Virtex Wants To Enhance The Esports Stadium Experience With VR
Jun 28, 2021
London-based VR developer Virtex wants to bring the excitement and atmosphere of experiencing esports at a live event to VR headsets. The company today announced Virtex Stadium, a virtual venue intending to host big esports matches. Virtex says its stadium has a capacity of 200 people per server (running as many servers as necessary per event), allowing friends to meet up and head into a stream. Inside the venue, matches are aiming to be shown as 3D holograms in the center of the space. Imagine watching a match of, say, Onward not just on a 2D screen but also from a kind of isometric view as if it were really happening on the stadium floor below. But Virtex hasn’t yet provided a look at this system working in real-time, nor confirmed any titles that will be compatible with the experience. All we have to go on for now is the first concept art (above) and an announcement trailer (below). A press release also states that viewers will “jump from their seat right into the game map as the match unfolds around them.” Co-founder and COO Christoph Ortlepp also told me the team will offer different options for monetization, including selling tickets to events. It sounds ambitious and we’re yet to see live VR events really take off at the capacity Virtex is envisioning. The company is planning to launch an open beta later this year, when it will also announce the first slate of supported titles. It’s coming to PC VR headsets first with plans for an Oculus Quest launch later down the line. You can keep up to date with the app on an official website. Do you think Virtex Stadium could live up to its promising premise? Let us know in the comments below! VRChat, the popular social VR platform, announced its secured a Series D funding round of $80 million, which brings to the startup more than five times its overall lifetime investment. The round was led by Anthos Capital, alongside participating investors Makers Fund, GFR Fund and others. According to Crunchbase, this brings VRChat’s overall outside investment to $95.2 million. VRChat is a free app that brings together VR and non-VR users in user-generated spaces that can range from the mundane to the truly fantastic. Having celebrated its first taste of virality back in 2018, the PC and SteamVR-compatible app went on to include support for Oculus Quest in late 2020, which propelled it yet further with record-setting concurrent user numbers. The company now boasts over 40,000 concurrent users. The company says the investment will “expedite development of a creator economy where members can earn, an enhanced social discovery system for more meaningful experiences, and expansion to more platforms. These enhancements will contribute to VRChat’s rapid growth and allow more people to access this virtual universe.”
Last year, social VR app Rec Room also dipped its toes into the digital economy by offering its creators real financial reward for developing on the app, which includes things like premium experiences, avatar accessories, and in-game gadgets. Rec Room also posted some pretty substantial funding, as its latest round garnered it a $100 million Series D and a $1.25 billion valuation. This means Rec Room and VRChat now rank among some of the most valuable VR companies outside of platform holders Facebook, Valve, and HTC. The post ‘VRChat’ Secures $80M Series D Funding to Create its Own Digital Economy appeared first on Road to VR. PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified. The Realm of the Rat King expansion is available now, free for existing Demeo owners on all platforms. You can check out the launch trailer for the expansion embedded above. From a lore perspective, here’s how the Realm of the Rat King fits into Demeo’s story, according to Resolution Games:
Once players have proven victorious in Demeo’s first adventure, ‘The Black Sarcophagus,’ the heroes learn that the town of Sunderhaven is suffering from an unlikely infestation. Feral rats have begun to appear, and the rumors among the locals suggest that they’re being steered by someone… or something. Adventurers will delve deep into the sewers beneath Sunderhaven to locate the source of this mysterious scourge and eliminate it by any means necessary. According to Tommy Palm, CEO and Co-founder of Resolution Games, the Rat King campaign is “just the first addition of many new adventures we have in the works” for Demeo. The Rat King campaign boasts a new environment set in the sewers, new enemies included a poison-filled Spore Fungus and a multi-headed ‘Gorgon’ (pictured above) that can turn you into stone if you catch it’s gaze. As previously reported, there’s also new cards such as the Torch and Antitoxin and, of course, the titular new boss, the Rat King. Resolution Games also confirmed that you’ll be fighting the Rat King while you’re “five levels underground,” seemingly confirming that the new campaign is two levels longer than the game’s first. Demeo has also been submitted for approval on the Oculus Rift store, and will support cross-play when it launches over the “coming days.”
The Realm of the Rat King expansion is available now for free to existing owners of Demeo. The game is available for $29.99 on SteamVR and the Oculus Store for Quest. You can read our review here. One of the most popular AR use cases is visualizing products on “faces & spaces.” That includes products like cosmetics and couches. The former is a big “try-before-you-buy” category while the latter is all about making sure big items fit in your home before buying. All of this has amplified as it has piggybacked on Covid-era eCommerce inflections . AR brought back some of the real-life dimension that was yanked away from consumers in retail lockdowns. The question is if its exposure and accelerated adoption sustains longer-term. Meanwhile, a handful of companies have leaned into AR product visualization, including IKEA, Wayfair, and Houzz. They’ve each launched features or apps to help consumers visualize home goods. It’s all about boosting buyer confidence with a better sense of size and style. That buyer confidence is a key factor, as it drives eCommerce performance. Specifically, AR can boost conversions by as much as 300 percent and reduce returns by as much as 40 percent. These KPIs in turn reinforce AR investments from the above players. To that end, Shopify has joined this list with various rollouts for AR try-on features. In fact, the above conversion figures include results from those programs. It even created a dedicated “Head of VR/AR” position, held by AR proponent and industry figure Daniel Beauchamp . Its latest move was the recent acquisition of AR startup Primer. For those unfamiliar, Primer specializes in AR product visualization with a focus on home renovation. Specifically, its strength is lighting and textures, which are key factors when deciding things like paint and wallpaper. For example, in interior design projects, consumers can point their camera at a wall to then superimpose a variety of styles and textures. It’s the modern — and more visually intuitive — version of the longstanding practice of holding up paint swatches to try out colors and patterns. Primer pulls this off through proprietary 3D modeling tech and partnerships with tile and textile brands. This gives it an inside track to develop product simulations, not to mention a channel for distribution and monetization. It otherwise reaches consumers through its iOS app. But Primer’s go-to-market path now takes a new direction. Shopify hasn’t disclosed its exact plans but it will likely deploy Primer’s technology in its own high-reach channels such as its Shop app . It could also integrate the technology directly on its web-based merchant pages. It’s also possible that this is more of a tech & team acquisition. Primer’s specialty in lighting and textures could extend beyond paint & wallpaper, serving more broadly to boost realism in 3D models across the board. That would certainly boost Shopify’s camera commerce chops. In each of the above speculative deployments for Primer’s technology, the goal for Shopify is the same: to boost its stickiness among consumers and its value proposition to merchants. The latter is a strategic driver that continues to gain steam at Shopify as an organizational priority. For example, it has been on a shopping spree for distribution partnerships to give its merchants greater reach and scale. To attract them to the platform as an alternative to selling on Amazon, these distribution flows include Walmart , Google , Facebook , BuzzFeed . Deeper AR integration will join those efforts in the broader push to attract and retain merchants. In fact, home decor is an underserved segment for Shopify. So the Primer acquisition is a clear move towards expansion into this opportune — and AR conducive — vertical. Meanwhile, this is all underscored by the growth in “ camera commerce .” According to our research arm, ARtillery Intelligence , AR will influence $57.8 billion in physical goods spending by 2025. We’ll keep watching for moves from Shopify and others to capture a piece of that. PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified. As you likely know, one of AR’s foundational principles is to fuse the digital and physical. The real world is a key part of that formula… and real-world relevance is often defined by location. That same relevance and scarcity are what drive real estate value….location, location, location. Synthesizing these factors, one of AR’s battlegrounds will be in augmenting the world in location-relevant ways. That could be wayfinding with Google Live View , or visual search with Google Lens . Point your phone (or future glasses) at places and objects to contextualize them. As you can tell from the above examples, Google will have a key stake in this “Internet of Places.” But it’s not alone. Apple signals interest in location-relevant AR through its geo-anchors and Project Gobi . Facebook is building “ Live Maps ,” and Snapchat is pushing Local Lenses . These are a few utilitarian, commerce, and social angles. How else will geospatial AR materialize? What are its active ingredients, including 5G and the AR cloud ? This is the theme of our new series, Space Race, where we break down who’s doing what….continuing here with AR Startups. In other words, after examining and profiling tech giants’ individual moves in AR’s space race, we now shift gears to examine smaller companies that are doing the same. There are several of them, but we’ll look at a representative sample that covers a range of approaches. First on that list is Gowalla . You may remember the company as the late 2000’s social/ local/ mobile (SoLoMo) app that competed with Foursquare. It was acquired by Facebook in 2011, then mostly faded away. But now it’s back for more SoLoMo action….this time with an AR focus. Specifically, it will launch later this year with $4 million in fresh funding to offer geo-relevant and gamified AR experiences. This could be built around a local discovery use case with a social twist: Hold up your phone to reveal game elements or notes that friends left for you. That’s mostly our speculation based on early clues. To provide more color, co-founder Patrick Piemonte tells TechCrunch that it takes inspiration from the social side of TikTok and the platform side of Roblox. The latter could make it a sort of MMO for the real world ( credit: Ubiquity6 ). Gowalla also hopes to create stickiness through user incentives. That could be gamified elements such as points & badges (a nod to the original Gowalla). And it will monetize in similar ways as Pokémon Go and Fortnite: in-game purchases for digital goods to enhance the experience. Lastly, Gowalla joins the AR space race with less reach and spending power than the Googles and Snaps of the world. But it may have an edge in its competency with location-based experiences. That’s likewise an advantage held by Niantic, which happens to be one of Gowalla’s investors. Gowalla isn’t alone in being an all-star of the late 2000’s SoLoMo scene. Its chief competition from that era is likewise entering geospatial AR: Foursquare. After reinventing itself as a B2B data powerhouse, it still spins out innovative consumer-facing software in its Labs division. The latest is an audio AR experience known as Marsbot for AirPods . This is a virtual assistant that proactively whispers geo-activated recommendations in your ear. That could be a new gastropub in your neighborhood or nearby happy hours when you wander into a new area. Naturally, the geo-spatial elements are powered by Foursquare’s places database. Though many people think of Foursquare as that check-in app from the 2010s, the company is many years into a fruitful pivot to build the “location layer” for the internet (see our writing here ). This provides a rich dataset for AR experiences, congruent with the principles of the AR cloud . In fact, we’ve long predicted that the AR cloud will benefit from location intelligence players like Foursquare with unique data on not only places but nuanced consumer interaction. But because AR isn’t a prevalent consumer behavior yet, Foursquare knows that it can make the most impact where there are lower adoption barriers and an installed base of AirPods. That’s why Marsbot is an experiment, and Foursquare knows that AR will be a moving target. “The purpose of Marsbot was never to attract millions of users,” Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley told us, “but rather to showcase how contextually-aware technologies will shape the future of AR and how Foursquare’s technology can be the foundation [for] those experiences.”
The third geospatial AR startup we’ll examine in this representative sample is ARWay . It provides developer kits to build indoor AR navigation experiences, such as shopping malls and other public spaces. This has implications for valuable utilities and monetizable AR commerce . One of the biggest challenges according to ARWay founder & CEO Baran Korkmaz is platform fragmentation. Major AR development platforms offer AR object persistence — Google Cloud Anchors , Apple GeoAnchors , Microsoft Spatial Anchors — that don’t talk to each other. Among other things, ARWay is working towards a sort of translation layer between platforms and devices. The goal is for users to be able to begin navigating visually, without jumping through a bunch of hoops or hit a brick wall of incompatibility. Adoption is challenged enough already. Panning back, this issue of platform fragmentation is a common topic in AR cloud circles. The problem is that tech giants are each building their own AR clouds. And they’re investing heavily, while incentivized by monetization potential….which sometimes requires walled gardens. Given the size of these investments, tech giants have the right to maximize their returns. But when dealing with walled gardens, the key word is interoperability, says Korkmaz. The model is the web: there are proprietary interests but common standards, protocols and languages. Meanwhile, Korkmaz wants to pick up where 6d.ai. left off. Before being acquired by Niantic, it was the pre-eminent tool for building mini-AR clouds in a given space. Though it’s being deployed in Niantic’s Lightship platform, its exit leaves a gap for certain commercial AR development. The above three cases are, again, a representative sample of startup-driven geospatial AR efforts (you could argue that Foursquare isn’t a startup). A more exhaustive list would include several more companies such as Darabase , Resonai and Scape Technologies ( acquired by Facebook). Beyond the tech giants we’ve already examined in this Space Race series, these smaller players will fill important gaps in the geospatial AR value chain. That could be focused consumer experiences like GoWalla, or critical data and developer tools like Foursquare and ARWay. Either way, geospatial AR will be an opportune subsegment of the overall AR world. Indeed, realistically fusing digital and physical worlds requires a hefty dose of spatially-relevant data and understanding. Like many other emerging sectors, there will be several points of entry. PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.