The concept of augmented reality seems like a bit of an oxymoron, given that something is either real or it’s not. Regardless, the hype and boom in AR startups is real enough, and so are the hundreds of millions of VC dollars being pumped into them. Which begs the question – Are augmented reality startups the next big bait for investors?
For starters, the fields of wearable computing and mobile apps have both matured enough to support augmented reality implementation. Did you know companies in the wearable hardware market have raised well-nigh $570 million?
Granted, most of it went to GoPro and Jawbone, but others such as Pebble are not doing so bad either. Pebble’s augmented smartwatch drew enough interest to fuel a successful $10 million crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, and the company followed up by raising another $15 million in Series A funding a few months back.
Also fueling a lot of the hype are Google Glass and Apple’s iWatch. AR as an industry sector with its own ecosystem of startups, developers and big companies is just around the corner, and the trigger will likely be either Google Glass introduced to the masses or a startup which becomes the next big thing.
Actually, it is sort of an industry of its own even now. There are separate categories within such as personal display and body monitoring. Google Glass falls into the personal display category, where some kind of wearable hardware can be augmented with GPS, text messages, etc.
Google Glass may seem cool in general and it is, but startups that may be more interesting to venture capital funds are those who will use Google Glass for working on more specific and practical applications. After all, you have to build a bicycle if you want to ride a wheel.
InteraXon’s brainwave-sensing headband is a good example of how controlled computing advancements are increasingly widening the possibilities for augmented reality startups. If you’re on the road and start feeling sleepy, the headband hooked up to an AR display could start pointing out hotels along the way. It neatly combines location and visual input with the user’s needs.
Augment is another program that is targeting a very useful AR niche. It allows you to see 3D printed objects in an augmented reality display. This is one step better than watching it with 3D modeling software, and gives you a much better idea of what the object will look like once it is printed out.
Given the incredible market growth and potential of 3D Printing, any augmented reality startup that adds a useful layer between the design and manufacturing stages is bound to be a big hit. So yes, there’s plenty of innovation and revolutionary products in the pipeline. The AR layers that have been added to games are just the sideshow.
The main act is yet to come, because these are the startups that need Google Glass, Pebble Smartwatch and other such personal AR displays to be commercially available first.
Not to mention an operating system like the one Dekko is launching, that will help developers build 3D apps for wearable devices. Dekko has been approached by Facebook, Intel, Samsung and many of the top hardware manufacturers, all wanting to work towards what Dekko is doing.
Right now, the augmented reality boom is a promise that’s coming together nicely. Once the hardware, operating system and other infrastructure is in place, new augmented reality startups will start popping up all over the place like Sharky the Beaver.