What was Pixvana?

Pixvana was a VR Video tech startup from 2016-2019 that built a cloud virtual reality video processing, streaming, and editing software suite SPIN Studio. The company was based in Seattle WA and had traction with large media companies that used its platform to build consumer facing media streaming apps. As the 2015-2018 VR market cycle crashed (Microsoft and Google canceled their consumer headset plans, Meta/Oculus adoption faltered) and consumer VR adoption failed to breakthrough to meaningful usage, Pixvana built enterprise training tools. Ultimately the VR market proved “too-early” and development of Pixvana was shuttered in late 2019.

Pixvana SPIN Studio had comprehensive features to process raw VR video camera files and prepare them for very high quality streaming to headsets at 8k+ resolutions. The app was capable of massive parallel rendering with cloud GPU instances, so that a task that might require 10hrs to render on a single workstation class PC, could be distributed to 100+ nodes and rendered in just minutes.

Some of the core features are shown below, for posterity.

SPIN Play was the headset playback app available in the many VR app stores (Windows, Oculus, Google, iOS, etc.) that could be programmed/skinned with playlists of videos and interactive programs developed using SPIN Studio. The app could be synced over-the-wire and then run in offline mode, which allowed for very efficient management of fleets of headsets. If you had 50 headsets that you wanted to prepare for an event or trade-show, for example, you could prepare content and deploy/update on the fleet, using SPIN Studio and SPIN Play.
Pixvana SPIN Studio included both 180 degree and 360 degree camera “stitching”, wherein multiple video files from camera-rigs could be uploaded and “solved” to formats ready for streaming to VR headsets.
Parallel processing in the cloud was achieved by “sharding” jobs to multiple rendering nodes. Here dozens of clips are being rendered on 100s of individual GPU and CPU nodes in AWS cloud. Rendering this same set of clips on a high-end workstation would take 100x time. This sort of “cloud-first” approach to manipulating large media files was novel for its time, and remains a yet-to-come technology for video processing in 2023.
Getting VR video onto headsets was a complex mess and many startups built video-players with varying approaches to “theater-mode” — a way to organize, deliver, and control playback on VR headsets to controlled groups of viewers (such as for training curriculums). Pixvana SPIN Studio had many features to target individual headsets with specific content and playlists, to gather analytics of how that content was viewed, and to allow for a proctor/guide to set-up group viewing–a requirement for enterprise applications such as training in VR.
Pixvana SPIN Studio’s most innovative and exciting features were it’s in-headset video editing capabilities. Tools for trimming, sequencing, and adding interactive graphics/text to VR video programs were layered on the cloud administration of files and interactive files. Users could put on a headset, edit while in VR viewing the content at high quality, then immediately publish/share to other headsets–since all of the data was in the cloud at all times.

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