Disney Invests In Virtual Reality Technology For Theme Parks Via Jaunt

  • Disney and other global media firms are investing $65 million in Silicon Valley VR startup Jaunt.
  • Disney thinks Virtual Reality has incredible potential across all sectors of entertainment.
  • Jaunt develops hardware, software, tools, and applications to create compelling cinematic VR.
  • Disney's approach is centered on shared VR experiences for its theme parks.
  • VR is likely to be the next big wave in entertainment, and Disney is now in the best position to profit.

Disney (NYSE:DIS) and other global media firms are investing $65 million in Silicon Valley Virtual Reality (VR) startup Jaunt, signalling increasing interest in the immersive technology among traditional media. Disney which partnered with Tencent to legally stream Star Wars in China looks set for a good year. The latest move to invest in Jaunt also bodes well for Disney.

Other investors in Jaunt include Sky, German media conglomerates Axel Springer and ProSiebenSat.1 Media, China Media Capital, a Chinese government investment firm focused on entertainment, Evolution Media Partners, a venture fund backed by private-equity firm TPG, and Creative Artists Agency LLC, Hollywood’s largest talent agency.

Disney said in a statement that VR and Augmented Reality (AR) have incredible potential across all sectors of entertainment. "One of the most exciting developments I see on the horizon is technology that will immerse us into entertaining worlds, or project those worlds and experiences into our lives," Disney CEO Robert Iger wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2014. "In essence, entertainment will be immeasurably enhanced with both virtual-reality experiences and augmented-reality experiences. Bringing us into created worlds and bringing created worlds into our world will fundamentally explode the boundaries of storytelling."

Walt Disney said that the human need for great storytelling would endure for generations to come, enhanced by new technologies that would bring these tales to life in extraordinary ways. "Unlike anything you've ever seen, we're creating an entirely new means of storytelling, a completely new art form," states the Jaunt website.

Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Palo Alto, Jaunt develops hardware, software, tools, and applications to enable cinematic VR and put the power of VR in the hands of today’s best content creators. In addition, Jaunt produces branded and original VR content for audiences worldwide, and works with creators - from brands to artists to filmmakers - to create cutting-edge content through its studio arm, Jaunt Studios.

The Wall Street Journal emphasizes that Jaunt's technology is not restricted to the computer-generated content found in VR games, but offers an end-to-end solution for creating live-action VR content. Using Jaunt's integrated suite of hardware and software tools, developers can produce high quality cinematic VR experiences and immersive content. Jaunt recently launched a professional grade, stereographic cinematic VR camera, codenamed “NEO,” which features custom optics and high quality 360-degree capture.

"I find virtual reality to be the most compelling new visual medium to come onto the entertainment landscape in my lifetime," said Rick Hess, the head of Evolution Media. "It’s going to open an entirely new monetization market for the industry."

This latest round of funding will enable Jaunt to scale up VR production, and advance their professional-grade camera hardware and software production tools. In addition, Jaunt plans to use the funding to significantly grow their teams in both their Palo Alto headquarters and their new Los Angeles studio.

"This round further illustrates our commitment and dedication to advancing the scope of cinematic VR - for filmmakers, storytellers, and audiences alike," said co-founder and CEO Jens Christensen in the Jaunt press release. "With the support of these world-class companies, we will explore new avenues, building on our leadership position to deliver amazing VR experiences using best-in-class tools, technology, and creative teams."

Disney could incorporate virtual reality into its theme parks and movies. TechCrunch reported in March that Disney's approach is centered on shared VR experiences for theme parks. Instead of strapping the user's head in a VR headset like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) Oculus Rift, Disney is investigating shared immersive environments that surround many users at a time with high-resolution VR displays. It's clear that Jaunt technology and creative productions will boost Disney's ability to offer uniquely compelling VR content in its theme parks.

While TechCrunch noted that VR is still years out from making it to deployment in parks, developments are accelerating - the world's first VR theme park, The Void, will open its doors in Pleasant Grove, Utah, in the summer 2016. If, as all seems to indicate, VR is the next big wave in entertainment, Disney is now in the best position to profit, and its stock is likely to move upwards in the mid term.

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