SLIVER.tv just closed a $6.2 million seed round of equity funding, which will help the company expand its virtual reality eSports technology beyond top PC games League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2.
The company has launched the open beta of its eSports entertainment platform, which supports both 360-degree video and in-game virtual reality. The technology is currently available through a free Android and iOS app for any devices supporting Panorama-360 video for mobile, as well as Google Cardboard.
SLIVER.tv technology uses multiple virtual camera arrays to record video games in VR, including games that don’t currently support VR. The software development kit and game connector modules enable non-VR games to become VR-capable during playback, and using player and game metadata in VR environments.
The company’s Auto Content generation technology crawls, indexes and records over a dozen live professional tournaments and players at any given time, building up a database of top matches, players and tournaments along with unique game metadata. Hot Spot algorithms identify exciting moments from these matches and tournaments, and automatically create highlight reels, replays and top plays, such as CS:GO headshots or League of Legends multi-kills. The Special Effects algorithm then applies slow motion, zoom-in effects and dynamically places virtual cameras to capture the action from multiple angles. The company currently generates and publishes these 360-degree game highlights within 12 to 24 hours after the completion of a match.
Mitch Liu, founder and CEO of SLIVER.tv, explains why eSports could be the killer app the virtual reality industry needs in this exclusive interview.
How are you working with Valve and Riot Games on bringing their games to VR?
We integrate with Valve and Riot Games through their APIs and server platforms, and we hope to work even more closely as we continue to scale our platform and user base. Our goal is to work with the top eSports game developers and publishers in addition to the emerging PC, console and mobile game developers.
Valve launched its Dota 2 VR Hub recently. Will your tech connect to that? And how does it work differently than what people recently experienced at The International?
We see Dota 2 VR Hub as a huge leap forward in VR and we certainly share the same vision. We have a lot of plans in the upcoming months, and we’re working with some broad-reaching partners in the space.
We’ve seen ESL explore 360-degree video content. How do you see the future overlap for fans to watch 360-video and 360 in-game footage within VR?
We’re super excited about the possibility to combine a live 360 audience feed with our in-game rendered 360 cinematic experience. In the future, we envision the ability to teleport an eSports spectator from anywhere around the world into the 3D game world for experiencing the excitement of physically being at the event at the same time.
Wargaming was demo-ing in-game 360-degree footage at their World of Tanks finals this year. How easy is it for companies to use your technology? And what’s the advantage over using their own tech?
We’ve developed an end-to-end platform for eSports broadcasting in 360 VR. Third-party game developers and publishers can easily integrate utilizing our game connector APIs to any existing game, and leverage our patented 360 3D virtual camera array technology running on our Cloud-GPU farm to render the entire game world in fully immersive 360 VR video. We also built out a unique infrastructure to stream both 360 video-on-demand and live video worldwide at scale. Developers can spend a lot of time and money to develop their own platform and infrastructure, or work with us and be up and running immediately.
All of the initial games are PC. How does your tech work with console or mobile eSports games?
Our plan is to initially focus on the 140 million-plus players of the top eSports games today, namely Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends and Dota 2. This enables us to build the destination platform for all things eSports, 360 and VR. We will be launching support for all console and mobile games subsequently.
What’s your business model for SLIVER.tv?
Currently, SLIVER.tv is free and all content is freely accessible via our apps. In the future, we will consider advertising, subscription, sponsorship and other revenue models.
What impact do you see new devices like Google Daydream and Sony PlayStation VR opening up for VR eSports?
We’re very excited about Daydream and PSVR. As a platform, our goal is to deliver the best eSports 360-video experience to spectators globally, supporting a broad range of games and more importantly across all VR devices. We think that eSports video content may be the killer app for mobile VR devices, perhaps even more engaging than games, and this opens up a larger market for the more casual or occasional eSports audience. On the PlayStation end, we see a huge overlap of console core gamers and early adopters of VR, and they naturally gravitate towards watching eSports as much as they like to play.
You’re focused on the larger mobile audience today, but what role do you see console and PC headsets playing for you in the future?
SLIVER.tv will be launching its VR apps for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PSVR in the upcoming months, and will be supporting the most popular VR headsets in the market. Our vision is to become the destination site for all things eSports, 360 and VR, and to transform the spectating experience.
How are you employing the $6.2 million seed funding?
We plan to invest aggressively in technology R&D, platform user acquisition and to work with strategic partners.
What type of overlap in interest are you seeing with eSports fans for 360-degree video or in-game content?
According to a NewZoo research report, between 24-52 percent of all eSports viewers in the US plan to buy a VR headset in the next 6 months. From our experience, we see a huge overlap of eSports fans and interest in experiencing these games immersed within the 3D world, and from different perspectives, not necessarily just from the player’s point-of-view.
The VR audience is small today. When do you see the demand catching up with the technology and price points?
SLIVER.tv launches today will full support for Panorama-360 video using a mobile device’s gyroscope to watch the 360-video, without the need for a headset. We see 2016 and 2017 as big inflection points for VR technology adoption, and we’re already beginning to see that growth in markets like China.