Virtual reality is spectacular for creating engaging and immersive experiences. However, the experience is deeply personal and what clicks for some people won’t work for others, especially the people watching: onlookers would find you rather dumb while being tethered to a computer and fumbling around, blind and deaf to the outside world.
This highlights a notable problem in VR communication and promotion: how to translate the feeling of being in a fully interactive virtual environment for a large audience. When you can’t even share your feelings with people in the same room, how can you expect to allure those on the other side of the planet.
This is why Chongqing-based IVREAL came together. The Chinese startup was founded in 2016 by Tao Shu and Li Rui to address the promotion and communication problems in VR. The team decided the way to do that was to draw upon MR.
“Scientists and researchers would divide them into specific fields of VR, AR and MR, but in a real application, there’s no clear boundaries and more complementary integration among the sectors,” said Tao Shu, founder and CEO of IVREAL.
Taking the first-person footage from the headset display is the traditional and the easiest method to create a promotion trailer, however, it never provides the viewers the same degree of presence that’s been experienced by the VR players. To solve this problem, IVREAL adopts a 3rd person view to combine the players and the virtual environment.
“It would be super useful for developers to make the live demo and promotion videos,” said Tao. Instead of trackers, the platform would spice it up a little bit by rendering the trackers to something really cool, such as guns or bats.
While the 3rd person approach has been adopted by several players in this sector, such as YouTube’s Space Studio, there’s still many technical problems to be solved and device set up is one of them, introduced Tao.
“It usually takes five hours or more to install the whole set of devices which involves the green screen, headset, tracker, virtual cameras and reality cameras. “Through double-pairs-fixing technology, we can reduce the installation time greatly to 1-5 minutes. This would reduce the operational cost for VR live streaming service platforms, for example.”
IVREAL now supports both Unity and Unreal, two largest VR game engines, which means its solution is available for more than 95% of the VR contents now, Tao Shu noted.
Tao is a serial entrepreneur and a former professor at Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. With employees from Baidu, GE and Microsoft, the startup has received an undisclosed angel round. They are going to launch the next funding round later this year.
Chinese investors need to rethink their VR thinking
“Offering a model that you can find successful benchmark cases in the past is everything you need for fundraising in China. Investors keep telling you that technologies, patents, none of these matters as long as you have a sound and proven business model,” said Tao.
Believe it or not, Tao’s remarks is reflecting a popular mindset of Chinese investors. A proven business model is the secret recipe for every business and you could copy-and-paste it to everything. Just look at all the frenzies for “sharing-economy”, or shared rental to be more exact. The success of house and bike sharing spawned lots similar startups from power bank to basketball and even umbrella rentals.
While investors are throwing money at these verticals, they are unwilling to take risks and turning a cold shoulder to innovative models and technologies. “China’s moving to a new era for true innovation and our investors should shift to a new mindset to embrace this change too,” Tao commented.