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How Can Investors Follow the Augmented Reality Industry?

By Motley Fool Staff – Jun 28, 2019 at 10:55PM

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It’s a growing market that’s not easy to keep track of.

Many of the biggest technology companies have made major bets on augmented reality (AR). It's an emerging industry, however, and in addition to the big players, there are also a number of start-ups moving into that space. Following the industry isn't easy because many projects are either secret or relatively low-key. That makes it important to know which companies have niche AR products that may quietly become big money players.

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This video was recorded on June 25, 2019.

Jason Moser: Speaking of companies, resources, different types of ways we can learn more about the space -- I've certainly dug in for quite some time now. It's a difficult space to fully understand the potential because it's so young. There are a lot of those no-brainer names out there that we've talked about today that are making early waves in the space. But part of the fun for me is finding a lot of those companies that people don't know about yet, or finding out companies that are doing neat things with the technology that people hadn't thought of before. When you learn about AR, VR, things like that, what are some of your go-to resources? Any places that you look to or people you consider?

Dan Kline: I'm a big fan of GeekWire. It's not that they specifically cover a lot of augmented reality. But there is a lot of augmented reality coming out of the Seattle area, which is their bread and butter of coverage. That's where you're going to be most likely to read about an interesting start-up that, they got $50 million in funding, they have six ex-Microsoft guys working there. What you want to look at is the people who are doing things with it, where you go, "Oh, I never thought about that, but what a perfect application." The big hits are going to come from Apple, they're going to come from Facebook. You're probably not going to get a Roku-level player in this, where some company comes out of nowhere. Where you will get that is, "I'm the company that knows underwater surveying better than anyone else. Here is the specific underwater surveying augmented reality tool. By the way, one of them sells for $800,000 because it's a niche market." I'm making that up completely, but you understand what I'm saying. It's going to be the construction use, the very, very niche uses that will then get consumer stuff. But Sony is not trying to sell a million-dollar medical device. They are trying to get one in every home.

Moser: For me, a couple of things I noticed. One thing I'll let folks know, if you follow me on Twitter -- I don't even think you need to follow me on Twitter -- I'm putting together a list on Twitter of AR-related follows. Anybody in the AR space that I find entertaining, educational, informative, I'm just adding them to the list. You can essentially see this ongoing Twitter feed of cool, real time information that's happening in this space.

One of the people I started following early on. She's proven to be an invaluable resource. She wrote a great book on it called Augmented Human. Her name is Helen Papagiannis. She's been working in the space for close to 15 years now. I would certainly recommend for anyone looking to learn more about the space and its wide reach, check out the book, Augmented Human.

Talking about little niche companies, these were companies I found over vacation, and I thought, "Wow, these are cases I didn't necessarily think of before, or companies I didn't know about." One guy I started following on Twitter. His name is Daniel Anderson. He is the CEO and founder of a company called 3DQR, a start-up in Germany focused on AR for education, industrial training, and corporate development. That's been a fun one to learn more about.

Another one. I like painting watercolors. It's a challenge. I'm just learning how to do it.

Kline: Which you can also see if you follow Jason on Twitter.

Moser: I do that to keep myself honest! But I found this interesting app called Artivive. You can check them out at @ArtiviveApp on Twitter. It's a Vienna-based start-up. They have an AR tool for artists to create, for museums to expand, and for galleries to figure out new ways to incorporate art for the next generation into their displays. If you check out their site, they show you a really neat demo on YouTube of what their capabilities are.

Small companies, but neat things that they're doing. Again, speaking to your point about niches, these are companies that are just pursuing a little niches where they may not ultimately be able to make it to become big companies, because they may be snapped up by some of these bigger companies. But that doesn't mean we can't win ultimately either way.

Kline: I think it's fair to say we didn't give enough attention to education as a use. There's a price barrier there. But pretty much every kid has some level of smartphone. I have a 15 year old in a very mixed income school. It's fair to say all of his friends have a cellphone. With different learning styles, to be able to say, "OK, this is an active volcano here," and as you're seeing the picture, you can access facts, or pieces of it come to life, or different things happen, we should be able to very inexpensively address different learning styles in ways that have been very challenging to do. Most schools have laptops, but they're still using them for word processing. They're not using them for changing how we educate people. My son takes a virtual algebra class that essentially we could have put out a VHS tape back in 1985. There's nothing augmented or virtual about it. It's just a tape of a person, and then you do a test.

I think you'll see leaps and bounds with this stuff. Maybe in the nonprofit area, on the education side, you'll see some people spending some money to create coursework or access to museums for kids that would never get to go to the Museum of Modern Art. I think there are a couple of museums here in D.C. A fast food museum, maybe?

Moser: Something like that. Hit or miss. I think you're right, education is going to be a phenomenal space to follow. It's one that traditionally has been very difficult to scale. Clearly, technology is changing that. It's been fun to watch my kids going through, in seventh and eighth grade, they're going into eighth and ninth now, but to watch their school incorporate technology, basic YouTube lessons, things like that. As eyewear and new ways to experience things comes out, I have no question that augmented reality will serve as a very valuable educational tool.

Kline: I don't think we could downplay this. We talked about very simple uses for like clothing and makeup and that stuff. How many people are going to be saved from a stupid beard... Michael Jordan is going to be able to test out the Hitler mustache before he grows it! [laughs]

Moser: That's kind of like the makeup application, just a little bit different.

Kline: It is, but I'd have to grow mutton chops to learn that mutton chops are a bad idea.

Moser: Bad idea, Dan!

Kline: To be able to be in a room with my wife, or even -- this is a strange one. I wear glasses. One of the hardest things about trying on glasses is, I wear glasses. You go in and you don't know what you look like. I had to bring my wife because my previous pair of glasses -- some of you who watch this show visually may have noticed -- were too small for my head, and I look like a giant egg head! There's going to be some very fun practical uses for this stuff. I don't think that's all that far away.

Daniel B. Kline has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Jason Moser has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Twitter. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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