Lightform Raises $5 Million to Make Projected AR Mainstream
Lightform Inc., an augmented reality hardware company, is announcing a $5 million round of funding led by Lux Capital. Other participants in the round include Dolby Family Ventures, CrunchFund, Comet Labs, Presence Capital, and Anorak Ventures. Lightform is using the capital to fund the manufacturing of their projected AR device, which lets artists and designers easily map digital video content onto 3D objects and spaces. The technology can be used in retail, restaurants, offices, and events to inform, advertise or entertain customers.
“Lux is excited to support Lightform in its mission to democratize access to this technology with a hardware/software solution that makes projected augmented reality affordable, accessible, and really easy to use,” says Bilal Zuberi, partner at Lux Capital.
Lightform is the first computer for projected AR (also known as projection mapping), a form of augmented reality that uses projectors to map digital content onto real-life, 3D spaces. This type of AR eliminates the need for headsets or phones, allowing viewers to have unobstructed, shared AR experiences. Previously, the cost and complexity of creating projected AR has limited the technology to high-budget projects at theme parks, concerts, and events. Lightform’s solution is a small Wi-Fi-enabled computer that mounts on any video projector, turning the projector in an AR display. The device uses a built-in camera to scan the environment, and in conjunction with the accompanying desktop software, Lightform Creator, lets designers easily create magical AR effects for their environments. Lightform also acts as the media player, making it easy to permanently deploy the experience.
“When it comes to integrating digital content with a physical space, your options haven’t fundamentally changed much since the advent flat panel LCD screens,” says Phil Reyneri, Lightform’s Director of Marketing. “Augmented reality will completely change that, and projected AR is an immediately accessible way designers can blur the line between the real and virtual worlds.”
As an example, Lightform partnered with local San Francisco bakery Vive la tarte for a pilot installation using their system. A digitally updatable menu is projected onto a sculpture made of wood and steel. “We wanted to do something different and saw Lightform’s technology as a great way to push the boundaries of what a menu could be,” says Arnaud Goethals, Vive la tarte’s co-founder and CEO. “The menu is alive, like our food, and it perfectly integrates in our space.”
Delivering On The Promise
Lightform is already manufacturing the first production units. Instead of the usual path of early crowdfunding financing, the company will use the $5M round to finance their first manufacturing run. “There’s been a lot of undelivered hype in the AR/VR space, so we want to ensure we can ship a product to our customers and deliver on our promises.” says Brett Jones, Lightform’s CEO. “Given the skepticism around AR vaporware, we want to make it clear that Lightform is real and being used for real applications. Funding the development with this new capital allows us to finalize our product before we start selling it, not the other way around.”
Lightform is currently alpha testing with select partners, and will be available to order next year. The device will cost under $1000, and will have an optional professional software subscription. The company is also actively hiring for multiple roles building tools for creative people. To receive product updates and see career opportunities visit lightform.com.
Lightform Inc. is based in San Francisco, California. To date, the company has raised $7.8 million in funding from investors including Lux Capital, 7 Seas, Dolby Family Ventures, Crunchfund, and the National Science Foundation in order to build the world’s first computer for projected AR.