Lynx Secures $4M in Series A Funding, Aims to Become “European Champion of Mixed Reality”

Lynx, the French XR hardware startup known for crowdfunding the Lynx R-1 mixed reality headset, today announced it’s secured $4 million in its Series A round, led by social VR platform Somnium Space.

Alongside Somnium Space, participants in the latest funding round also include what Lynx calls early supporters of the company and “other investors involved in the AR/VR field such as ex-Meta and Google engineers.”

This brings the company’s total outside funding to $6.8 million, according to Crunchbase data, following the R-1 headset’s $800,000 Kickstarter campaign back in late 2021 and a seed round of $2 million in early 2019.  As a part of the deal Artur Sychov, founder & CEO of Somnium Space, is joining the company’s board of directors.

Built on Qualcomm’s XR2 chipset, Lynx R-1 combines high quality cameras and virtual reality displays to achieve passthrough AR in addition to standard VR (aka, mixed reality), making it an early pioneer of the category. The headset also ditches the standard Fresnel lenses for a novel optic called a “four-fold catadioptric freeform prism,” which is said to slim down the size of Lynx R-1 seemingly beyond what current Fresnels can do.

“At Somnium Space we truly believe in the future of open and decentralized Metaverse which empowers its users. This includes, not only software, but also very importantly hardware,” says Artur Sychov, Founder & CEO of Somnium Space. “The Lynx team led by Stan has created an extraordinary AR / VR device (Lynx-r) with openness in mind which will change and revolutionize the way we all think and interact with this market category. I am very happy to support this company and believe that together we will push the boundaries and potential of the VR/AR industry forward.”

Founded in 2019, Lynx has high ambitions for its R-1 headset too. Priced at $600 for its consumer version, the company is looking to lead the way into the same product category that many established players are soon to enter, including Meta with Project Cambria and Apple with its rumored headset, reportedly code named N301.

“We have this opportunity right here to create the European Champion of Mixed Reality with our work at Lynx, supported by a vibrant community of users and developers desperate to see alternatives to Big Tech companies products and their closed ecosystems.” says Stan Larroque, founder and CEO of Lynx. “What’s the point of creating a European Metaverse if the underlying platform, the door we use to access it, remains in the hands of the same big players with their damaging business models?” he adds.

Since finalizing the design of Lynx R-1, the company has also completed an office expansion in Paris, now at more 200 square meters of R&D, and established a new office in Taiwan.

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Google Acquires MicroLED Startup Raxium to Bolster AR Ambitions

Google is adding to its portfolio of XR microdisplay designs and talent, as the company announced it’s acquired microLED (µLED) designer Raxium.

The acquisition was previously reported by The Information in March, however now Google has confirmed in a blog post that it has indeed acquired Raxium, a five-year old startup building microdisplays for use in AR and VR headsets.

The Information’s report held Raxium was sold to Google for $1 billion, however official details of the acquisition are still murky. Google says Raxium will join its Devices & Services team, which is tasked with development of Google’s consumer devices.

Image courtesy Raxium, Google

It’s thought that Raxium will allow for Google to create lighter, cheaper displays for its upcoming AR devices. While conventional Super AMOLEDs found in smartphones measure around 50 µm per pixel, Raxium says it’s shrunk its microdisplays to feature µLED measuring 3.5 µm per pixel. The company claims its technology has led to an efficiency “5X greater than the previously published world record.”

“The team at Raxium has spent five years creating miniaturized, cost-effective and energy efficient high-resolution displays that have laid the foundation for future display technologies. Raxium’s technical expertise in this area will play a key role as we continue to invest in our hardware efforts,” says Rick Osterloh, senior VP of Google’s Devices & Services team.

Google is undoubtedly gearing up to release XR headsets of some type in the future, which may compete with devices from Apple, Meta, Microsoft and Snap. In 2020, Google acquired North, a Canada-based company known for creating unobtrusive prescription-compatible smartglasses—a sight more stylish than Google Glass. Check out our primer on the difference between smartglasses and AR headsets to learn more.

Earlier this year Google snapped up Bernard Kress, principal optical architect on the Microsoft HoloLens team. Kress is now the Director of XR Engineering at Google Labs, an internal XR division founded late last year. According to previous reports, Google Labs is currently working on an AR headset, code named Project Iris, which is rumored to ship sometime in 2024.

Reports detailing Project Iris maintain a device providing a standalone experience with onboard power, computing, and outward-facing cameras for world sensing capabilities—similar in description and function to headsets like HoloLens or Magic Leap.

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Maker of the Taser Acquires VR Studio to Bolster VR Police Training

Axon, the company best known for its Taser stun guns, has announced the acquisition of VR studio Foundry 45 which it says will bolster its VR training offerings.

Founded in 1993, Axon is the company behind the well known Taser stun guns which are employed by police and military forces around the world. In modern times the company has also focused on body cams and software for administration and management of public safety organizations. This month Axon announced the acquisition of the VR studio Foundry 45.

Formed in 2015, Foundry 45 has focused on combining VR with training and marketing. The company says it has built VR experiences for the likes of Delta Air Lines, The Weather Channel, AT&T, and others.

Axon, which has previously offered VR training, says the Foundry 45 team will merge with the existing Axon VR team to bolster the company’s ability to offer VR-based training solutions.

“Virtual reality is rapidly becoming a game-changing training tool across many industries, and the acquisition of Foundry 45 will help accelerate Axon to deliver innovative skills- and scenario-based training in public safety, and will catalyze Axon’s expansion into new growth markets globally,” the company said in its announcement of the acquisition.

Axon says its goal is to use “new immersive technologies to better prepare officers for real-life situations in the field. Axon’s VR products provide virtual reality content that helps officers develop critical thinking, de-escalation techniques and tactical skills across a diverse set of highly realistic scenarios.”

The acquisition appears to have been an all-stock deal, with Axon saying that 29,507 restricted stock units (valued around $3.87 million) were “granted to two individuals in connection with the acquisition,” with a vesting schedule of three years. Axon says the deal also includes up to an additional 15,249 restricted stock units (valued around $2 million) if the company’s VR unit achieves certain performance-based goals.

Axon—which calls its stun guns “non-lethal”—understandably has a vested interest in making sure the users of its Taser products are well trained. Not just for the safety of users and targets but also for liability and the company’s image, which hinges on claims that its weapons result in no serious injury in the vast majority of cases where they are deployed.

One unfortunate incident that recently brought the Taser into the public eye was the 2021 killing of Daunte Wright in Minnesota, in which an officer claimed to have accidentally pulled out and fired her firearm instead of her Taser.

And that isn’t the only time that mistaking a gun for a Taser. According to the Star Tribune there have been at least 16 cases in the US where officers mistook the two weapons, four of which resulted in deaths.

The promise of VR training is not only that it can feel more real—which has studied benefits to lasting recall—but also that it can be cheaper and easier for public safety organizations to deploy, allowing for more training time with a broader range of scenarios and less overhead.

Whether or not VR training could have helped avert the tragic situations mentioned above isn’t clear, but one can surely hope.

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Veteran VR Studio of ‘Fracked’ & ‘Phantom: Covert Ops’ Raises $35M to Expand Development & Publishing

nDreams, the veteran VR studio behind titles like Fracked (2021) and Phantom: Covert Ops (2020), today announced a $35 million investment from Aonic Group.

nDreams was an early adopter of VR, starting with early VR tech demos in 2014, followed by small titles for headsets like Gear VR by 2015, and a larger title, The Assembly, which launched alongside the original Oculus Rift in 2016. Ever since, the company has been dedicated to VR development, having launched more recent games like the Oculus-exclusive Phantom: Covert Ops (2020), PSVR-exclusive Fracked (2021), and partnered with some major IP with the likes of Far Cry VR: Dive Into Insanity, a game developed specifically for out-of-home VR attractions.

Image courtesy nDreams

Some eight years since its pivot into VR, nDreams seems to have positioned itself well to continue its relevance for another eight years, having today announced a $35 million investment from the likes of Aonic Group, the video game division of Mercia Asset Management.

With the influx of cash the studio says it plans to “create more ambitious titles,” grow its internal studios, and expand its publishing business which it had established back in 2021 with an initial $2 million fund; its first publisher title, Little Cities, is due to launch Spring.

With two internal studios under its umbrella—Studio Orbital and Studio Elevation—nDreams says it currently employs 130 people and plans to expand to 175 by the end of 2022. The company says Orbital is focused on building live-service games for VR while Elevation is “creating AAA VR games and new IPs.”

As part of the announcement the studio says it has its “strongest line-up of future projects already in development,” including games in the works aimed at the upcoming PSVR 2.

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Surgery Training Platform ‘Osso VR’ Secures $66M Series C Financing

Osso VR, the VR surgical training platform, today announced it’s closed a $66 million Series C financing round, something the company says will be used to broaden its VR surgical offering and hire more expert talent.

The Series C round was led by Oak HC/FT, which includes participation from Signalfire, GSR Ventures, Tiger Global Management and Kaiser Permanente Ventures.

This brings the company’s lifetime outside investment to around $109 million, with its $27 million Series B arriving in July 2021.

Founded in late 2016 by UCLA and Harvard-trained orthopedic surgeon Justin Barad, MD, Osso VR’s surgical training tech provides on-demand, educational experiences to surgeons with a focus on acquainting them with emerging techniques and technologies. The company works with industry leaders such as Johnson & Johnson, Stryker, Zimmer Biomet and Smith & Nephew.

More recently, Osso VR made strides during the COVID-19 pandemic since its VR training allows medical professionals to learn and practice from a distance. It provides modules across a number of fields, including orthopedics, endoscopy, and a host of interventional procedures.

The company has now grown to more than 150 employees, and Osso VR says it plans to grow “exponentially” over the next year.

“The future at Osso VR is incredibly bright. Each step of the way, we’ve stayed true to our mission to democratize healthcare and seen the results that our platform brings to surgical training and assessment,” said Barad. “This round of investment supports the next step of our journey to provide access to all healthcare professionals. I couldn’t be more excited to take this next step with such a talented, passionate team.”

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FOV Ventures Raises $18 Million to Fund European Metaverse Startups

FOV Ventures is a newly formed venture capital firm which plans to invest in early-stage metaverse startups. The firm says it has raised an initial $18.1 million as part of its first fund.

Founding partners David Haynes and Petri Rajahalme announced this month FOV Ventures, a Finland-based early-stage VC firm through which the duo plans to focus on Europe-based metaverse startups.

The firm says it has raised $18.1 million (€16.5 million) so far and plans to cap its first fund at $27.5 million (€25 million). Through the fund the firm plans to invest $274K–550K (€250K–500K) in up to 25 companies in pre-seed and seed stages.

The company says it is looking to fund startups working specifically in the areas of ‘Avatars & Identity’, ‘Retail & Digital Commerce’, ‘Immersive Social’, ‘Future of Work’, and ‘Tools & Infrastructure’.

“The metaverse represents a major expansion of today’s Internet, becoming more immersive, built with new tools such as real-time 3D game engines, and spanning an increasingly blurred line between the virtual and physical world,” the firm says.

FOV Ventures founding partners, Dave Haynes (left) and Petri Rajahalme (right) | Image courtesy FOV Ventures

Both founding partners have backgrounds in venture funding, according to the firm. Dave Haynes was previously part of Vive X, HTC’s VR investment fund, and the Europe-focused VC firm Seedcamp. Haynes purportedly led investments in LIV, Maze Theory, and Bodyswaps during his tenure at Vive X. Petri Rajahalme was Managing Director at the Nordic XR Startups fund, where he is said to have led investments in eight XR companies, among other work in the XR investment space prior to the formation of FOV Ventures.

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‘Township Tale’ Studio Raises $12.4 Million to Expand Studio & Development

Australia-based Studio Alta, the developer behind A Township Tale, today announced it has raised a $12.4 million seed investment to expand its studio and accelerate development of the game.

Studio Alta had been quietly developing its brilliant co-op focused VR game A Township Tale for years on PC as a small indie team. Though it was loved by many who played it, the title remained something of a sleeper, likely due in part to the fact that the studio has only ever distributed it independently rather than through storefronts like SteamVR or Oculus PC.

Through an impressive effort the studio managed to port A Township Tale to Quest where it seems the game has found the right conditions to thrive. The studio says the game spent “seven weeks at #1 on the Oculus charts” and “produced historical engagement metrics for the platform […]” at its debut.

And it would seem investors took notice. The studio today announced it has raised a $12.4 million seed round… and not just from any old investors either; the round was co-led by Makers Fund and Andreessen Horowitz, the latter being a well known name in the venture capital space—with nearly $20 billion in assets under management—and an early investor in Oculus. The round also saw participation by Pioneer Fund, Boost VC, muru-D, and Thomas Rice.

Image courtesy Alta

Alta says it plans to use the funds to “further develop proprietary content and IP, expand the team, and position the game for new platforms.”

“Alta started out with a single quest: to create worlds that bring people together,” said Tima Anoshechkin, CEO and co-founder of Alta. “This funding helps us expand that vision beyond just growing our flagship game, and allows us to expand the team, create new opportunities and partnerships to collaborate with, and continue to develop world-class technology whether with VR or other platforms. Whenever and wherever you are playing, our experience will always be engaging, seamless and fun.”

Road to VR further spoke with Anoshechkin in to learn more about the studio’s priorities and aim for the future, including a hint that the game could come to PSVR or PSVR 2.

Q: What’s the biggest focus for A Township Tale development in 2022?

A: We have accumulated a lot of technical debt. The goal is to clean everything up, so we can release features faster to the community and bring A Township Tale to as many platforms as possible. Also we are really focusing on onboarding experience and explaining the game to the new players in a very friendly way.

Q: What’s the long-term vision for A Township Tale?

A: Our long term vision to create a unique experience where there is always reason for players to stay. I don’t like to use metaverse as much, but if we can deliver a unique world experience to each user that they have agency over, can share with their friends and visit their friend’s world seamlessly that would be a worthwhile goal to build towards.

Q: What’s the long term plan for the studio (plan to work on multiple projects or focus solely on A Township Tale)?

A: For now focus is solely on A Township Tale.

Q: What can you tell me about the game’s reception on Quest?

A: We can’t share many metrics as we in preparation for our next round, but studio is cash flow positive and definitely there is enough users in VR space to support mid size studios.

Q: How large is the studio?

A: More than two-dozen and growing. We can’t provide exact number, as a lot of people have joined, but still in on-boarding phase or just waiting for their notice periods to end. But studio tripled in size since the game launch.

Q: Do you expect A Township Tale to come to PSVR / PSVR 2?

A: We would love to.

Q: What are you long-term plans for in-app purchases (IAP) in A Township Tale?

A: We are pretty much open to everything as long as the game is not P2W and our community is on board with IAP strategy.

Q: What’s the most surprising/interesting thing you’ve seen players do in A Township Tale?

A: I am still surprised by number of people in VR ecosystem that only have mobile and Quest devices. As a result it really forces you to re-examine how games are build and how to onboard players. For a lot of this people Quest is their first high end gaming device, which is mind boggling to me.

Alongside the announcement Alta says it is actively hiring. While it will take time for the studio to ramp up, we’d expect updates to A Township Tale to expand in scope going forward. The Quest version is missing some major parts of the game compared to the PC version, so there’s some catching up to do before genuine progress is made to move both versions forward. The studio has also said previously that it hopes to add cross-play support with PC players eventually.

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Epic Games Awarded Grants to 31 XR Projects in 2021 Through the $100M MegaGrants Fund

Since 2019 Epic Games (well known as the creators of Unreal Engine & Fortnite) has run the Epic MegaGrants program, a $100 million fund to financially support projects built with Unreal Engine. In 2021 the program awarded grants to 31 XR projects.

Epic recently recapped the complete list of MegaGrant recipients in 2021, comprising a whopping 390 individual projects, each of which received a grant from the program of up to $500,000

By our count, 31 one of those were built with XR in mind. The projects range widely from games to simulation to education and more. Here’s a few that caught our eye, along with the complete list or XR recipients further below.

BRUNNER Elektronik – Unreal Engine Integration for NOVASIM Flight Simulator

HumanCodeable – Advanced VR Framework

Tribe XR – DJ in VR

VRSpeaking LLC. – Ovation

All Epic MegaGrant XR Recipients in 2021

  1. 6th Sense VR – Ayatana Concept (France)
  2. ​​ALO VR – VigourVR (Singapore)
  3. Art Reality Studio – IVR 6 (United States)
  4. BRUNNER Elektronik AG – Unreal Engine Integration for BRUNNER NOVASIM VR/MR (Switzerland)
  5. b.ReX GmbH – Intelligent Cycling
  6. Byker Biotech Pty Ltd – VR Lab for 3D human specimens (China)
  7. Dmitro Tsalko – EnergoVR (Ukraine)
  8. Eternal Monke Games – Dragon.IK – Universal Inverse Kinematics Plugin
  9. HumanCodeable – Advanced VR Framework (Germany)
  10. IMP – Interactive Media Production – VR Fire Safety Simulator
  11. Lightscape VR (Germany)
  12. North Carolina State University (NCSU) – transVRse (United States)
  13. ONMOTIO – Immersive Technical Training in Inhospitable or Dangerous Zones Using VR (Canada)
  14. Research Center for Molecular Medicine (CeMM) – DataDiVR Interactive Data Analytics Platform (Austria)
  15. Tribe XR – DJ in VR (United States)
  16. University of North Carolina at Asheville – Interfacing Unreal with Physical Computing & New Media VR Pedagogy (United States)
  17. Vantari VR – Critical Care Procedural Training Suite (Australia)
  18. VRSpeaking LLC. – Ovation (United States)
  19. Western University – Using AR/VR to Improve Pediatric Surgical Patient’s Hospital Experience (Canada)
  20. Raytracer PTY Ltd. – Underwater Virtual Reality Simulation for Astronaut Training (Australia)
  21. Universitat Pompeu Fabra – Mixed Reality in Fetal Intervention Using Unreal Engine (Spain)
  22. VYV Corporation – Photon Augmented Reality Studio (Canada)
  23. Lemay – AR Workflow from Revit to Reality (Canada)
  24. New Reality Co. – Rainforest: A Multiplayer AR Experience (United States)
  25. Oakland University – Augmented Reality Center (ARC) for Industrial Applications (United States)
  26. Marquette University – Immersive and Augmented Media Design Fellowship (United States)
  27. Brainstorm Multimedia S.L. – EDISON – Unreal Template Based AR Solution for Education (Spain)
  28. Createxion – Draw-It AR (India)
  29. University of Michigan – AR System for Lunar EVAs (United States)
  30. Visometry GmbH – HQ-CAD-AR on a Driving Car (Germany)
  31. RealityArts Studio / Velarion – The Stranger (Turkey)

Epic says that MegaGrants awards are not investments or loans, and recipients can use the money to do “whatever will make their project successful,” with no oversight from the company. Similarly, recipients retain full rights to their IP and can choose to publish their projects however they want.  If you’re working on something related to Unreal Engine, you can apply for consideration too!

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Avatar Creation Tool ‘Ready Player Me’ Raises $13M to Provide Metaverse-wide Avatars

Wolf3D, the Estonian startup behind web-based avatar creator Ready Player Me, has closed a $13 million funding round. The company says it will use the funds to further build out its avatar creation tools and eventually allow developers to earn money through the sale of in-game assets and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Ready Player Me studio Wolf3D has secured a $13 million Series A funding round, which was led by Wise and Teleport co-founders Taavet+Sten, and features participation from GitHub co-founder Tom Preston-Werner, Samsung Next, NordicNinja, Konvoy Ventures, and others. The news was first reported by Venture Beat.

Read Player Me allows anyone to create and customize their own avatar, which can then be imported into social VR platforms such as VRChatSpatialLIVMeetinVR, and more.

Working on both desktop and mobile devices, Ready Player Me presents an easy way of doing so, letting you use the same skin across multiple platforms—some 900+ apps and games now, the company says.

Image courtesy Wolf3D

With the fresh funding, Wolf3D says in a blog post that it will build out its custom content creation tools, invest in avatar art through additional styles and body types, and improve avatar performance.

In addition to building APIs and SDKs to improve the developer experience, the studio says it will also be focusing on making Ready Player Me a “revenue generator for developers” by allowing third-party devs to sell in-game assets and NFTs—cryptographic tokens that exist on a blockchain and can be easily bought, sold and traded.

The company hasn’t said when it will roll out its monetization strategy, however it lists it as “coming soon.”

In the meantime, Wolf3D says its scaling up from 30 people today to over 70, with multiple roles offered across Europe and the US. The latest funding round brings the company’s lifetime outside investment to $16.5 million, following a $2.1 million seed round in July 2020.

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Resolution Games Acquires Studio Behind ‘Carly and the Reaperman’ Quest Port

Resolution Games, a leading developer of XR content, has acquired Zero Index, the studio which helped bring Odd Raven Studios’ VR co-op game Carly and the Reaperman (2018) to the Quest platform earlier this year.

Zero Index is a game studio and consulting firm focused on B2B services within both the game and IT industry. Founded by Tomas Ahlström and Alexander Milton in 2020, the team has worked to expand the game industry in the region of Östergötland in eastern Sweden.

As a part of the acquisition, the four-person team, which is based in Linköping, will be rebranded as Resolution Tech. Ahlström has been tapped to fill the role of studio manager within Resolution Games.

“The Zero Index team has a number of impressive accomplishments under their belt, including their exemplary work that helped us bring Carly and the Reaperman to Oculus Quest earlier this year,” said Tommy Palm, CEO and founder of Resolution Games. “Demand for great VR and AR experiences is growing at an exponential rate. With more hardware choices than ever in the pipeline from tech’s biggest players, having a team experienced in bringing games to different markets and platforms will help us continue to reach new players everywhere they choose to play.”

Additionally, the studio today announced four new hires including Head of People & Culture Natalie Mellin, General Counsel Ebba Waltré, Product Manager Johan Gästrin, and Finance Director Rickard Åstrand.

This undoubtedly comes as a direct result of its Series C funding closed earlier this year, which brought $25 million to the company to help the Stockholm-based studio expand. The studio has also created several well-performing VR titles such as Demeo (2021), Blaston (2020)Cook-Out: A Sandwich Tale (2020), and Angry Birds: Isle of Pigs (2019). 

The studio most recently announced Ultimechs, a futuristic multiplayer VR sport coming to headsets sometime in 2022.

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