A Sydney VR startup has clinched funding from Alibaba’s investment fund

Dr Jordan Nguyen (centre) with Steve Wozniak (right) trying out Humense’s virtual reality technology in Sydney. Image: Facebook

A Sydney startup developing a person-to-person virtual reality system has scored funding from Alibaba’s investment arm.

Humense, based in the inner west suburb of Leichhardt, describes its technology as “the empowering sense of seeing and being with another human being via digital [means]”.

The technology came into the public spotlight in Sydney last month during Steve Wozniak’s speaking tour, when the Apple co-founder tried out Humense’s VR on-stage. The moderator at Wozniak’s tour was Dr Jordan Nguyen, an early investor in the startup.

Co-founders Amber Cordeaux and Scott O’Brien believe this ‘volumetric’ virtual reality could become as common as Skype, with Cordeaux telling Fairfax Media that CRCM/Youku Global Media Fund has invested an undisclosed amount in the company.

CRCM/Youku is a joint venture between Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and San Francisco’s CRCM Venture Capital. Two venture capitalists from the group are touring Sydney and Melbourne this week, including a stop-off at the University of Melbourne for a “masterclass” on virtual reality.

“We are thrilled to have CRCM/Youku on board with us as one of our investors,” said Cordeaux.

Humense is just a year old and has big plans with the help of the new funding.

“In the next few months we are challenging ourselves to scale enough to be used from Sydney to LA to London and Beijing and Shanghai,” O’Brien told Fairfax.

A potential initial use-case could be celebrities doing ‘meet the fans’ events in virtual reality. As the technology matures and scales, ordinary folks could start using it to interact with family and friends across the world.

“Our goal is to enable most people on earth to be able to see another human in their space with their eyewear,” O’Brien said.

This is not the first time CRCM/Youku has invested in virtual reality. Other startups to have benefited include VREAL, UploadVR, Bitmovin, Spaces, Limitless, Tactical Haptics, Midas Touch, Reload Studios, Baobab Studios and Musical.ly.