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August 22, 2014

Wheelings & Dealings: Virtual Cinema Set To Spike with Jaunt's Big New Funding Push


Right now, the state of virtual reality (VR) as it relates to movies is kind of slim. While there's no shortage of first-person shot films—pretty much anything “found footage” related applies as does anything in the documentary or travelogue field—the technology is still a little lagging. Those who have tried to watch movies on an Oculus Rift, for example, report some major problems with the resolution, though the experience is said to still be quite impressive. That may change soon  as Jaunt, a company focused on both hardware and software to make virtual reality experiences possible, just received a fresh round of funding that has substantially raised its capital load.

The company's new round of funding brought in $27.8 million, which in turn has raised investment to a total of $34 million.

The company makes, among other things, a kind of spherical camera that includes a variety of lenses such that a 360 degree field of view can be had, exactly what a VR experience would call for. It's still in its prototype stages, but if it works, it may well change the way that movies are shot, specifically with VR tools in mind. Jaunt is also said to be working on a consumer player for Oculus Rift systems, with one possible release strategy to be to offer the player at no charge while offering a content service on a subscription basis, or possibly on a pay-per-view basis.

But lest anyone think that this is all hat and no cattle, so to speak, reports suggest that Jaunt hardware has already been used to shoot a few things, including a World War II piece called “The Mission” and a horror short from Gregory Plotkin of the upcoming “Paranormal Activity 5” called “Black Mass.” So VR content is getting into place, as is the technology. Indeed, Jaunt CEO and co-founder Jens Christensen suggests that the technology could potentially reach “tens of millions of customers” just in the next three years. Christensen elaborated, saying “We think it’s going to grow very large. It’s extremely early days, but we think over the next few years, as the technology becomes available, virtual reality will see mass adoption.” Jaunt also has plans to support the Project Morpheus system from Sony, and may well expand beyond that should firms like Microsoft or Apple enter the market.

Still early days. That's a very good way to describe the VR market right now, and it's entirely possible that, before too much longer, we'll see a lot more going on in terms of not only software but hardware here, so to speak. The idea of a completely immersive cinematic experience that can be had at one's own home is just what people have been waiting for ever since there was a home theater concept to even talk about, and we may well be at the threshold of just such an experience. But it's still likely to be a while before any of this starts to materialize, and in turn, before anyone can really tell just how worthwhile it will be.

To suggest that virtual reality in the home is now only a matter of time might have been outlandish even just two years ago, but now, not nearly so much. It may be time to reconsider how we watch movies, and for the rest of the industry to consider how to adapt to that new market.




Edited by Stefania Viscusi


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