Alibaba is taking a leap into virtual reality.
The Chinese eCommerce giant has led a $793 million round in venture financing of the augmented reality company Magic Leap, The New York Times reported yesterday (Feb. 2), with TechCrunch adding that Alibaba Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai will join the board of the Dania Beach, Florida-based startup (and not Alibiba’s founder, Jack Ma, as the outlet had initially reported).
The NYT story views the sizable investment in Magic Leap as being in line with an increased interest of financiers in the realm of virtual reality, which many in the tech world are betting will play a major role in the next wave of consumer platforms. Citing examples, the outlet points to Facebook’s $2 billion purchase of virtual reality company Oculus in 2014, Microsoft’s work on the VR hardware HoloLens and Apple’s recent moves into the space.
The buzz around Magic Leap is doubly interesting in that the company has, to this point, only revealed the smallest information about its products to the public. That, however, has not dissuaded major players, like Google, Fidelity Investments and Warner Bros., from investing in the company, the NYT story adds.
“Here at Magic Leap, we are creating a new world where digital and physical realities seamlessly blend together to enable amazing new experiences,” Rony Abovitz, founder and chief executive of Magic Leap, said in a statement shared by NYT. “This investment will accelerate bringing our new Mixed Reality Lightfield experience to everyone.”
TechCrunch posits that Alibaba’s lead role in the latest funding round highlights the potential for Magic Leap’s technology to be applied to products in the Chinese entertainment market.
Alibaba was joined in the round by JPMorgan Investment Management, Morgan Stanley Investment Management and T. Rowe Price Associates. NYT adds that Magic Leap has raised $1 billion in funding to date and is currently valued at $3.7 billion (excluding the new funds).