Samsung Electronics acquired New York City-based virtual reality startup VRB, industry sources said on Friday, putting the value of the deal at $5.5 million. It's understood that the transaction was of the all-cash variety, with the South Korean tech giant officially completing it on April 17, according to VRB's AngelList listing. No statement on the matter has been provided by either party in any capacity, though all terms of service of VRB-made apps now state that the firm is a division of Samsung Research America (SRA), as first noted by TechCrunch. It's unclear if the company's co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Christopher Paretti is still involved with the startup, though he has likely attracted Samsung's attention in the first place, having worked as a Design Director at SRA for an eight-month period in 2014, according to his LinkedIn page.
VRB — pronounced as "verb" — was founded in September 2015, describing itself as a social VR platform designed to encourage unconventional methods of communication and general user expression. The company has so far developed a number of apps that are part of its VR ecosystem – a photo sharing service and a digital playground that users can explore and modify. The latter is called VRB Home and its official website states that it's owned by Samsung Information Systems America. The New York-based startup also contributed to the VR developer community by producing a toolkit allowing for a wide variety of uses, from enabling VR streaming to facilitating the process of creating digital worlds that users can easily customize and share. In light of the fact that Samsung hasn't discontinued any of VRB's products and has even updated their official listings, it's possible that the tech giant is looking to support the services going forward, though there's still no indication on what the firm is planning for its new acquisition in the long term.
Samsung's interest in VR has so far primarily materialized in the form of the Gear VR headset lineup and related content partnerships, with the Korean consumer electronics manufacturer repeatedly stating that it has high hopes for this emerging technology in the future. An update on the company's VR ambitions is expected to follow later this year.