High Fidelity, the VR startup founded by Second Life founder Philip Rosedale, just announced that they have received an $11 million dollar round of funding from Paul Allen led Vulcan Capital. The funding will go towards helping the company build out it’s open source social VR platform.
High Fidelity is looking to bring expression into the virtual social space. Using “inexpensive webcams and motion controllers,” the company is able to capture gaze, facial expressions and body language. This takes the level of avatar expressiveness to a level that is a notch above what is currently available in most other VR social experiences. Take a look at the funding announcement video, which was filmed in the virtual world:
As we can see in the video, the company is using tech to track character movement, as well as the movement of the mouth as the characters speak. Simple eyebrow and eye animations help to add to the realism effect. The company has, at least for now, strayed from fully realistic models as they would likely reside in the Uncanny Valley.
The company is also working on technology to help improve the scalability of the audience and content online. Rendering VR worlds online to support millions of users at once is a monumental task and is going to take every bit of that $11 million they just received (to go along with the $6.5 million they already had raised).
The main idea behind High Fidelity is that they want social VR to be something that can be as quickly and easily accessible as a FaceTime call. They envision a world in which you simply put on the headset and call into a virtual room, which can be anything you want it to be, as long as you can make it. There will also be a library of rooms in which users can interact. They want this to be so simple that even kids can do it, as they have hosting thousands of worlds in Minecraft.
The company intends to open up an alpha for developers to start tinkering with soon. They are also looking to hire new people to help build and grow the platform. If your are interested, send your resume to [email protected]