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Bitkraft Ventures led the round with participation from Sony Innovation Fund, Amazon Alexa Fund, Credo Ventures, Samsung Next, and Olive Tree Capital. Angel investors including Dave Wu, partner at Maveron also participated. The funding will be used to invest in a creator and developer fund and grow the team, with the company actively hiring across engineering, design, operations, marketing, and community management.
Liv wants to revolutionize the VR streaming and content consumption experience by enabling creators to share their adventures inside VR and AR games with their fans in real-time, either as their real selves (commonly referred to as mixed reality capture, or MRC) or as their favorite avatar (commonly referred to as Vtubing).
VR app developers integrate the Liv software development kit (SDK) to unlock a suite of capture tools and technologies for their users, generating video content for their apps. Since 2018, Liv’s creators have driven over 3.5 billion views to their content. Dr. Doom started the work in 2016 and he started the company in 2017.
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AJ “Dr. Doom” Shewki, cofounder and CEO of Liv, talked to me in an interview about the early days.
“Back then this wasn’t really supposed to be a company as we were hosting a show on Twitch,” Dr. Doom said. “We had gotten our hands on some early VR headsets. And I have a background in competitive gaming. So the idea was that I was going to host a show on Twitch, and we would show what we thought VR esports would look like when people like myself would play them really competitively.”They started trying to stream ourselves and realized that the default VR casting, recording, and streaming experience was broken. One basic problem is that if you as a spectator see exactly what the VR streamer is seeing, you get sick really fast as the viewpoint movements are jarring and unexpected.”
Then he showed me a demo. He donned his virtual Dr. Doom costume and then went into a VR demo. In the demo on Discord, I could see what he was doing through the stream he provided. I could see him engage with various objects in a virtual space and then he touched a special object. That immediately initialized a video recording of one of his VR adventures. He shared his demo with me at 30 frames per second on Discord.
Dr. Doom said Liv supports more than half of the top 100 VR games with over 2,200 developers on the platform and boasts 13,000 monthly active creators who generate more than 30,000 hours of content every month.
The technology works live with no post-production needed. Creators are able to either film their real bodies inside their favorite VR game or transform themselves into a customized avatar that supports full-body tracking, finger tracking, eye animation, and lip tracking, as well as a full-suite utility stack for seeing stream chat, alerts and notifications in the headset.
In 2022, Liv will release their proprietary software based volumetric streaming technology and destination platform that allows creators and fans to connect in ways that are unique to spatial technologies, leaning on what makes VR and AR special: the sense of presence.
It enables the capturing of entire worlds and the people that inhabit them, for playback or live consumption by anyone, on any device, opening up an entirely new category of social experiences between fans, creators, and gamers.
“We’ve been on a mission to empower creators in VR and AR to share their adventures with their friends, family, and fans since 2016,” Dr. Doom said. “As former competitive gamers and VR streamers ourselves, we know what we want & need out of the streaming & casting experience, and set out to solve our own problems. This raise allows us to bring on board top tier investors and strategic partners that will help us get closer to our goal of Liv existing on every headset and game.”
Jens Hilgers, founding general partner at Bitkraft Ventures, will also join the board.
“Liv is ushering in a completely new content-sharing format that enables users and creators to capture their VR/AR gameplay, stream it to an audience, and interact in ways unique to spatial technologies,” said Hilgers in a statement. “Since its 2018 launch, Liv has become the leading app for live streaming AR and VR games, with a large and continuously growing community of creators, and support for more than half of top 30 VR games. We believe VR and AR will bring forward a distinct new platform for content creation, and the VR natives behind Liv are leading the way.”
“Typically, people will say that this makes them feel really nauseous and makes for a really bad experience,” Dr. Doom said.
The other problem for VR desktop streaming is that you have a big screen in front of you that you can’t see from inside the VR scene. If you broadcast from inside VR to the flat screen that a spectator can see, the spectator only gets a limited view of what the VR streamer really sees. And that’s just not a good experience. Lastly, it’s a problem if you are the VR streamer and you cannot insert yourself into a scene you are recording.
What Liv does is figure out how to record a scene. It sets up the equivalent of a camera in the corner and then records what the streamer is doing in a room from a third-person perspective. Over the past five years, Liv has been working on fixing all these problems so its easy to record something that others can watch from a third-person perspective. Liv can also record facial expressions and project them onto the avatar in the third-person scene.
“We give you as much expressiveness as you want for a creator,” said Dr. Doom. “You can add waist trackers, knee trackers, feet trackers, shoulder trackers, mouth and eye trackers — as many trackers as you want to increase the expressiveness of your avatar.”
You can also easily switch avatars in real time. You can take selfies of yourself in the VR scene. Dr. Doom said he thinks of some of the recordings of 3D scenes as a kind of memory palace, where someone visualizes things to remember them more easily.
“The memory palace is a legit memory technique where you model a physical space in your head, and then you assign memories to different objects in space,” he said. “Because it’s easier for us to spatially assign thoughts to features as opposed to abstract thoughts itself.”
The team has around 13 people, and it will use the money to hire more people.
Liv-based videos are taking off on platforms like TikTok, even though Dr. Doom said we are in a nascent space with primitive tools.
“I think that’s just a function of time in the market. We’ve been working on this five years and we expect to continue working on this for the next five years and just continues to drive value to create this,” Dr. Doom said.
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