Following up on their massively successful $2.4M Kickstarter campagin, Oculus VR has just locked down a gigantic $16M Series A to help them build the truly amazing Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles.
In case you’ve somehow missed all the hubbub about the Rift, here’s what you need to know: it’s quite possibly the most exciting thing going on in gaming right now. Packed tight with 3D stereoscopic displays and a fistful of motion sensors, it’s the virtual reality headset that science fiction has promised us for decades. Strap the Rift on your face, fire up a compatible game, and it’s like entering a whole new world.
Still lost? Check out this clip of our own Anthony Ha demoing the Rift at CES:
As someone who’s lucky enough to have had a Rift strapped to my head at one point: I. can’t. wait. While Microsoft is off shooting itself in the foot with a semi-automatic that has seemingly infinite ammo and Sony is mostly just following a natural evolutionary path with the PS4, in swoops these (now not so) little guys to try and revolutionize gaming.
[By the way, Microsoft: if you want to turn that tide you're drowning in, if only just a little… embrace Oculus. Fast. Or, you know, let Sony do it and continue to absolutely dominate mindshare leading up to this next generation.]
So why raise? Isn’t the $2.4M they got from Kickstarter enough?
Hardly. While that’s a good start (and the Kickstarter certainly did a damned good job of spreading the word), that initial injection went toward the creation and distribution of the Oculus Rift dev kits — the rough, prototype hardware meant for developers to test the waters and start implementing Rift-compatibility into their games.
They’ve still got to build their production/retail hardware, continue to build out their SDK, evangelize the heck out of all of it to get enough developers onboard to make the product worthwhile, and then figure out how to sell it beyond the notable but still relatively small geek crowd that has embraced it so far.
They’ve done a great job of convincing much of the tech world (myself included) that the Oculus Rift could very well change the face of gaming — but if that’s to be the case, they’ve still got a much harder job in front of them: convincing everyone else.
Oculus VR isn’t the first to raise a big ol’ round shortly after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Pebble pulled in $10M on Kickstarter, then raised a $15M Series A a year later. Ouya pulled $8M on Kickstarter, then raised $15M from Kleiner Perkins. It’s starting to seem like a trend in big, flashy hardware startups: have a gigantic Kickstarter, get your prototypes out there, then raise around $15M from the more traditional funding sources within a few months.
The round was led by Spark Capital and Matrix Partners. As part of the deal, Spark Capital founder Santo Politi and Matrix Partner’s Antonio Rodriguez will be joining OculusVR’s board of directors.
MindTouch is using data to provide context to customer support pages so people can get better answers to the questions they have about a product or a service. The FAQ just doesn’t do it anymore. It’s either because the questions don’t apply or the answers don’t address a customer’s issues.
MindTouch has won customers such as SAP and Salesforce.com by turning the manual into a contextual data engine that correlates to the individual and the overall customer base. It turns product and service data into a knowledge engine that serves relevant information on a per-article basis. The contextual knowledge base can also be applied to search results. Articles that get the most interest rise to the top.
The system is built so the identity of the individual determines which results are presented. It takes information from Facebook, Twitter, CRM agents, websites and other communities to create a profile of the customer’s product history. The process makes it more self-service-oriented and helps customer service representatives up-sell and cross-sell at the right time.
A logged-in user can get contextual information based on products, skill level and languages. An anonymous user can be limited to prevent any competitive intelligence or to encourage registration so that they tie into the company’s identity management system and can be tracked and targeted for specific campaigns. Support agents and field techs have broader capabilities and access to the overall knowledge base.
Forrester Research found that 71 percent of customers prefer self-service help. They want specific information before they buy a product or a service. There are different ways that this can be done. Developers can either download an SDK and test out an app, or they can try a cloud service and reach out to the community.
MindTouch uses context to help deliver a service for customers. It’s the type of service we should come to expect as the capabilities to correlate data provide the ability to offer deeper forms of context.
It’s been just under a year since Y Combinator-backed Kamcord officially launched, and the young team has spent its time raising funding and quietly fleshing out its SDK for iOS games.
The team had seen its in-game screen recording tech implemented in over 100 games, and gamers have recorded 500 million videos since those very early days, but now the team has been working on a pair of new features they hope will get even more mobile gamers sharing videos of their exploits. Starting today, Kamcord has provided tools to let players trim down their videos on the fly and add their own vocal tracks into the mix… if game developers enable them, anyway.
The ability to edit game recordings is straightforward enough — the meaty bits of your video may come out to a total of 30 or 40 seconds, so why share the whole multi-minute clip? It’s the voice overlay feature that seems the more compelling of the two, since it demonstrates a pretty solid understanding of the kinds of game videos that get spread around most often.
Here’s the idea: once the feature has been enabled, your device fires up its microphone when the gaming session begins and records your fevered mutterings as you furiously paw at your touchscreen. It seems like a problematic way to go at first — I would’ve though the game’s sounds would drown out any input from microphone — but Kamcord CEO Matt Zitzmann noted that there’s a distinct lack of echoing or audio issues (though he still thinks users should use a separate microphone anyway).
But why even go this route in the first place? A quick look at the gameplay videos that populate YouTube and Twitch reveal that many of them lean on narration — after all, there’s only so much entertainment to be had while watching straight, untampered game recordings. There’s something very compelling about listening to someone as they submit themselves to the experience of a game, which perhaps explains the phenomenal popularity of the Let’s Play video genre.
“They’re just a lot more watchable,” Zitzmann noted in a phone conversation. The sort of human quality that adding voice tracks to a game recording is exactly what Kamcord needs if it wants developers to take the SDK seriously as a potential marketing tool. What better way is there for a would-be player to make up their mind about a game they haven’t taken the plunge on than by watching (and hearing) someone have a blast with it. In the end it’s up to developers to decide whether or not they want either of features enabled, but the team has already been in talks with a handful of interested parties and is slowly staffing up to tackle more challenges.
In the consumer mobile app world, developers have a number of platforms including iOS, and Android, from which they can not only find users but also monetize and make money. Connecting with social networks like Facebook can help for distribution, and you can sell your app in Apple’s App Store and Google Play or make money via ads. But in the enterprise world, this is a challenge that any mobile or web app developer faces. Today, cloud storage company Box is hoping to solve this problem for developers by debuting Box $rev, a new program for developers to monetize their applications on the Box platform.
“This is really about how we can drive value for both developers and users,” explains CEO and co-founder Aaron Levie. He says that enterprise apps do not monetize well in the App Store or other mobile app platforms, and this is going to provide a way for enterprise app developers who are building off of Box to actually make revenue from users interacting with their apps. “This is the easiest way for enterprise app developers to make money,” claims Levie.
With Box $rev, developers are paid when a Box Business or Enterprise customer uses a third-party app that’s integrated with Box. Box $rev, via a new SDK developers must use, will measure customer interactions with third-party apps integrated on Box and compensate developers based on that usage. Based on usage, developers can be paid up to 15 percent of the Box seat price ( which can range from $10 per month upwards) per user. If an entire organization with 10,000 seats downloads a specific app, that could be meaningful revenue for the developers. It also provides a way for Box to see which apps its users are interacting with the most.
“We’re rewriting the rules when it comes to supporting the next generation of enterprise app developers,” says Levie.
Box $rev is launching today with ten inaugural Box OneCloud partners including CloudOn, Notability, Documents by Readdle, PDFExpert, iAnnotate, Genius Scan, CamScanner, Outline+, GoodNotes and SmartOffice. Over time, Box $rev will expand to a broader set of programs and capabilities, the company explains.
Box is also releasing new SDKs for Android and IOS that add the ability for users to select Box files through a secure file picker with only a few lines of code. Box has also added built-in SSO support to easily manage enterprise identity.
At the heart of what Box is doing is trying to create a broader economy around its API and developer ecosystem. Box $rev could be a super interesting way to not only attract more developers to build off of Box, but also gain additional insight into how its business and enterprise users are interacting with additional functions and apps leveraging the cloud storage platforms. Today, the Box OneCloud ecosystem includes more than 500 app integrations, including drchrono, SmartOffice and Documents by Readdle. And 43% of the Fortune 500 are using apps from Box OneCloud today.
Tango, a mobile messaging and video calling app with now over 120 million members worldwide, is expanding its service by opening its platform to third-party developers. By integrating the newly launched Tango software development kit (SDK) into their own applications, mobile publishers will be able to add a social layer into their apps meant to better reflect users’ real-world connections with family and friends. Gameloft is the first of a dozen or so launch partners to debut apps using the new Tango platform.
Gameloft will soon be releasing an app in called “Candy Block Breaker for Tango” on iOS, and that will be then followed by “JetPack Jinx for Tango,” developed by Bubble Gum Interactive.
This is a major move for the mobile social communications service, Tango, which has been steadily transforming itself from just a video calling app to rival Skype into something that more closely resembles a mobile social network. Already, users could call, video chat, text, leave voicemails and video messages, and even play games within Tango’s mobile application, but this is the first time the company has made access to its so-called “social graph” to other applications.
According to Tango CEO Eric Setton, Tango users have been playing tens of millions of games within the app every month – something that would see the app ranked toward the top of the app store charts if it called itself a mobile game, he says.
“But we found that we can’t do everything we want to inside the app, in terms of putting out the most compelling content out there and presenting it to our members,” Setton explains, “so we basically becoming a bottleneck.”
With the new Tango SDK, the idea is to create an experience that’s more like playing games in the real world – like during a family board game night, for instance. However, though the initial partnerships are on the mobile gaming side of things, Tango’s SDK will be open to developers of any kind of app looking to add a social layer.
The SDK allows the third-party apps to connect with its network, pull down a list of friends, and then allow those users to message each other using text, picture and video, similar to how things work in Tango itself. It also includes social leaderboards, which shows how users’ scores compare with friends, and it allows for both competitive and collaborative in-game mechanics. For example, app developers could allow you to see where your friends are within the game or they could allow users to chat and play at the same time. The integration specifics are up to the third-party developers.
When users try out a Tango-powered mobile app, they’ll be prompted to tap a “play with Tango” button to get connected. The nice thing about the integration is that there’s no extra typing required here. Unlike Facebook, where users maintain a username and password, Tango does not. The app has historically registered users based on their phone number, and added “friends” based on who had that same number in their contacts book.
In recent weeks, I’ve found that system problematic because there’s no way to block users, but Setton assures me that feature is works. As it stands, however, if your phone number is more public, you could encounter issues where unknown users contact you, and you have no way to avoid those alerts. With the third-party applications, those alerts will take you directly into the mobile app or game itself, or, if it’s not installed, will prompt you to download the app when the notification is tapped.
Game developers, who will do a revenue share with Tango, have given the SDK a warm reception so far says Setton, because of its potential for increased app discovery.
“The app store is so competitive. If you look at the top 100 grossing apps, more than 75 percent come from the mobile gaming industry. There’s just very, very fierce competition there,” he says. “The other channels to get noticed in the app store are mobile advertisement or the Facebook platform, and the prices for these keep going up. By connecting [third-party developers] with a pretty large user base on our end and by helping them get discovered, we think that we’ll be able to preserve the economics in a way that makes sense.”
Interested developers can apply for access to the Tango SDK from the company’s homepage. The iOS games releasing first will be available on Android next month, and more games and other apps will follow in months ahead. Setton says that Tango expects to have anywhere from 30 to 100 games out between now and year-end.