Intel invests $62M in virtual reality, drones, mobile

The chipmaker's investment arm expects to invest about $355 million altogether this year.

Intel's latest investments included funding Avegant, which is developing the Glyph virtual-reality goggles. Sarah Tew/CNET

Intel has funded a virtual-reality goggles company, a firm that uses drones to collect aerial data, and mobile audio and video companies, as part of its quest beyond the realm of traditional chips.

The $62 million in investments for 16 tech companies, unveiled Tuesday during Intel Capital's annual global conference in Huntington Beach, Calif., comes a few weeks after Intel's investment arm revealed $28 million in investments in several Chinese companies. Separately, Intel on Monday named the winner of its new "Make It Wearable" challenge, meant to spark innovations using its new Edison chip. Nixie, which makes a flying wearable camera, won the $500,000 grand prize.

Intel Capital expects to reach $355 million in total investments this year, adding to more than $11 billion it's invested since 1991.

The latest funding highlights Intel's recent focus on wearables, eye-tracking technology and mobile, as the world's largest chipmaker works to expand its business beyond PCs, which have lost appeal as more consumers opt for smartphones and tablets. Intel makes the vast majority of its profits from PC and data-center chips, so now needs to find new places to grow.

Avegant, a virtual-reality company based in Redwood City, Calif., was among the 16 new investments. The firm is developing Glyph , a set of consumer goggles that double as headphones. Avegant raised more than $1 million through crowd-funding site Kickstarter earlier this year and on Tuesday announced a $9.37 million funding round for the company, with Intel as a leading investor.

"It helps us to drive the product forward. It's crucial for us," Avegant CEO Joerg Tewes said in an interview about Intel's investment. "This is really what we needed to get the product developed and get it to the finish line."

While Avegant initially said it would start shipping Glyph this year, Tewes said the product now won't ship until next year, to provide the company with more time to develop the Glyph.

Virtual reality and augmented reality have gain a lot of attention this year, with Facebook purchasing virtual-reality firm Oculus for $2 billion, Google and chipmaker Qualcomm taking part in a $542 million investment in augmented-reality startup Magic Leap, and Sony developing its own virtual-reality technology called Project Morpheus.

Intel's recent bets in that niche are comparatively small. Along with the Avegant investment, Intel Capital on Tuesday announced new funding for Eyefluence, which develops eye-tracking technology used for augmented or virtual reality. Last month, as part of investments in China, Intel Capital announced funding for EyeSmart, which makes iris-recognition technologies.

Tuesday's investment announcement also included funding for Braigo Labs, a startup created by 13-year-old Shubham Banerjee that makes a low-cost Braille printer; PrecisionHawk, which uses small drones to collect and analyze aerial data; Audyssey, which helps improve sound quality for home theaters, TVs and mobile phones; and Screenovate, which lets users wirelessly beam movies and games from their smartphones and tablets to their TVs.

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