Tech Crunch – Refract raises $8.5M SGD funding, announces new game development division
Refract, a Singapore-based extended reality (XR) startup, announced today it has closed approximately $8.5million SGD (approximately $6million) Series A led by Sea Limited along with international family offices and individual investors.
The latest funding will be used to intensify R&D for AXIS, a wearable and game-oriented full-body motion capture solution. The startup also plans to expand its team in preparation for the commercialization of AXIS later this year to cater to the rapidly growing market of gamers, tech adopters, content creators and fitness enthusiasts. The Series A round brings Refract’s total raised to $9 million.
In 2018, three co-founders of Refract, Chong Geng Ng, Michael Chng and Eugene Koh, worked on a gaming-related project and encountered a problem statement: How would one bridge the gap between gaming and physical activity? CEO of Refract Chng told TechCrunch that the solution they found out was to allow players to use their bodies as game controllers. After poring over documents and articles of cutting-edge technological innovations in gaming and applications in other industries, the three co-founders identified a gap in the market and set up Refract.
“Refract’s goal has always been to become a key player in AR and XR gaming, and this funding enables us to accelerate this process,” said Chng.
The funding announcement comes on the heels of the successful completion of crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for AXIS and its XR game publishing division set up via Deep Dive Studio acquisition.
Unlike full-body motion tracking systems like Perception Neuron, Rokoko and Xsens, AXIS is for real-time gaming and entertainment use. AXIS also allows users the flexibility of using between 7-10 nodes for gaming or up to the industry standard of 17 for higher-precision motion tracking. AXIS doesn’t need a base station but still requires wifi to connect to the user’s computer.
“AXIS will be fully untethered and wireless, requiring no external base stations or setups. Everything is on the body, with proprietary inside-out tracking capability. This addresses common issues like occlusion and space requirements of systems such as HTC Vive,” Chng told TechCrunch.
Refract will continue delivering immersive and engaging XR and VR experiences to a growing market of 2.9 billion gamers through its games and technology, such as the wearable AXIS.
Its Deep Dive Studio enables Refract to create more immersive titles to supplement its roster of offerings, such as the FreeStriker fighting game, which is currently in development and will be available free for all AXIS customers.
To make it accessible to game developers and content creators, Refract’s software suite is compatible with platforms like OpenVR, OpenXR, Unity and Unreal engines, and existing VR systems and applications. AXIS can also work with popular VR headsets like the Oculus Quest 2, Chng said.
Refract is eyeing more vertical and horizontal integrations in the sector.
Refract has already secured strategic relationships with the likes of World Taekwondo as part of its virtual sports program, working with the federation to make Virtual Taekwondo a medal event in the near future. The partnership came about when World Taekwondo saw an opportunity to gamify the sport and reach out to a broader, tech-savvy audience by creating a new discipline, Chng told TechCrunch. Refract also plans to feature AXIS at the 2022 Global Esports Gems in Istanbul, Turkey.
“AXIS represents a huge step forward in bringing high fidelity motion tracking and capture technology to a broader audience; innovating within the space and delivering even more immersive gaming experiences,” said Chong Geng Ng, executive director of Refract. “Our investment reflects the strong belief Sea and our other investors have in our vision and creativity as well as the huge untapped potential of the XR gaming market.”
“It’s exciting to see a Singaporean company like Refract driving the development of innovative technologies in XR and VR,” said Jason NG, vice president of strategic partnerships, at Sea’s digital entertainment arm, Garena. “We are pleased to support their growth and the development of the overall innovation ecosystem in Singapore.”
“Sea and our other investors recognized the talent at Refract as well as the enormous potential of AXIS. The successful completion of the AXIS Kickstarter campaign proves that there is a dedicated community of gamers who share this vision, and we look forward to delivering AXIS and FreeStriker to them in 2022,” Chng said.