Meta, the augmented reality startup that shut down in January, is coming back — or at least, its tech is. A new company called Meta View has purchased the old Meta’s assets, which were sold when Meta’s creditor unexpectedly foreclosed on its loan. The new company will be led by former Qualcomm executive Jay Wright, and it’s building “a complete hardware and software solution for a specific use case” rather than a generalist AR headset.
Wright presided over Qualcomm’s Vuforia augmented reality software platform, which was sold in 2015 to Internet of Things company PTC. Investor Olive Tree Ventures says he was chosen to design “a product that marries both technology capabilities and market need, driving real value.” A spokesperson elaborated slightly, confirming that Meta View would build on Meta’s existing display technology with its wide field of view. Meta View will continue to support the old Meta 2 headset, but it will no longer sell new units.
Olive Tree Ventures general partner Mayer Gniwisch describes the firm as “extremely bullish” on the future of augmented reality and spatial computing. “Our belief was so strong that we did a somewhat non-traditional VC deal to acquire the assets, start a new company, and find a new CEO with a vision and focus we believed in,” Gniwisch says. The “non-traditional” deal seemingly refers to the foreclosure. Back in January, Meta CEO Meron Gribetz suggested Meta’s bank had sold the company out from under him.
The old Meta was one of AR’s best-known players; the $949 Meta 2 was regularly described as a competitor to Magic Leap or Microsoft HoloLens hardware. But the Trump administration’s trade war with China caused a major would-be investor to pull out, and the company massively downsized, delaying the launch of new headsets and laying off virtually all employees. AR headsets, in general, haven’t made a leap to mainstream audiences; they’re limited mostly to industrial or academic use and a few public-facing applications like museum tours.
But companies can succeed within that space. Google just turned its Glass headset into an official product, for instance. Wright has years of experience working in AR at established companies, and Meta View may be in a good position to find a sustainable niche — although it might be less aspirational and more down-to-Earth than its predecessor.