Recapping the top stories covered on the VRScout Report, a weekly podcast discussing the best in VR, hosted by Malia Probst. Apple acquires computer vision company, the hidden 3D feature in iOS 11 beta, Google experiments with ads in VR, a new VC fund is focusing on VR/AR, the investment and funding wrapup, and more…
1.APPLE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT THIS ACQUISITION
An anonymous tip lead MacRumors to the fact that Apple just dropped some cash on a German-based computer vision company called SensoMotoric Instruments. Not only was this acquisition not announced, but Apple actually did the deal through a shell company called Vineyard Capital Corporation. Apple has confirmed the acquisition but, per usual, refuses to “discuss [its] purpose or plans” so we do not know financial terms at this point. SMI focuses on both the hardware and software side of eye-tracking technology, and has a product for the automobile industry which tracks where a driver is looking. Prior to the acquisition, the company has also shown eye-tracking solutions for VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and the Gear VR. Who knows when Apple will actually release any kind of smart glasses product — but it looks like they might want to know what you’re looking at.
2.APPLE’S SECRET FEATURE HIDDEN IN IOS
In more Apple-loves-secrecy news, if you have downloaded the public beta of iOS 11 (the full version will be released in September), there’s a fun little 3D treasure hidden in the Maps app. The usual Flyover feature on Apple Maps lets you view digital images of areas from a bird’s eye view, and you can swipe around the screen to navigate. But in the iOS 11 public beta, you can walk around and the bird’s eye view will reflect how you’re walking around in the real world. So, instead of swiping to navigate, you can walk around and your Maps app will update your view as though you were actually flying around. This seems to be a bit of an Easter egg, is not stable due to the fact that it’s in a beta version, and it is not clear if this will be a feature available when iOS 11 is released… but it is still kind cool.
3.GOOGLE PLAYS WITH ADS IN VR
Coming out of their internal incubator program called Area 120, Google is showing off an early prototype of what an advertisement looks like in VR. They released a GIF displaying the look and feel of the ad unit — which basically looks like a floating, branded 3D cube that pops out a 2D video. It makes sense to utilize an existing format like traditional video as those are assets that already exist, and don’t require more cost to create– like an immersive ad would. Again, this is an early version of what ads will eventually look like in VR, and that ads are a way for developers to monetize their content in addition to straight sales… but this still feels a little bit like the VR version of banner ads.
4.NEW VENTURE CAPITAL FUND: ELEVEN VENTURES
Based in Palo Alto, game industry executives Michael Howse and Greg Ballard have started a new early-stage VC firm that focuses on esports, VR, AR, and AI… and no doubt the eventual merging of them all. The fund is claiming to adopt a “co-creation” model — one in which the portfolio size is limited, but the time and energy spent on nurturing portfolio companies is greater. An interesting company in their portfolio is Nimble Collective — a collaborative animation platform, and the fund has already had an exit: they invested in Nitero, which was acquired by AMD a couple of months ago. Clearly, the two founders’ networks are an asset: Howse was formerly an executive at AMD.
5.INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP
Tokyo-based Vaqso has secured $600,000 to bring scents to VR. Their product is a candy bar-sized device that attaches to the top of your VR headset, and can release up to three different odors and control the intensity with a fan. Vaqso’s seed round came from Japanese VC firm Weru Investment.
Another Tokyo-based startup, Holoeyes, has raised $1.3M in Series A funding for their surgical simulation platform. Holoeyes can convert CT data into 3D figures, with which medical staff can interact and learn. Following a $89K seed round, the company’s Series A was funded by Nissay Capital.
In an unsurprising move, Adobe has acquired Mettle VR — the company behind the very popular SkyBox suite of plug-ins that make adding VFX like transitions and titles easier for immersive content. The amount of funding is undisclosed.
Los Angeles, CA-based company Wonder has announced that it raised a Series A round led by Grishin Robotics and TCL Communication Holdings Ltd. Last summer, the secretive company announced that they raised a seed round, but opted to not disclose the amount; now, we know that the seed plus the Series A equates to $14M. The company claims that they are working on some type of hardware that is VR-ready, and the company is thinking of it as “one device to rule them all.” Although no one really knows what Wonder is working on, they have managed to rally a celebrity-heavy group of investors: from Nolan Bushnell (the founder of Atari) to former NBA commissioner David Stern to Kevin Spacey to NFL player Arian Foster.
…and just a few more…
FIND YOUR VIRTUAL GIRLFRIENDS AT THE TOKYO VR SHOW
AIR CONDITIONING FOR YOUR SWEATY HELMET FACE
ARRESTED FOR WEARING A VR HEADSET IN PUBLIC?
VIRTUAL REALITY ESPORTS PRO LEAGUE
OMG A MEASURING TAPE IN YOUR PHONE!
KNUCKLE CONTROLLERS START SHIPPING TO SELECT DEVELOPERS
THE INTERNET HATES CEOS WHO USED VR TO SIMULATE HOMELESSNESS
QUALCOMM’S NEW PARTNERS FOR THEIR STANDALONE HEADSET