AmazeVR's Joe Choi told us about virtual reality concerts the company produces, spoke about the technology behind AmazeVR VR-based concert platform, and shared how the company managed to raise $17 million in funding despite economic and market uncertainty
Good afternoon, my name is Joe Choi, Senior Strategy & Operations Manager at AmazeVR. A little history about our company – AmazeVR was founded in 2015 by the co-founder and early executives of Kakao (the #1 instant messaging app for smartphones in Korea and now a multi-billion dollar company).
Kakao had its IPO, and though majorly successful, the AmazeVR founding members still had a thirst for innovation and impacting the global market. Coincidentally, after experiencing a virtual reality (VR) headset called GearVR (an early version of the VR headset made by Samsung) the founding members saw the potential for this technology to become a personalized display that would be able to replace TVs and monitors – just as smartphones had replaced all cell phones.
Driven by this belief that VR could be used to "distribute offline experiences" beyond seeing just typical 2D content, a dream was born and the team was officially established in Silicon Valley.
We have a team of members from various backgrounds and expertise (e.g., music, creative/art, production, film, gaming, engineering, consulting, military, etc.), and know that our strength lies in our team’s ability to actively collaborate through open dialogue, thoughtful sharing of opinions, and transparency in decision making; our goal is always to quickly execute, learn, and reiterate.
For companies like us that are creating new innovations and bringing zero to one value, we believe it is absolutely necessary to live and breathe this culture.
The $17 Million Raise in Funding
Despite economic and market uncertainty in Q2 of 2022, a time when venture investments have decreased by 23% QoQ, our company finalized its $17 million raise and has gathered continued support from investors. Past investors re-upped their interests, including Mirae Asset Capital, Mirae Asset Venture Investment, CJ Investment, Smilegate Investment, GS Futures, and LG Technology Ventures. New strategic investors who joined were CJ ENM and Krafton. In fact, the round will remain open until late December 2022 with space available for interested strategic partners.
We are leading VR concert production and online distribution ahead of some exciting launches, including next-generation headsets such as the Meta Quest Pro and Apple's own VR headset. With the current round of funding, we plan to expand partnerships with artists, artist management companies, labels, publishers, and agencies.
Furthermore, we have plans to hire more AI engineers, Unreal Engine engineers, and VFX artists to continue the advancement of our proprietary technology and the development of premier VR concerts. Lastly, we are preparing to launch our music metaverse service across all major VR app stores in 1H 2023 with a line-up of established and emerging artists, both from Korea (through our joint venture with K-Pop giant SM Entertainment) and the U.S., to include three-time Grammy award-winning artist Megan Thee Stallion.
With the VR market topping nearly 15 million active users in the Meta Quest ecosystem alone, with more than 120 apps generating over $1 million in revenue, and more than 39 apps generating over $5 million, artists can expect even more diverse opportunities to reach their fans via VR and the metaverse and build their brand through exclusive online interactive events, digital merchandising, and revenue sharing from VR app marketplace activity.
VR Concert Platform
AmazeVR is ushering in the next stage of music. Through our proprietary camera technology and software, we produce virtual reality (VR) concerts, creating entirely new musical experiences that bring fans closer to artists than ever before.
Most fans of music don’t have the luxury of seeing their favorite artists in concert for a myriad of reasons – scheduling conflicts, geographic location, or financial burden to name a few. However, our VR concerts offer the immersive experience of seeing your favorite artist up close and personal – even from home. Our goal is to allow fans to be able to experience their favorite artists anytime, anywhere.
AmazeVR is promoting a business that produces and distributes music artists' immersive concerts both online and offline based on our proprietary VR technology. We want to position ourselves as a company that is analogous to both Spotify and Live Nation – but for VR.
What we bring is unique; harnessing our proprietary camera technology and platform software, we are combining live-action footage of the artist and photorealistic technology that superimposes the artist onto a CGI background designed by our engineers via the Unreal Engine. Because it is so important to produce VR concerts to a quality that maximizes the capabilities of VR devices, we are creating an array of templates for VR concerts with our proprietary camera calibration technology, keying technology, and artificial intelligence.
We have been developing VR cameras and image processing technologies that capture the highest quality live-action footage, and through this, it is possible to create VR concerts that give the feeling that you’re watching the artist right in front of your eyes.
Using our proprietary VR concert creation tools, including AmazeVR’s custom camera and stage setup, Unreal Engine-based VR VFX Tools, and AI modules to automate manual tasks, we’re emphasizing visual fidelity. Visual fidelity is perhaps the greatest contributor to the sense of presence and the belief that the experience is real—in our case, of convincing fans that they really have just met their favorite artists.
VR Concerts from AmazeVR previously required a heavy VFX workload since we need at least 9K resolution at 60 FPS – this is 10 times the workload compared to normal VFX-heavy films. In addition, the traditional VFX pipeline that is used in film production is very labor-intensive with extremely high rendering costs. If we followed the traditional pipeline, we would have to invest a significant amount of resources that are not sustainable or scalable in the current VR industry.
We are leveraging Unreal Engine for rendering to solve this problem – we are able to decrease rendering costs and increase the speed as we build out our proprietary video compositing pipeline. Still, just a handful of companies are using Unreal Engine in VR for VFX, so there are many issues that need to be worked out. We solve these issues by editing the source code of the Unreal Engine with our in-house engineering team.
Attracting Users to the Platform
We captivated fans (many of whom were first-time VR users) in 2022 with the first-ever VR concert tour featuring three-time Grammy award-winning artist, Megan Thee Stallion, in her "Enter Thee Hottieverse" tour across 15 major cities in the U.S. garnering over 15,000 concertgoers.
Moving forward, our VR concerts will be accessible primarily online and we envision them becoming a key component of all artists’ release strategies and album rollouts, setting a new paradigm for both artists and fans alike beyond the existing live in-person concerts.
Before the pandemic, the global live music market size was $28.56 billion. We believe that the VR Concert business has more potential than the live concert business since there are no physical constraints.
Compared to the number of live concert audiences, artists have many more fans with a willingness to pay for high-touch experiences, and VR concerts will be one of the most premium experiences for all fans. As the music industry is becoming more open-minded about new technologies, we want people to see that our VR concerts are not live concerts, but a new category of entertainment.
Joe Choi, Senior Strategy & Operations Manager at AmazeVR
Interview conducted by Ana Kessler