills or step back in time to witness historical events.
Grogan is a Waterford native, while Jay is originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, but you wouldn’t know that to talk to him. Having moved to Ireland in 1999, for love, his accent has certainly become more local.
Founded by: Aaron Jay and Peter Grogan in 2001
Turnover: €1 million
“It was a long and winding road. We started out as an IT company and then a design agency. We’ve always been at that intersection between the technical and design sides. I’m a photographer, which is artistic yet very technical,” Jay told the Business Post.
“When virtual reality started developing around six years ago, James Tubbritt, our head of immersive tech, joined us. He showed it to us and we realised we could all contribute to VR, across graphic designers, motion designers, actors or musicians.”
Since focusing on VR and immersive technology, the business has enjoyed significant growth through the training side of its business.
“We were more of an agency before Covid hit, but we were doing VR and had quite a few experiences out there – in places like Norway and Croatia, for example. Part of the business died with Covid because all of our products were tourism focused,” Jay said.
“We had all these tools, and everyone was working from home. With everyone needing training, we adapted the tech to training packages where people could train at home without worrying about sneezing over people.”
Emagine has developed tools to help nurses use VR to train, which have proven quite popular. Working with a trainer with decades of experience in the HSE, the business has developed a means to provide ways for nurses to train to perform tasks like inserting an IV into a patient without having to test on a real human.
“If it can be done in VR over and over again, they get muscle memory and are a lot more confident when they do it in real life,” Jay said.
The business is supported by Enterprise Ireland, and Jay said the agency had aided Emagine to become more focused.
“The biggest thing Enterprise Ireland has done is provide the mentors they have assigned to us. Right before Covid hit, we did a big strategic rip-up of the company and started all over again. The mentors worked with us to work out reasons for every move,” Jay said.
“Before Enterprise Ireland started working with us, we were all things to everyone. It made us narrow our focus, pick our clients and helped with our growth. We now know who we want to target and what we need to do.”