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8 October 2019

Verizon buys XR start-up Jaunt to include in 5G Lab

As the gloss around virtual reality fades a bit, the latest fallen soldier to be acquired is Jaunt XR, which has been bought by Verizon a year after the start-up threw in the towel.

Verizon will mainly get its hands on Jaunt’s augmented reality (AR) assets, on which the smaller company refocused in October last year when it made the switch from XR – the umbrella term for VR, AR and mixed reality – to a more limited scope. Although we suspect Jaunt has held onto VR assets like some of its studio-grade cameras – costing $100,000 a pop – along with a suite of VR software and a distribution platform.

Verizon already has its own XR arm called Envrmnt, a division focused on providing mobile XR applications to autonomous vehicles, smart cities and volumetric VR applications. Forming part of Verizon’s broader 5G Lab, presumably Jaunt will be incorporated into that initiative too, mainly serving Verizon’s interests in 5G-enabled use cases.

To that end, it appears that Jaunt XR has been pulled away from the media sector in which it had its roots, and into other mixed reality industry sectors set to exploit the latency and bandwidth advances of 5G networks.

Envrmnt has built a suite of compute application programming interfaces (APIs), spanning Graphic APIs for offloading computationally heavy rendering to low latency, network-based graphics processors, along with Vision APIs capable of augmenting and tracking thousands of vision targets on embedded assets. The Envrmnt portfolio also includes Lighting APIs for turning camera data into immersive worlds, and even Audio APIs for reproducing spatialized audio to reflect head rotation, attenuation, occlusion and material properties of a room.

The addition of Jaunt XR’s assets, if Envrmnt is where they are heading, could propel the division to new heights.

At the time of switching focus from VR to AR a year ago, Jaunt planned to scale the creation of AR content powered by advancements in B2B volumetric XR technology (also known as cross or extended reality). Volumetric video is a technique which emerged with 3D displays, capturing data from a 3D space which can be viewed on a flat screen, as well as VR headsets. It borrows methods from computer graphics, photogrammetry and other computation-based videography techniques.

It was actually through dipping its toes into the M&A pool that Jaunt picked up its volumetric video expertise, with the purchase XR app developer Personify Teleporter – inheriting volumetric streaming software capable of capturing, processing and streaming lifelike AR assets in real time.

Jaunt, which raised some $100m from backers including Disney and Sky, had some final words saying it “enables the scaled creation and distribution of volumetric video through machine learning”.

Jaunt XR CEO Mitzi Reaugh was naturally “thrilled” with the acquisition, stating that ”the Jaunt team has built leading edge software and we are excited for its next chapter with Verizon”. But it is hard not to see Jaunt as the latest in a string of VR flops like Magic Leap and Nokia Ozo. More scalps will come.