Apple Buys Spaces, VR Startup That Blends Avatars With Videoconferencing

Apple has quietly made another small virtual-reality acquisition: The company has bought Spaces, a developer of location-based VR experiences that recently pivoted to launch a VR extension for videoconferencing platforms like Zoom and Skype.

An Apple rep confirmed the purchase but declined to comment further (as is its usual policy). The acquisition was first reported by Protocol.

Spaces was founded in 2016 by two former DreamWorks Animation execs. The company created several location-based VR experiences installed at theme parks and theaters, including multiplayer game “Terminator Salvation: Fight for the Future.” During the pandemic, Spaces launched a new VR extension for videoconferences that created real-time animated virtual avatars of speakers for meetings and presentations.

For Apple, the pickup of Spaces is its second VR acquisition this year. The tech giant this spring bought VR live-streaming startup NextVR, whose content partners had included the NBA, NFL, WWE, Fox Sports, Live Nation and HBO.

Apple reportedly has been working on an AR headset, although it’s unclear when that might be coming to market. CEO Tim Cook has been bullish on the potential of AR technology, telling investors on Apple’s earnings call in January that there are consumer and business enterprise applications for augmented reality. “The reason I’m so excited about it is you rarely have a new technology where business and consumer are both see it as key to them,” Cook said.

Spaces co-founders CEO Shiraz Akmal and CTO Brad Herman, who both previously worked on DWA’s VR content experiences. The company took its name from the base unit of virtual reality (a “space”).

Investors in L.A.-based Spaces, which had announced total funding raised of about $9.5 million, included Comcast Ventures, China’s Songcheng Performances Development Co. Ltd., one of the world’s biggest theme-park and performing arts companies, and several VC firms.

Last week Spaces announced it would shut down existing services, according to the Protocol report. A message on its website current says, “Spaces is heading in a new direction,” without additional details.

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