Atlas, a 3D generative AI platform, launches with $6 million in seed funding after two years of secrecy. The funding consists of two rounds: a $4.5 million round led by 6th Man Ventures (6MV) and a $1.5 million round led by Collab+Currency. The platform partners with brands and game developers to build virtual worlds in a fraction of the time it takes to use traditional methods. Atlas allows developers to generate detailed 3D models from reference images and text.
The Vienna-based startup was founded in early 2021 by Ben James, a self-taught programmer with a background in architecture.
“I’ve done a lot of work at the intersection of design and technology,” James told TechCrunch in an interview. “I’m a self-taught programmer and I thought maybe there would be an interesting way to look at architecture through computer vision. 2D drawings, such as plans, sections, and elevations, are inherently integrated with three-dimensional information through line weights, annotations, etc. And what we started playing with at Atlas was whether there was a way to connect computer vision learning information from 2D images, and bring that into the 3D world.”
Initially, Atlas received a research grant from the European Union’s High-Level Expert Group on AI and developed its technology in accordance with the union’s Ethical Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence.
Atlas’ proprietary software was created in-house by a team with expertise in artificial intelligence, gaming, and design. The startup aims to create a technology stack that serves as a collaborative design partner by streamlining workflows for designers and creators. Atlas says previous projects have seen a 200-fold speed increase.
Current partners include Consortium 9, as well as partners-turned-investors Shrapnel and Square Enix. The company is also working with small, independent game developers. Using custom 3D generative AI engines, partners can generate virtual worlds, creative assets and designs that are consistent with existing intellectual property and ready to deploy anywhere.
“One of the things that I think we’ve done quite effectively is that we’ve worked with some very high-profile game developers to help build great virtual worlds, but where we see a tremendous need for this type of technology is to help developers of smaller indie games create these worlds, games that would otherwise be impossible to create,” James said. “So the maps are constantly evolving and changing, adding elements of user-generated content that are stylistically consistent with these game mechanics. Generally speaking, the kind of fundamental principle that we follow is that we think that games are becoming platforms, but more specifically for us, we think that creation is becoming part of the game and that’s where we try to target technology of Atlas.”
Although Atlas is currently only available for enterprise and commercial use, the startup plans to begin alpha testing for a public platform in the coming months. The platform, which will be aimed at small and independent developers, will allow anyone to upload reference images and indicators of their specific gaming style and aesthetic, and then get a fine-tuned AI model that allows them to generate within that style. .
As for the startup’s business model, James says Atlas will stick to a standard license-based model.
As for the funding, the startup plans to use it to accelerate the expansion of its suite of developer solutions and the development of its self-service 3D AI creation platform. Funding rounds included participation from the a16z Scouting Fund through Shrapnel, Contango, Gaingels, GFR Fund, New Renaissance Ventures, Square Enix and Wagmi Ventures.
James says it’s great to work with game developers to help them facilitate the construction of their virtual worlds, but in the future, Atlas also hopes to tap into next-generation content creators to help them make their visions a reality.
“As we build out our technology stack and add more and more technology, I think what we’re really excited about is tapping into these next-generation content creators,” James said. “The individual person who doesn’t have any 3D modeling experience, who doesn’t have any coding experience, but who has this incredible vision of a virtual world and experience. We would allow them to create that because we wouldn’t require you to know how to code or 3D model. “It’s more about using the experience you have, whether text-based or image-based, to create massive amounts of interesting and diverse content.”
James believes that once Atlas has created the right technology to facilitate such cases, many new possibilities will open up.