By Corey Moss

Hype is certainly not always what it’s cracked up to be, nor does it guarantee any type of outcome.

Numerous industries, including AV, are searching for ways to implement and integrate certain technologies that are considered adjacent rather than mainstream. AI, AR, VR and mixed reality are being looked at very closely in terms of expanding focus on industry, and customer successes – so much so they have now become a focal point at major trade shows.

In this burgeoning age of nascent realms of technology being integrated, and at times almost force fed into certain industries, it seems that there are some running way too fast for their own good.

For one augmented reality startup – the hype, and the “reality”… crashed hard.

Blippar, considered an early innovator in AR (formed in 2011), became notable for developing technologies which could recognize objects in real-world scenarios and offer additional context based on object detection.
The company raised $131.7 million in four funding rounds – Khazanah Nasional, Qualcomm Ventures, and Candy Ventures Sarl among the company’s main investors.

However last year, Blippar ran into serious financial trouble, suffering a pre-tax loss of $44 million. More on this shortly.

To look at another well-known company’s efforts, in ABIresearch Next Steps for Augmented Reality: The Danger of Hype and Mismanaged Expectations in a Nascent Market (Q3 2018), the writer talks about how the first public demo of Magic Leap’s upcoming mixed reality (MR) hardware did not live up to the lofty expectations set over the past year. He goes on to state, in reference to augmented reality of mobile devices and the excitement that this generates from the public, that on the surface it seems to be a clear case of mismanaged expectations across these markets, but the reality is much more complex

This passage (more details to be found in the Executive Foresights for subscribers) further refers to how potential recognized by investors over the past few years still needs to be fully realized, which ultimately comes when both the market and platform are more mature.

Nascent realms of technology are meant by course to be in developmental stages – with certain great successes, and of course failures. We’re certainly no doubt aware that known technologies in AV and IT, hardware-based for the most part, are still the most reliable means for success – if engineered, marketed, and sold properly. End users of course must rely on a targeted fit for their own company or organization’s technology, and application framework. Software has become recognized as a more feasible technology approach in the industry, cloud however in my opinion is still in a nascent stage, though some, like Zoom videoconferencing and Crestron with XiO Cloud, have made great inroads.

Even device-based technologies, and applications could still be looked at in nascent growth phase in many respects. Even though smart phones have been around for quite a while, the progression of device capabilities and app development occurs at a very rapid pace.

Nacsent – adjective

  • (especially of a process or organization) just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential.

With focus on “future potential,” it’s no doubt that this could well possibly be a risky proposition. Yet for those who do succeed, they not only thrive, they can also influence success in the market – which can be a bonus to them too. The competition, now in essence becomes the boost.

And those who don’t succeed, can tend to bring a market back to reality.

Virtual reality technologies have certainly blazed paths in various markets, in gaming, entertainment, and on the business side with training. There are cases and evidence to support VR as this trending, and thriving realm of technology, one that is certainly ripe for entry. This of course does not guarantee success, there are numerous variables still – however it does provide a semblance of a pathway for it.

An ambitious and well-funded AR startup crashing financially – was it all their fault?

Reports did suggest (note: there is no longer a link to this – it refers back to the original article) that the startup was burning through roughly $3 million per month after being in the business over six years, and constant pivots in business strategy had rocked investor and employee faith in the company.

In a turnaround move though, while an original idea of AR apps existed which could be used in marketing (generating advertiser interest and enthusiasm), the startup decided to shift to visual search engine technology. While this strategy had been approved unanimously by Blippar’s board and the funding was secured, all of the startup’s shareholders had to agree.

One, unfortunately did not. It had been reported (note: again there is no longer a link to this – it refers back to the original article ) that the dissenter was one of their backers Khazanah Nasional, a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, in dispute with the others.

On December 17th 2018, Blippar entered administration after the blocking of further funding, having “burned through” $120 million in funding up until the time of its collapse. *

Were there targeted reasons for Blippar’s ultimate crash, beyond the dissension and the cash burn – though the startup was indeed heralded as a true AR industry force to be reckoned with?

It does make one think, that no matter the technology (and especially if nascent) there are certainly deeper looks to be had at factors surrounding the company, the trends – and potential hype.

Blippar Co-Founder and CEO Ambarish Mitra will be delivering an AR/AI Opening Address at ISE 2019.

*Wikipedia, and linked reference The Telegraph Blippar sinks into administration after funding dispute between investors

Note: Overall reference for this story – ZDNet: AR startup Blippar crashes and burns, a single shareholder blamed

More reading – Deal Street Asia: Khazanah-backed AR startup Blippar slips into administration, to halt services

With over 20 years in audio visual integration and IT/computer sales and consulting, Corey Moss is the owner of Convergent AV. Corey writes for the publication and hosts/produces podcasts – The AV Life, Convergent Tech Talk, Convergent Week and The AV Tech Trade. He has written for numerous industry publications about AV, IT, unified communications and collaboration (UCC), cloud and software, IoT, cybersecurity and more. He has also conducted interviews with AV and IT executives and global influencers. Find him talking about a whole lot of things, tech and otherwise. On LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/mosscorey/.