Verizon Doubles Down on AR/VR With Jaunt Acquisition
Verizon today augmented its augmented reality/virtual reality portfolio, acquiring assets from a startup called Jaunt XR that makes technology that quickly captures 3D video of people.
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Verizon executives have said the company will look for "tuck-in" acquisitions rather than massive corporate transactions like those AT&T has pursued with DirecTV and Time Warner.
In the press release announcing the deal with Verizon, Jaunt XR describes itself as "a leader in the immersive industry with a focus on the scalable creation and distribution of volumetric video of humans."
"We are thrilled with Verizon’s acquisition of Jaunt’s technology," Mitzi Reaugh, Jaunt XR's president and CEO, said in the release, without providing details. "The Jaunt team has built leading-edge software and we are excited for its next chapter with Verizon."
As noted by CNBC, Jaunt was founded in 2013, eventually raising $100 million in venture funding from the likes of Disney, Google’s venture arm GV and Redpoint Ventures to develop high-quality virtual reality content (VR), including a Netflix-style library of VR video. However, last year the company pivoted away from much of its VR ambitions to focus instead on its technology to capture augmented reality (AR) video of people. The company boasts that the technology allows users to quickly and easily capture such AR video using inexpensive equipment, rather than having to invest in an expensive studio to record AR content, and to view that content on mobile phones.
Importantly, AT&T has used Jaunt's technology in some of its 5G demonstrations.
Verizon's XR ambitions
Verizon's purchase of Jaunt serves to reiterate the company's interest in AR- and VR-related technologies (such technologies often fall under the blanket "XR" label).
Verizon's interest in the area is perhaps best indicated by Envrmnt, an organization within Verizon established in 2015 that offers production services for business-to-business (B2B) and B2B-to-consumer (B2B2C) AR and VR content. Verizon's Envrmnt also works with the company's Ryot division, which Verizon acquired through the Huffington Post in 2016, that creates VR content.
Verizon has made AR and VR content a key talking point in its initial 5G efforts. For example, the company streamed Super Bowl LII in VR over 5G.
Most recently, Verizon pledged to deploy 5G into 100 US schools, in part to highlight the potential of AR and VR content for education.
Verizon has a bit of a history in pushing technology including 5G and VR into the classroom, having launched the 5G EdTech Challenge last year that called on non-profits and universities to submit solutions that could leverage 5G. The winners of that challenge were announced late last year and included, among other applications, an AR game that explores the narratives of underrepresented historical figures.