Viewpoints: February 2021 wrap up

Welcome to this month's curated digest of viewpoints, news and investment activity covering areas including XR, the metaverse and the inevitable shift towards spatial computing. If you know of anyone else that would find this investment-focused digest useful then please pass it along!

Dave Haynes & Petri Rajahalme

Join us on Clubhouse

Alongside our regular virtual podcast recorded in VR, we've been getting much more active on Clubhouse this past month. Recent conversations have included a deep dive on Virtual Fashion with startups such as The Fabricant, RTFKT, The Dematerialised, AnamXR and Crucible. We also had a great AMA with Matt Miesnieks who last year sold his spatial mapping startup to Niantic. Follow the link below for this week's session or join the Viewpoints 'club' using this invite.

Monday, Mar 8 at 6pm GMT w/ Dave Haynes, Petri Rajahalme, Alina Mikhaleva. Startups this week include Condense Reality and Sense Of Space.

Everyone's talking about... NFT's

The past month has seen an explosion in hype for NFTs. If you've been hiding under a rock and aren't already familiar with the term then here's an explainer or two. NFTs (or non-fungible tokens) essentially enable creators to guarantee the provenance of a digital good, verifying its authenticity and ownership securely on the blockchain and creating both scarcity and value.

Beeple, the creator of the first purely digital artwork to be auctioned by Christie's, recently sold an NFT for $6.6m. A sale by virtual sneaker startup RTFKT raised $3.1m in just seven minutes. Digital avatar company Genies has been selling one-of-a-kind digital goods for all sorts of stars for as much as $500,000. We're about to hit peak hype cycle.

But whilst some think NFTs are a trap, or point to this being the next blockchain related speculation bubble, a second wave of interest in NFTs surely points us towards something potentially game-changing. As the world of atoms gets reimagined into a world of bits and pixels, and we take the first steps to whatever 'the metaverse' will become, NFTs offer a useful tool to create virtual economies, 'direct-to-avatar' commerce or even virtual real estate. It also offers a platform for new creators to innovate upon and for end users to feel more ownership of their digital assets across both existing and future virtual spaces. Bubble or no-bubble, we're excited to see what comes next and will be watching the space around NFT's, web3 and the open metaverse very closely.

Crypto is laying the foundations for an open creator economy, and a universal digital representation and ownership layer via NFTs (non-fungible tokens)

Has there been a better time for consumer VR?

In the month when Sony announced that its next generation of VR on Playstation is under development, HTC teased new Vive products and Microsoft's ambitious new VR/AR platform 'Mesh' featured front and centre at its annual Ignite keynote, RoadtoVR has an interesting piece highlighting 14 indicators that VR is setup for a great 2021. This includes Beat Saber announcing its generated an estimated $180m in revenue. Dive in for some interesting market data.

Meanwhile hardware announcements continued to come thick and fast including Samsung's 'leaked' smart glasses videos, Apple's partnership with TSMC for new AR devices, Qualcomm's new AR Smart Viewer reference designs, a French startup's new mixed reality headset and new headworn devices from both JVC and Docomo. Phew, lots to digest.

RoadToVR collected 14 of the most recent and concrete indicators of growth in consumer VR.

Fundraising round-up

TouchCast have raised $55m to grow its mixed reality based virtual event platform, led by Accenture Ventures with participation from Saatchi Invest and others.

Labster have raised €50m from Andreessen Horowitz to scale its virtual lab simulation platform used by 2000 institutions and over 3m students.

Interplay have raised $18m for its next-gen VR training platform, led by Owl and S3 Ventures alongside Venture Reality Fund.

CGTrader have raised $9.5m to establish its position as a leading 3D model provider. The round was led by Finnish-VC Evli Growth Partners alongside Karma Ventures.

Edgybees have raised $9.5m from Seraphim Capital, Verizon Ventures and others to augment aerial video streams in real time.

Anzu have raised $9m to seamlessly integrate realtime ads into gameplay and virtual worlds. Bitkraft Ventures led the funding.

Psychic VR Lab have raised $8.5m, from KDDI Open Innovation Fund and others, to build out its browser-based XR dev platform.

StrikerVR have raised $4m to bring its high-end haptic VR peripherals for the out-of-home market to a broader consumer market.

Inspirit have raised $3.6m to build a Roblox inspired, no-code virtual science platform that allows students and teachers to create and experience STEM simulations using WebXR.

Praxis Labs have raised $3.2m to more effectively train leaders in D&I through VR. Investors included SoftBank’s SB Opportunity Fund.

Nanome have raised $3m from Bullpen Capital and Oculus co-founder Michael Antonov's Formic Ventures. The Vive X backed company's global real-time collaboration platform has use cases that range from general chemistry to pharmaceutical drug discovery.

Augmented Pixels have raised $2m to focus on indoor navigation, global 3D mapping and localization used in markets such as AR, VR and robotics.

YBVR have raised $1.5m to continue growing its platform that delivers 8K, VR and 360-degree video. Investors include Verizon Ventures and Telefonica's Wayra.

Exits and M&A

Matterport is going public to digitize the built world. The deal will provide for $640 million in gross proceeds at a post-transaction value of up to $2.9 billion.

Unity has acquired RestAR the Tel Aviv-based computer vision and deep learning company that enables AI-based 3D capture.

Epic Games has acquired Metatonic saying it’s no secret that Epic is invested in building the metaverse and Metatonic shares this goal.

TeamViewer has acquired Upskill, a provider of AR-based solutions for frontline workers.

The Wild has acquired IrisVR, boosting its efforts to be the leading VR platform for remote collaboration within the AEC industry.

Vertigo Games has acquired SpringboardVR for its VR arcade distribution platform.

Quick Links

Before we sign off for this month, here’s a few extra data points and opinion pieces we thought were worth a quick read.

Google added TensorFlow 3D, a library of 3D depth learning models for use in autonomous cars and robots, as well as advanced mobile AR experiences

That’s all for now. Have a great March and please do send us your feedback, comments or interesting new startups in this space!