While nearly every tech giant has publicly proclaimed augmented reality the next frontier to conquer, product movement has been relatively slow as the companies’ aim to nail very base issues in consumer-friendly ways has proven difficult.
Ubiquity6 is one of a handful of startups aiming to tackle the backlog of backend features currently missing from most AR experiences available today. The fast-growing company is looking to build tools that will essentially enable users to create a cloud-based AR copy of the physical world and enable persistent, dynamic multiplayer AR experiences as a result.
Today, the startup announced that it has closed a $27 million Series B led by Benchmark and Index Ventures. The company has raised over $37 million to date with plenty of high-profile VC firms amongst its investor list including Google’s Gradient Ventures, First Round, and KPCB — where Ubiquity6’s CEO Anjney Midha previously helped run a small fund. With this raise, Benchmark GP Mitch Lasky will be joining the Ubiquity6 board.
Multiplayer AR toolsets have been a trend of the year as Google, Apple and a host of other startups have looked to focus on how two or more users can sync their maps of the world in the most seamless way possible. A big focus of the Ubiquity6’s efforts have been on building 3D mesh maps of entire public areas so the onboarding process just naturally grows to be instantaneous.
This strategy works great for museums and much less well for your living room, but Ubiquity6 is hoping that the experiences available in their app can have episodic utility that ties them closely with events at public geographic locations.
In more ways than one, the startup seems to be taking a page from Snapchat in their approach to AR but also hopes to leapfrog Snap’s efforts by moving harder and faster into the hard AR tech that the chat app has largely sidestepped. The company’s app, which has yet to launch, has a bit of a carousel-like app selector which can boot up separate AR experiences much like one would switch through Snapchat Lenses.
I had a chance to demo some of the startup’s technology earlier this month and while phone-based AR still generally has a host of usability challenges, Ubiquity6 was able to deliver some interesting scenes that were optimized to be used by up to 100 users concurrently. My demo of adding cubes to an ever-expanding digital art sculpture was certainly simplistic but had a notable lack of hiccups through the entire process.
The one-night public beta experience at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art was previewed earlier this month with an activation in the atrium and upstairs lobby before entering the Magritte exhibit. The experience takes some familiar themes from the artist and allows phone-wielding visitors to step through AR portals that drew on iconic elements from Magritte’s work and the surrealism aspect. It’s an intriguing concept that seems particularly well-suited for the surrealist artist.
The company’s app hasn’t launched at a grand scale yet though people interested in testing out a beta of the startup’s tech can sign-up on the their website.