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May 20, 2014

Survios Nets $4 Million as the Virtual Reality Arms Race Gears Up


When Facebook bought Oculus VR back in late March, with the deal approved by regulators later on, many—not least of whom Mark Zuckerberg himself—began to speculate on the array of possibilities that virtual reality could generate. Granted, some had been speculating on just those same possibilities since the Holodeck and the earliest days of “Dactyl Nightmare”, but speculation certainly ramped up. Sensing the possibilities afoot, competitors began to emerge, and the latest such competitor is Survios, who recently raised $4 million to take on Facebook and Oculus.

While Oculus VR is planning to release its Rift goggles in the near-term future, other companies are looking to actually expand on the Oculus experience and provide something even more substantial as a means to differentiate from the larger pool. In Survios' case, that means a complete VR experience, including even control mechanisms in a move toward making VR more immersive than even Oculus has been able to do so far. Survios actually starts with an Oculus Rift headset, backed up by a Sixense controller system and a Sony Move controller, the combination creating an environment that can not only sense where a user is currently standing, but where the user has moved to, allowing for things like easy head-turning to correspond to in-game movement. There's even a positional audio system involved to provide further immersion, though the total system right now is somewhat unwieldy, Survios is working to make more compact.

The increase in funding also brings with it new additions to the Survios team, as Shasta Ventures partner Rob Coneybeer—Shasta Ventures led the funding round that got Survios its $4 million—joins the Survios board. Survios will get some further help, as Michael Chang, formerly of Electronic Arts, is set to step in as investor and advisor. On Survios' list of things to do with its new funding, meanwhile, include making further hires as well as to expand into a new office, as well as design the Survios system to go from prototype to manufacture-ready item.

While it's still very early to talk about what kind of chance Survios has against the Oculus Rift, it's worth noting as well that these aren't the only two firms in the mix. There's Jaunt, a company that specializes in immersive video that brought in a $6.8 million round of funding, and there's also the VR startup Virtuix, who landed $3 million in funding not so long ago. Virtual reality as a concept may be decades old, but it was the Oculus Rift that really kicked things off. We're likely to see plenty of competition in this space, and it's likely to take off pretty soon as we get closer to the point where not only Oculus Rift goes into wide release, but also as Sony's Project Morpheus gets closer to the sticking point of reality as well.

While there will likely be some companies changing direction or closing outright, seeing just what steps into the market should prove very exciting indeed for those who have been craving the thought of virtual reality for decades now. There will likely be many new developments in this sector before it's all said and done, and in the end, we may ultimately have the virtual reality experiences we've always wanted.




Edited by Maurice Nagle


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