Silicon Valley has been upbeat about Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality for a while now. But it appears that USA is not the only one riding this wave. Rest of the world, including India, has been creating a stir in these fields as well.
Although it is hard to predict how many Oculus devices or Google Cardboards are out there in the hands of consumers in this part of the world, India is doing a lot with different forms of Mixed Reality.
2016 Summer batch YCombinator startup Innov8 chief, Dr. Ritesh Malik, a serial entrepreneur and investor, has already touched base with Augmented Reality four years ago with Alive. Alive App, now acquired by a leading Indian media publication company - Times of India (TOI), allows its readers to access videos, pictures, and polls related to select news items appearing in the newspaper, just by focusing the phone camera on any content in the newspaper carrying the Alive logo.
Memesys Culture Lab
With a $2.5 million funding round raised last year by Round Glass Partners, national award-winning director Anand Gandhi pioneered storytelling in VR by means of his new venture Memesys Culture Labs. The company has successfully been able to tap into Bollywood with its VR production arm, ElseVR. A behind-the-scenes promo of Dangal (a massive blockbuster movie from last year) was shot in 360 degrees by ElseVR and captured over 2 million views.
More recently, AutoVRse came out with its Virtual Automobile Showroom. It is an interactive experience that enables customers to explore and customize their cars in real-time in a virtual environment. The company has installed systems at a number of showrooms, kiosks, and retail outlets, giving customers a surreal experience of the look and feel of its vehicle-to-be before actually making the purchase.
Imaginate Software Labs is another AR/VR-based technology enterprise that offers innovative visualization products and services. The company largely works with enterprises, helping them build their own products in this category, and has recently raised a $500K round to boost operations. Imaginate also boasts of products developed in-house such as Dressy, a virtual fitting room.
GridRaster is an interesting company because the products it sells are technology products. The company is primarily based out of Palo Alto, California, but has its development office in Bengaluru and has already raised close to $1.65 million. GridRaster provides the infrastructure layer to overcome device limitations – compute and battery, by intelligently harnessing the computing power and providing a centralized cloud to power compelling VR/AR experiences. The solution provides high-performance graphics with ultra-low latency while hugely improving battery performance. The technology drives mass adoption of VR/AR by dramatically improving the reach of exciting content and bringing breathtaking, new experiences to users.
Incubators and Accelerators
Adapting to this explosion of startups in Mixed Reality and a maturing developer ecosystem, a number of US tech accelerators and incubators are now focused on enrolling more Indian startups in their upcoming batches. Lowe’s, a home improvement retailer based in the U.S., opened its first startup accelerator, Lowe’s Innovation Lab, in the heart of the technology hub of India, Bengaluru, and is already home to many Virtual Reality startups. Target, Tesco, and Walmart Labs are other U.S. retail giants also focused on bringing more startups to the Mixed Reality space in their own incubation centers set up in India.
At a recent event hosted by Lowe’s Innovation Labs in association with VR Collective, many spokespersons from the above-mentioned retail giants were present, and all of them unanimously agreed that retail is going to be massively disrupted by Mixed Reality. The plan is to win back their long-losing market share to E-Commerce by placing important bets in Mixed Reality.
Other cool Indian startups in Mixed Reality
SmartVizX recently secured $500,000 seed capital to disrupt the architecture, engineering, and construction industry.
G for Gestures, a gesture recognition technology and VR integrated product, is disrupting the hospitality sector.
PlayShifu, run by Vivek Goyal (Stanford University Graduate of Business alumni), is another Indian startup making education fun for kids through a range of products in Augmented Reality.
House of Blue Beans is a startup revolutionizing the home design industry with its immersive application ‘Roomstyler’. Roomstyler is a VR-based consumer experience that allows designers and customers to collaborate on a visual platform to make the home-designing process extremely effective. It is one of the startups enrolled in the latest batch of Lowe’s Innovation Labs.
Developers are already driving the mobile gaming ecosystem in India. It shouldn’t take long for developers to turn their attention to building more applications for Augmented and Virtual Reality as the consumer groups get flooded with more devices.
Gaming engines like Unity3d and Unreal Engine that drive the Mixed Reality applications are popular with the tech talent as the same tools are used for developing mobile games.
It should not be surprising to see a multitude of AR/VR applications coming out soon from India as the ecosystem matures.
Key developments by existing players
Recently, Myntra came up with its first brick-and-mortar retail outlet in Indiranagar, Bengaluru. Ananth Narayanan, CEO of Myntra and Jabong, says, “The goal is not to drive sales - but to engage with the customer and as you’d expect from us, we’re using a lot of technology to do just that. We’ve got VR zone, multi-touch screens, full-screen displays that mimic the Myntra app, and selfie zones.”
The VR zone is placed with 4 Samsung Gear headsets which reels a 360-degree video showcasing the “Roadster life”. You can see around with a band playing on the road, airplanes rushing overhead, and bikers zooming past. Although it can seem a little out of place for the store, it gives a nice touch and indicates the interests of the established players.
Byju’s Classes is also ramping up its development by hiring Unity engineers proficient in 360-video streaming, indicating its interest in including some of its content for VR as well. This is in sync with the future of learning and Byju’s Classes is moving forward with an initiative to drive experiential learning.
The space is heating up, with a lot of developer interest and institutional focus to discover the next big thing in Virtual and Augmented Reality.
What will you build next??
Come and Register at the UnitedByHcl hackathon.
Happy Mixing Reality!!