SoftBank Ventures Korea (SBVK) announced today that its SB Next Media Innovation Fund (SBNMIF) has invested an undisclosed sum in ObEN, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) startup that enables consumers to quickly create a 3D photo-real avatar using just a selfie and short voice recording.
This financing will drive US-based ObEN’s market research and outreach. Additionally, SBVK’s global network will help the startup connect with major players in the space domestically and overseas.
“We see this strategic investment as a major stepping stone and are excited to use SBNMIF’s support to expand our presence internationally,” said Co-founder and CEO Nikhil Jain. “ObEN is positioned to define AI and its applications for consumers and the validation from a powerhouse like SBVK will only serve to fuel our mission.”
This latest funding follows ObEn’s US$7.7 million Series A investment round in November 2016.
Founded in 2014, ObEN creates smart avatars for every consumer and celebrity, providing them with a personal AI to represent them in the digital world. Its proprietary technology quickly combines a person’s voice and image to create a 3D virtual self that looks like, sounds like and performs skills to match the user’s mannerisms, behaviour and habits, enabling possible social and virtual interactions.
JP Lee, Partner and MD of SBVK, said. “They bring best-in-class speech, computer vision and natural language processing technology as well as a masterful team dedicated to the vision of creating personal AI for every consumer.”
ObEN is an HTC VIVE X portfolio company and is located in California at leading technology incubator Idealab.
Launched in December 2016, SB Next Media Innovation Fund is focused on investing in media content, platform and technologies that can be applied to the content business, including VR and Augmented Reality.
Established in 2000, SBVK has formed more than 12 funds and has invested approximately US$377 million, equivalent, across 210 startup companies (2016 2H). SBVK is a venture capital subsidiary of SoftBank Group.