Penrose Studios Raises $10M To Elevate AR/VR Storytelling

Penrose Studios, which has been scoring film festival awards for its early productions in virtual reality and augmented reality, announced today it raised $10 million in a Series A fundraising round.

Among the new investors backing the San Francisco studio are Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff and technology advocate will.i.am, a Grammy award winner and founder of the pop group The Black Eyed Peas. TransLink Capital led the fundraising round, joined by other investors including Sway Ventures, Korea Telecom, Co-Made, 8VC, and Suffolk Equity. Penrose raised $8.5 million in a seed funding round in 2016, Recode reported.

Film festivals have been creating separate awards categories in AR/VR. At the Venice International Film Festival last year, Penrose won the inaugural Lion award for best VR production for its immersive tale “Arden’s Wake,” the first chapter in a series. In the 2018 sequel, “Arden’s Wake: Tide’s Fall,” the main character’s voice comes from Alicia Vikander, star of the action picture “Tomb Raider,” and an Academy Award winner for her supporting role in the film “The Danish Girl.”

The San Francisco-based studio also won the 2018 Interactive Innovation Award at South by Southwest for its software tool Maestro, which allows VR/AR designers to collaborate on their creations.

Penrose was founded by Eugene Chung, a veteran of animated film studio Pixar and headset maker Oculus, which is now owned by Facebook. With Penrose, Chung set out to explore the technological potential of AR/VR, and also to develop it as a new form of narrative art. See his 2015 blogpost on the challenges of making a VR production interactive for viewers, while preserving the arc of a story.

In the Penrose method, engineers and artists work closely together. The startup plans to use its new capital to hire more of both. Job listings are already up on the website, from various engineering roles to creative positions including a game designer and an effects animator.

In its announcement, Penrose also says it will continue to look for ways to “elevate AR and VR as storytelling platforms” and invest in its proprietary tools.

While AR and VR are still nascent industries, Penrose says, they provide a fertile ground to create new business models and consumer experiences.

“Eventually, every aspect of our lives will be touched by this technology and will become an even more ubiquitous part of our lives than our phones are today,” the company says in its funding announcement.

Photo credit: Depositphotos

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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