Talespin has raised $20 million in funding for its task of using virtual reality and augmented reality — or spatial technologies — to train people to do work.
The company became famous a few years ago for a virtual reality demo designed to teach managers how to fire a hapless worker named Barry. While that sounds callous, it was really more about how to emotionally handle difficult tasks at work, and it conveyed how to do it in a gentle way.
Talespin previously raised $15 million back in 2019, and it has been further developing extended reality (XR) — using technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality — for enterprise training, said Talespin CEO Kyle Jackson, in an interview with GamesBeat.
“We had just raised money going into the pandemic and we had the ability to navigate the uncertainty,” Jackson said. “We immediately started having conversations that [spring of 2020] where everything we had been saying went from frontier tech to more foundational tech. I wasn’t having to sell and convince people of this anymore, as the utility seemed so obvious.”
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During the pandemic, Talespin has learned that companies are willing to pay for VR and AR training because it’s often cheaper than sending poorly prepared workers into real-life situations with expensive enterprise or industrial equipment. And because they can’t train people so easily with remote work conditions.
Instead of building content internally, the company shifted to making tools for enterprises to build their own applications more quickly.
“We moved to become a true platform play, and we released this no-code authoring tool that has now been in the market for a year and empowers organizations to do this all themselves,” Jackson said.
Now the Los Angeles company hopes to be one of the leaders in the non-games version of the metaverse, where we can engage in spatial worlds and get some work done in cyberspace using a no-code learning platform.
Seek Investments and Allomer Capital led the round, with participation from additional investors, including Pearson Ventures, Accenture Ventures, Go1, and Sony Innovation Fund.
The workforce and workplace have experienced historic disruption globally, as ‘the Great Resignation,’ digitalization, and remote work changed the way businesses operate – and how individuals approach their careers. Simultaneous to workforce disruption, the metaverse and web 3.0 are introducing a host of new technologies designed to make the internet more immersive and decentralized, are transforming industries ranging from finance to remote collaboration and education, according to Talespin.
With its growing experience, enterprises are turning to solutions like Talespin. Talespin leverages immersive technology to rethink how people learn new skills and measure skill competencies, and in turn, puts a new foundation in place for professional development that helps people and organizations keep up with business transformation.
“Talespin is differentiated from others who hypothesized about the superior learning outcomes of immersive technology, in that they built a platform designed to empower people, and scale adoption from the start,” said Damien Wodak, managing director of HR SaaS at SeeK Investments, in a statement. “We see tremendous opportunity in the learning, productivity, and skills development space for Talespin, as workforce and technology trends continue to validate its innovative no-code learning platform that enables organizations to build, tailor and consume immersive learning content.”
Since 2015, Talespin has developed a platform to power the creation and distribution of immersive learning experiences in VR and AR. It includes CoPilot Designer, an authoring tool that puts lets companies and content creators build their own custom applications.
The technology uses 3D virtual humans and environments to help people practice conversational skills and simulate jobs with real-time feedback and skills analytics. Trusted by organizations like Accenture, AIA Hong Kong & Macau, Farmers Insurance, JFF, and 10 of the largest employers in the Fortune 500, the Talespin platform can accelerate learning, higher employee engagement, and more impactful upskilling and reskilling programs, the company said.
“Amid heightened interest in immersive learning, augmented reality and the metaverse, Talespin is ideally positioned to capitalize on the convergence of learning and spatial computing, two sectors that are experiencing rapid growth,” said Tom Lounibos, managing director of Accenture Ventures, in a statement. “We look forward to supporting and working closely with Talespin through our Project Spotlight program and generating awareness of their solution offerings among our clients around the globe.”
Talespin’s new funding comes on the heels of rapid momentum for the company, as solutions to better train and reskill the workforce are in high demand, and the world’s top organizations explore use cases for the metaverse.
In recent months, the company has onboarded several new enterprise customers and members of its partner program, including Accenture and Go1, with further collaboration and commercial partnerships to be announced later in 2022.
“As organizations around the world grapple with unprecedented labor shortages, the need for innovative workforce training solutions has never been greater,” said Austin Noronha, managing director for the U.S. at the Sony Innovation Fund, in a statement. “Talespin’s easy-to-use, no-code content creation platform makes it easy for enterprises to quickly scale up their employee training with engaging content.”
Now the company has 110 people working for it.
I asked if the company had tapped AI tech like GPT-3 from the OpenAI Foundation, but Jackson said that so far it was proving to be easier to design applications with more limited, hard-wired responses, rather than relying on open-ended dialogue with AI trainers.
“It’s going to go in that direction over time, but it’s just too nascent now,” he said.
Jackson said that companies such as PwC have pointed out the benefits for organizations that accrue from VR training.
“We’re always taken an approach where, with the XR space, there will be a transition from the 2D world,” Jackson said.
Jackson said there are individual efforts to create learning programs on a micro level. Then there are departments companies that are creating their own training programs. Lastly, there’s the work of the metaverse, or building interoperable worlds of learning content, he said.
“That’s certainly riddled with challenges, as I’m sure you can see. But the micro and macro are here,” Jackson said. “We’re giving tools that will work across all three areas. And there will be standards discussions” at some point.
Jackson said the money will go toward building an ecosystem with its partners and work with a connected network of content partners and resellers. And the company will continue building the metaverse of work.
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