A UK virtual reality startup has won $502m in funding from Japan’s Softbank in a move that values the business at more than $1bn.
London-based Improbable has developed groundbreaking software that allows users to create virtual reality worlds, either for gaming or real-world simulations.
More cash is also being committed by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which ploughed money into Improbable in 2015 in a deal that saw Andreessen’s Chris Dixon join the board.
The Softbank deal is the fifth largest UK venture investment over the past 10 years, according to Bloomberg.
Improbable was founded just five years ago by fellow Cambridge graduates Herman Narula and Rob Whitehead.
They developed a computer operating system – Spatial OS – that uses cloud-based distributed computing to create complex simulations on a massive scale.
There is also huge potential for expanding the technology for use in real-world decision-making such as city management, infrastructure and logistics, transport and traffic control.
Proofs of concept and pilot projects have included the simulation of the Internet backbone, and a British city, based on open-source mapping using traffic, gas, electricity, water and sewage, internet and mobile connectivity data.
'Large-scale VR worlds'
Improbable says its plans include accelerated recruitment at its London and San Francisco offices, and the creation of a “vibrant ecosystem of developers and customers”.
“We believe that the next major phase in computing will be the emergence of large-scale virtual worlds which enrich human experience and change how we understand the real world,” said Narula, the company’s CEO.
Softbank managing director Deep Nishar said: “Improbable is building breakthrough technologies that are becoming vital and valuable platforms for the global gaming industry.
“Beyond gaming, this new form of simulation on a massive scale has the potential to help us make better decisions about the world we live in.
“Improbable’s technology will help us explore disease, improve cities, understand economies and solve complex problems on a previously unimaginable scale.”