News: Jaunt Hit with Layoffs as Startup Abandons VR Business to Focus on Augmented Reality

Jaunt Hit with Layoffs as Startup Abandons VR Business to Focus on Augmented Reality

After building its business on virtual reality, Jaunt is leaving the technology behind to focus on building tools for creating augmented reality content.

The company cited a robust response to its volumetric capture technology as one of the reasons for its business decision.

Image by Jaunt/YouTube

Therefore, over the next few weeks, the company will begin shuttering its VR products and services, and work with existing customers to ensure existing projects are completed.

"We believe these changes will allow us to concentrate on driving innovation and value in products that will continue to be at the forefront of the immersive industry and drive the highest long-term company value," the company stated in a blog post.

"Jaunt will continue to build innovative software utilizing our strong engineering team in San Mateo and our new Chicago-based engineering colleagues who joined us as part of our recent acquisition of the Personify Teleporter technology."

The move is bad news for Jaunt's domestic VR employees, as the company will layoff "a significant portion" of its staff as part of related restructuring, according to statement obtained by TechCrunch. Employees at Jaunt China, a joint effort based in Shanghai, will not be impacted.

"The shift in focus means that Jaunt will be moving forward with a smaller team focused on Jaunt's AR technologies. Outside of this group there were those immediately affected and others that will stay on with the company through a transition period to help deliver on existing client commitments," said a company spokesperson in a statement to Next Reality.

Image by Jaunt/YouTube

According to a company spokesperson, the decision was made by new CEO Mitzi Reaugh in close collaboration with the board of directors. On. Oct. 1, Jaunt announced the appointment of Reaugh as CEO; former chief George Kliavkoff remains on the board of directors and now serves as president of entertainment and sports at MGM International Resorts.

"Since we first opened our doors, Jaunt has created new techniques and technologies that bring awe-inspiring immersive experiences to the world. This has only been possible through the creativity, hard work and dedication of the amazing team that we have assembled over the years," the company said. "These highly skilled individuals have contributed to our position as a leader in the immersive industry, and the decision to let them go was incredibly difficult. We are eternally grateful for all of their groundbreaking hard work."

The move is reflective of the overall direction of its strategic investors. Disney CEO (and NR30 member) Bob Iger, whose company was among the leaders of Jaunt's $65 million Series C funding round in 2015, has made his preference for AR clear.

Meanwhile, Google, whose GV investment portfolio includes a stake in Jaunt, announced no new VR products at its recent hardware launch event, while it has issued consistent updates to its ARCore platform throughout the year.

Although Jaunt's decision isn't necessarily a death knell for the VR industry, it's not an encouraging development. On the other hand, it serves as another indicator that AR's future is comparatively brighter.

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Cover image Jaunt/YouTube

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