Morning Report: As VR Drifts, Microsoft Keeps Its “Mixed Reality” Push Alive

Morning Report: Yes, the world is bad. No, you can’t escape from it—despite the best efforts of a host of huge companies.

Perhaps you a recall the short, recent period when virtual reality (VR) was hot. Indeed, VR had quite a moment. The sector’s highlights came from tech’s biggest players: Facebook shelled out billions for Oculus in 2014, and, in early 2015, Microsoft showed off Hololens, an augmented-reality nerd helmet that brought another giant into the race.

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Along the way, other players ducked in, and the space became sufficiently The Next Thing. Eventually, a venture firm actually invested its investors’ capital in its own VR-investing vehicle. (It went kersplat amidst fraud allegations, but fool me thrice, shame on the market.)

The VR/AR space slowed over the following years. That slow descent finally led to showroom closures, summer price cuts at Oculus, a season capped off by a good piece from TechCrunch’s own Natasha Lomas entitled “This VR cycle is dead.”

The Lomas piece is worth reading as a compendium of data points about the VR market, but it also quoted another recent piece from the site that is a must-read:

Over the past several months it’s become clear that the war is no longer HTC and Oculus trying to discover who is Betamax and who is VHS, now they’re just trying to ensure that high-end VR doesn’t turn out to be LaserDisc. Though few of the big players are keen to readily admit it, many investors and analysts have been less than thrilled with the pace of headset sales over the past year

In light of all that, you might expect that tech’s largest players would be slowing their move into the space and its related-genres. Today’s news implies the opposite.

Recall that Microsoft, despite being in the middle of an enterprise-cloud-SaaS push, is also working to shove Windows 10 into mixed reality. That work included the promise of “Windows Mixed Reality headsets” back in May.

Those headsets are now far better fleshed out. Two sample headlines from this morning’s media cycle:

We selected those for two reasons. First, that the headset mix will include lower-priced hardware. Throw in a holiday discount and the cost of headsets could be slowly lowering itself into the mass-market range.

Second, that the content question is looking less like an existential query and more like a discussion of future scale. With Steam, Minecraft, and Halo, Microsoft has enough titles to claim a partially-mature platform.

None of the above is enough to change the VR world overnight. But it shows that, even though consumer market response was more muted than initially expected, work continues. I hold by the view that, at some point inside the next 10 years, I will spend a decent portion of my day inside of a visor of sorts.

When that day comes still isn’t clear.

From The Crunchbase Daily:

Expedia’s Khosrowshahi tapped to lead Uber

  • Uber’s board reportedly voted to hire Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Expedia, to head the ride-sharing giant. Both Meg Whitman and Jeff Immelt had been in the running but failed to win support of a majority of directors under the terms they sought. Uber has been without a CEO since June 20, when founder Travis Kalanick stepped down under pressure from major shareholders.

VCs more active in Latin America

  • Venture investors are doing more deals in Latin America and recently launched a few new funds dedicated to the region, Crunchbase News reports. Still, it remains a small VC ecosystem, with only about $500 million going to startups in the region last year.

U.S.-educated founders scale in Asia

  • Some of the most-heavily-funded companies in Asia have founders who went to schools in the U.S., according to a Crunchbase News analysis. Among the top ten most funded companies in Asia with U.S.-schooled founders, five have already raised over a billion, and all have made Crunchbase’s Unicorn Board.

Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the Crunchbase Daily.

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