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Nearlife was founded in 1996 by Tinsley and Sheri Galyean. Tinsley had just completed his doctoral thesis at the MIT Media Lab in the field of interactive cinema. Sheri had just graduated from the Harvard Divinity School and was engaged in consulting work for entertainment companies. Pooling their resources and interests, Tinsley and Sheri started working with companies interested in exploring the field of online entertainment.
Interest in their consulting expertise was sufficient for them to form a new company, headquartered in a large closet in their home. They funded the company with revenue from their consulting fees.
By 1997, the growing company had expanded from the closet to an adjacent bedroom and finally to loft space in a Cambridge warehouse. Early clients included companies like Mitsubishi and Intel, but the Galyean's discovered that the Internet had not matured sufficiently to deliver the kinds of online entertainment experiences they were designing. However, they had received a great deal of interest from museums and science centers for a new style of digitally simulated immersive entertainment.
One of the first projects for what they called "Location Based Entertainment" was the Virtual Fishtank(TM), developed originally for The Computer Museum in Boston. The Computer Museum was absorbed into the Museum of Science, Boston, and the Virtual Fishtank(TM) became a permanent exhibit at MoS.
The Virtual Fishtank received tremendous press attention which lead to additional projects, such as a smaller version of Virtual Fishtank(TM) for the St. Louis Science Center, the Un-Private House for the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, KidsRoom2 for the Millenium Dome in Greenwich, England, and NetWorld for the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago.
Nearlife has recently expanded their office space and now employs over 20 people, with new staff additions always an important priority. With the improvement in the Internet infrastructure and the availability of home PCs with good 3D graphics capabilities, the company has turned its eye back to developing online entertainment experiences. The first of these is VirtualFishtank.com, and more Internet projects are just around the corner.