Vrse, the company that collaborated with several media outlets, including the New York Times and Vice, to bring virtual-reality stories, is rebranding to Within.
If you didn’t know, Vrse was supposed to be pronounced as “verse,” according to Chief Operating Officer Drew Larner, who was previously the CEO of Rdio. The company has an iOS and Android app, as well as a website that allows anyone to watch its VR content, and it also has a studio side that partners with media companies and companies to tell stories and sometimes make sponsored content.
“With VR, you’re within the experience with characters that are right here,” Larner told Digital Trends. “And so by changing the name, it’s around presenting ourselves as being focused on what we want to provide to the consumer as far as a robust personal experience.”
Some of the more popular virtual-reality stories from Vrse — or Within — and its partners include Walking New York, which documents large-scale street art installations in New York City; and The Displaced, the story of three displaced refugees. The company’s CEO Chris Milk is a director and photographer who has had a hand in helping create many of these stories.
The company also has a few original works, but the plan is to create more. But the overarching intention for Within is to be the HBO of virtual reality content.
“We want to develop original [intellectual property] that lives exclusively on [Within], and get consumers to look to [Within] to be this sort of trusted place where they can go and get good VR,” Larner said.
Along with the name change to Within, the company is also announcing its Series A funding, managing to raise $12.56 million from the likes of Andreessen Horowitz and 21st Century Fox. Part of the reason why the company raised the money is to build a way for two people, separated by distance, to interact with each other while watching content in VR — not unlike what Microsoft is promising with HoloLens. And Larner says what VR looks like today is not what it will look like in two years — the form factor for how we consume VR will drastically change fast.
“VR will be more than just a storytelling platform,” CEO Chris Milk writes in a blog post. “It will be a platform for sharing our inner self – our very humanity. That’s a long way off, but getting us there is a big part of our mission.”
The company is not in the hardware business, but it has a strong position in leading the VR media revolution and Larner says the company finds many Hollywood executives and producers to be coming its way.
“There’s a lot of bad VR out there, and bad VR is not just, ‘Alright I’m going to click on something else,’ — it can make you sick,” he said. “And so knowing that most people have not experienced VR, we want them to have a good experience when they start — so that reputation is what we’re trying to drive.”
The website, Android and iOS apps are being updated from Vrse to Within, and the app will also be available on Playstation VR.