Chicago virtual reality startup InContext Solutions announced on Monday that it has closed a $15.2 million round of funding. Intel Capital led the round along with Beringea, a Michigan-based private equity firm.
InContext Solutions helps retailers and manufacturers create VR simulations of brick-and-mortar setups, allowing brands to test out store concepts without building a physical demo storefront. The approach makes developing new in-store experiences both cheaper and quicker.
The company will use the funding to ramp up sales and marketing, expand to new markets and improve its portfolio of VR products.
“We’ve been in business for eight years now developing simulations and virtual reality on the desktop for large brands and retailers,” said co-founder and CTO Tracey Wiedmeyer. “We’re seeing a tremendous opportunity for us to move forward and really bridge our platforms from desktop into virtual reality.”
Part of the driving force behind InContext’s push into VR has been the explosion in availability of virtual reality hardware. In the past 12 to 18 months, Wiedmeyer said, the VR headset market has grown from a handful of options to more than 30. In anticipation of further innovation in the field, InContext plans to remain hardware-agnostic, focusing instead on fine-tuning its software and content offerings.
What many players in the VR hardware industry do have in common, however, is that their devices are powered by Intel chips. That ubiquity is a big part of why InContext sees the company as an ideal partner moving forward.
“It just made sense to kind of tie the knot there and make sure we were able to leverage each other,” said Wiedmeyer.
Despite having spent the past eight years in 3D simulation, Wiedmeyer said InContext has been taken aback by the rapid pace of VR hardware innovation over the past few years. Although the gaming industry has been quick to embrace new opportunities for immersion, few non-gaming companies have gotten a handle on how to use the emerging technology yet.
“Once you’re in a 3D space, the spatial requirements there — not only from a graphical standpoint but also from a user experience standpoint — it’s not easy to adopt and build the expertise in your shop to bring those into reality,” Wiedmeyer said. “We have those capabilities.”
In addition to expanding its VR product offerings, InContext will be exploring opportunities outside of consumer packaged goods and retail. Wiedmeyer mentioned foodservice, sporting goods, furniture and home improvement as potential opportunities for business growth.
InContext Solutions has raised $57.7 million to date.
Image via InContext Solutions.