The path towards further developing the virtual world and large-scale simulation technology seems to have recently been solidified by a considerable investment received by British technology company Improbable. On May 12th, 2017, Improbable announced it has raised $502m in a round of Series B funding led by Japan’s SoftBank. All the funds from the investment are set be used for developing Improbable’s technology, including its SpatialOS distributed operating system. The company also plans to accelerate recruitment in its London and San Francisco offices and investments to develop a vibrant ecosystem of developers and customers. The company uses cloud-based distributed computing to enable the creation of virtual worlds for use in games and simulations of the real world.
Improbable’s technology enables the creation of “virtual worlds” at a far greater level of scale and computational complexity than previously possible, while able to support more simultaneous connected users. Improbable’s first product, SpatialOS integrates with major game engines and has been in live beta since March. Improbable is also applying the same technology powering SpatialOS to the simulation of complex real world systems such as transport infrastructure, telecommunications networks or the behaviour of fleets of autonomous vehicles. Talking about the company’s perspectives, CEO Herman Narula said: “We believe that the next major phase in computing will be the emergence of large-scale virtual worlds which enrich human experience and change how we understand the real world. At Improbable we have spent the last few years building the foundational infrastructure for this vision.”
Alongside the investment, Improbable aims to explore and identify opportunities for mutually beneficial relationships with SoftBank, its partners and portfolio companies. Deep Nishar, Managing Director of SoftBank, has joined the Improbable Board following this investment, which sees SoftBank taking a stake in the company. Existing Series A investors Andreessen Horowitz and Horizons Ventures are also making follow-on investments as part of this round, and aim to continue to offer advice and guidance to Improbable, along with Temasek, a Singapore investment company, which was also involved in the Series A funding. Solina Chau, Founder of Horizons Ventures, said: “Having backed Improbable from the start, we continue to see huge potential in the application of its technology, both for solving real-world problems and in changing the future of the games industry. Improbable is an exciting, ambitious company that we’re honoured to be a part of.”
There seems to be considerable potential for expanding the capabilities of simulation technology to real-world decision-making. Improbable is exploring applications in city management, telecommunications, infrastructure and logistics, cyber-security, transportation and traffic control and the Internet of Things, and has also seen interest in medical applications, economic modelling and many other use cases. Proofs of concept and pilot projects have included the simulation of the Internet backbone and a British city-based on open-source map, traffic, gas and electricity, water and sewage, Internet and mobile connectivity data. Deep Nishar further said: “Improbable is building breakthrough technologies that are becoming vital and valuable platforms for the global gaming industry. Beyond gaming, this new form of simulation on a massive scale has the potential to help us make better decisions about the world we live in. Improbable’s technology will help us explore disease, improve cities, understand economies and solve complex problems on a previously unimaginable scale.”
Softbank’s investment in Improbable reflects the potential size and importance of the market for the next generation of games and, ultimately, how extensive-scale virtual worlds may become fundamental to how society works. SoftBank may be an ideal partner for the company, with numerous complementary investments in their portfolio, and may allow Improbable to take the bold steps needed to thoroughly realise its ambitious vision.
How may Softbank funding Improbable boost the confidence in London’s tech investment ecosystem?