Viewpoints: May 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

XR Investment Report

Download the Immersive Tech: VC Investment Report

In the last few weeks we've had not just one, but three new reports on different aspects of the XR industry, one of which Dave Haynes has co-authored. Make sure to check them out.

1. UK Immersive Tech: VC Investment Report. This joint report from ImmerseUK and Vive X takes an in depth look at 10 XR startups from the UK and presents a further '21 To Watch'. It also highlights data from a survey of 50 UK based VC's which shows that appetite to invest in the sector has increased since the global pandemic.

2. The Growing Value of XR in Healthcare. This report from NHS X and the UKRI highlights how AR/VR are revolutionising the global healthcare market, demonstrating impact, value and efficiencies in new ways, accelerated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

3. XR And Its Potential For Europe. This report from Ecorys takes a data driven deep dive into the XR sector across Europe, providing a map of activities in different countries and a look at market values and employment data.

Tune in to our Clubhouse for discussions on two of these reports with the authors and founders of startups featured in both:

Mon 7 Jun @ 9pm CET: XR Healthcare

Mon 14 Jun @ 7pm CET: XR VC investment

Viewpoints: 3D is Eating The World

We've published a new episode of the Viewpoints virtual podcast with Alban Denoyel (CEO, Sketchfab) and Greg Castle (Anorak Ventures). We talk about everything from the history of Sketchfab to 3D capture to NFTs. Make sure to watch or listen.

Listen to Viewpoints Episode #3

Snap vs. Facebook

Both companies held events in the last few weeks where AR was featured. Snap's Annual Partner Summit (highlights here) was undoubtedly the more exciting of the two, with the camera-first company unveiling its new AR glasses and the $500m acquisition of UK-based AR display company WaveOptics. Whilst Facebook's FB event (highlights here) was slightly more muted it still provided some interesting stats and insight. Facebook's AR platform now has over 2m effects with over 600,000 creators using its SparkAR dev platform. Both companies are now publicly developing AR glasses and with Apple likely to join the fray soon and Niantic announcing their own Lightship developer platform, things are getting very interesting!

Fundraising Round-Up

Innovusion raises $64m led by Temasek, other investors include Bertelsmann, Joy Capital and Nio Capital. Nio, the Chinese competitor to Tesla, is the biggest customer for Innovusions LIDAR tech.

Corning raises $45m in funding from Apple. This is the second strategic investment in a month into a company that may contribute to future AR hardware innovations.

SightCall raises $42m for its AR-based visual assistance platform which helps field service teams and their customers carry out technical and mechanical maintenance or repairs more effectively.

Heru raises $30m funding round led by D1 Capital Partners with participation from Softbank Ventures Opportunity Fund. Using VR headsets, the company is developing an AI-powered diagnostic to help examine a person for any eye conditions.

Red 6 raises $30m series A led by Snowpoint ventures to further develop its Airborne Tactital Augmented Reality System which helps train fighter pilots.

Virtuix raises $19m in funding to develop “Omni” – the first omni-directional treadmill that enables 360-degree movement in virtual environments.

Dirac Research has raised $17m in funding to create software audio solutions that will create the “future of sound.” The round of the Swedish-based company was led by TIN Fonder and DIG Investment.

PlayShifu raises $17m Series B to scale its educational platform to more countries. The company creates AR experiences as educational toys.

Blackrock Neurotech raises $10m financing round to advance the development of its brain-computer interface (BCI) technology. The investment was led by re.Mind Capital with participation from Peter Thiel

Eys3D raises $7m from Arm IoT Capital, WI Harper Group, and Marubun Corporation to continue developing its AI edge sensor technology that powers functions like navigation, object/depth recognition, and gesture-based commands in everything from Oculus' Rift S to Amazon Go stores.

Arcturus have raised $5m, led by BITKRAFT Ventures, to bring real-time responsive volumetric video to e-commerce, music, sports, interactive media and gaming.

Wilder World raises $3m to create a metaverse around art that is monetized by nonfungible tokens, NFTs.

Anima raises $500k from Coinbase Ventures, Divergence Ventures, Flamingo DAO, Lyle Owerko and Andrew Unger to bring AR and NFT's together.

Outlier Ventures has announced it's fifth batch of 8 startups all working on topics related to actualising an open metaverse. Startups include digital fashion house Auroboros and virtual real estate platform Superworld.

Exits and M&A

Snap has acquired its AR display supplier WaveOptics for more than $500m. The deal is Snap’s largest ever, underscoring the company’s long-term bet that AR eyewear will eventually go mainstream.

Facebook acquired Unit 2 Games, the studio behind Roblox-like Crayta gaming platform. Like some other platforms out there, it builds on top of the Unreal Engine and gives users a more simple creation interface teamed with discovery and community features.

Walmart acquires Tel Aviv-based stratup Zeekit. The company leverages a combination of real-time image processing, computer vision, deep learning and other AI technology to show shoppers how they would look in an item by way of a simulation that takes into account body dimensions, fit, size and even the fabric of the garment itself.

Teamviewer acquires Munich-based 3D visualisation and mixed reality innovator Viscopic and invests in new R&D hub to strengthen its AR offering and software development capabilities.

Genius Sports acquires Second Spectrum adding high-level artificial intelligence technology as well as computer vision and machine learning products allowing Genius Sports to capture richer, faster, and more accurate tracking data.

NextTechAR Solutions Corp buys AR 3D asset builder in C$9.5 stock deal

Quick Links

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

  • Intel researchers explain how they used AI to give GTA V a photorealistic revamp.

  • New Apple Watch feature could form the basis of the company's XR input strategy.

  • Roblox CEO says Quest makes 'perfect sense' as a future platform.

  • South Korea launched a 'metaverse alliance' between 17 of the country’s industry leaders including SK Telecom, Korea Mobile Internet Business Association and car giant Hyundai Motor.

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