Montreal startup taps crowdfunding for virtual reality headset

Tue Sep 16, 2014 12:10pm EDT
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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO, Sept 16 (Reuters) - A tiny Montreal company is turning to crowdfunding in hopes of moving its virtual reality headset from a working prototype to a mass produced rival to products from Facebook, Samsung and Sony.

Vrvana Inc aims to raise C$350,000 ($318,000) via website Kickstarter to make the first 1,000 units of its Totem headset, it said ahead of the month-long campaign's launch on Tuesday.

The 7-person team hopes game developers will snap up the C$400-and-up product early to create the ecosystem needed to ensure success.

"VR (virtual reality) is like mobile five years ago, when there were not many mobile game developers and the ones that made great games made a lot of money," Vrvana founder Bertrand Nepveu said in an interview.

Nepveu said beyond games, the Totem could be used for medical or aviation simulations, education, or even virtual tourism.

But it will be a race against the clock to prove its concept and grab a share of the nascent virtual reality market as technology giants bring out similar products.

Facebook Inc bet on "the platforms of tomorrow" with a $2 billion deal for Oculus VR Inc - a company with no real revenue and untested technology - in March.

Oculus also used Kickstarter to raise early funds, before raising $75 million from backers led by Andreesen Horowitz in December. It had 100 employees at the time of the Facebook acquisition.   Continued...