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London Tech Week

European AR/VR powerhouses: 10 startups pushing the limits of virtual experiences

European AR and VR startups

The world of virtual reality (VR) experienced an explosive surge in popularity, with the number of VR users reportedly surpassing a staggering 171 million in 2022. In addition to a growth in user adoption, this also translated into substantial sales figures with over 10.8 million VR devices being sold during the year. This upward trend is expected to continue, with estimates projecting an impressive 23.8 million devices sold by 2025.

Such a remarkable expansion has propelled the global market size to unprecedented heights, set to reach a staggering $252 billion, which is a 10x increase from 2021’s market value of $28 billion. As VR continues to permeate various industries, it is estimated that around 23 million jobs will become reliant on this transformative technology.

When it comes to the European market, the AR/VR sector is experiencing a tremendous boom. Last year, witnessed an impressive influx of capital, with AR/VR startups raising a whopping $860 million in funding. Some notable European startups in this sector that got funded in 2022 include machineMD, a Swiss ‍medtech startup, OQmented, a German startup developing advanced optical technologies for AR and VR applications, and Ludenso, an augmented-reality educational platform.

This significant increase follows the already impressive funding of $670 million secured by the sector in 2021. These remarkable investment figures underscore the growing confidence of investors in the potential of AR/VR technologies and their transformative impact on various industries.

Given that Europe’s AR/VR sector is poised for continued growth and innovation as it attracts substantial funding and drives the advancement of immersive experiences, here are 10 notable startups exploring immersive experiences in gaming, entertainment, and enterprise applications.

Scape Technologies (UK)

Scape Technologies team
Photo credits: Scape Technologies

Founder/s: Edward Miller, Huub Heijnen
Founded year: 2016
Total funding: $8.3M

Based out of London, Scape Technologies, acquired by Meta in 2020 for $40 million, has developed a unique and advanced platform that enables devices to understand and interact with the physical world in real-time. By combining computer vision, machine learning, and augmented reality (AR), Scape Technologies is revolutionising the way we perceive and navigate our surroundings.

Its cloud-based ‘visual engine’ allows camera devices to understand their environment, using computer vision. Rather than relying on 3D maps built and stored locally, Scape’s vision engine builds and references 3D maps in the cloud, allowing devices to tap into a ‘shared understanding’ of an environment.

Varjo (Finland)

Photo credits: Varjo

Founder/s: Klaus Melakari, Niko Eiden, Roope Rainisto, Urho Konttori
Founded year: 2016
Total funding: $136M

Varjo specialises in creating high-performance VR and MR devices that deliver an unparalleled level of visual fidelity and immersion. Their flagship product is the Varjo VR-3 headset, which utilizes a unique blend of human-eye resolution and eye-tracking technology to provide an incredibly realistic and immersive virtual experience.

Its revolutionary VR/XR hardware and software together allow you to see and experience virtual and augmented content just as clearly as you see the analog world around us.

WaveOptics (UK)

WaveOptics team
Photo credits: WaveOptics

Founder/s: David Grey, Sumanta Talukdar
Founded year: 2014
Total funding: $56.1M

Another UK-based startup in this sector is WaveOptics, which specialises in waveguide optics technology. It plays a critical role in AR displays that can be used for smart glasses and handsets. The company achieves lightweight, compact, and energy-efficient AR solutions. Acquired by Snap in 2021 for $500 million, WaveOptics aims to be the key optical component in wearable augmented reality devices.

Improbable (UK)

Improbable Founder
Photo credits: Improbable

Founder/s: Herman Narula, Peter Lipka, Rob Whitehead
Founded year: 2012
Total funding: $864M

Improbable specialises in creating vast and realistic virtual worlds through its SpatialOS platform, which supports over 10,000 players. Via its platform, the company has revolutionised the way developers build and deploy complex simulations and multiplayer games. Improbable’s SpatialOS has gained recognition for its scalability, enabling massive simulations and persistent virtual environments.

Late in 2022, Improbable raised $150 million in funding to establish and develop M² (MSquared). The investment was led by longtime backers, Andreessen Horowitz and SoftBank Group Corp.

vTime (UK)

vTime team
Photo credits: vTime

Founder/s: Martin Kenwright
Founded year: 2013
Total funding: $7.1M

Specialising in creating social VR experiences, vTime has developed a unique platform that allows users to connect and interact with each other in immersive virtual environments. With vTime, users can meet, chat, and engage with friends and strangers from around the world in a variety of virtual settings. It offers a range of VR experiences, from virtual travel destinations to custom environments, where users can communicate using voice chat and expressive avatars. The platform supports a wide range of VR devices, making it accessible to a broad user base.

MindMaze (Switzerland)

Photo credits: Mindmaze

Founder/s: Tej Tadi
Founded year: 2012
Total funding: $338M

Mindmaze develops VR and AR solutions for healthcare and neurorehabilitation. It focuses on harnessing the power of neuroscience and VR to transform the fields of healthcare, rehabilitation, and human performance. Mindmaze has developed a unique platform that combines advanced brain imaging techniques with VR technology to create immersive and interactive experiences for diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

Early in 2022, MindMaze, backed by Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, secured a $105 million financing round led by Concord Health Partners along with AlbaCore Capital Group, and Hambro Perks.

HoloCap (Germany)

Photo credits: HoloCap

Founder/s: Peder Borresen, Stian Børresen
Founded year: 2017
Total funding: NA

Oslo-based Holocap specialises in volumetric video capture and real-time 3D holographic communication. The system captures and presents humans in VR in real-time using low-cost depth cameras. The use cases include sales and VR showrooms, education, simulation and training, storyboarding, etc. Live performances may be recorded, or mixed with previously recorded and scripted holograms for maximum flexibility.

Gravity Sketch (UK)

Gravity Sketch founders
Photo credits: Gravity Sketch

Founder/s: Daniel Thomas, Daniela Paredes, Oluwaseyi Sosanya
Founded year: 2014
Total funding: $46.4M

Gravity Sketch is a revolutionary VR software that enables 3D design and modeling in an immersive and intuitive way. It provides a platform for artists, designers, and engineers to create complex 3D models and visualisations using VR technology. With its user-friendly interface and natural gesture-based controls, users can sketch, sculpt, and manipulate objects in a virtual environment, bringing their ideas to life in a more intuitive and immersive manner. It bridges the gap between traditional 2D sketching and 3D modeling, empowering creators to unleash their creativity in the virtual realm.

In 2022, the company bagged $33 million in funding to take its own business to the next dimension from Accel, GV aka Google Ventures, Kindred Capital, Forward Partners, and Point Nine.

FundamentalVR (UK)

FundamentalVR funding
Photo credits: FundamentalVR

Founder/s: Chris Scattergood, Richard Vincent
Founded year: 2012
Total funding: $30M

FundamentalVR have been working with leading pharmaceutical companies to combine virtual and mixed reality with haptic feedback using their ‘FeelRealVR’ platform to create simulated surgical procedures to help educate and train healthcare professionals.

Last year, the London-based immersive simulation platform for health care professionals, has scored $20 million in Series B funding led by EQT Life Sciences, joined by Downing Ventures.

Oxford Medical Simulation (UK)

Oxford Medical Simulation funding
Photo credits: Oxford Medical Simulation

Founder/s: Jack Pottle, Michael Wallace
Founded year: 2017
Total funding: $2.8M

Oxford Medical Simulation delivers virtual reality medical simulation, training healthcare professionals to provide consistently world-class patient management without risking lives. The company uses immersive VR simulations with AI-controlled patients to train healthcare professionals.

Late in 2022, Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS) raised £2.1 million in funding from ACF Investors, and angel investor Dr Nicolaus Henke, former chairman of Quantum Black and former head of McKinsey’s global healthcare practice.

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