Spatial has raised $25 million as it pivots away from augmented reality and virtual reality collaboration to nonfungible token (NFT) art exhibitions and metaverse events.

Spatial started out by providing AR/VR meeting places that people could access with AR glasses, VR headsets, and smartphones. But it found with the NFT art boom that it could provide a way for people to easily view digital art in virtual galleries, said Jake Steinerman, head of community at Spatial, in an interview with GamesBeat.

“We changing our direction,” said Steinerman.

New York-based Spatial made it easy to create avatars using animated character tools. It let people join 3D online spaces where they could collaborate. Spatial was founded in 2016 with the goal of making 3D collaboration easy.

“Our focus was around productivity,” said Steinerman. “When COVID started, we saw a big explosion of growth for companies using spatial for that purpose. But over the course of time, we actually saw some really interesting happening. And it was artists and creators and consumers using Spatial for different use cases that we didn’t initially expect.”

He added, “We started to see artists bring in their art into these environments and invite their friends,. Galleries and conferences weren’t accessible. They needed an  outlet. And today 80% of our usage is coming from web and mobile.”

Above: Spatial is pivoting from AR/VR to web/mobile.

Image Credit: Spatial

But NFT art took off earlier this year, as the transparent and secure digital ledger of blockchain enabled people to use NFTs to authenticate the uniqueness of digital items. At the same time, many artists were stuck at home in the pandemic and unable to show their work in galleries. So NFT art became a logical way to show off one-of-a-kind art, but nobody made it easy to view such images.

So Spatial made it easy to create online galleries where people could view NFT art or even start the process of buying an image on display. And so the company is rebranding as a “metaverse for cultural events” such as NFT exhibitions, brand experiences, and conferences.

It is a metaverse for artists and creators, whether on web, mobile, or VR. Steinerman showed me a demo, and I looked at the 3D spaces of the galleries on my phone. It looked good and it was easy to get around using my fingers to navigate.

Investors in the round included Pine Venture Partners, Maven Growth Partners, Korea Investment Partners, KB Investment, Mirae, Balaji Srinvasan, with participation from existing investors iNovia, Whitestar and Lerer Hippeau. This brings the total raised to $50 million.

The company will use the money to accelerate the company’s vision to become a 3D hub that links NFT creators to their communities and collectors — poised to build the first open and free metaverse for creators.

Spatial has seen a surge in popularity of its non-headset product offerings with 80% of current users accessing Spatial via web and mobile — this compares to 80% via headset last year, said Steinerman.

A vast majority of these users are NFT creators, artists and collectors, looking to build, share and meet up in immersive environments that go far beyond what can be accomplished on 2D platforms.

“User feedback has always been at the heart of our product strategy but over the last year since we
launched our freemium version across any platform, we’ve witnessed a fascinating shift occurring,”
Jacob Loewenstein, head of business at Spatial, in a statement. “We’ve gone from an AR/VR platform focused on enterprise productivity to a web/VR platform linking digital creators and the broader NFT economy.”

He added, “Why? Because the metaverse will be far beyond a meeting space. We’re witnessing this trend in the creator economy from the inside and can see the huge opportunity as power moves into the hands of these creators. Moving web-first also breaks down all the barriers to entry to the metaverse today. We
believe in an inclusive and open metaverse where one day artists and creators can move freely across
multiple virtual platforms with interoperable portals, avatars and shared spaces.”

Above: Spatial has become a home for NFT art.

Image Credit: Spatial

Where Spatial stands apart is its reach and accessibility; a metaverse available for anyone to experience
for free on web, mobile, and VR. It offers the easiest way to meet in beautifully designed spaces and
curate a gallery or host events in just one click — no coding needed, simply upload content and build your
space in under a minute, Steinerman said.

You can pan and zoom or maneuver through a 3D space. You can use emotes to communicate or just use voice chat.

Spatial added integration with Metamask cryptocurrency wallets. It is exploring enabling NFT transactions from within its virtual spaces. And Spatial dropped its enterprise options. (People can still use it for that purpose, but Spatial isn’t developing new enterprise features).

“We have pivoted the company to really focus on on this community and diving in deep,” he said.

People can use the virtual spaces for art galleries, meetups, or even concerts. Spatial is charging $20 a month for accessing the event platform, and it is also doingits own NFT drops.

The NBA basketball team, the Utah Jazz, created a virtual locker room for fans to come and have virtual meet-and-greets with players. The players are visible in video phone above their avatars. The Utah Jazz launched an NFT in the fall to give fans access to the place.

Spatial will begin offering limited editionNFT environments for creators and collectors who want to own a piece of the metaverse. The first Spatial NFT Genesis drop will go live starting on December 15th at 2 p.m. Pacific time,  curated by Polycount and Reno, in collaboration with Meshed.

Spatial is working with artists such as Hermitage, NBA, Grammy award winning producer !llmind, Krista
Kim, Federico Clapis, Jarlan Perez and many more.

They are using the platform for anything from art exhibitions and events, to sports or music influencers selling NFT memorabilia or connecting with fans and collectors in new ways.

In the latest version they can also enjoy new shared gathering spaces such as Spatial Park, two times faster performance and Metamask login. Spatial is committed to building an open, on-chain and interoperable metaverse, supporting decentralized infrastructure including Ethereum wallets, with other blockchains to follow in the near future. It sees a future where you’ll be able to own 3D spaces in an open format that can be freely consumed in other metaverses.

“Since we shifted focus to building the metaverse for creators and artists, we’ve seen four times usage
growth in just two months,” said Jinha Lee, Spatial chief product officer, in a statement. “This new round of funding will speed up our mission to make the internet more immersive, social and fun. It’s extremely rewarding to devote our energy to empowering creative individuals and lead this cultural paradigm shift in how people are sharing experiences with others.”

Ken Kelleher, also known as “Anchorball,” is a solo artist whose work includes monumental scale
sculptures, public art projects and private commissions. Kelleher has worked on numerous high-profile projects for National Geographic, Google, Netflix and Redbull.

“Spatial has allowed me to showcase my work in entirely new ways,” Kelleher said in a statement. “Now anyone, anywhere in the world, can quite literally step inside my sculptures, and have a shared experience together. I’m psyched to be building the Anchorball metaverse inside of Spatial.”

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