Things are looking up for virtual reality right now. With news that it surpassed 1 million sales in the last quarter it's clear that the faith is still alive. HTC clearly also believes in it, so much so that it just announced the third round of startups that will be joining its accelerator program, Vive X.
The program has already brought some impressive technologies to life, such as the TPCast wireless add-on and, more recently, an eye-tracking peripheral. And it's just announced it's bringing 26 more companies into the fold.
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Since July 2016 Vive X has invested in over 80 companies. We've broken down the most interesting startups from the latest round below.
Neurable (San Francisco)
What it does: Neurable is building brain-computer interfaces for VR. Instead of using electroencephalography (EEG) signals as devices like Muse's headband, it uses event-related potential (ERP) signals, which are responses to stimuli. Either way, the outcome is essentially mind control. Cool, huh?
Why it's interesting: We saw something similar with MindMaze's neurotechnology, which can translate emotional responses into VR in real time. Anything mind controlled is fascinating, obviously, but in VR it has a lot of exciting and unique possibilities.
What it does: Karaoke is an entire industry built on the principle that most people will sing in public when they're drunk to the point of borderline incapacitation. But what if you couldn't see your friends, but instead a stage in front of thousands of virtual humans who all think your Cyndi Lauper rendition rocks? That's what Genhaosan does, creating VR environments for karaoke rooms that make you feel more like a true rock star.
Why it's interesting: Because everyone wants to be a star. And again, this is what VR is all about: taking you to places you would normally find yourself being dragged from by burly security guards. You can already try out social karaoke game SingSpace on the Samsung Gear VR, but we'd really love for VR karaoke to become a bigger thing. If Animoji karaoke can…
Quantum Capture (San Francisco)
What it does: Virtual reality only lives up to half of its name when the characters that live in these worlds aren't convincing. Quantum Capture wants to bring a new level of realism to VR, building real-time interactive humans with cognitive AI and procedural animation. If you saw Guillermo del Toro in the trailer for the upcoming game Death Stranding (see above), that was Quantum Capture's work in action.
Why it's interesting: Because this is what VR is all about, right? Quantum is bringing increased fidelity to human interaction in VR, but it's also trying to reduce the costs of doing so. One day we'll cross the uncanny valley, and companies like Quantum Capture will be the ones to take us there.
What it does: Creates virtual reality labs for physics, chemistry and biology students where they can safely (and authentically) carry out experiments.
Why it's interesting: There's massive potential for VR in education, some of which we're already seeing, and companies like JuDaoEdu could have a meaningful impact in schools. This doesn't just apply to the sciences of course (imagine not just hearing about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but actually being there) but VR can be a resource that's not just inexpensive but more engaging compared to traditional classroom equipment.
What it does: Wewod is about creating location-based VR entertainment experiences that can be shared with other people in the same physical space. It wants to bring these experiences to theme parks and even family restaurants.
Why it's interesting: As we've seen with similar experiences such as Nomadic's, location-based VR can be incredibly fun. VR in the home is fine, but it's too often a solitary experience; being able to share it with a friend in the same room is more appealing to many folks. We've already tried a few VR theme park rides, some better than others, but we have no doubt this is a trend that's on the up.
Remmersive (Tel Aviv)
What it does: Little is known about this startup, founded by technologists and race driving champions, but it promises a "new breed" of virtual reality driving simulator using a tech it calls Composed-Reality. This, it says, will offer a more "natural and unmitigated body in VR experience" than we've seen to date.
Why it's interesting: Because Driveclub VR made us want to hurl, and we know we can do better.
QuarkVR (San Francisco)
What it does: QuarkVR is a compression and streaming technology designed to cut the cord, capable of streaming to VR and AR headsets without compromising quality. It's also hardware agnostic, according to the company, and can support 4K-per-eye resolution, even streaming to a dozen users in the same environment simultaneously. Yes, this is the Pied Piper of VR.
What it's interesting: Because wires suck. And because since we tried Oculus Santa Cruz we've found it hard to go back to tethered VR. The future is wireless, and the company says the tech is already field tested by arcades.
CALA (San Francisco)
What it does: We've seen how virtual reality can be used in architecture and car design, but CALA is about fashion. It uses 3D-scanning tech to let fashion designers take body measurements with AR and VR tech to make more precisely designed clothes.
Why it's interesting: Because it's a genuinely interesting application for VR. Just look at Ikea, which is using AR to help customers get a better sense of how furniture will look and fit in their homes – and reducing its return rate as a result.
Pillow's Willow (Beijing)
What it does: Pillow's Willow builds fantasy worlds, for single or shared experiences, with an emphasis on creativity and positivity. It's also collaborating with Manus VR on gloves that will give players the use of their hands in these virtual "Dreamscapes".
Why it's interesting: Because, inevitably, we've transplanted so much traditional video game thinking to VR, which means a lot of guns and violence. But it doesn't have to all be that way, and companies like this will be important in pushing virtual reality in more interesting directions.
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