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SOM student invents virtual simulator sphere

By : Daniel Richards

Nurahmed “Ray” Latypov demonstrates his invention the Virtual Sphere, which rolls in place to allow for an exploration of an infinite amount of virtual space. Last fall, Latypov was named the winner of the SOM’s entrepreneurship contest, earning a $2,500
Despite developing 20 patents with his brother, Nurahmed “Ray” Latypov realized that if he wanted to make his most recent invention profitable he had to leave his native Russia.

Latypov had invented a virtual sphere, a large sphere-like simulator in which he could imagine uses as varied as playing games in it to assisting in military and police simulations.

That’s why, nearly six months ago, Latypov enrolled in the School of Management, coming to the Binghamton area for its cheap cost of living and esteemed education.

Now, he says, his voyage was definitely worth his leaving home. Last fall, Latypov, was named the winner of the SOM’s entrepreneurship contest, winning a $2,500 award to market his business plan for the Virtual Sphere.

The entrepreneurship class, taught by Angelo Mastrangelo, was designed as a competition between students to propose the most feasible business plan to a panel of executives and investors. Latypov’s plan was voted best in the class.

“Ray’s plan has the potential to be a successful international venture,” Mastrangelo said. Latypov credits his Russian education. “My education gave me an excellent theoretical background in engineering, math and physics but I was really impressed with the practicality of Professor Angelo’s class,” Latypov said.

A non-traditional student, Latypov’s college education began nearly 25 years ago at Rostov State University in the former Soviet Union, where he studied physics and engineering. Following graduation, Ray worked with his brother, Nurulla, on a variety of projects that resulted in 20 patents.

The Virtual Sphere is the pair’s most recent invention, and in Latypov’s opinion has the most market potential. However, even though the brothers won dozens of awards showing their invention at international exhibitions, they knew there wasn’t much of a market for their product in Russia. Aside from some work on the mathematical modeling of economic processes, they had no idea how to turn their knowledge into a commercial reality.

Last year, while enrolled in Mastrangelo’s class and with Nurulla still living in Russia, the brothers created Virtual Sphere Inc., and are now in the process of constructing an up-and-running model of the sphere in the United States. As of now, the only model that exists is the prototype, which remains housed in a museum in Russia.

The sphere is 2.6 meters in diameter and sits on a frame with rollers that allow the users who enter the sphere to feel as if they are moving life-like through virtual space. In the past, physical barriers had always limited the boundaries of previous virtual systems. “With the Virtual Sphere, you can explore an infinite amount of virtual space,” Latypov said.

The system includes a suit that senses the positions of the body, head and visual point-of-view. Information is then transmitted by radio to a computer outside the sphere, which then transmits sounds and 3-D images generated by the user’s perspectives and movements to a headset, designed for immersion in a virtual environment.

Latypov estimates that the first models will sell for $15,000 to $20,000 but hopes that research and development will eventually lower the cost to $3,000 to $4,000. He plans to unveil and present a model of his product to investors later this spring.

Latypov did not know when he came to Binghamton that the area is also the home of the first virtual reality device, the flight simulator, a model of which now sits in the Roberson Museum and Science Center.

Now, he hopes his invention will be appreciated and become part of history. “Maybe some day my invention will sit next to the flight simulator in Binghamton’s museum,” Latypov said.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08