Tokyo VR Startups showcases 7 teams from 3rd incubation batch, announces rebranding

Press briefing by Tipatat Chennavasin (General Partner of The Venture Reality Fund) and Hironao Kunimitsu (General Partner and Special Limited Partner of The Venture Reality Fund, Founder of Tokyo VR Startups, CEO of Gumi)
Image credit: Masaru Ikeda

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo VR Startups, the startup incubator focusing on VR (Virtual Reality) that is organized by Japanese mobile game developer Gumi (TSE:3903) of Japan, earlier this month a Demo Day for its 3rd batch in Tokyo. At the venue were not only the 7 teams that participated in the third batch, but also one team participating this round from Korea’s Seoul VR Startups (jointly operated with YJM Games in Korea), which has a sisterly relationship with Tokyo VR Startups, and furthermore, two teams backed by Korea’s Next Reality Partners also participated, making for a grand event.

This article will introduce the seven startup teams from Japan that participated in the third batch.

Graffity by Graffity

Graffity is an AR (augmented reality) app that allows users leave graffiti on the space around them. The company started development from the middle of September when iOS 11 was released, and is gathering many users, mainly high school girls. In addition to leaving text and images on the space, users can shoot a projected image on the real space as a video clip and share it. Using the AR Cloud, the company intends to monetize though targeting advertising based on accumulated data, creating an ad network that allows advertisers to virtually put ads on the real space, and the sales of figure characters for AR projection.

Margic by Mikai

Mikai develops the Margic funny movie community that specializes in game and anime content. To sum it up, the app allows users to easily synthesize animated cartoons with live action movie effects, such as kamehameha and surge fist, and forms communities when users share video clips amongst themselves. Their goal is to become the AR version of A few years ago, it became popular to share still images superimposed with these special effects, but Mikai attempts to realize this with moving pictures.

Mikai plans to release the beta version of Margic on the iTunes AppStore within the year to make it in time for the Comiket Market event early next year. To monetize the company could increase the marketing methods for companies interested in video campaigns linked with movies, and by selling characters and animation effects.

Full Dive Novel by My Dearest

Full Dive Novel allows readers to become the main character of a novel by reading a novel in the VR space. In the category of VR where much of the game and storyline is of poor quality, My Dearest has brought together many editors and creators, giving it the strength to produce story-rich content such as VR novels and VR movies. Initially the company was producing and selling its own content, but in the future, it will develop a general-purpose development kit that allows users to create VR content themselves, and it aims to build a platform on which users can trade content freely.

Real-time Animation System and Virtual Idol by Activ8

Activ8 is developing a real-time animation system that enables users to operate a cartoon character by attaching a sensor to the body. In addition to converting the motion of a person into that of an animated character, it can also analyze the sound waves picked up by the microphone, and lip-sync the character according to the spoken words.

It is impossible to post pictures due to the copyrights of the exhibited works. Instead of selling the system to companies, it seems like Activ8 wants to promote the virtual idol to various events and campaigns in a way like a showbiz agency.

Momently by Pretia

Momently is a social AR app developed by Pretia. The goal is to use AR to increase the potential of videos by making 3D objects in real space. Pretia hopes users to hone their skills for making funny videos and to put them anywhere on the real space.

With the goal of becoming dominant when the AR Cloud becomes consumer-ready, the company is seeking to secure competitive advantage by collecting user data and developing original technology utilizing the cloud platform. In the future, Pretia plans to monetize with targeted ads.

BlitzFreak by ActEvolve

ActEvolve is developing the BlitzFreak e-sports game using VR. Normally, VR can only be enjoyed by players who have a HMD (head mounted display) installed, but with BlitzFreak there are over 100 viewpoints set in VR called Neutral Cameras, making it possible for spectators other than players to enjoy games from various angles. In addition to preparing a viewpoint for tracking player movement from behind, the company has added other interactive perks to the game, such as allowing the audience to throw recovery items to the player when they are stuck.

The prototype has already been installed in VR bars in Shibuya, but full-scale deployment to VR arcades is said to begin from the start of next year. The company will develop content and test it repeatedly in Korea, the country with the most VR arcades, as well as in Japan, and there are plans to expand into countries with high game user populations like China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore. From the summer of 2019 until year-end, the company plans to develop and expand business directed at consumers interested in VR devices.

The audience’s view of the game
The player’s view of the game

Be the Hero by Expvr

Expvr is working on innovative methods of conveying movement in VR. With the current VR, there a various methods such as warp in which a user moves by pointing at a movement destination, or walking and flying. For the former it is not possible to create the feeling of a smooth movement and for the latter it often leads to “VR sickness“.

Therefore, Expvr developed a method for movement in VR where VR sickness does not occur. By adding saturated linework on the screen, it gives the user the feeling that they are moving their bodies themselves. Also, taking a hint from the fact that drivers do not get carsick even if their passengers do, the company concluded that synchronizing the movement of the body, such as wrist movement, in VR would solve the issue.

Although there seems to be other points to make users on the move feel naturally even in VR, Expvr is not patenting its method. Rather, by encouraging various game developers to adopt the concept, and the company expects to eventually rise the overall level of VR games.

An American comic book-style VR comic is one of the company’s offerings

Tokyo VR Startups announced that it will be rebranded into Tokyo XR Startups Incubation Program (TXS) from the next incubation program. While attending recent Slush 2017 and Nordic VR Startups’ Demo Day in Helsinki, Gumi CEO Hironao Kunimitsu suggested that Tokyo VR Startups wants to invite startup not only from VR but a much wider range of technologies and services including AR and MR (mixed reality). This is what the new name reflects. It has not been mentioned whether or not Seoul VR Startups, Nordic VR Startups, and The Venture Reality Fund (The VR Fund) will change their names to include “XR” respectively.

With concluding the 3rd batch Demo Day, Tokyo XR Startups began recruitment for startups to participate in its 4th batch. The application deadline is February 27th, and the teams selected to participate will be provided with conveniences such as free use of co-working space in Tokyo, mentoring by industry experts in Japan and abroad, and an investment of 5 to 10 million yen (about $44.4K- $88.8K US) for product and service development.

Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda