Virtual reality and augmented reality startups in the UK to watch

Worldwide revenues for the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are set to increase by 100 percent or more over each of the next four years, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC), taking the total spending from $11.4 billion in 2017 to nearly $215 billion by 2021.

The UK is home to a number of emerging players in the industry hoping to cash in on the boom. Here's our pick of the pack.

Read next: UK AI startups to watch

Additional reporting by Hannah Williams.

Admix
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Admix

UK startup Admix provides a monetisation platform for VR and AR developers, enabling them to generate revenue from their content through programmatic advertising.

The startup, which was founded in 2017, has since signed a partnership with media giant Oath and claims to be the world's first programmatic platform for immersive technologies.

The Beta platform was launched at the start of 2018 and the company has since been working with several VR and AR developers.

In November 2018, Admix received a $2.1 million seed round funding led by Speendinvest.

KageNova
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KageNova

KageNovais a UK-based startup developing technologies that are designed to solve critical outstanding technological problems in virtual and mixed reality systems.

The core technologies are built to embed interactive realism whilst delivering next-generation experiences.

Found in 2017, KageNova was among the 10 early-stage businesses to join Digital Catapult's 10-week Augmentor programme which was completed in October 2018.

KageNova was also picked to join Vive X, HTC Vive’s global AR/ VR accelerator programme.

HoloMe
© HoloMe

HoloMe

London startup HoloMe creates holograms of real people by converting video into 3D projections that are viewed through mobile devices. Clients include museums and advertisers use the technology to create holograms of keynotes speakers, products and ideas.

The company was founded in 2017 by Janosch Amstutz, who used his previous career as a commodities manager to invest in emerging technologies including a group of programmers attempting to create humans in augmented reality.

In July 2018, HoloMe was selected to join Augmentor, Digital Catapult's 10-week accelerator programme.

Valkyrie Industries

Valkyrie Industries

Valkyrie Industriesaims to add touch to the audiovisual VR experience, by creating a full-body haptic device that wearers can use to physically interact with their virtual environments.

The startup was created in 2017 by two founders from Deep Science Ventures, a six-month programme that helps scientists and engineers start impactful companies. The company has raised £20,000 in seed funding and is another member of Digital Catapult's Augmentor programme.

Dream Reality Interactive

Dream Reality Interactive

London-based Dream Reality Interactive (DRI) was founded in 2016 by virtual and augmented reality developers who previously worked at Sony’s London Studio.

Having worked on several immersive projects since its launch, DRI is all about developing immersive games and experiences. This includes ‘Hold the World,’ an interactive VR experience in partnership with Sky, Factory 42, The Natural History Museum and Sir David Attenborough as a VR hologram.

Its first AR game, named Orbu, was released in December 2017 for iPhone and iPad users.

DRI has secured investments from the cofounder of Playstation, Phil Harrison, and creative agency Mother.

Zappar
© Zappar

Zappar

Scottish startup Zappar was founded in 2011 to "bring the world to life one zap at a time". It does this through a free app that lets you reveal hidden virtual content behind physical objects with a simple swipe on a smartphone.

The app was developed at the University of Cambridge and uses smartphone cameras to access information about anything with a "Zapcode" icon. Brands who have used Zappar include Warner Brothers, Coca-Cola and Manchester City.

In February 2017, Zappar raised $3,750,000 (£2,800,000) in Series A funding from three investors led by Hargreave Hale. The company's biggest prior cash injection was the $84,356 it raised from a Kickstarter campaign.

The biggest investor in that campaign was Kindred Futures, the innovation arm of gambling giant Kindred Group, which has now partnered with Zappar to add mixed reality to gambling. The collaboration lets users immersively explore sports statistics that they can then leverage in their bets.

sippCLUB
© sipp

sippCLUB

sippCLUBclaims to be the world’s first Augmented Reality (AR) wine club. The startup has developed a mobile app that recognises wine bottles by taking a photograph of the labels. It then recommends the meal or moment it best matches.

Members receive a box of three bottles of wine that is delivered to their door and compatible with the technology. The AR app then plays the role of a virtual sommelier, suggesting food that compliments the flavours, tasting tips and advice on the ideal serving temperate.

sippCLUB launched its service in November 2017 and costs £29 a month. The app's target customers are millennial plonk lovers, but the startup is backed by a more experienced wine aficionado in the shape of former England cricket captain David Gower.

FloorSwitch
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FloorSwitch

FloorSwitchhas developed an AR tool that challenges the flooring industry's reputation for being slow to adopt new technology.

The app lets users visually replace their current floor with any product from the manufacturers listed in its visual search engine. Users can then request samples from within the app or find their nearest stockist.

FloorSwitch aims to close "imagination gap" between a sample request and loss of custom that currently costs the industry around £60 million per year. It includes an advanced 'edge detection system' that provides accurate visualisation with minimal user input. The app is set to launch in early 2018 and has been backed by a number of major UK retailers.

DigitalBridge
© DigitalBridge

DigitalBridge

DigitalBridgeuses augmented reality, computer vision and machine learning to help customers see how their furniture and decoration ideas would really look inside their homes.

The company's design visualiser captures the appearance of the customer's chosen room in a still image. They can then remove different items such as floorboards, ceilings, furniture and lighting conditions, and replace them with other options that they can try before they buy.

The technology can be integrated into the websites of home décor retailers, such as John Lewis, which has selected DigitalBridge for its JLAB accelerator programme. The Manchester-based startup has raised £700,000 since it launched in 2013.

WaveOptics
© WaveOptics

WaveOptics

AR startup WaveOptics designs high-quality and affordable next generation AR lenses that can be adapted to multiple forms including everyday spectacles.

The technology developed by the Oxfordshire-based company uses ultra-thin waveguides and photonic crystals instead of conventional augmented reality projection to keep hardware lightweight and energy-efficient.

WaveOptics was founded in 2014. In July 2017 it raised $16 million (£12 million) in a Series B funding round from previous backers Touchstone Innovations, Octopus Ventures and Robert Bosch Venture Capital and new investor, Gobi Ventures from China.

MVR Global

MVR Global

MVR Globalhas developed a tetherless, plug-and-play VR headset that could make VR mainstream.

Unlike its established competitors, the Ascend offers backwards compatibility with franchise games such as GTA and comes at an affordable price for everyday gamers. A sensor on the headset mimics the movements of a standard console controller and lets the head function as an analogue stick.

It enables developers to create games for the millions of console and PC users rather than dedicating their resources to the small VR market by adding the MVR Ascend sensor and controller to standard games as a supported control input.

Brothers Sachin and Samir Patel founded the Middlesex-based company in 2012 and later recruited two optician friends to help develop their idea into a viable consumer product. They’ve raised £98,000 from family and friends so far and next hope to add £500,000 through crowdfunding platform Crowdcube.

MEL Science

MEL Science

Buckinghamshire-based EdTech startup MEL Science has taken VR to the chemistry lab. Russian physicist Vassili Philippov founded the company to teach his children about science through a combination of practical training and virtual reality.

The startup kit includes a cardboard VR headset, chemistry equipment, and two sets of experiments to start. Another two are delivered to their door every month of the subscription. After conducting a real experiment with the equipment, budding chemists can don the goggles, boot the MEL Science app, and explore their work on a molecular level, viewing, manipulating and even building atoms.

MEL Science was founded in 2015 and launched its virtual chemistry lab in June 2017. In October 2016, the company raised $2.5m in Series A funding from Sistema Venture Capital. The subscription service is available to customers in the UK, US, and Russia, and costs £38.90 per month including shipping.

Improbable
© Improbable

Improbable

Improbableis developing a platform to model reality in virtual spaces that offer new levels of scale and complexity. Its first product since it was formed at the University of Cambridge in 2012 is SpatialOS, a cloud-based engine to power virtual environments.

The company has already worked on projects ranging from a game called MetaWorld to a collaboration with the British government that recreated the entire internet to detect weaknesses.

A $502 million (£390 million) investment led by Japanese telecommunications and internet company SoftBank pushed Improbable's value to more than $1 billion (£780 million). SoftBank will have a minority stake in the London-based startup, which recently opened an office in San Francisco.

Immerse
© Immerse

Immerse

Immersehas developed a live training platform to let multiple users join interactive scenarios to learn in 3D and VR. Live voice and automated reporting run throughout the sessions while the VR lets participants touch and handle 3D objects.

The platform provides critical training in skills such as using machinery or piloting a submarine in a non-critical environment withinteractive equipment. Users can instantly switch between the VR gamified learning and a webcam to add face-to-face interaction as required.

The Royal Navy uses Immerse's platform to reduce reliance on at sea training, Inmarsat train staff and prospective customers on how to construct satellite terminals, and DHL use an interactive stacking game to build relations between staff and management.

Blippar
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Blippar

Blipparis a visual discovery and AR app that uses smartphone cameras to overlay information onto the physical world.

The CEO and cofounder of Blippar is Ambarish Mitra, was named the Ernst & Young UK Entrepreneur of the Year in October. He will represent the country at the World Entrepreneur of the Year competition in Monaco next June.

The company was founded in 2011 and has attracted a disclosed funding total of $99 million dollars, $54 million of which was invested by Khazanah Nasional and the remaining $45 million from Qualcomm Ventures.

VRTU
© VRTU

VRTU

University of Oxford students Arfa Rehman and Scott Gorman founded VRTU in January 2017 to provide a new way of treating people with dementia by creating reminiscent experiences in virtual reality.

The technique known as "reminiscence therapy" is common in traditional treatment facilities, but a VR version is more affordable and accessible, and adds a level of immersion that makes it engaging and visceral.

The startup's name is a disemvoweled "Virtue", signifying the developers' aim to add compassion to VR. The app is fittingly available as a free download for patients and researchers, and a monthly fee of £49 for elderly care facilities. The team was recently accepted on the Augmentor accelerator programme.

Wizdish ROVR
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Wizdish ROVR

Visual immersion in VR already inspires awe, but adding motion is an ongoing challenge. The ROVR treadmill proves that the VR experience needn't be a sedentary one.

The walking platform reduces simulation sickness by placing VR users in waist-high treadmills resembling a child’s playpen.

It was designed by engineers at Wizdish, "the first locomotion company for the new age of Virtual Reality". The company was founded in 2009 and is currently seeking funding.

Emteq
© Emteq

Emteq

The Brighton-based AI company is bringing emotional interaction to VR with technology that tracks human expressions by reading electrical systems generated by movement through sensors in headsets.

The wafer-thin system known as faceteq measures feelings through facial gestures and biometric responses and provides a new way for researchers, educators and creative agencies to study human interactions.

Emteqis also developing treatment for facial palsy and wearables that sense and respond to signs of drowsiness. The company was founded in 2015 and is currently raising seed money.

Ultrahaptics
© Ultrahaptics

Ultrahaptics

Ultrahapticswas co-founded by University of Bristol PhD research student Tom Carter following student research on using ultrasound to simulate touch. It claims to be the only company that lets people feel and manipulate virtual objects in the air.

The technology uses ultrasound to project sensations onto a hand and has the potential to be used for gaming, household appliances, driving and multimedia.

IP Group Plc and Woodford Investment Management have invested $16.55 million in the startup since it was founded in 2013.

Immersive Rehab

Immersive Rehab

Immersive Rehab's VR platform is designed to support psychical and neuro-rehabilitation through interactive physiotherapy games. They increase the effectiveness of contemporary treatment in an engaging environment through exercises with virtual objects in a 3D world that can convince the brain that the physical exertion is real.

The solution is particularly beneficial for people with upper limb mobility limitations who often lack the necessary strength for the physical demands of traditional rehabilitation by reducing the physical barriers and clearly quantifying the benefits.

The company was founded by engineering sciences and biomedical engineering PhD graduate Dr Isabel Van De Keere in September 2016 following her own physical rehab due to an accident at work. In March 2017 it entered the ten-week incubator and accelerator programme Augmentor.

Opto
© Opto

Opto

Opto Air is the first portable VR headset to be produced with built-in audio. The speakers are integrated into a wraparound VR headset with large lenses and interchangeable magnetic covers.

London startup Opto designed the headset for casual users seeking an affordable headset for day-to-day activities such as watching movies and viewing photographs.

A Kickstarter campaign launched after Opto was founded in January 2016 that aimed to raise £40,000 had reached £43,858 at the time of writing.

Kinicho
© Kinicho

Kinicho

Liverpool-based Kinicho wants to deliver 3D audio tools for producers to create fuller listening experiences for VR and other immersive applications. The company name combines the Greek words for kinetic ("kin") and audio ("icho"), reflecting the focus on moving sound in a 3D space.

The startup is developing two separate products: a pop-up 20-speaker audio array known as Cosmos, and an audio engine called Sympan for high fidelity immersive 3D audio for ambisonics and bionaural reproduction.

Kinicho was founded in 2014 by serial digital entrepreneur, coder and enterprise theorist Garry Haywood and audio specialist in residence at the Foundation for Creative Art and Technology (FACT) Stefan Kazassoblou and is another startup to enter the Augmentor accelerator in March 2017.

HoloLamp
© HoloLamp

HoloLamp

HoloLampis marketed as the first portable device to offer an AR experience that needs neither a headset nor hands to view. The system combines a pico projector cameras, computer vision and machine learning to create spatial augmented reality.

The desktop device resembles an interactive hologram and is designed for gaming, holographic communication and education.

The startup was established in July 2016 and plans to launch a crowd funding campaign to attract investment in the near future.

Visual-wise
© Visual-wise

Visual-wise

Visual-wisecreates photo-realistic 3D designs of buildings that strapping on a headset lets you walk around and view the property before it's even been built.

The startup was created in 2011 to makes virtual reality accessible to architects and has been tested by and is currently looking for angel investors.

Purcell Architects has already tested the toolset to demonstrate how a proposal for a new extension to a London church would appear once constructed.

Gravity Sketch
Gravity Sketch

Gravity Sketch

Gravity Sketchhas the lofty goal of transforming digital creation. The London-based startup wants its product to bridge the gap between the growing demand for 3D content and the lack of digital 3D literacy among the general public by making affordable and easy VR design software.

The company began life in October 2013 as a research project at the Royal College of Art. The four Innovation Design Engineering students were experimenting with existing 3D design gadgets and decided to develop their own prototype. The result is the first 3D creation tool designed for touch and gesture input.

A limited public beta version of the software was launched in January for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Gravity Sketch was founded in September 2014 and has since attracted an undisclosed amount of grant funding and non-equity assistance from Imperial Create Lab.

Reality Zero One

Reality Zero One

London startup Reality Zero One is building a platform to digitally replicate real objects and then stream the results in virtual worlds. It is also another recent entrant to the Augmentor programme.

Its solution takes images from scans or uploads that are then reconstruction in the cloud and delivered to VR or AR devices. The end-to-end system promises an easy and accessible system to replicate reality in stunning 3D.

The company began life in 2015 with a prototype VR app, but it functioned too slowly, so they began to automate the process. In the second quarter of 2017 Reality Zero will release its first commercially available 3D capture system.

Koski
© Koski

Koski

Mixed reality gaming platform Koski combines physical and digital gaming in a digital iPad app using real toy blocks to build objects. The device’s camera and object recognition help the wooden bricks with magnetic joints come to life in a virtual world where characters and stories develop on screen.

The gameplay develops with the actions of the player when they put different tokens on top of the bricks that represent different objects and behaviour in mazes, quests, and problem-solving situations.

Koski developed from the Vaclav Mlynar’s final project at the Royal College of Art in London, where he was studying a master’s degrees in product design with Jakub Pollag. They’ve been supported by the Augmentor accelerator and plan to soon launch a Kickstarter campaign.

Vieweet
© Vieweet

Vieweet

The augmented reality property platform lets users view properties on an Android and iOS app by pointing a cameraat a Virtual View App-enabled image to access content including photo galleries, videos and 3D property models and floor-plans.

Vieweetuses a fisheye lens to let estate agents and house sellers market their properties with fully interactive 360 virtual tours.

In June 2014, three months after it was founded, Vieweet won the Barclays Techstars Accelerator Programme. The accelerator has provided an undisclosed amount of seed funding.

Curiscope
© Curiscope

Curiscope

Curiscope produces a "Virtuali-Tee" that uses mixed reality to learn about the human body. Hovering over the design with a smartphone let the working organs underneath come to life on-screen. Placing the phone into a VR headset adds to the immersion.

A Kickstarter campaign for Virtuali-Tee has already surpassed the £70,000 target set by Curiscope, which was founded in 2015.

The London-based startup was established in 2015 has also created a 360-degree video called "Great White Sharks" to lets viewers swim with the fearsome fish that won a Proggy Award from PETA.

Surreal Vision

Surreal Vision

Surreal Visionhas developed software that creates a virtual stimulation of the physical world that can be used in any condition whether at day or at night.

The technology creates an up-to-date model of everything that is present in the environment and has the potential to create a true telepresence between people in different locations.

The company was founded by three PhD students at Imperial College London in 2014. The next year, it was acquired by OculusVR for an undisclosed amount.

Visualise
© Visualise

Visualise

Production studio Visualise produces VR viewing experiences to add an immersive presence to marketing campaigns.

Since it began life in 2012, Visualise has added a VR touch to driving at the Audi test centre, skiing through DNA Alpine VR and tourism with Thomas Cook's "Try Before You Fly" campaign,

The company provides video production, binaural sound, CG VR Production, live streaming, post-production, and app building services. Its rapid rise has been entirely self-funded.

Two Big Ears

Two Big Ears

Scottish startup Two Big Ears develops immersive and interactive audio applications and tools to add cinematic audio to VR and AR.

The company has developed a cross-platform binaural engine called 3Dception that combines real-time 3D audio, geometry-based sound reflections and an environmental modelling engine that reflects minor aural changes in specific locations.

Facebook purchased the company in May 2016, three years after two University of Edinburgh graduates founded it.

Trillenium
© Trillenium

Trillenium

The London-based startup wants to unite gaming and online shopping by creating virtual stores for real-time 3D browsing.

Online retailer ASOS purchased a 10 percent stake in Trillenium and world number one tennis player Andy Murray has partnered with equity crowdfunding firm Seedrs to invest £200,000 in the company.

This startup was founded in 2009, and also offers VR services for travel, real estates, and prototype testing.

Zerolight
© Zerolight

Zerolight

Former racing videogame developer Darren Jobling founded Zerolight in 2014 to give car dealerships, flagship stores and pop up shops a virtual showroom of their to drive sales

Customers an immersive experience of the product can explore and interact with cars thanks to real-time 3D visualisation, and even take them for a spin with a virtual test drive.

The multi-platform digital car configurator has attracted clients including Audi and Jaguar and has raised £916,000 seed funding from Northstar Ventures and Prime Ventures.

Proteus VR Labs

Proteus VR Labs

Proteus VR Labs creates VR products that fit in with real user behaviour. The company was founded in 2013 and is financially supported by seed funding.

The first product released by the startup is the smartphone adapter Freefly. Bjork fans who bought the Icelandic singer's 2915 LP Vulnicura were supplied with the headset to experience her Stonemilker music video in VR.

The Freefly headset provides a 120-degree field of vision, a figure that is superior to the 110-degree provided by both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive and the 96-degree of the Samsung Gear VR.

Altergaze
© Altergaze

Altergaze

Altergazeclaims to be the only Virtual Reality company offering HMD's that can be specifically tailored to an individual's aesthetic tastes.

Customers can either order a fully printed and assembled model or 3D print, assemble and sell their own headset designs through the hacker.agvr platform.

The headset can be upgraded alongside the smartphone that fits inside it and uses a 50mm diameter multi-lens optical to provide a high-quality visual display unit. The company was founded in 2014 and is funded by Kickstarter.

MelodyVR

MelodyVR

Music startup MelodyVR catalogues live performances filmed in VR so music-lovers can enjoy concerts by their favourite artists at home through a VR headset.

MelodyVR provides new vantage points to gigs, ambisonic audio for an immersive listening experience, and the option to eliminate interference for a crystal-clear studio sound quality. The service will launch later this year.

The startup was founded in 2015 and is supported by holding company EVR Holdings, which raised £3.4 million on the London stock exchange in September 2016 to fund a planned US expansion.

Kazooloo
© Kazooloo

Kazooloo

Augmented reality video games have already exploded into the mainstream thanks to the roaring success of Pokémon GO. Flying the flag for the UK is virtual reality board game Kazooloo.

Players use Kazooloo to bring a traditional board game to life through a smartphone or tablet. Its game was selected as one of The Gadget Show's top ten tech products for 2016.

froom Gorali Eran and Plarium.com committed $1.5 million of seed funding to the company in 2014, just one year after it had been founded.

AuraVisor
iStock

AuraVisor

The wireless all-in-one headset from the York-based company uses a built-in computer and a Wi-Fi chip to create an affordable, untethered VR experience.

Auravisor made headlines in April by teaming up with virtual reality pornography company VR Bangers to offer guests at Las Vegas hotels a headset preloaded with porn called the “VR Bangers Hotel Experience.”

The crowd-funded startup was founded in 2015 and is said to be the world’s first production ready wireless VR headset.

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