August 21, 2014 8:00am PT by Carolyn Giardina
Jaunt Aims to Kick-Start Hollywood Virtual Reality With $27.8 Million in New Funding
Jaunt — a Palo Alto-based startup that is developing hardware and software to enable the production and display of virtual reality experiences — has raised $27.8 million in a new round of funding, bringing the total investment in the company to $34 million. With the new funding, the company aims to continue to develop relationships in Hollywood in order to kick-start VR content creation.
Jens Christensen, co-founder and CEO of Jaunt, told The Hollywood Reporter that the new investment would be used to grow the company and speed up its technology development. Among those technologies are professional hardware and software tools to enable production and postproduction of 360-degree VR experiences, including a sphere-shaped camera (a prototype of the camera is pictured) with lenses pointing in all directions.
The new round of funding was led by Highland Capital Partners with participation by Google Ventures. Existing investors Redpoint Ventures, British Sky Broadcasting, Peter Gotcher (chairman of Dolby and DigiDesign founder) and Blake Krikorian (co-founder Sling Media) also participated in the round.
The company’s board includes Highland partner Alex Taussig, Redpoint partner Tim Haley, Gotcher and board observer Stuart Murphy, director of entertainment at Sky. In addition, Jaunt has assembled a team of advisors including Academy Award-winner Jared Leto, director Mark Romanek, Fox futurist Ted Schilowitz and IMAX chair Brad Wechsler.
Christensen told THR that his company estimates that virtual reality could reach tens of millions of customers within three years. “We think it’s going to grow very large,” he said, noting that the company would support all VR platforms including Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus. “It’s extremely early days, but we think over the next few years, as the technology becomes available, virtual reality will see mass adoption,” Christensen stated.
Jaunt is taking aim at supporting what it calls “cinematic VR,” or narratives and content such as music videos (compared with games). “We see ourselves as an engineering company,” Christensen said. “We’ll provide the technology and services, and rely on the creative community to execute the production. Once people have access to the [VR goggles], there’s going to be a tremendous need for content. We want to establish partnerships with the creative community.”
To that end, Jaunt already has been involved in some VR content creation. Most recently, the company’s gear was used for The Mission, a World War II-set VR narrative being created by L.A.-based production and VFX company New Deal Studios; and Black Mass, a VR horror short directed by Paranormal Activity 5 helmer Gregory Plotkin.
Jaunt also is developing a consumer player for the Oculus Rift goggles. Christensen said the current plan is to offer the player for free, and then launch an online VR content site. This might involve pay per view or possibly a subscription service.