Matterport is looking to make taking photos for virtual reality environments as simple as pulling out your smartphone and launching an app.
On Thursday, the imaging startup said it had raised US$30 million in funding and will use the money to develop software that lets people capture 360-degree images with mobile devices containing 3D sensors.
Given the high price of virtual-reality cameras, developing virtual environments seems out of reach for the typical consumer. For example, Google recently showed its Jump camera system for taking 360-degree videos. The company didn’t give a price for Jump, but the system is comprised of 16 cameras that sell for approximately $500 each, leading to speculation that the rig could be expensive.
Matterport sells a 3D-scanning camera for $4,500 that’s marketed at the real estate industry. However, by focusing on building mobile apps, the startup wants to open virtual-reality creation to the average person.
Smartphones with 3D sensors may not be mainstream yet, but Matterport anticipates the technology will gradually appear in more devices. The company is working with Google on Project Tango, the search company’s initiative to build mobile devices that can take 3D scans.
In addition to selling the camera, Matterport offers a cloud-based service that combines images to form 3D environments. People can view this content on virtual-reality headsets like the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard. Matterport also has a browser-based app that lets people view the content on their laptops and mobile devices.
Matterport is also opening up its technology to third-party developers, hoping they’ll create apps for building virtual environments. Critics have said virtual reality needs unique apps that compel people to use the technology.