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Video Tech Veterans Raise $6 Million for Virtual Reality Streaming Startup

Seattle-based Pixvana has raised a $6 million seed round of financing from Madrona Venture Group, Vulcan Capital and others to build a cloud-based virtual reality video (VR) streaming solution. Pixvana’s team came together just three months ago, but the company’s CEO Forest Key told Variety that he intends to deliver real solutions to studios and others looking for VR streaming technology soon. “We intend to be in the market next year,” he said.

The team behind Pixvana isn’t exactly new to the streaming game: Key began his career at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic, and later worked on Flash video at Adobe and Silverlight at Microsoft. The company’s chief product officer Bill Hensler was most recently senior director of engineering for Apple, and previously oversaw engineering and R&D for video products at Adobe, and CTO Scott Squires used to be the CTO of Industrial Light & Magic and worked on visual effects for films like “Star Wars: Episode I”.

SEE MORE: Samsung’s Gear VR Shows A Lot of Potential, Still Best for Early Adopters

Key said in an interview with Variety last week that he experienced “a profound sense of magic” when he tried HTC’s Vive VR headset for the first time. But he also quickly realized that there is still a lot of work to do to make VR mainstream, which includes video delivery technologies. Right now, users often have to download very large files to make VR video experiences work. Apps that do use streaming often deliver images at a very bad quality.

Consumers are bound to be disappointed if they get to see blurry, washed-out images when they try on VR headsets for the first time, he argued. That’s especially true because 4K video is already a reality in people’s living rooms. “The bar has been set very high for VR,” he said. Key said that streaming quality was one of Pixvana’s first priorities, but he didn’t go into details on how his company wants to improve video quality for VR headsets.

Pixvana isn’t the only company looking to improve VR video streaming. Facebook has been doing work in this area as well in order to improve the video quality on its Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR headsets.


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