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Virtual-reality company Vrse redubs itself Within, raises $13 million

Vrse, a VR company that some people don't how to spell or pronounce, is changing its name to something that will be tricky to google.

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Vrse CEO Chris Milk said the phrase "virtual reality" may be obsolete in a decade.

TED

Vrse, a company that makes virtual-reality films and is known for helping create The New York Times' VR projects, is changing its name to Within, and it announced a $12.56 million round of funding.

"When you're in VR, you're experiencing something that you are within," Drew Larner, the company's chief operating officer, said in an interview. "We didn't want our name to be something that alludes to technology or a catchphrase [but to] be more about what our mission is."

In a blog post, CEO Chris Milk said people reading the name Vrse often didn't know how to say it, and people who knew how to pronounce the name sometimes didn't know how to spell it.

Virtual reality is an entertainment format that makes viewers feel like they're in the middle of the action, created by wearing a responsive headset. It's among the buzziest consumer technologies this year, as big investments in VR hardware by tech giants like Facebook and Samsung start to deliver those products to consumers more widely.

The majority of VR content is geared to gaming, but Within is one of a handful of companies focused on making narrative VR experiences that are like immersive short films.

The $12.56 million "series A" round was led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which also invested in a note that constituted Within's earliest "seed" round of funding.

A new investor in the latest round was 21st Century Fox, which has been the most assertive in virtual reality of the major Hollywood studios. Fox has made VR companion experiences to its films "The Martian" and "Wild," and earlier this year it took a minority stake in Osterhout Design Group, a company that makes virtual-reality and other "smart" sunglasses.

Within wouldn't disclose a valuation for the company based on the latest investment. Though it doesn't disclose who are its directors, the board won't change as a result of the investment, Larner said. He added that most of the new funding will be dedicated to adding more employees, particularly engineers, to its workforce of about 20 people. Within will also use the money to fund its technology itself and to create more content.