UK VR firm raises $500m

Improbable has received a cash injection of millions of dollars

London-based virtual reality (VR) company Improbable have secured $500 million (USD) in funding from Japanese banking firm Softbank.

SoftBank managing director Deep Nishar will take a seat on Improbable's board, but the Japanese firm will not hold a controlling stake in the United Kingdom company that was launched five years ago.

Narula says in a statement on Friday announcing the investment: "We believe that the next major phase in computing will be the emergence of large-scale virtual worlds which enrich human experience and change how we understand the real world". The company foresees its technology being used in virtual reality gaming to create more realistic games.

SoftBank managing director Deep Nishar will join Improbable's board. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.

Founded in 2012, Improbable offers SpatialOS, an operating system that facilitates large-scale simulations in the cloud, making possible virtual worlds that the company claims are of "unprecedented scale and complexity".

Improbable's technology SpatialOS, which enables the creation of massive simulations - "virtual worlds" - is still in beta mode and has not been publicly launched.

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Although its exact valuation remains undisclosed, a spokesperson told Tech City News Improbable was now valued at "over $1bn", making it part of the exclusive United Kingdom tech "unicorn" club.

SoftBank recently sold a 25 per cent stake in ARM and this investment could be part of the reason for that previously unexplained move. TechCrunch only reports that the company is worth more than $1 billion (£780 million) and that Softbank's investment is a minority stake in the company - meaning it owns less than 50% of the company.

The investment will see recruitment "accelerated" at both locations, Improbable said. "This investment will allow us to take the big, bold steps needed to fully realise our vision".

The system is being tested by the gaming industry but could also be used in a range of other areas such as medicine, city management, telecoms, and transport.

For real world applications, proofs of concept and pilot projects have included the simulation of the internet's backbone as well as an entire United Kingdom city in terms of traffic, gas and electricity, water and sewage, internet and mobile connectivity data.

In order to do so, the firm is working on its flagship platform called SpatialOS, which will enable users to "seamlessly stitch together multiple servers and game engines like Unreal [a suite of integrated tools for game developers to design and build games] and Unity [a cross-platform game engine] to power massive, persistent worlds with more players than ever before".

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