Samsung Electronics has made more inroads into the virtual reality (VR) market by making an acquisition of VRB, a New York–based startup that develops VR content.
According to a report in TechCrunch, unnamed sources said late last week that Samsung paid $5.5 million in the acquisition for VRB. Christopher Paretti, one of the cofounders of the company, confirmed the transaction but would not disclose how much Samsung paid for the company. The startup said it is a social VR platform focused on “user expression and novel methods of communications.” VRB has created apps in the virtual reality market including VRB Home, a social virtual city and VRBFoto, a 360-degree photo sharing app. VRB also has a multipurpose toolkit for creators as it’s also going after the VR developer market. It includes an avatar creator, headset for mobile broadcasting and backend system designed to help developers create virtual worlds. According to the report, TechCrunch said evidence points to the fact that Samsung is keeping the apps within the company, which likely means it will develop them further.
The market for virtual reality headsets has been slow to take off partly because of the high cost associated with the headsets and a lack of commercial uses that will prompt widespread adoption. Currently VR is being used largely by gamers and gaming companies, although retailers such as eBay are playing around with the technology. In May 2016, eBay inked a partnership with Australian department store Myer in order to enable shoppers to get a more personal experience with their online shopping thanks to VR. eBay rolled out what it called “shoptacles,” which allow shoppers to wear a VR headset in order to get that experience. Along with that came the launch of what eBay calls the “world’s first” VR shopping app, which will give consumers access to 12,500 products. eBay said it is giving away 20,000 free VR reality headsets, which are cardboard-style viewers, to create the experience it hopes will turn those browsers into buyers.