When Max Weisel first moved to California, he looked forward to weekly calls with his parents in Arizona. And yet there was always something missing from their conversations. “The phone and even video calls felt too formal,” says the 28-year-old artist and entrepreneur. “We couldn't hang out. The call would end as soon as we'd run out of things to say.” Then he introduced them to virtual reality, and during the hours he spent guiding them through this new world and the experiences within it, he noticed those awkward moments were evaporating.
They were quick learners, and he was finally able to recapture the sense of being in the same room with them. “We could just chill,” he remembers. “VR gives you that hangout feel.” Now, as the founder of VR/AR software development company Normal, Weisel has created a game dedicated to “chilling” across long distances but without the need for a phone to mediate. Released last fall, Half + Half offers five virtual noncompetitive experiences ― including swimming, hang gliding, and hide-and-seek — that allow four participants to either co-play or collaborate and chat in a relaxing location.