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Pluto VR lets you talk to other people within virtual reality apps. (Pluto VR Photo)

Pluto VR, the Seattle-based virtual reality startup co-founded by PopCap Games co-founder John Vechey, has raised $13.9 million in a Series A funding round.

The company, which is developing applications for people to communicate within virtual reality, will use the cash infusion to continue research and development, roll out its alpha test to more customers and support additional platforms.

The Pluto VR founding team, from left to right: Jonathan Geibel, Forest Gibson, Jared Cheshier and John Vechey. (Pluto VR Photo)

Seattle-based Maveron led the round, with participation from Madrona Venture Group of Seattle, Trilogy Equity Partners of Bellevue and other individual investors. Maveron co-founder and General Partner, Dan Levitan, will join Pluto’s board of directors.

Maveron, founded by Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz and Levitan in 1998, has already backed three VR startups — Virtuix, an active VR motion gaming platform; VicariousVR, a connected VR social network; and Against Gravity, a Seattle-based startup behind the hit VR game “Rec Room.”

Anarghya Vardhana, a senior associate at Maveron, explained to GeekWire in February why the firm is so bullish about VR/AR.

“We see this as a way in which people interact with the world around them; with each other; with entertainment; with work,” she told GeekWire. “It’s going to be a big computing shift, just like we saw a computing shift with the personal computer and cell phone.”

Pluto VR wants to be the application we use to talk to other people who are also wearing a virtual or augmented reality headset. The three-year-old Seattle startup is developing something like Skype or Facebook Messenger — a communication app that can run on its own, or on top of other experiences — but for virtual reality.

“The purpose of Pluto is to help humanity transcend physical location,” Vechey said in a statement. “While digital technologies today allow us to connect instantly from anywhere in the world with text, voice or video, they aren’t necessarily bringing us closer together. With Pluto, you’ll be able to connect with anyone anywhere, as if you were together in person.”

GeekWire visited Pluto’s Seattle headquarters late last year and checked out its VR communication system. Pluto was a Seattle 10 company in 2015, and it employs 17 people at its Ballard office, which was previously occupied by pet insurance company Trupanion. It’s much too large of a building for your typical 17-person startup, but it’s perfect for Pluto given the technology it is building. The extra space and individual offices allow the company to better test its software.

From its own app control panel, Pluto lets you create your own avatar, control the opacity of each person, mute mics or make “calls” to other people without needing an avatar, and more. For now, Pluto only uses avatars that show faces and hand movements — which are trackable with headsets and accompanying controllers.

Vechey said the company has no immediate plans to release its product more broadly, and that Pluto VR is focused on getting the little things right with alpha customers and rolling out slowly.

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