While the rest of the world gets stoked for the forthcoming Facebook Oculus Rift and HTC Vive Pre virtual reality headsets, a handful of startups are trying to make sure there’s actually something to watch on them.
One of those startups is Littlstar, a New York-based startup that graduated from the Disney Accelerator startup mentorship program in mid-2015, and one of a new class of companies trying to turn the rising wave of VR into a solid business plan.
At the most basic level, Littlstar wants to be to virtual reality what YouTube is for web video — helping the small but growing community of virtual reality content creators put their stuff in one easy place for people to find, stream, and hopefully enjoy.
From there, says CEO and cofounder Tony Mugavero, the idea is to take its early position in the VR market and use it to start attracting top-tier content from the major studios, much like Netflix or Hulu.
Furthermore, since Littlstar doesn’t have a hardware platform to support as Facebook does, Mugavero says that can bring its app everywhere, to every device, without any kind of investment to protect.
The Littlstar app can be used to view 360-degree photos and videos and VR video on a phone, or with Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, or even Apple TV, and support is coming to the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and just about everything else.
So far, so good: Littlstar has attracted customers like the Discovery Channel, online gaming giant Wargaming.net (the company behind the smash hit “World of Tanks”), DKNY, and Showtime, all of whom are hosting their early VR experiments on the site.
But Littlstar’s position is that VR is a whole separate medium from traditional video, and Mugavero says that one day, the comparisons with established companies will stop — and Littlstar will be on “a whole different planet” from the rest, Mugavero says.
In the future, Mugavero says, Littlstar will invest in stuff like “choose-your-own-adventure-style” VR videos that “bridge narrative and gaming content.”
Obviously, Littlstar isn’t the only one thinking about the potential for this market.
Google, which has invested in VR with a GoPro partnership and its cheap Google Cardboard headsets, has made 360-degree, VR-ready video available on YouTube. And Facebook, the purveyor of the Oculus Rift headset, has done the same on the News Feed.
Going against titans like Google and Facebook is a bold move in any market, but Littlstar CEO Tony Mugavero says that the company’s focus on just doing one thing — virtual reality — sets it apart. While YouTube has to support both old-school web video and this new VR content, for instance, Littlstar can do whatever it wants.
“YouTube is fighting battles on a thousand different fronts,” says Mugavero.
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