AR Trailblazers’ Reality Augmented with Financial Turmoil

Alan Bullock
Jan 25, 2019

Like many budding industries, the Augmented Reality (AR) world is undergoing some upheaval. In recent weeks, a few of its early pioneers have hit what, for some, seem to be insurmountable financial roadblocks. Even so, entrepreneurial optimism remains.

Founded in 2011, Blippar was an early mover in AR, providing tools for marketers to turn ads and products into AR triggers that would unlock additional content. Over the years, it transitioned to a visual search engine that could reveal detailed product information along with marketing content. On December 17, 2018, Blippar announced that it was entering administration, the British equivalent of bankruptcy, citing trouble with getting unanimous shareholder approval for its next round of financing. In a statement at the time, the company said that the court-appointed administrators “will be expected to find a buyer for all or parts of the business.” As it turns out, that process took barely more than a month, as news broke this week that Blippar’s assets had been acquired by Candy Ventures, one of its primary investors, with the intent to keep the company and the brand alive.

San Francisco-based Osterhout Design Group (ODG), which had introduced a series of AR smartglasses aimed at military, industrial, and consumer use, reportedly ran into financial difficulties after manufacturing issues and failure to ship new product lines. After laying off most of its employees and failing to secure a buyer in 2018, ODG’s assets were scheduled for auction January 15, 2019. As of this writing, the results of that auction have not been made known.

Meanwhile, Meta, an early pioneer of AR smartglasses, and famous for a brash claim from its CEO in 2016 that AR glasses would soon replace desktop computer monitors, has also fallen onto hard times. In September 2018, funding from a Chinese investor was blocked by the Chinese government as a result of its trade war with the US. The company furloughed some two-thirds of its employees while it searched for additional funding but was all but shut down by December and its assets sold to an undisclosed buyer in January.

InfoTrends’ Opinion

Despite the turmoil, we do not believe this spells trouble for the future of Augmented Reality in general. More likely, this is another example of pioneers taking arrows, a natural thinning of the herd as a new industry expands into uncharted territory. With any new technology, it is common for companies to come and go, sometimes with dizzying frequency. Other well-known companies remain active in the AR hardware space, including Microsoft, Vuzix, and Magic Leap. In addition, Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore have readied hundreds of millions of smartphones for AR applications and Apple is widely speculated to be working on AR glasses of its own. We remain optimistic about the future of AR, for enterprise applications now and for consumers in the not-too-distant future.


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