NEWS: Cove Fund II’s Recent Investment – Startup That Delivers VR/AR Experience in 3D Fashion
Traditional entertainment venues are struggling to compete in an increasingly crowded market. At the same time, high quality at-home entertainment, like movies and video-games, are abundant and more accessible than ever via streaming and smart TVs.
Musical acts, theme parks and cinemas need to offer an experience that cannot be replicated at home in order to get people off of their couches and out the door.
New technologies like VR and AR, while captivating, can be socially isolating and cannot scale to large audiences. And the head-mounted displays required for these technologies can be onerous to wear for hours.
A new company aims to change all that with its “holographic” 3D LED display systems, which provide visual experiences at a larger-than-life scale using affordable, customizable 3D glasses.
3D Live, with HQ in LA, enables 3D that can be seamlessly integrated with the real world, creating experiences that cannot be replicated at home.
And, the timing could not be more fortuitous. IMAX recently announced it was eliminating its VR division. It already closed four of its VR centers, according to news reports, and the remaining three will bite the dust next year. IMAX had already canceled a project to develop a VR camera with Google earlier this year.
All this piqued the interest of the Cove Fund II, which led 3D Live’s recent seed round. The investment amount is confidential, 3D Live Chief Strategy Officer Christian Dieckmann told OC Startups Now. (See related story here about the Cove Fund II and its investment strategy).
How It Works
The proprietary technology behind 3D Live was originally developed a decade ago for Michael Jackson’s “This is It Tour”, which was cancelled due to the performer’s death.
Subsequently, 3D Live’s co-founders, Nathan Huber and Ryan Pardeiro, were able to raise some seed capital and acquire rights to the technology, formally creating the company in 2012.
They bootstrapped the business over the first several years, slowly growing a reputation in the concert business.
The company touts its tech as delivering “superior” brightness and contrast, as well as extreme 3D depth – 10 times the typical stereo contrast ratio – when compared to projection-based 3D systems.
The experience can be compared to that of VR or AR, but uses affordable, customizable 3D glasses instead of the more expensive and difficult to manage head-mounted displays.
“We can have up to tens of thousands of audience members enjoying a shared immersive experience at the same time, in venues as large as arenas and stadiums,” Dieckmann said.
In 2016, 3D Live expanded into the theme park business with the launch of the Mass Effect: New Earth at California’s Great America in Northern California.
Based on the critically acclaimed video game from Electronic Arts, this attraction features over 80 motion simulator seats and a custom 60-foot wide 3D LED screen with 4K resolution.
It was so popular that it was voted by USA Today readers as one of the Top 10 Best New Amusement Park Attractions of 2016.
More recently, 3D Live launched Trolls: The Experience, based on the DreamWorks film in NYC. 3D Live’s “holographic” displays – produced using holograms –
are featured during the dance-party finale, and enables kids to dance along with the beloved characters and critters from the film.
The company also recently built a prototype 2.5 millimeter pixel pitch display targeting the high resolution needs of cinema exhibitors, which was jointly exhibited with NEC Display Solutions at CinemaCon.
3D Live is continuing to develop this prototype to bring to market next year.
For live events, including concert tours and branded marketing, clients typically rent displays from 3D Live’s existing inventory.
Theme parks and other location-based entertainment venues typically prefer permanent installations, so 3D Live will build and sell customized displays for these clients.
It also offers creative and design services for how to maximize the impact of its 3D displays.
Revenue and Pipeline
The company has been generating “significant” revenue over the past several years, Dieckmann said, declining to disclose any numbers.
3D Live has a “healthy” pipeline of projects, including large-scale concert tours and a number of domestic and international theme park attractions.
Prominent clients and partners include Cedar Fair amusement parks, Feld Entertainment / NBC Universal, Disney, the Coachella music festival and Dell.
Huber and Pardeiro have extensive expertise in 3D hardware and media content, as well as live event production for TV and film, including the 3D film, “Avatar.”
Dieckmann is a former client. He previously led strategic growth for Cedar Fair, an owner-operator of theme parks across the U.S.