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Jaunt is hoping to make VR that everyone will experience.
Earlier this week, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company — which was founded in 2013 and is a developer of virtual reality hardware, software, tools, and applications — announced a $65 million series C round of funding, with The Walt Disney Company, Evolution Media Partners, and China Media leading the round. This brings Jaunt’s total funding to over $100 million.
“Virtual reality will play a significant role in the future of entertainment and media, and this latest round of funding will enable Jaunt to scale up on several fronts, including camera hardware, software development, and most importantly: content production,” Jens Christensen, CEO of Jaunt VR, said in an email interview with VentureBeat. “The media and entertainment industry is undergoing a fundamental shift in the way content is created, delivered and consumed, and VR is the next wave of innovation in this space.”
Jaunt also plans to use the funding to grow its teams in Palo Alto and in its Los Angeles studio.
Over the next year, a half-dozen VR headsets are readying for launch, and Jaunt aims to supply premium live-action VR content to those devices. In the past two years, Jaunt has created VR content such as an “Inside Syria” feature for ABC News, rock climbing and intergalactic party aliens experiences, and even a live Paul McCartney concert.
“Virtual reality is an entirely new storytelling medium and we are only just getting started exploring what is possible,” Christensen said. “With that said, however, the greatest opportunity for VR storytellers is already clear – the ability to show people (quite literally) what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. This is where VR trumps all other mediums. It has a greater potential to expand our worldview and our capacity for empathy and understanding to advance humanity than any other technology or medium that has come before it.”
Christensen likens the impact of VR to the way internet video disrupted the movie and television industry, and expects to see a more dramatic shift as cinematic VR catches on with audiences.
It isn’t just about supplying VR devices — like Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, or Google Cardboard — with content, but about producing interesting VR experiences that people won’t be able to find anywhere else. With that in mind, Jaunt is developing brand-new content for VR devices, instead of just converting standard content over to VR.
“Currently, most of the focus is on headsets which will bring VR to the mainstream sooner than we ever imagined,” Christensen said. “At the same time, consumers will need compelling content to watch, and Jaunt will use the resources available to us to produce quality VR content that is compelling and forward-looking. We will continue to work with content creators, artists, and brands, to provide an entirely new way to tell their stories. Jaunt’s end-to-end solution means we have the technology to record, edit, produce, and deliver mind-blowing stereoscopic virtual reality experiences for a wide variety of content – ranging from narrative storytelling to, music, travel/adventure, sports, and more. We are focusing on creating cutting edge content with our Jaunt Studios team, and have a presence in Los Angeles to work directly with the creative community there.”
And while some recent technological advances — like 3D, or 48 FPS movies — have met with resistance from slow-adopting audiences, Christensen isn’t worried.
“Virtual reality is not an iteration on an existing technology — it’s an entirely new way to experience media and entertainment,” Christensen said. “Anyone who has ever tried it knows the experience: the immediate, profound and uniquely enjoyable sense of presence that comes from complete immersion in another world. There’s no learning curve with cinematic VR – just plug in and enjoy. All you need is a reasonably current smartphone and a simple VR viewer like Google Cardboard. Anyone can do it, and nearly everyone will.”
The company previously raised 27.8 million in its Series B round of funding, led by Google Ventures.
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