Virtual reality (VR) is exactly what is says on the label. It’s the creation of virtual worlds or experiences that the user can interact with. Augmented reality (AR) on the other hand is much cooler. Augmented reality takes the real world around us and overlays it with elements of virtual reality. In a recent article, we talked about how “augmented reality” may be the biggest opportunity ever. While there are no pure-play public companies to invest in virtual reality with (please don’t say Google), we should come up to speed on the hottest virtual and augmented reality startups out there so if they IPO, we can pull the trigger and invest in this exciting space.
In order to find the hottest virtual/augmented reality companies out there, we started with a chart from our friends at CB Insights that shows who the biggest players are when it comes to investing in AR/VR startups. We took the top-5 investors in this space and then had one of our on-staff PHDs come up with a sophisticated algorithm to determine which companies are the hottest as seen below:
As you can see, the algorithm found 6 companies that have seen interest from at least two of the top-5 investors in this space. Here they are.
Founded in 2014, 8i has taken in $14.5 million in funding to develop what they refer to as “volumetric VR”. The company transforms HD video from multiple cameras into a fully volumetric recording of a human that viewers can walk around in virtual reality and augmented reality, or interact with on the web. You could use this to insert yourself into a virtual world, send some pretty compelling messages to your family and friends, or just observe what you actually look like to other people. We couldn’t help but think, just how long is it going to be before someone decides to offer “adult entertainment” via this technology? Ahem.
Founded in 2015, Emergent VR has taken in $2.2 million in funding to develop a new way to create and share moments and memories using virtual reality. In order to record 360 degree video for a virtual reality environment you would typically need an expensive apparatus with multiple cameras all pointing in different directions at once. Emergent is creating an Android app that allows you to record just one segment of your virtual sphere as a video, while the rest is compiled from still photos you take much in the same way as a panorama image is stitched together. Interesting concept for the grandparents to see what Timmy’s birthday party was like but we can’t exactly say we’re blown away by the technology yet.
Founded in 2008, Occipital has taken in $20 million so far and made 3 acquisitions in attempt to dominate the “mobile computer vision” space. We’ve talked before about “bionic eyes” and the ability for robots to see but Occiptial is taking this in a different direction. They have built advanced camera hardware that allows you to 3D capture everything around you. How does this enable virtual reality? Because then you could feed that 3D capture into a software program that can then duplicate it in virtual reality or use the 3D dimensions to overlay augmented reality onto real world environments. They also offer an easy to use and affordable product called Skanect which allows you to capture a full color 3D model of an object, person, or room.
Founded in 2013, Skully has taken in $12.5 million do develop the most advanced motorcycle helmet you’ve ever seen. The helmet provides a semi-transparent heads-up-display (HUD) that provides a 180 degree view of a rider’s blind spots making the rearview mirrors on your motorcycle obsolete. The HUD can also display other useful information like GPS directions, speed, and probably anything else you’d like to show. Not only that, but you’ll look pretty cool riding around with that futuristic helmet on. Just take our money already.
Founded in 2013, Jaunt has taken in just over $100 million to ($65 million of which came from Walt Disney) to develop a premium cinematic virtual reality experience. The idea came about when the founder had an amazing experience at Zion National Park and then thought, why can’t anyone go back there at anytime from anywhere and have the same experience? The company is developing these experiences which they call “immersive content” and some of these on offer include climbing mountains in Nepal (sponsored by North Face of course), exploring Machu Picchu, and escaping from zombies. They’ve developed their own 3D camera hardware for creating “immersive content” anytime, anywhere.
Founded in 2010, Rival Theory has taken in an undisclosed amount of funding to develop a product called RAIN™ which is an engine that allows you to create artificially intelligent virtual characters that you can use for advertising, video games, simulations, film, and media. RAIN is one of the most widely adopted AI solutions for digital entertainment and is used by over 50,000 developers. They also have a “Sentio Entertainment” brand which produces original content for use on top VR headsets like Oculus.
Looking to buy shares in companies before they IPO? A company called Motif Investing lets you buy pre-IPO shares in companies that are led by JP Morgan. You can open an account with Motif with no deposit required so that you are ready to buy pre-IPO shares when they are offered.