Let’s talk about this.
In a blog post released on Monday, cinematic VR pioneer Jaunt (formerly JauntVR) announced they are laying off a significant portion of staff and re-focusing on Augmented Reality (AR). They will be “winding down a number of VR products and content services in the coming weeks.”
The post, entitled “The Future of Jaunt is AR,” provides the company’s rationale for making this change:
Today we announced that Jaunt will be focusing efforts on further developing technologies that allow for the scaled creation of AR content. This decision is driven by the exciting initial customer response to our recent advancements in volumetric XR technology and the experience and capabilities of our world-class team.
We believe these changes will allow us to concentrate on driving innovation and value in products that will continue to be at the forefront of the immersive industry and drive the highest long-term company value. Jaunt will continue to build innovative software utilizing our strong engineering team in San Mateo and our new Chicago-based engineering colleagues who joined us as part of our recent acquisition of the Personify Teleporter technology.
This is not only disappointing, but ultimately misguided. Unfortunately, in the early days of 360 video, Jaunt lost traction to competitor NextVR, who established key partnerships with sports leagues and entertainment companies to produce live content in virtual reality. Jaunt’s professional 360 camera (the Jaunt One) was too expensive and unwieldy to be practical for use in the field. Consumer 360 cameras and “prosumer” models like the Insta360 Pro quickly established themselves as equally capable for the job at hand.
Understandably, Jaunt needs to stay in business and is looking to stay relevant by pivoting to AR (which currently appears to be “hotter” than VR). But abandoning VR completely sends an unfortunate message to the immersive media community that VR is no longer relevant. Location based VR continues to develop rapidly on a global basis. These venues offer tremendous opportunities for licensing partnerships with major media companies and other content providers.
VR video continues to offer enormous potential for media and entertainment, especially as consumer headsets such as the Oculus Go become more affordable and available. NextVR has just announced their new schedule of NBA basketball games for 2018-19, including availability in Oculus Venues (the shared VR video application for Oculus headsets).
As one of the early pioneers of “Cinematic VR” (a term they coined), Jaunt made many important contributions during the new renaissance of virtual reality. It’s too bad they didn’t hang on for the long haul.
Roy Kachur is a Media Technologist, IT Architect, and VR Evangelist. He has worked in the information technology field since the 1990’s, and in the media industry since 2014. He believes that VR will play a significant role in the future of media.