10 Virtual Reality Startups to watch
The companies set to be the next big things in VR
From healthcare to film, Virtual Reality has applications in just about everything. The uses of VR are seemingly endless, and the ever-expanding scope has led to increased funding from venture capitalists looking for a return on their investments. Encouraged by this, more and more startups are springing up, and established names like Facebook are also getting heavily involved. 2016 has been called the year of VR, but who will be the next set of major players on the virtual stage?
Baobab is a VR animation company headquartered in Redwood City, California. They recently received an impressive $25 million USD in funding from a number of investors including 20th Century Fox. Their flagship product is an app called Invasion! that aims to create a compelling form of VR that everybody can enjoy. They’ve been called the ‘Pixar of VR’, and join the ranks of young companies involved in using VR for entertainment.
TeliportMe is a small startup based in Palo Alto. The company created Panorama360, an app which takes 360 degree panoramic photos that can then be shared with others, taking the viewer to the location with far more immersion than regular panoramic photos. It’s basically a personalised Google Street View. Panorama360 is the most used app on the Android Play store. The app is perfect for use with smartphone-compatible headsets.
The startup was created in 2012, and creates seamless, mobile VR advertising for publishers and marketers. The platform works without requiring the viewer to use a headset or even download an app. All consumers need to do is click on an ad banner, and suddenly a VR experience takes over their mobile browser. Omnivirt’s COO is the previous head of content at YouTube, and the company is already working with Twitter, the Wall Street Journal and Vice.
AltspaceVR is pioneering social VR. The startup was founded in 2013 and since then has received funding from Google Ventures among many others. They offer a virtual communication platform that lets people be ‘together’ when they’re not in the same physical space. The platform is compatible with Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, and users don’t even have to have the same headset.
5. Lucid VR
Lucid VR is bringing Virtual Reality to the consumer market in the form of a 180-degree virtual camera, and has secured $2.1 million USD in funding. The camera captures 3D, VR videos which can then be watched on smartphones using any VR Head Mounted Display, including Google Cardboard and similar DIY headsets. The camera, which took two years to develop, gives users the power to share their own experiences with others, and retails for a reasonably affordable $400.
MindMaze is by far the most financially successful startup in the healthcare industry. The company develops interfaces for 3D imaging, neuro-rehabilitation and VR (and AR) neurophysiological recording tech. They do this by combining Virtual Reality, computer graphics and brain imaging. This year, they received $100 million USD from Hinduja Group, which is more than the overall investment total in VR healthcare for the last five years.
7. Alchemy VR
VR is also a very promising education tool. Alchemy VR aims to create immersive educational experiences through constructing a narrative. One of their projects is an exploration of the Great Barrier Reef. Alchemy VR stands out due to partnerships with Samsung, Google Expeditions, Sony, HTC, the Natural History Museum in London, and also the Australian Museum in Sydney.
8. Steel Wool Studios
Steel Wood Studios is a VR gaming platform that just received a $5 million USD investment from HTC. The startup was founded by five feature animation artists and aims to create numerous different game worlds for players. They’ve also partnered with Steam to deliver strategic VR games like Quar to global gamers, and have announced plans to launch many more.
9. Construct VR
Construct VR is a startup that helps businesses to distribute Gear VR apps within client and corporate circles. This allows the business itself to focus on their strategy without having to worry about the security of their VR apps. This may not sound particularly thrilling, but the company is backed by Y Combinator, the oldest and biggest seed accelerator in the world, so they’re very much worth watching.
Last but absolutely not least is Jaunt, a company created in 2013 that develops realistic, cinematic VR. Jaunt has created a number of short VR films, including Escape the Living Dead and The Lion King 360. They also work with independent developers like Baobab. In 2015, Jaunt received $65 million USD in funding from the likes of Disney. The company has used this backing to extend their global reach and work on product quality, and are well placed to continue as the major player in VR film.
VR can be used for pretty much anything, and it’s incredibly accessible now that most people own smartphones. Companies like Baobab aim to expand the accessibility of VR, and their method seems to be creating fun, immersive apps. There’s been a lot of debate about the possible demise of apps, but these VR companies still seem to be cashing in on their usability. Whilst most of the big investments have backed VR for the purposes of entertainment, there is still continual adoption of VR in different industries, especially healthcare and education. Social VR is fairly new trend, and it remains to be seen how consumers will respond. Although Virtual Reality is moving out of the gaming sphere and into a wide range of different applications, it looks like entertainment in general is still the major application of VR.