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Virtual Reality Startup Vrse Rebrands As Within, Raises $12.56M from Fox, Legendary Pictures and Others

VRSE, the virtual reality (VR) content and technology company co-founded by renowned music video producer Chris Milk, is rebranding as Within. And with the new name also comes a new cash infusion: Within has raised a new $12.56 million Series A round of funding from 21st Century Fox, Andreessen Horowitz, Raine Ventures, WME, Live Nation, Vice Media, Tribeca Enterprises, Annapurna Pictures, Legendary Pictures, and Elisabeth Murdoch’s Freelands Ventures.

In addition, Within also launched its app on the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets Thursday. The startup previously launched apps for iOS, Android and Samsung’s Gear VR, and also publishes videos on its own website as well as via partner apps and sites.

So why the new name? Company co-founder and CTO Aaron Koblin told Variety in a recent interview that the goal was to not just focus on a single slice of immersive technology. “We are really interested in broadening the conversation,” he said. VR is often being associated with gaming, he argued, which is an area that Within isn’t focused on. “For us, it’s very much about immersive storytelling,” said Koblin.

VRSE and its sister company VRSE.works made themselves a name with a number of immersive video experiences, including “Clouds Over Sidra,” an immersive short film about a Syrian refugee camp. The companies have also been producing content in conjunction with the New York Times, Vice, the United Nations and Spike Jonze.

One of Vrse’s early works was “New Wave,” a piece portraying two lovers on a beach that gave viewers the ability to listen in on two separate internal monologues just by looking from one character to the other. Koblin said that Within aims to use the new cash infusion to build out its technology platform and further push the boundaries of immersive storytelling. “There is a lot of hype around VR right now,” he argued, adding that few had actually gone beyond simple 360-degree videos.

This work will also include more investment in mobile VR. Some of Within’s videos got a huge audience over night when the New York Times sent out a million Cardboard headsets to its subscribers last October. Mobile VR is likely to get another big push with Google’s Daydream initiative in the coming months, which Koblin called “very exciting.”

Google announced in May that a number of mobile phone manufacturers will start to ship mobile VR-optimized handsets that work with special Daydream headsets later this year. Mobile VR could especially be key to reaching consumers in overseas markets, argued Koblin. “The opportunity is a global one.”

Within currently has 19 employees and will likely staff up further in the coming months. The company hired former Rdio CEO Drew Larner as its COO last October, and is now considering to open an office in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Within’s new funding is one in a series of cash injections for VR companies this month. Last week, Robert Stromberg’s Virtual Reality Company announced a new $23 million round of funding. On Wednesday, VR studio Felix & Paul announced that it has raised $6.8 million from Comcast and others.

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