Microsoft co-founder backs High Fidelity with US $11 million

HF-logoIn what is its largest round of funding to date, High Fidelity, Philip Rosedale’s virtual work start-up, received an additional US $11 million in a round lead by Vulcan Capital, the investment company founded and run by Ex-Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

This marks at least the second time Vulcan Capital has made an investment in VR technology recently. In October 2014, they were a part of a US $542 million round of investment in Magic Leap, the company developing a new augmented reality system, with an eye potentially on VR applications and virtual worlds as well.

The news of the funding was broken by TechCrunch on Wednesday, February 25th, after papers confirming the funding round were filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Philip Rosedale later confirmed the news to Techcrunch, after the technology journal had placed an enquiry with High Fidelity on the matter.

Rosedale then went on to make a more public announcement on the High Fidelity blog, which included a fun and informative video on matters featuring himself, HiFi co-founder Ryan Karpf and the ever-popular Emily Donald. As this is unlisted on YouTube, I’m respecting High Fidelity’s wishes and linking to it, rather than sharing it via embedding, although I am sneaking in a still from it.

The US $11 million funding confirmation from High Fidelity includes a short video from Ryan, Emily and Philip outlining the investment news, what it means for the company and mentioning job opportunities at HiFi (image source: High Fidelity)
The US $11 million funding confirmation from High Fidelity includes a short video from Ryan Kampf, Emily Donald and Philip Rosedale, outlining the investment news, what it means for the company and mentioning job opportunities at HiFi (image source: High Fidelity)

The blog post leads with the statement:

We are happy to announce today that we have raised an additional $11M in funding, in a new round led by Vulcan Capital and with participation from other new and existing investors.  This is certainly great news for us, but also great news for the overall VR ecosystem as we continue to see more and more validation from the investing community that VR presents enormous opportunities.  With this investment, we will be able to substantially grow our team as we continue to develop and release our open source shared virtual reality software.

The amount raised is more than that had been achieved during both the first and second funding rounds for the company. These occurred in April 2013 (US $2.4 million) and March 2014 (US $2.5 million), and were largely lead by True Ventures and Google Ventures. In the video, Ryan Kampf gives some idea of what this latest round immediately means for High Fidelity:

The next step for us is going to be moving to a more open alpha stage to let you guys come in and create a lot of cool content that you see around you. We’ve had a lot of fun making it, and we look forward to seeing what you guys can create as well.

The video also covers the fact that High Fidelity is still hiring, with Emily Donald pointing people to the company’s job page, and her e-mail address.

Definitely worth smiling about: Philip Rosedale's High Fidelity gains a further US $11 million in funding
Definitely worth smiling about: Philip Rosedale’s High Fidelity gains a further US $11 million in funding

Following the March 2014 US $2.5 million round of funding, which came on the heels of Facebook acquiring Oculus VR, I idly speculated whether or not it might have put High Fidelity – until then point regarded as being something of a “stealth start-up” in the eyes of the technology media – more firmly on people’s radar. If it wasn’t the case then, a further US $11 million now should certainly do so. And that’s not just good for High Fidelity.

As Rosedale notes in the quote given earlier in this article, this latest investment in High Fidelity does much to further validate the VR / VW ecosystem as a whole as an investment opportunity. That’s got to be good news for any company working on a new VW platform / environment, and which may want to explore wider options and opportunities for possible funding in the future, even if it’s not necessarily a start-up like High Fidelity.

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Art and artistry: Toysoldier Thor

Toysoldier Thor
Toysoldier Thor

Blogger, activist, supporter of live entertainment, raconteur, content creator – there are many ways in which Toysoldier Thor can be defined. However, the one by which he is perhaps best known is that of artist – and deservedly so.

A resident of Second Life since 2008, Toy works in both 2D and 3D mediums, many of which bridge the physical and virtual “divide” in the most interesting of ways. While his art has been widely exhibited across the grid – and even interpreted through dance – perhaps the best way to become acquainted with his work is by visiting his in-world gallery.

Toysoldier Thor
Toysoldier Thor

It would be easy to attempt witticism by referring to the gallery as his “toybox”,  but it would also be unfair; what is on offer across five floors of viewing rooms is a veritable treasure trove of unique art. All of the pieces on display are available for purchase (and any aficionado of art is going to be hard-pressed not to walk away with one or two purchases); but more to the point, each comes with its one descriptive note card, obtained by touching the work in question.

These cards are well worth reading. Far from being a purely descriptive piece on the art itself, they delve into the history of the work  – the inspiration behind it, the techniques used to produce it, the sources from which Toy drew in developing it, and so on. In this way, the cards not only reveal more about the piece, they allow us to share in the entire creative process, and provide links to influences and so on, thus providing a unique insight into not only Toy’s craft, but also to Toy himself.

Toysoldier Thor
Toysoldier Thor

The uppermost floor of the gallery includes a number of Toy’s mesh sculptures, including the remarkable Shattered. A remarkable and emotive piece Toy has produced as both 2D art in the physical world and a 3D mesh model in Second Life, Shattered and the artist have been engaged on a remarkable journey, further narrowing the perceived divide between the virtual and the physical; the piece first becoming a 3D printed model, and which now looks set to become cast in bronze in the physical world as well (and which you can still pre-order).

It’s actually this element of physical / virtual cross-over that I find really compelling in Toy’s art. By this, I don’t mean how he might use Photoshop or other digital wizardry in order to edit and enhance photos originating from in-world, but how he actually combines virtual and physical world images to create some quite spectacular works of art. As examples of this, I would point visitors to both Assassin’s Prayer and to Death Seer (seen in the above picture, on the right), which are, in a gallery of quite extraordinary art, utterly stunning.

Toysoldier Thor
Toysoldier Thor

Those familiar with toy’s work will need no prompting when it comes to a visit to his gallery. If, however, you’ve not taken the time to pay a visit, then it is well worth adding to your itinerary. Anyone who enjoys and appreciates art in either the virtual or the physical world is unlikely to be disappointed; quite the reverse, in fact.

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