PlayShifu, a maker of augmented reality educational toys, raised $7 million in a Series A round led by Chiratae, Inventus Capital and BIF.

Three-year-old PlayShifu, with offices in California and India, said it will use the funding to expand its technology, product line and double its retail presence. PlayShifu is active in 15 countries worldwide, including the U.S., Canada, Poland, Germany, Japan and India. It has raised $8.5 million to date. 

“We are experiencing incredible demand from international markets across the world, purely due to the reason that our innovative products make early learning agnostic to markets and languages,” chief operating officer Dinesh Advani said in a statement.

The startup’s flagship product is the Shifu Orboot, a globe that allows kids to explore world landmarks and other cultures through an augmented reality app. The Orboot has surpassed 250,000 users globally, and PlayShifu says that 65% of teachers that own an Orboot use it in their classroom every week.

  • The global augmented and virtual reality market is expected to surpass $16.8 billion in 2019 and skyrocket to $160 billion by 2023, according to Statista.
  • STEAM curriculum is popular in educational AR and VR because it uses  more tangible concepts that require visualization. 
  • “A lot of science concepts are ambiguous and vague. But with VR, when you can physically be in the concepts, it’s a lot easier to grasp,” Zach Grossman, director of education at the VR arcade centertec told Karma.
  • Use of AR technology in education is growing, but wider expansion may be limited by the cost. Grossman told Karma: “It’s a lot of money, and if you don’t have enough equipment for the classroom, it creates a divide. It’s hard to keep kids engaged that aren’t in the experience.” 
  • Outside the classroom, several toy companies have released AR-based products, including Play-Doh’s Touch Shape to Life Studio, which turns a child’s Play-Doh creations into interactive AR cartoons, and World Map Portal, which produces a wall map of the world that “teleports” users into locations through a VR app.
  • Augmented reality companies have also entered the classroom curriculum. Lifeliqe, for example, is the first NGSS and Common Core-aligned augmented reality science curriculum.
  • Karma Takeaway:  Toy companies with education-focused products may be the best positioned in the edutech sector to benefit from the technology’s popularity among consumers.