Virtual reality is an exciting new technological frontier, and while many of us are excited to use it for gaming purposes, that’s really only the tip of the iceberg for the type of immersive experiences it can give us. A start-up company called Woofbert Inc. wants to add a little culture to the budding VR scene with the launch of ‘WoofbertVR’, an app that lets you virtually explore some of the world’s leading museums.
Scheduled for release this fall, the app wants to re-imagine the way we experience art by making it accessible to those who have geographic, economic, or physical restrictions to visiting museums. The user will be exposed to works by artists like Monet, Manet, Gaugin, Renoir, and many more. It’s set to launch on the Galaxy App Store for Samsung’s VR Gear, but the company plans to eventually have it on as many platforms as possible.
“Our goal has always been to create an app that will be able to be played on any device, from Oculus to the desktop. Our goal is to focus on education, and really help museums and galleries extend their reach,” Woofbert’s co-founder Elizabeth L. Reede told Forbes.
In order to accomplish this, they’re going to have to parter with various cultural institutions. Fortunately, Reede is very well connected. With experience working as an assistant curator for MOMA in New York, a B.A. in Art History, an M.B.A. in Finance, and some time working for Sotheby, it’s no wonder that the company has already signed a partnership with the renowned Cortauld Gallery in London and has several other deals in the works.
In fact this is no small start-up. Its managing director, Rob Hamwee, is very involved in financial circles due to his other position as CEO of New Mountain Capital. Thanks to this, Woofbert didn’t have much of a problem getting funded, initially receiving funding by Hamwee before raising another $2.78 million in an investment round in June. In terms of sustaining the company, it plans to establish more exclusive partnerships with museums as it grows.
“For instance, we have an exclusive relationship with the Courtauld for these kinds of presentations,” Reede says, “When we start to actually charge for it, the goal is to keep the charge very feasible. A number that it comparable to, let’s say, a Netflix subscription. The intent is, much like Netflix, for the user, you pay your monthly fee or your annual fee, and you get anything we have.”
There will also be extra bits of content aside from just viewing the artwork. For example, Woofbert board-member and best selling author Neil Gaiman lent his voice to narrate the Cortauld tour. The company also intends to have a ‘group visit’ feature, where two or more people can view the same art collection from different locations, allowing them to interact with each other in real time with their avatars.
Woofbert is also looking at advertising their subscriptions to school districts or individual institutions so that children will be able to appreciate pieces of art that they may otherwise never get to see in person.