Capital at Play April 2018

Page 20

Operation

Simulation written by daniel walton

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photos by evan anderson

When they call their virtual reality company Better Than Unicorns, Brett McCall, Justin Hamilton, and John Kreisher aren’t exaggerating. “We can actually change our reality,” predicts McCall.

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makeshift plywood sign stands as the sole indication that the future is underway within the River Arts Makers Place (RAMP) Studios on Riverside Drive in Asheville. The letters V and R, each printed on a separate sheet of paper, are taped above and below two bold black arrows that beckon the reader into the building. At the bottom of the sign sits the geometric logo of a horned horse and three lowercase words: better than unicorns. Those who follow the arrows find themselves in a spartan corridor, a bare concrete floor flanked by cinderblock to the right and drywall to the left. The racket of power drills and circular saws echoes through the air, spillover from the contractors working on the French Broad Chocolates factory elsewhere in the building. But at the end of the hallway, around a corner, 18

| April 2018

another printed Better Than Unicorns sign announces a different type of construction site. It’s a room about the size of a racquetball court, dimly lit, with white walls and high wooden ceilings. The project isn’t visible, and the only sounds of work are the soft clattering of keyboards and clicking of mice. All the assembly is taking place inside a collection of desktop computer towers—Better Than Unicorns is creating virtual realities (VR). “The impossibles and the what-ifs and the fantasy worlds: We want to be a part of making those come true,” says Better Than Unicorns CEO Brett McCall. Together with his cofounders, Justin Hamilton and John Kreisher, McCall hopes to build the company into Asheville’s vanguard of what he calls “the last mass medium.”