Both AR and VR are yet to reach the hardware and software “iPhone moment” that will take the technologies to the mainstream mass-market. However, it is not all doom and gloom. The enterprise front is seeing some dynamism. A startup that developed mixed reality collaboration services for enterprise users just notched up millions of dollars in a funding round which further underscores the massive opportunity that is already available in the enterprise market.
The AR/VR startup Spatial announced yesterday that it has raised $14 million in Series A funding. This brings the startup’s total funding to date to $22 million if you factor in Spatial’s last round of funding in October 2018 where it raised $8 million.
This round of funding was led by WhiteStar Capital, Kakao Ventures and iNovia. Baidu also participated in the funding round which also saw the continued participation from Zynga Founder Mark Pincus and Instagram Co-Founder Mike Krieger. Other investors included Leaders Fund, Expa, Lerer Hippeau, Andy Hertzfeld and Samsung NEXT.
Spatial CEO and co-founder Anand Agarawala said that the startup is not disclosing its valuation at the moment.
Spatial is a holographic collaboration platform where users can speak and work together within virtual rooms by using very effective avatars. The platform is multi-user and cross-device and enables users to collaborate within 3D workspaces by using either virtual reality or augmented reality devices. Users can collaborate together within the same virtual workspace regardless of whether they are in different locations or the same room. The Spatial platform is like an immersive version of either Google Hangout or Zoom.
The money raised will be used in further building out its functionality and interoperability with a wider selection of hardware. The startup will also be utilizing the financing to explore how it can transform its technology into a platform that can be used by others, such as via a software development kit (SDK).
Spatial’s latest round of funding is coming at a time when other immersive startups have already raised mountains of cash. Magic Leap, for example, has raised more than $3 billion over the years. The industry is also seeing high valuations as well as some very notable exits. Additionally, there has been some dynamism in both the hardware and software front with the release of lots of new devices and apps.
In spite of the investments and innovations in XR that have been seen in the recent past, only 6 million VR headsets were sold in 2019 according to data by Statista. So the virtual reality space has mostly remained a niche space in spite of the optimism a few years back that the industry would see a major breakthrough and go mainstream.
One area that is certainly seeing some traction is the enterprise market and this is where Spatial is focused in. Its technology is interoperable with any VR headset or augmented reality glasses. Currently, it supports Oculus Quest, Microsoft HoloLens, Qualcomm XR2, Magic Leap One and Android/iPhone smartphones. The tech even supports PCs. This enables companies with a multiplicity of devices to build versatile videoconferencing use-cases in which participants are placed in virtual rooms where they are able to speak with one another using their avatars. They can even look at and jointly manipulate holographic models.
Spatial’s enterprise business has been seeing some good traction over the past year. According to Agarawala, 25% of the Fortune 1000 bracket businesses have expressed an interest (inbound) in the product. Some of its clients so far include BNP Paribas, Mattel and Nestle/Purina. This is a testament of how the industry is finally coming out of the immersive winter and approaching something close to a breakout moment. This will also be spurred on by the launch of new immersive hardware likely to roll off the shop-floors in the coming years.
Spatial wants to eventually eliminate the need for staff and other enterprise users to physically travel to have team collaborations. Its solution is a unique one and goes beyond what is currently on offer with remote collaboration tools such as Slack and Zoom by making it possible for users to teleconference and collaborate within the same physical space irrespective of their location in the world.
Spatial’s mixed reality platform will no doubt represents the future of work and the startup hopes to play a major part in that.
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