San Jose, California-based virtual reality (VR) startup uSens has raised a $20 million Series A round of funding to advance the state of mobile VR. Some of the company’s work includes better hand tracking and head tracking for mobile VR, which could help mobile headsets catch up with, and possibly even eclipse, today’s high-end VR devices.
uSens CTO Yue Fei compared the current state of virtual reality with the era of the smart phones circa 2005, before Apple had entered the market. “Before the iPhone, people needed to use a stylus,” he said, likening the input device to the controllers being used with VR headsets like the Oculus Rift or Google’s upcoming Daydream platform.
Fei believes that his company can do away with these kinds of controllers, and instead let people use their hands. “The hand is more expressive, more natural than controllers,” he said.
Another area of focus for uSens is head and positional tracking, which has been a weak spot of today’s mobile virtual reality headsets. Devices like Samsung’s Gear VR know when a user turns their head, but they can’t track him moving through space.
Still, there is some growing excitement around mobile VR, in part because it is a lot cheaper than high-end headsets like the Oculus Rift. Samsung announced recently that more than one million people used its Gear VR headset in April alone. And Google’s new Android-based Daydream VR platform is all about using the power of mobile phones. “The future of VR is mobile,” agreed Fei.
Mobile VR could also help target users in markets where phones are more popular than gaming PCs. Chinese consumer electronics companies in particular have been making big bets on mobile VR, and uSens CEO Anli He called China the “most active” in terms of VR development. “There are like 500 headset makers,” she said.
In addition to VR sensors, uSens has also been working on augmented reality technologies. The company’s new round of funding was led by Fosun Kinzon Capital, with participation from Maison Capital, Great Capital, Fortune Capital, Oriental Fortune Capital, iResearch Capital, and Chord Capital. Altogether, the company has raised $26.2 million so far.