It’s Friday and a great time to look over the horizon at eight artificial reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) companies getting venture capital funding and strong VC interest in the computing platform of the future.
Why are we interested at Cashback Industry News? Because AR/VR is already here! E-commerce and retail innovators are already exploring artificial and virtual reality for captivating product and sales presentations, product showrooms, fashion changing rooms, stronger consumer engagement and interactive storytelling.
CB Insights highlighted 15 AR/VR companies that have received more than $507 million in venture capital to date. That doesn’t include Magic Leap, the largest in the segment which has by itself raised already raised more than $1.4 billion. So put on your AR headset or VR goggles and follow this look ahead at a fascinating and fast-developing new industry.
15 Startups Not Named Magic Leap Raising AR/VR Mega-Rounds
The funding landscape in AR/VR has been defined by large rounds to the exceptionally well-funded Florida-based startup Magic Leap, which has raised nearly $1.4B in venture funding. After raising massive Series B ($542M) and Series C ($780M) rounds, the stealth AR company’s financings tend to distort industry funding trends.
To identify well-capitalized AR/VR startups that aren’t named Magic Leap, we used CB Insights data to see which companies are raising big financing rounds and building war chests to help build out the AR/VR ecosystem, which some theorize could become the next major computing platform.
Topping the list of big AR/VR rounds was Laguna Beach, California-based NextVR, which focuses on virtual reality broadcasts of live events. NextVR recently raised an $80M Series B round.
The next biggest deal went to Palo Alto-based cinematic VR platform Jaunt. The company raised a $65M Series C in September of 2015. In third was UK-based Blippar, which produces a mobile AR visual search app. Blippar last raised a $54M Series D in March of 2016. Via cbinsights.com
The Untold Story of Magic Leap, the World’s Most Secretive Startup
I saw other things with these magical goggles. I saw human-sized robots walk through the actual walls of the room. I could shoot them with power blasts from a prop gun I really held in my hands. I watched miniature humans wrestle each other on a real tabletop, almost like a Star Wars holographic chess game. These tiny people were obviously not real, despite their photographic realism, but they were really present—in a way that didn’t seem to reside in my eyes alone; I almost felt their presence.
Virtual reality overlaid on the real world in this manner is called mixed reality, or MR. (The goggles are semitransparent, allowing you to see your actual surroundings.) It is more difficult to achieve than the classic fully immersive virtual reality, or VR, where all you see are synthetic images, and in many ways MR is the more powerful of the two technologies.
Magic Leap is not the only company creating mixed-reality technology, but right now the quality of its virtual visions exceeds all others. Because of this lead, money is pouring into this Florida office park. Google was one of the first to invest. Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins, and others followed. In the past year, executives from most major media and tech companies have made the pilgrimage to Magic Leap’s office park to experience for themselves its futuristic synthetic reality. At the beginning of this year, the company completed what may be the largest C-round of financing in history: $793.5 million. To date, investors have funneled $1.4 billion into it. Via wired.com
NextVR Raises $80 Million to Stream Live Virtual Reality Worldwide
NextVR, a developer of live virtual-reality broadcast technology, has raised $80 million in Series B funding mostly from Asian investors as the company looks to establish a worldwide footprint for its platform for sports, concerts and other live events.
Investors in the Series B round include: SoftBank, CITIC Guoan Information Industry Co., Chinese Internet company NetEase, China’s CMC Holdings, Hong Kong-based VMS Investments Group, Chinese investment firm Founder H Fund, China Assets (Holdings) Ltd., and Spectrum 28, an early-stage investment fund in San Francisco.
All investors from NextVR’s 30.5 million Series A round also participated, including Formation Group, Time Warner Investments, Comcast Ventures, Stephen Ross’s RSE Ventures, Mandalay Entertainment CEO Peter Guber, the Madison Square Garden Co. and Dick Clark Prods. The funding brings NextVR to about $116 million total raised to date.
“With this new funding, we will continue to build NextVR’s virtual-reality platform to meet the needs of the world’s largest fanbases around live sports and music content,” NextVR executive chairman Brad Allen said in a statement. “Having the support of Asia’s biggest players provides us with significant resources for creating and distributing both local and international content in China, Korea, and Japan.” Via variety.com
Jaunt’s New Publishing Program Promises VR Creators Distribution
Palo Alto, California-based virtual reality (VR) startup Jaunt is making it easier for creators to get their videos and experiences onto VR headsets: Jaunt’s new publishing program allows filmmakers to upload their 360-degree videos and then include them in the Jaunt app on all major VR platforms.
Jaunt’s publishing program also offers cloud-based transcoding and support for spacial audio. Once approved, content will be available through a deep link, which will automatically take users to the right app on their mobile or VR device. Currently, Jaunt supports iOS, Android, Gear VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR and 360 videos on the web.
Jaunt isn’t the only company courting creators to upload their content. A number of players have emerged to become the Hulu, Netflix or YouTube of VR.
Notable efforts include Samsung, who has extended its Milk VR service from its Gear VR headset to the web and mobile devices. And then there is YouTube itself, which has been supporting VR content for some time, and is now getting ready to play a major role on Google’s Daydream VR platform. YouTube has also been courting creators with cloud-based VR production tools and direct integration into select VR cameras. Via variety.com
Blippar redesigns its visual search app with a focus on discovery
Visual search, as opposed to searching through Google or Siri, is based around curiosity. If you aren’t entirely sure what you’re looking at, it may be difficult to find the right words to describe and ultimately search for that object.
With the redesigned Blippar, the company has built a layer on top of that initial search to let you keep learning through curiosity and discover.
Whenever you pull up a Blippable item, the app’s interface with spread to a web of bubbles, each with some relation to that original Blipp. Users can click around within this web to see various items relation to one another, or scroll down to get more in-depth information on a single subject.
For example, if I blipped a can of Pepsi, Blippar might bring up the founding story of the company, news it pulled in recently from the web, information about the general manufacture of soda, and probably Coca-Cola, among other things. Via techcrunch.com
Meta raises $50M for its next-generation augmented reality headset
Meta has raised a second round of funding of $50 million for its augmented reality headset.
With augmented reality, computer-connected glasses can overlay animations on the real world, giving you much more data about what you see in your surroundings. You could, for instance, look at a mountain and see how tall it is, or how much a particular piece of clothing costs.
Redwood City, Calif.-based Meta is one of many chasing the augmented reality glasses market. But as big as the round is, it pales in comparison to the $793.5 million raised in February by Magic Leap, an AR startup in Florida. Tech advisor Digi-Capital expects augmented reality to be a $90 billion market by 2020.
But Meta has shown some very promising demos of its AR technology, which includes glasses as well as hand-gesture technology. Back in February, Meta unveiled its Meta 2 headset. Via venturebeat.com
Google And Movidius Partner To Propel Computer Vision In Next-Generation Devices
Google will begin licensing the Myriad 2 family of VPU chips from Movidius. The Myriad 2 family includes both the MA2150 and the MA2450 chips and accompanying SDKs.
This tiny chip—complete with 12 cores—specializes in enabling low power, advanced computer vision processing which will, no doubt, be a valuable component to “mobilizing” Google’s growing list of products that utilize machine learning.
Machine learning, while complex, is easy to conceptualize—computers and programs that learn and improve over time. They may create their own algorithms to describe their learning, rather than require humans to program them based on known rules. Via techcrunch.com
EVE Online TV series back in development, CCP games confirms
Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, CEO of developer CCP Games, tells WIRED that the studio is “actively working” on a serial adaptation of the popular game, in association with Ridley Scott. “We’re actually exploring that with Ridley Scott’s production company and Baltasar Kormákur, an Icelandic director,” Pétursson says, speaking at EVE Fanfest 2016. “We’re actively working on that. I think we have some traction on it.”
Plans for an EVE Online TV series first surfaced back in 2013, but development has been on the backburner as CCP focused instead on expanding the core game and experimenting with virtual reality (ultimately resulting in EVE Valkyrie). Now, plans seem to be moving forwards again. “It’s a very big idea obviously – doing a television series is something that takes years to get going,” Pétursson says. “I think House of Cards took around seven years to get going.”
Once it does get going, there’s plenty of material to serve as inspiration for season arcs. EVE Online is about to turn 13, and in addition to its own central lore – 21,000 years future, humanity has long abandoned Earth and now colonises distant worlds, but our penchant for political strife and military squabbles follow us to the stars – the game has played host to years of stories and events instigated by player actions. Via wired.co.uk
Matterport secures new investors for its virtual reality 3D mapping tech
It’s 2016 and the physical world is slowly being uploaded to the cloud. Matterport, a company creating tools to allow 3D spaces to be scanned into virtual reality, is grabbing some more cash and some more strategic partners as it seeks to continue expanding its laser mapping technology.
Matterport has raised $56 million to date, including a $30 million Series C in June of last year led by Qualcomm Ventures. Previous investors also include Greylock Partners, DCM Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Lux Capital and Rothenberg Ventures. The company didn’t specify the specific dollar amount raised in this new bout of funding and instead chose to frame it as a chance to bring a new swath of investors into the mix.
“Our main interest is in the strategic value that the investors bring,” Matterport co-founder and Chief Strategic Officer Matt Bell told me. “We certainly have plenty of cash so it’s more about getting expertise in this range of new markets that we’re going after.”
Those new investors include CBRE Group, News Corp, Luminari Capital and Sound Ventures. Matterport is looking for these new partners to aid the company as it begins expanding further into the non-US regions and commercial real estate vertical where it sees much of its future growth coming from. Via techcrunch.com
Who’s using AR/VR in retail?
Now that we’ve shown you the geewhiz stuff about AR/VR, our Monday post will highlight those retailers and e-commerce innovators who are testing these new technologies in real life in the bricks-and-mortar world. Put on your seatbelt, it’ll be a great ride.
Enjoy your weekend!