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Softbank leads $500 million investment into UK virtual reality start-up

SoftBank Group Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son speaks during a press conference on May 10, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan.
Tomohiro Ohsumi | Getty Images
SoftBank Group Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son speaks during a press conference on May 10, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan.

U.K.-based virtual reality start-up, Improbable, has raised $502 million in one of the largest investments for a European technology business at the embryonic stage of its development.

Japanese technology conglomerate, SoftBank, opted to back Improbable in a funding round which has valued the business at approximately $1 billion.

"We believe that the next major phase in computing will be the emergence of large-scale virtual worlds which enrich human experience and change how we understand the real world," Herman Narula, CEO of Improbable, said in a statement late Thursday.

The tech firm argues its innovative Spatial OS operating system could allow small developers to build vast simulations despite potentially limited resources in infrastructure.

Improbable was founded just five years ago by two Cambridge University computer science graduates in order to create large-scale virtual worlds and simulations.

'Simulation on a massive scale'

The company has since teamed up with Google to put its operating system on the search giant's cloud and though the technology was principally designed for games developers; its potential applications have generated interest from other clients in a number of industries.

"Beyond gaming, this new form of simulation on a massive scale has the potential to help us make better decisions about the world we live in. Improbable's technology will help us explore disease, improve cities, understand economies and solve complex problems on a previously unimaginable scale," Deep Nishar, managing director of SoftBank, said in statement.

Nishar is set to take a seat on Improbable's board yet despite the investment; the London-based firm will remain independent.

Softbank's biggest investment in Britain to date was the $32 billion purchase of semiconductor designer ARM Holdings in 2016.