UK startup Improbable raises a monster, $502 million funding round

A SpatialOS demo.
Image: Improbable

A UK company wants to build massive-scale simulations of reality, and they just raised $502 million to do it.

The Series B funding round, led by Softbank, values the company at over $1 billion. The money will be used to develop Improbable’s technology, in particular its SpatialOS cloud-based operating system (currently in beta), which allows gaming companies to create huge virtual worlds.

Improbable claims that SpatialOS allows for the creation of larger, and more complex worlds which support more simultaneously connected users than is possible with current technology. The limitations of current tech, among other reasons, is why Blizzard’s World of Warcraft MMORPG is divided into multiple “servers” and isn’t one persistent world where all the players play at the same time.

One example of Improbable’s technology in action is a MMO game called Worlds Adrift, currently in beta. It’s a persistent world which bows to the laws of physics, in which thousands of players can play at the same time. So if you chop down a tree, it will remain that way when other players encounter it, and a pack of predators might breed, increase in number and then migrate to your territory to threaten you.

But the current state of SpatialOS is just the beginning. According to company CEO Herman Narula, 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.”

And it’s not just about gaming. Improbable envisions their tech being used for simulations of complex real-world systems, one example being the behavior of fleets of autonomous vehicles.

Ultimately, as Narula told Wired in an interview, the company wants to create totally immersive, persistent virtual worlds. In simpler terms, it wants to “build the Matrix.”

Deep Nishar, managing director at Softbank, shares Narula’s view that what the company is building might represent a crucial next step in computing, alongside developments in artificial intelligence, machine learning and internet of things.

“Improbables technology will help us explore disease, improve cities, understand economies and solve complex problems on a previously unimaginable scale,” he said in a statement.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/12/improbable-funding-round/