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United Kingdom tech startup Improbable raises $500 mn from Japan’s SoftBank

A British startup founded five years ago by the computer science graduates of Cambridge University has received about $502 million to accessorize their large-scale virtual reality projects, in a funding round led by Japan’s SoftBank.

Improbable Worlds Limited to give it its proper name was co-founded in 2012 by Herman Narula, 29, Rob Whitehead, 26, and Peter Lipka, 28.

Improbable uses cloud-based computing to create virtual worlds for use in games as well as large-scale simulations of the real world.

The five-year-old virtual simulation firm is now valued at over $1 billion, and the new funds will be used for development of Improbable’s technology, which made virtual worlds for video games.

Improbable is also applying the same technology that powers SpatialOS to the simulation of complex real-world systems.

Their platform enables third parties such as games developers and civil engineers and architects to build vast virtual worlds.

Potential applications include simulating transport infrastructure, telecoms networks or the behaviour of fleets of autonomous vehicles, claims the company.

Narula has been credited with saying his vision of Improbable’s ultimate goal is to create totally immersive, persistent virtual worlds, and in doing so, change how we make decisions – “Basically, we want to build the Matrix”, he once joked. In 2016 Softbank bought up chip manufacturer ARM, taking for a 43% share in the business in order to gain majority control and Softbank chief executive Masayoshi Son is now finalising his $100billion Vision Fund that will be offered to innovative technology companies. “This investment further cements our long-term commitment to working with the games industry to create the experiences of tomorrow”, he said in a blog post.

Deep Nishar, Managing Director, SoftBank, said: “Improbable is building breakthrough technologies that are becoming vital and valuable platforms for the global gaming industry”.

Improbable says it has already done a proof-of-concept to recreate an unnamed British city, based on open-source map, traffic, gas and electricity, water and sewage, Internet and mobile connectivity data.

The first iteration of Improbable’s software is called SpatialOS. The technology integrates with major game engines and a beta version was launched in March.

But for Softbank’s chief executive, Masayoshi Son, this is just another step in his mission to become a major force in global technology.

ARM Holdings, one of the world’s leading chip designers, was acquired in 2016 by the Japanese multinational for more than £24bn.

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