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How do you view your business -- through a View-Master or an Oculus Rift?

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Somewhere down in the basement, there's a box with a View-Master and dozens of photo reels, mostly of national parks and other places my parents either had visited or wanted to. Before I could read, I spent hours gazing at the “3-D” images created by the stereoscopic pairs of photos on the flat paper discs, feeling like I'd been transported into those far-away worlds.

Here, I thought I’d have to explain what this contraption was, then I discovered you can still buy it. Made by Fisher-Price now, it’s gotten a lot fancier – Star Wars-themed, Spider-Man, Hello Kitty! – and a lot less educational.

Maybe I won’t have to explain this, either: Oculus Rift.

That’s got to be one of the greatest marketing monikers of the decade – and it’s got quite a business model, as well.

The Oculus Rift got a lot of press last week, because it was featured at SXSW and at the “Game of Thrones” preview party in New York. It’s a virtual-reality headset, and HBO worked with developers to give users the experience of riding up the wall of Castle Black. I wasn’t there, but it reportedly was awesome, right down to the wind in your hair.

The Oculus Rift team raised capital through crowd sourcing – and how! With a goal of $250,000, they raised $2.4 million on Kickstarter. And what are they doing with their product?

Well, what would you do? Raise your hand if you said produce something like the Xbox or PlayStation, which you would sell to end-users for several hundred dollars apiece and maybe also hire teams to create software games to go with it that would also bring in revenue for your massively growing company.

Nope.

The California-based company just sells developer kits, for $300 each – roughly 60,000 to date. That’s real money.

Not all of those went to gamers. It will be fascinating to see what other uses people will come up with. Imagine giving your customers the ability to experience your product someday, wherever they are, without either of you traveling. I can see medical applications, uses in manufacturing, teleconferencing, the classroom. You get the idea.

That $300 kit has the potential to open up worlds for all kinds of people, of all ages and abilities.

Even more exciting, as this report notes, is that virtual reality environments are going to evolve into augmented reality, where you can step into those other places and actually interact with objects and people.

I can’t wait to see that.

The week ahead

Getting the permissions you need for any large development is never easy, but in some areas of the midstate, a warehouse proposal can meet opposition from day one. Reporter John Hilton finds out how one developer deals with the challenges.

It’s time for Q1 results on the Business Journal stock challenge – see out how midstate companies are doing so far in 2014 and whether Jason Scott and Mike Sadowski picked winners.

The Inside Business focus is on employee benefits, human resources and insurance.

Online, you’ll get the chance to ask questions about how Obamacare is affecting your business. We’ll chat live at 9 a.m. Friday, March 28, with Matthew Kirk of The Benecon Group. You can set yourself a reminder simply by going to our Health Care Reform Resource Center and putting your email address into the CoveritLive module at the top of the page.

Up for time out of the office? Find networking opportunities here.

The rewind

Oh, Mt. Gox!  What do you mean you “found” 200,000 of your lost bitcoins in a virtual wallet you forgot about? Is this like me finding the $5 bill I left in my windbreaker last fall?

Hope Stephan

Hope Stephan

Hope Stephan is editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. A Pennsylvania native, she is a graduate of Penn State and Xavier University. Have a question or tip for her? Email her at hopes@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @hstephan. Circle Hope Stephan on .

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