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Ready Player Me, a cross-game metaverse avatar platform that allows users to explore virtual worlds with a cohesive identity, has closed a $ 56 million funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z).
The New York-based company has been successful with its cross-platform metaverse approach, in which it advocates the use of interoperable avatars. To date, Ready Player Me has partnerships with over 3,000 game and app companies using its avatars.
Notable investors include David Baszucki, co-founder of Roblox; Justin Kan, co-founder of Twitch; Sebastian Knutsson and Riccardo Zacconi, co-founders of King; sports and entertainment company Endeavor; Kevin Hart’s Hartbeat Ventures D; Amelio family; punk6529; Snowfro; Collaboration currency; Plural; Konvoy Ventures and more.
All 3,000 applications on Web2 and Web3 already integrate Ready Player Me, including VRChat, Spatial, Somnium Space, RTFKT and many more. The company is already working with individual designers and fashion brands like Adidas, New Balance, Dior, Pull & Bear, and Warner Brothers (dressed as Dune movies) to enable cross-game avatar assets across the metaverse.
Timmu Tõke, CEO of Ready Player Me, said in an interview with GamesBeat that interoperability will unlock the true metaverse experience between games, worlds and apps where users can have a consistent identity across all experiences.
“We’re doing cross-game responses for the metaverse because we’ve seen people spend a lot of time in virtual worlds,” said Tõke. “The Metaverse is not an app, a game or a platform. It is a network of thousands of different virtual worlds. It therefore makes sense that users have an avatar to navigate through many different virtual worlds.
Tõke added: “And from a developer’s point of view, when you create a new game or a new world, you have to create it or create a system or a character. And it takes six months to a few years to build one. And this is a big deal for developers. And let’s take that pain away. We give them an avatar system. They integrate it in a few days or a week.
By focusing on tools for the developer side of the network, the company has made it easier for developers to create games, which, in turn, makes it easier for players to create their own avatars, Tõke said. The company has 50 people and is hiring.
Ready Player Me provides developers with an avatar system, allowing teams to focus on creating worlds and experiences. The platform also provides distribution across its network and opens up new revenue opportunities through the sale of interoperable avatar assets and an in-game economy.
“What will unlock the true metaverse experience is interoperability between games, worlds and apps and a consistent identity for users across all experiences,” said Tõke.
Tõke said it’s essential for virtual world users to create an avatar they like and purchase avatar skins and accessories that work in the metaverse and aren’t stuck in a game.
He said the funding will allow Ready Player Me to continue to evolve the avatar system to make it more flexible for developers, create new tools to help developers monetize avatar assets, and create tools for individual creators to participate in. cross-game avatar market. .
Ready Player Me is driven by the belief that an open metaverse with millions of interconnected experiences, rather than a few large walled gardens, will improve the user experience, the creator experience, and the economy. An interoperable user ID and avatar sit at the heart of the open metaverse to provide a consistent experience. And an open market for avatar assets will increase market size and allow metaverse developers to increase their revenue.
“Ready Player Me is loved by both developers and gamers as the largest platform for avatar-as-a-service systems, and is well on its way to creating the interoperable identity protocol for metaverse.open,” said Jonathan Lai, general partner. to Andreessen Horowitz, in a statement. “We were deeply impressed by the team’s blend of developer empathy, technical skill and entrepreneurial pragmatism and we couldn’t be more excited to partner with them on this journey.”
The learning curve
The Ready Player Me avatar system is the cumulative product of over eight years of research and development. From the beginning, the company has created custom avatar systems and technologies for corporate clients such as Tencent, Verizon, HTC, Wargaming, etc.
Over the years, Ready Player Me has amassed a proprietary database of over 20,000 face scans captured with the company’s hardware 3D scanners. These analyzes enabled Ready Player Me to create a deep learning solution capable of predicting and making faces realistic from a single 2D photo. This system works on desktop, web and mobile devices and is available to developers via a software development kit (SDK) and an application programming interface (API).
Tõke said he doesn’t believe centralized metaverse, run by one or a few companies, will be good for developers and users. If that happens, the centralized societies will set the rules. At the same time, he wants to be successful in the market with his avatar of him. He then has to make sure his avatar system is open as well.
“Creating game services, protocols and standards is what we focus on,” said Tõke. “We’ve been developing it for nearly nine years, from building hardware scanners to customizing or building systems for large companies like Tencent. The first turning point for us was the creation of an open technology stack that anyone could use and that was standardized. since our launch, we have received good feedback from the developers and have started to grow organically.
Last year 24 companies used it, then it got out of hand. The opening was a plus for the company, Tõke said.
The company started building face scanner hardware, using 100 cameras. Then he created a photo booth where he captured thousands of people in airports and museums. with this database, it builds a deep learning solution that could take a single selfie and convert it into different avatar styles. Then, around 2016 and 2017, the company ditched hardware and focused on a complete software solution.
Then he started creating solutions for different companies, from Wargaming to Huawei. This custom work was paying the bills, but it wasn’t scalable, so the company focused on a more universal approach and things started to take off during the pandemic. The first users were companies that created virtual meeting spaces or worlds for metaverse applications.
The goal is to make avatars work like other shared file formats so they can be used in Unity mobile games or Unreal desktop games.
“The industry has to see the economic value of interoperability,” said Tõke. “To be able to sell their props and avatars as they travel the world, it has to be obvious that this is a better business and that the industry has to agree on standards. I don’t see that push from the industry today.
Tõke said that creating interoperability between platforms is a challenge today, given the number of existing systems. Part of the challenge is to make the avatars more and more realistic over time. Tõke said his company joined the Metaverse Forum, which creates standards. Other companies like Nvidia also create avatars for its Omniverse platform.
In contrast, its rival Genies raised a lot of money and succeeded by focusing on creating avatars for celebrities, who were supposed to continue hosting fan meet and greet events during the pandemic. This business has grown, but gaming companies have not adopted it.
“You have to build the diversity network as a development tools company,” said Tõke. “That’s where we spend most of our time.”
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