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Finnish virtual reality firm Varjo raises 24 million pounds

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By Eric Auchard

LONDON (Reuters) – Virtual reality is set to get a boost among industrial product designers as Finnish firm Varjo raises $31 million (24 million pounds) in a funding round led by European venture capital firm Atomico and joined by the corporate venture arm of Siemens <SIEGn.DE>.

Varjo is developing high-end virtual reality (VR) headsets that would allow product designers to design real-world products within a virtual reality studio, testing features as they work.

The funding will be used to launch the company’s first product and expand Varjo’s workforce to more than 200 from 80 over the next 12 months, it said on Monday.

The product will be an industrial-grade VR and “mixed reality” headset that will allow designers to work in fields where extreme precision and visual fidelity are required and go significantly beyond consumer VR gear, the company said.

Current prototypes boast visual resolution that is 20 times greater than consumer VR devices, Varjo said in a statement.

Varjo is testing its hardware and software technology with Airbus <AIR.PA>, Audi, Lilium, Saab <SAABb.ST>, Sellen, Volkswagen <VOWG_p.DE> and Volvo Cars <VOLVb.ST> to optimise VR technology for their industries.

“The resolution of VR devices on the market today is a fraction of what the average human eye can see,” said Atomico Chief Executive Niklas Zennström, one of the Europe’s best known venture investors and the co-founder of Skype.

VR, which enables users to experience simulated environments through wearing computer-connected goggles, remains in its early stages of adoption among consumers because of the complexity of the technology and a lack of suitable content.

The headsets are aimed at industrial designers working in simulation and training, architecture, automotive, aerospace, manufacturing, engineering and construction, among other disciplines. They are set to launch later this year.

Besides Atomico and Siemens’ Next 47, existing investors including Sweden-based EQT Ventures and Lifeline Ventures of Finland took part in the latest round, the company said.

(Reporting by Eric Auchard in London; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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