10 immersive startups to watch in 2021

10 immersive startups to watch in 2021

From criminal justice tech, AR for online retailers to tech to help families with children interacting with sign language, ten of the UK’s most promising startups working with immersive technologies have graduated from Digital Catapult’s Augmentor programme.

Key to unlocking new business models and increasing investment potential across a range of sectors, virtual (VR), augmented (AR) and mixed reality (XR) solutions are driving change and allowing startups to create disruptive products and services for enhancing – and challenging – the traditional methods of everything from luxury fashion retail experiences to crime scene training.

Jessica Driscoll, Head of Immersive Technology at Digital Catapult, the UK’s leading advanced digital technology innovation centre, said: “We’ve seen some amazing startups take part in Augmentor since the inception of the programme, and it was no different for this edition. The quality of the products and ideas was outstanding, and we’re thrilled to have played a role in helping to give these startups a boost towards investment readiness. Thanks also to our incredible investor partners and mentors who have been staunch advocates of the programme and instrumental in supporting these companies to bring them closer to becoming the next big thing.”

The 10 companies in the fourth edition of Augmentor are paving new ground in their target sectors: they are all ones to watch for the future.

1. Transforming the criminal justice system

Evidential (Manchester based) has produced EVITA, a major incident VR training platform that equips police officers with essential soft and hard skills. Backed by £1.3 million Innovate UK funding, Evidential has also developed another product, Golden Hour that uses AR to improve the preservation of crime scenes.

2. Helping luxury retail during the pandemic

Emperia (London based) is creating virtual reality experiences that boost sales and customer engagement for businesses in art and luxury fashion. Improving the way that products can be seen online in 3D, Emperia is working with more than 25 clients, including Maddox Gallery and Skarstedt, to bring the physical experience into the virtual world.

3. Visualising data in new ways for remote teams to make better decisions

Slanted Theory (Sheffield based) has developed a cloud based 3D data visualisation tool “Alaira” that uses XR and immersive analytics to bring people together from around the world to analyse multiple data sets in real time at the same time, and drive a new generation of faster decision making within organisations. Slanted Theory has won multiple awards including Top Tech Awards North 2019 and was named as one of Creative England’s Top 50 companies to watch.

4. Developing a tool for data intensive real-time remote collaboration 

Fracture Reality (Hove based) provides mixed reality solutions for remote collaboration and is developing an online mixed reality platform called ‘Join’ specifically for data-intensive users. The platform includes immersive 3D features like gestural sketching and avatars alongside traditional online meeting controls, and is currently being used by more than 20 clients including Audemars Piguet and L’Oreal.

5. Disrupting traditional models with rich, high-quality VR training

MOONHUB (London based) is disrupting traditional training models through a high quality, immersive training product which uses virtual reality to convert e-learning solutions into interactive training scenarios to improve engagement in employee training. Winners of the East London Innovators award in 2020, MOONHUB counts brands including Just Eat among its users.

6. Pioneering new kinds of shared audio experiences

MagicBeans (Wattlington, Oxfordshire based) has developed Roundhead, a platform for creating and delivering six degrees of freedom spatial audio experiences at scale, so users can create, share and listen to spatial audio across multiple devices. Named as one of Createch’s “Ones to Watch” at CogX 2020, Roundhead was winner of The Drum’s Sponsorship Activation/Event of the Year 2020 for its deployment at Three’s 5G multi-sensory fashion show.

7. Capturing fan experiences at live and virtual music events

Overview Ark (London based) has created a tool to build 1:1 replicas of a live show without the need of programming knowledge. Producers can easily drag and drop special effects and performance dynamics for experiences where fans can watch their favorite artists or discover new ones, and interact with one another in a hybrid live music role playing game. Overview Ark recently partnered with Dash Radio to bring interactive music experiences into the metaverse.

8. Blending the online and real-world personalised shopping experience

Percept Imagery (Brighton based) has developed a unique AR platform called Sprie that helps retailers to personalise online shopping experiences by allowing shoppers to try products in the real world before buying them. The solution easily integrates into ecommerce websites or social pages making AR more accessible and requiring no app download. 13 brands are using Sprie on over 300 products, registering more than 35k virtual “try-ons” per month.

9. Empowering creatives to produce 3D animated content

RETìníZE (Belfast based) is developing an innovative, fast-turnaround animation software product that utilises immersive technologies. It specialises in the creation of cutting edge immersive VR content as well as interactive and geolocative AR applications. Retinize has received seed funding from TechStart Venture’s capital fund.

10. Promoting British Sign Language through extraordinary books

VIKA Books (Bristol based) is the first fine-art quality non-fiction publisher to use immersive technologies to enhance book design to inspire all families, deaf and hearing, to interact in sign language. It promotes British Sign Language (BSL) as a language for deaf and hearing children alike, and it’s first AR/XR book is a buggy-book and smartphone app. This startup has won multiple awards in the last year including UK Enterprise Awards 2020; Fine Art Publishers of the Year 2020; Bristol Prestige AR Product of the Year 2020; and Best Business Awards 2020 for Best Innovation, Best New Product/Service, Outstanding Entrepreneur and Outstanding Female Entrepreneu

The future is already looking bright for many of this edition’s teams with multiple awards recognising their achievements to date and big name clients already taking advantage of the immersive technology solutions these startups are offering to benefit their business. Many of the companies that have joined Augmentor have gone on to achieve major success, including Holome which works with major brands including ASOS and H&M, Bodyswaps which received further funding and support from HTC Vive X, Gravity Sketch which recently raised almost £3m in investment and has just made its design tool free to use, and Artificial Artists which received £500k investment from Mercia.

The majority of the startups on Augmentor have not previously raised investment, but of the 26 to take part in the first three years, they have raised a combined total of more than £7.5 million in private investment and £4.3 million in grants.

In 2020, Augmentor was delivered entirely online with workshops, mentoring and networking all done virtually. The programme pivoted to focus on business resilience and exploring options beyond venture capital funding, in addition to bringing 24 partners, 41 mentors and 19 community partners onboard to help accelerate growth and investment in immersive technologies. Augmentor is proud to partner with some of the world’s leading investment funds including HTC Vive, Remagine Ventures, MMC Ventures, Ascension Ventures and more.

Find out more about Augmentor and how to get involved at www.augmentor.co.uk