Virtual reality video company Jaunt — which helped spur the early growth of VR video — is shifting its focus to augmented reality, winding down “a number” of its VR-related services, and laying off a “significant portion” of its staff.
In a Medium post entitled “The Future of Jaunt is AR,” Jaunt wrote that it would focus on developing technologies that could create augmented reality content at a large scale. “We will be winding down a number of VR products and content services in the coming weeks,” reads the post. “This unfortunately means that some of our valued and highly talented colleagues will be moving on ... These highly skilled individuals have contributed to our position as a leader in the immersive industry, and the decision to let them go was incredibly difficult.”
Jaunt told Variety in a statement that it was “restructuring the company, resulting in letting go of a significant portion of our staff.” The company declined to offer more details about how many staff members were laid off, or which VR products and services would be going dark. (Jaunt does say it will work with its existing clients to manage the transition and deliver on its responsibilities.)
Today’s news follows a couple of major changes at Jaunt. The company recently changed CEOs, promoting former business development VP Mitzi Reaugh in place of previous head George Kliavkoff, who moved to MGM Resorts International. Its September press release described Reaugh as a driving force behind the Jaunt XR Platform, a VR and AR distribution system. Jaunt also recently acquired Personify’s Teleport system, a software platform that captures and streams 3D augmented reality footage of objects or people.
Jaunt, which was founded in 2013, was behind many of the earliest 360-degree video productions, including one released by The Verge in 2016. It released a professional VR camera called the Jaunt One, as well as an app with an extensive library of VR videos, and it dabbled in major projects like Invisible, a VR miniseries directed by Doug Liman. Today, it makes sense for Jaunt to focus on augmented reality, a field that Facebook, Apple, Google, and others are all promoting. There’s also a fair amount of overlap between the fields — sometimes captured with the term “mixed reality” or “XR,” as the Jaunt service’s name suggests. But it also means that one of the original cinematic VR producers is apparently moving away from VR.