Comcast Ventures, the venture arm of Comcast Corp., has taken an investment stake in its third virtual reality company, Baobab Studios, and intends to put money into others.
A Comcast Ventures executive compared virtual reality to the "early days of mobile" and said that it could make viewing sports or movies a more immersive experience, which could benefit Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable company and owner of NBCUniversal.
Wired magazine recently reported that film studios have been experimenting with virtual reality, while Facebook, Google, Samsung and Sony are developing virtual reality headsets.
Virtual reality replicates a real or imagined world, allowing viewers to experience those realms or even participate in them.
"How many will we do?" Comcast Ventures's Principal Gavin Teo asked, referring to the number of virtual reality investments the fund could make. "We can't tell right now."
But he added that the investment arm could announce several new ones in coming weeks or months. Comcast Ventures is based in the San Francisco area with offices in Philadelphia and New York. It is separate from a Comcast-owned company that will invest $4 billion into growth companies and will be run by former Comcast chief financial officer Michael Angelakis. This venture will begin operations on Jan. 1.
The most recent Comcast Ventures investment into virtual reality was Baobab, a Redwood City, Calif., company that develops animated worlds and has connections to gaming and the Dreamworks movie studio. Baobab announced the Comcast Ventures stake last Thursday.
Comcast Ventures was part of a consortium that put $6 million into early stage financing into Baobab, with partners Samsung and Taiwanese mobile-phone and tablet manufacturer HTC Corp.
In early November, sports-streamer NextVR announced that Comcast Ventures was part of a consortium that invested $30.5 million into an early round of funding for that company. NextVR's technology makes viewers feel as if they are at a game or event with a 360-degree camera and seems part of the effort by media firms to add features and dazzle to sports broadcasts to retain viewers and fans.
Other investors in NextVR included the venture arm of entertainment giant Time Warner Inc., Hollywood executive Peter Gruber and the Madison Square Garden Co.
In July, AltSpaceVR announced that Comcast Ventures was part of a new round of financing that raised $10.3 million, taking AltSpaceVR's total funding to $15.7 million. AltSpaceVR could be used for personal communication or "Skype for virtual reality," Teo said.
Besides Comcast Ventures, other groups putting cash into AltSpaceVR include Tencent, Dolby Family Ventures, Raine Ventures Lux Capital, Western Technology Investments, Maven Ventures, Promus Ventures, Streamlined Ventures and Rothenberg Ventures.