1)WATCH YOUTUBE IN VR… WITH YOUR FRIENDS!
With over 1B of hours of video content watched per day, YouTube certainly has quite the content as well as community-- and the next update to Google’s Daydream platform will make a solid social one-two punch of the two. Later this year, you’ll be able to watch YouTube content in VR and be able to chat with your friends-- and you’ll all be customized avatars. This announcement is hot on the heels of the release of Facebook’s social VR push with Facebook Rooms, and there are already plenty of social VR applications out there (like Rec Room, VRChat, Altspace, and High Fidelity, just to name a few)... but YouTube certainly owns the giant gorilla in the room: a robust library of content.
Related Stocks: Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG), Facebook, Inc. ($FB)
2)...AND GOOGLE LEANS INTO SOCIAL SHARED VR EXPERIENCES
You’ll soon be able to broadcast your Daydream VR experiences to a Chromecast device or a smart TV, so that your friends can watch on the VR on the big screen while being in the same room. You’ll use your remote to pan around the 360 video on your flatscreen (which is, admittedly, nowhere near to the experience in a headset), but this will also support live 360 video-- which will probably be pretty cool to watch content like live concerts or sporting events.
Related Stocks: Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)
3)NO MORE FALLING OVER CORDS WITH UPCOMING WIRELESS HEADSETS
The race for standalone headsets is officially heating up. Google recently announced that they are partnering with HTC Vive and Lenovo to build new wireless headsets which we can look forward to later this year. The devices will use positional tracking (which will not require any external sensors) developed from expertise learned through creating Google’s Tango mapping technology and optimized for virtual reality. They are calling this VR-specific positional tracking WorldSense, and the headsets will also utilize the current Daydream Bluetooth remote so you can control your virtual world… with no cords to trip over!
Related Stocks: Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG), HTC Corporation ($2498.TW)
4)THE BATTLE BETWEEN THE DISAPPEARING STORY APPS CONTINUES
It’s almost predictable at this point-- as soon as Snapchat announces something, Facebook has to roll out something similar either through its native Story function or through its Instagram property. Snapchat recently announced more options for advertisers through its new Sponsored World Lenses features, which allows brands to augment your surroundings with your phone’s outward facing camera (first used by Warner Bros. to promote their movie “Everything, Everything”). Then, like a soap opera, the very next day Instagram announced face filters that will augment your face with crowns, sparkles, and koala and bunny ears… taking yet another play directly from Snapchat’s book.
Related Stocks: Snap Inc. ($SNAP), Facebook, Inc. ($FB)
5)INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP
The beloved Austin, TX-based virtual reality content studio Owlchemy Labs has been acquired by Google. Makers of Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality and Job Simulator (which earned $3M in sales), it seems like Owlchemy will continue releasing the slate of original games already in their pipeline and will be able to distribute that content on platforms other than Google’s Daydream. The financial details of the purchase has not been disclosed.
Related Stocks: Alphabet, Inc. ($GOOG)
UK-based startup Improbable has raised $502M in a Series B funding round led by SoftBank of Japan-- which puts the company in the $1B+ tier of tech company valuations. Founded in 2012, the company’s mission empowers developers to build enormous and detailed environments utilizing machine learning and distributed via cloud computing infrastructure.
San Francisco-based Vivid Vision has raised a $2.2M seed round to expand its vision-correcting virtual reality software program, which currently is available at more than 90 clinics and has treated more than 6,000 patients for ocular issues like amblyopia (sometimes referred to as “lazy eye”). The company was founded in 2014 by a programmer named James Blaha who suffered from amblyopia his entire life and suddenly found himself seeing in 3D for the first time when experimenting with an Oculus Rift developer kit. The Venture Reality Fund, CRCM Ventures, SOS Ventures, Anorak Ventures, and Liquid 2 Ventures (fun fact: Liquid 2 Ventures was co-founded by NFL great Joe Montana) participated in this seed round.
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