It looks like Jaunt's pivot from VR to volumetric captures services for augmented reality experiences has paid off.
That's because Verizon has now acquired the company for an undisclosed amount, per a brief announcement issued by Jaunt on Monday.
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"We are thrilled with Verizon's acquisition of Jaunt's technology," said Mitzi Reaugh, the president & CEO of Jaunt XR, in a statement. "The Jaunt team has built leading-edge software and we are excited for its next chapter with Verizon."
Since its founding in 2013, Jaunt had made its name based on its VR content services. That was until last October, when, less than two months after unveiling its 3D content capture service, the company revealed its decision to shut down the VR services and layoff staff. Among the casualties of the change in the business model were co-founder and CTO Arthur van Hoff (now an employee at Apple), whose tenure as CTO ended in Oct. 2018, though he stayed on board in an advisory capacity through the end of the year.
The pivot was the first major decision of Reaugh, who took over as CEO on Oct. 1, 2018 -- almost a year to the day leading up to the announcement of Verizon's acquisition of the company. Depending on the value of the acquisition, the decision to abandon VR and focus on AR services could make its backers, who include Disney and Google, very happy.
Aside from the business decisions at Jaunt, the acquisition represents the latest AR weapon in the coming 5G wars between the major carriers in the US. Facilitating advanced augmented reality experiences is expected to be a major benefit of 5G network proliferation, with Verizon and AT&T standing as the chief proponents of AR's role in the 5G era.
In addition to Jaunt, Verizon has established its own AR/VR arm, Envrmnt, whose work includes the AR development tool AR Designer. Earlier this year, Verizon participated in a $28 million funding round into AR display maker Light Field Lab. Its subsidiary Yahoo has also begun to host AR content via its news app.
Meanwhile, AT&T has put the majority of its AR eggs in the Magic Leap basket. In 2017, AT&T made a strategic investment in Magic Leap, which included a partnership between the companies. Since then, AT&T has begun to sell the Magic Leap One on its site, has hosted marketing experiences using the device, and sponsored hack-a-thons leveraging the headset's spatial computing capabilities.
As 5G deployments progress, AR startups and their investors stand to reap the benefits. As a result, investors will likely continue to see AR as a solid investment play, which means greater funding into and more innovation from the AR industry. In other words, anyone rooting for the evolution of AR should be cheering on 5G as well.
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