Virtual Reality did not just debut as a neophyte in the market in 2016. In fact, it had already taken tentative baby steps in the early 90s. If every progress it has accomplished over the years since its introduction is to be taken into account, consumers’ adaptation with VRs was generally slow-moving when compared to other wearables. Once in awhile Virtual Reality was able to showcase new innovations over that period of their market overture, but all in all what those amounted to were short or slight hypes that were either insignificant or momentary.
In 2015 Gartner Inc. released a report on the evolving popularity of the convenience of mobile payments via smartphones, which they say will intensify by the year 2018. Gartner pointed to it as a significant indicator of the viability of the market for wearables or smartphones. The report discussed in detail how further innovation in apps, mobile devices and mobile services will be impacting traditional business models, particularly in how people will use personal technology for their productivity and pleasure. They see a possible increase in the numbers of users for what they categorized as main devices; tablets, smartphones, notebooks and convertibles (two-in-one devices), each user owning at least two devices at any given time. As well as increase in the demand for niche devices; health bands, smart watches, smart glasses and new types of connected devices such as e-readers smart cards, and portable cameras. VR headsets were never mentioned, especially the bulky unwieldy VR’s. This is a sign that analysts have not even the slightest glimpse of VRs landing a lead role in the near future.
However, even if there’s not the slightest hint of Virtual Reality headsets in Gartner’s instructive report, we can see a high probability of a Virtual Reality World finally taking shape in 2017. Why?
Emerging New Uses For Mobile Devices Will Stimulate Adoption
The smartphone arena has never been this stimulated before last year. Leading mobile companies such as Sony, Samsung, and even Microsoft, piloted by the industry’s leader Apple, are all focused on improving the gaming capabilities of their devices. Almost all the mobile manufacturers playing the field, except Apple, had already showcased their best gaming VR headsets to the world. And Apple is scrambling to catch up.
Prices Will Become Competitive
The present competition between mobile manufacturers that began in 2016 is already fierce enough. And we can see it escalating further in the coming months, when manufacturers start unleashing their innovations. Consequently it will drive the prices lower, but that will not happen anytime soon. We can see competition already beefing; Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s acquisition of Oculus Rift in 2014, Samsung Gear VR and HTC Vive hitting the shelves in 2016 while Sony’s PSVRs gauge consumers’ interests in advance. Outside the U.S. there are also tech companies working hard on their own VR headsets, and this will also cause many companies to lower prices.
Start-ups Campaigned for Investors Who Are Now Impatient to See Result
Taking into account the amount of time from feasibility study to research development it could take a long time for a prototype to emerge. VR headsets for the longest time have only been producing prototypes, adding to the uncertainty of investors. Super Data Research reported, so far VR’s have billions worth of investment, projected to reach a consumer base of 55.8 million in 2016, triggering momentum and increasing industry expectations.
VR headsets are an optional gaming accessory; once more new VR games hit the market perhaps some gamers will draw more interest towards them.
Based on our interpretations above of the volatility and maturity of the VR market for the coming year, we chose 10 startups as the most likely ones to take off big-time in 2017. These are not fledgling companies. They are past their source funding stage, some for a year or others for a couple and are fully backed financially. Some even have pending patents, although not all of them are for gaming, they still define Virtual Reality in full. Variety will surely add spice to competition.
And here’s our two cents (or is this worth a dollar?):
Short description: An innovative VR technology on entertainment eyewear that is currently a hot entrant to the industry with their vision statement “Invisivision – delivering content like you’ve never seen it!”
What is it?: InvisiVision is a patent pending hands-free eyewear technology, which will allow users to see two different projections on a single screen at the same time.
Why it’s hot?: It is a cost-effective VR technology, tailored to an architecture that do away with the standard default framework of most VR devices like unwieldy hardware, expensive infrastructure and pricey electronics. According to InvisiVision’s founder, their technology as a rule offers to users a more immersive and enhanced experience, a novelty to an already stagnating entertainment industry.
InvisiVision was one of 20 companies in the 2015 CES internal tradeshow chosen for Disney’s Best of CES and was also the chosen frontier technology presenter for OMDC at the Digital Dialogue conference in 2015. InvisiVision is set to release its very first movie Optic soon.
Founded: Kitchener, Canada
How much did they raise? CA$ 20,325
Short description: A new generation VR immersion theme park solution that is location-based.
What is it?: This was the former startup project AVR which changed its name to Hypercell. Hypercell is a unique Virtual Reality concept for the entertainment industry. It is a Virtual Reality Theme Park service package, which contains software, hardware and content solution which they are now offering for franchising.
Possibly the most significant technology today in the VR world is the location-based VR. As the possibility of Smart Home Technology is pursued to its next level, location based VR surfaced and is projected to replace, or at any rate, revise the indoor entertainment areas; paint ball, theme parks, laser combat fields, mall entertainment areas, and so on. The new breed of gamers is looking for more interactive and immersive set-up than what they have at home.
Why it’s hot?: Hypercell is offered as a complete service package which can be built in a small space, 25+ m2 and can support as many as 8 players. Investment needed will be minimal for clients because decorative props will not be needed, the VR will provide it for them. And gamers have long ago hinted of this kind of demand, and this may be the answer.
Founders: Levend Turgay, 2016
Founded: Istanbul, Turkey
How much did they raise? $100,000
Short description: A fun, complete and effective Virtual Reality communication platform which people can use to get together in virtual space for work or just to have a good time, even when they are physically apart.
What is it?: ALT VR is a VR startup company that is currently developing an integrated hardware and software communication platform, projected to provide a new level of experience on online communication and interaction. It is built around a user-centered approach which give users who are apart from each other physically the upper hand in creating their shared online virtual experiences. They can listen to music, watch movies, even work together and do other things around internet via ALT VR created virtual spaces.
Why it’s hot?: Users spread across over 150 countries around the world, still growing as per last count are naturally appreciative of ALT VR’s inspiring and fulfilling shared virtual spaces. They love the stimulating and satisfying experience of playing games, streaming videos, or finishing tasks with their friends, colleagues and loved ones within the confines of the virtual spaces provided by the two dimensional holographic experiences delivered by ALT VR. This startup is way past its prototype stage, and presently its teams are still building and improving their system, to provide more substantial shared Virtual Reality places experiences. With the rise of online mobile payments systems, which Gartner predicted will still grow in the succeeding years, ALT VR in the future may find something for them in the online mobile payments niche. It is compatible with HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR, and others, and you don’t need to have the same headset with the one you are co-sharing with to make it work.
Founded: Redwood City, California
How much did they raise? $10, 300, 000 on Series A and $5,200,000 on Seed
Short description: Baobab is a VR animation startup built around the value of providing story and character driven cinematic experiences to a new breed of VR audiences.
What is it?: Baobab was founded by Maureen Fan, and based in Redwood City, California. It was conceptualized around a principle of new era VR animated storytelling. To get the company’s value across, two tangible epitomes of their innovative cinematic model, Asteroids and Invasion, can now be enjoyed by users. Packaged along with the company’s release of its 2 models is the company’s awareness, of needing to appeal to everyone through quality animation, beautiful artwork, compelling stories, and humor. The people behind the creation of Asteroids and Invasion hope to create a form of Virtual Reality that everyone can appreciate and enjoy, regardless of background, age, or personal experience.
Why it’s hot?: It personifies the projections about Virtual Reality’s future. The VR’s era is now and the prospect for the industry is limitless and universal. Baobab’s creed illustrates that VR’s are not hinged on gaming and headsets, it has other avenues to explore. It can be played and viewed using readily available VR headsets in the market today, whichever one of these you now have.
Baobab’s battle cry “Through compelling stories, believable characters, immersive worlds, beautiful art and high-quality animation – we inspire you to dream by bringing out your sense of wonder.” says it all with Invasion and Androids with no less than Elizabeth Banks as one of its talent. And the continuous evolution of 3D animation sets new standard for modern era audiences. This is an industry rife with opportunities for startups like Baobab.
Founded: Redwood City, California
How much did they raise? $31M in 2 Rounds from 11 Investors
Short description: A Virtual Reality startup conceptualized as community support and VR media publishing platform for all types of aspiring and professional creatives’ discipline.
What is it?: The founders of WEVR formerly known as WemoLab know Virtual Reality has infinite potentials in influencing changes in people’s lives more than other mediums. They know the freedom with which its power of immersion in creating memories can be explored is limitless. So they conceptualized this open platform they named Transport which can support all forms of collaborations by creative, immersive, and technology communities. Aside from the support community they also commit to consistently supply VR producers superior high performance VR playback software that will help in showcasing brilliant VR projects by emerging VR storytellers. This as an open VR technology platform, for immersive storytellers to use in creating, presenting, and publishing projects on all VR headsets has many things in store for it in 2017.
Why it’s hot?: The limitless freedom with which an artist or a producer can use this platform in creating, presenting and publishing projects has already brought a wave of promising artists to its community. A few of them already tested WEVR’s capabilities; you can find their masterpieces at WEVR and there is no sign that people behind WEVR are stopping soon. They committed to continue building and improving their platform to realize their vision of winning over the greatest storytellers of our time, and provide them the best platform to tell stories and engage audience big time across all types of creatives’ disciplines. They believe they are truly fortunate to have created this amazing confluence of art and technology, although its future is unwritten. They know its potential is unlimited.
Founded: Venice, California
How much did they raise? $38.25M; 5 Rounds; 13 Investors
Short Description: Precise, automated drones (aerial robots), which can navigate along pre-planned flight paths. Precision Navigation for Drones.
What is it?: These are drones that PRENAV developed to safely fly in close proximity to structures and in complicated environments which GPS cannot navigate or cover. Designed primarily as commercial drone system intended to assist organizations in inspecting and maintaining their infrastructure. Initially it has capability to navigate around tall structures like cell phone towers and wind turbines. PreNav is currently focused on improving its automated capacity for flying in close proximity to industrial structures, and in using its precise positioning capabilities to put together engineering-grade 3D reconstructions of the structures and the area.
Why it’s hot?: It allows people who are not expert pilots to fly a drone for business even without obtaining an experimental airworthiness certificate. It shortens and lessens the prerequisites for drone pilots imposed by the FAA. It combines a ground-based guidance robot, a drone and software to diagram the project and analyze resulting data.
Founded: San Carlos, California
How much did they raise? Raised a total amount of $9.75 million in 3 rounds.
Short Description: Convert your digital life automagically into shareable social spaces with this new generation Virtual Reality music powered medium for entertainment.
What is it?: Spaceout.VR is a startup founded in 2015 which developed a Mobile VR App that has an integrated VR content publisher. It gives you a new experience with your own choice of music. With your playlist, Spaceout VR will let you experience an expanded perception of your favorite music; songs and mixes. It can fully integrate your music collection into a sound responsive fantastical world. A new breed of entertainment, gaming and communications into one personalized VR App.
Why it’s hot?: The latest updated release includes music streaming via Soundcloud which you can choose your music and enter HEADBANGERZ, VisionVR a whole new experience with your Facebook photos, and a Geospatial UI with Google street view. Spaceout.VR has over 80,000 users and expects to complete its entire app in early 2017.
This is a low cost and highly durable product which can cultivate mainstream acceptance and uptake within any age level, anyone who owns the latest models of smartphone, can enjoy SpaceoutVR.
Founded: New York
How much did they raise? In February 2016, for their second seed the company raised $250,000. For their first seed in 2015 the company declared an undisclosed amount.
Short Description: Bringing reality into Virtual Reality with robots.
What is it?: A startup founded in Las Vegas which developed prototypes of 360-Degree Video Robots intended to have the capability to transform real-world spaces into Virtual Reality by creating virtual copies of the real live sight. This is a new way to bring new experiences together with people and places. The first model was for real estate, both commercial and residential. Whether you are selling a house or you are showing off a new office design, VIRT can import the real sight into Virtual Reality.
Why it’s hot?: VIRT VR transform virtual content creation into a time efficient and cost-effective process which previously was time-consuming and expensive. It is a novel experience with Virtual tour that it has made more affordable, simple and practical. It has expanded to cover hospitality, retail, marketing and construction industries.
In hospitality industry VIRT VR creates a virtual tour for guests to let them have a virtual taste of the experience hospitality establishments are offering them. What’s the best way to convince them of the fun and the conveniences they are going to have from your establishment than a taste of the experiences online, increasing the chances of them booking your establishment right after their online Virtual tour.
Let customers step-in and experience the perfect shopping experience you have invested heavily with in your actual store. It doesn’t matter where they are in the world VIRT VR will let them get a taste of your actual retail store set-up.
Lessen actual trips to your construction sites, VIRTMOBI a VR 360-degree video allows you remote walkthroughs around your construction projects. You can directly oversee and manage several projects effortlessly in less time and less expense at your office. Making your inspection regular and intensive.
Marketing can become less stressful and fluid with Virtual Reality. VIRT VR will let you create immersive experience for prospective customers. It is a proven strategy with marketing videos, virtual visual contents draw more engagements, and lengthen users online engagement within your marketing sites and pages. VIRT VR’s Marketing platform will drive more users engagement for you.
Founded: Las Vegas
How much did they raise? Not mentioned but target is $1,500,000 in Seed Financing.
Short description: MindMaze is a startup directing its energies on managing a platform which builds intuitive human machine interfaces by integrating Virtual Reality, neuroscience, brain imaging and computer graphics.
What is it?: MindMaze is Tej Tadi’s vision of an innovative online medical grade technology platform dedicated to building intuitive human machine interfaces; combination of virtual reality, brain imaging, computer graphics, and neuroscience. Tej is passionate in his idea of developing new applications in health care, brain machine and gaming to help victims of stroke, amputees and patients with spinal injuries. The result was the company’s development of the high-resolution motion capture sensors, extremely capable of transcribing exact positions and orientations to enable real-time representation of movements onto virtual characters.
Why it’s hot?: MindMaze first developed medical grade virtual reality products proposed to aid in the stimulation of neural recovery. Among the latest products the company has produced and launched are devices that use virtual reality, brain imaging and gaming technologies to retrain the brain in stroke victims; lightweight, wearable Head Mounted Display (HMD) and 3D motion capture cameras with enhanced features like VR, gesture, multiple user or object recognition and Augmented Reality capabilities. Three years and counting it is now listed as one of the top 10 healthcare start-ups in Switzerland.
Founders: Tej Tadi 2012
Founded: Ecublens, Vaud
How much did they raise? $108.5M in 2 Rounds from 1 Investor
Short description: Leveraging 3D imaging, vital in capturing real immersive VR images and videos, bringing you a gateway to share your world with or join another.
What is it?: Lucid is a composite device fabricated as a ready to pair stereoscopic camera, that captures the real world the way the human eye sees it – with all its actual complexity, and 180º field of vision. You can then watch and share your video by combining LucidVR with any mobile device to create the gateway with which you can experience and relive the experience through the immersive VR videos.
Why it’s hot?: It is the winner of the Lumiere’s award 2015 by the prestigious advanced imaging society. You can effortlessly pair it with any available mobile device or any available Virtual Reality headset, like Oculus Rift and with a Google Cardboard, to relive the experience as if you were actually there in the video.
Founded: Santa Clara, California
How much did they raise? $2.4M in 3 Rounds; 8 Investors
Now that our list is out, let’s see how well will they live up to their hype in 2017. Who among these fully backed 10 cost effective, competitive and highly adaptable start ups will prove themselves further to the satisfaction of investors and consumers? Which of them will break or make the future of the Virtual Reality World? Let’s watch and see.
Zazmic predicts that AltVR will be a definite winner from this list. Because it combines two trends that have been unstoppable in the last couple of years with both a messaging / communication platform. AltVR has delivered on the need for communication in the VR world.
Article written by Yann Kronberg, founder of Zazmic, the biggest startup maker in Silicon Valley. He has been involved in the technology industry for the past 15 years and sits right at the intersection of Technology and Business in his endeavors.