Why we invested in Holo-Light
Everyone is waiting for Augmented Reality to happen. Almost every year, studies predict the final breakthrough and mass commercialisation of Augmented and Mixed Reality. Big buzz was created (remember the Pokémon GO hype in 2016? We’ve played it, too. We are happy Pokémon GO and escooters did not launch at the same time here in Germany – for health-reasons…), people got excited, companies got excited and recognised the potential during pilot projects. However, most projects never left that stage. Will 2020 be yet another 2016, or is it finally about time?
AR? VR? MR? What…? According to Gartner, “Augmented reality (AR) is the real-time use of information in the form of text, graphics, audio and other virtual enhancements integrated with real-world objects. It is this ’real world’ element that differentiates AR from virtual reality. AR integrates and adds value to the user’s interaction with the real world, versus a simulation”. AR and VR (virtual reality) currently – and in the near future – serve different user groups (B2B vs. B2C), but more notably, they apply to very different use cases within the B2B segment. In general, AR applications are best suited for cases where users need to be connected to, present in, or interact with the real world. Some AR enterprise solutions include remote assistance, on-the-job training, remote collaboration, and computer-assisted tasks. VR applications are best suited for simulation or complete immersion, e.g., remote collaboration on 3D objects, point-of-view training, and virtual tours (Gartner).
This real-world aspect and the diverse use cases are what makes us believe in the power and potential of AR in B2B applications, rather than VR. AR will change the way we work tomorrow, like personal computers did during the nineties and smartphones just one decade ago. The most viable use cases we currently see are in manufacturing, engineering design & construction, and telecommunication – which are those B2B sectors that will grow fastest in the near future. Real estate and civil engineering are lagging behind, but eventually, will also generate a significant market size.
Timing is the crucial factor determining boom or bust – and over the past years forecasts got it wrong several times. We firmly believe that the timing is just right. According to a Capgemini survey in 2018 almost 50% of Enterprise-size companies were planning to roll out AR within the next 3 years, 8% within the next 12 months. Half of the companies that already use AR solutions got beyond pilot phase and use it productively in their everyday operations.
Leaps in hardware development and promising future development plans fuel this growth. Microsoft just started shipping their next generation AR headset HoloLens 2, other participants challenge the market at higher (Magic Leap) and lower price points (0glasses/nreal) and new entrants such as Apple are currently planning their own hardware. Not only hardware, also the AR software sector gains momentum: after two rather quiet years, new companies enter the market almost weekly in all relevant (and irrelevant) industries. We believe that the AR industry is at the brink of exponential growth with the core ingredients for scaling all being in place.
That’s why we decided to invest in the AR software startup Holo-Light. Their HoloView-software works with all AR/VR glasses and handheld devices. It offers engineers the out-of-the-box possibility to freely display their own 3D-CAD objects right in front of them and to virtually extend real objects. The software enables collaborative use with several participants on site and remotely, e.g., across locations and continents, by displaying avatar silhouettes of remote participants – all in the precise positioning to the object and to each other. What’s more, their Stylus – the AR equivalent of a tablet stylus – allows to interact with AR models with millimeter precision literally in the air. In addition, they have solved the problem of the AR headsets’ limited computing capacity with remote rendering: a streaming service, that enables the external calculation of even large 3D models for high-performance display on the headset.
Holo-Light puts the ingredients for scaling together taking on the triumvirate of technology, distribution, and content:
- Technology: Holo-Light has a head start in technology development due to founding the company just when HoloLens version 1.0 was just released in the US, and due to invaluable feedback through manifold iterations with enterprise customers.
- Distribution: AR glasses are reaching enterprise mass market status with several hundred thousand pre-orders for the latest models that just started shipping.
- Content: Last but not least, for AR to become mainstream, there needs to be AR content. And, this is a big one! Holo-Light solves this by enabling basically all CAD 3D objects created in industry-standard CAD software to be displayed in AR – without any manipulation or adoption necessary – thus leveraging a massive, already existing content ecosystem of models, users, software providers, agencies, etc.
These factors make us believe that Holo-Light’s technology is well positioned for the future. But in the end, it is all about the people. The team did impress not only us but also their customers and partners with their entrepreneurial spirit and inexhaustible inventiveness when solving real technical challenges like the limits of AR glasses’ computing power or entering new verticals and adjacent industries such as construction and real estate/BIM with their product.
We look forward to the next couple of years working with you, the people behind Holo Light. You impressed us, your customers, partners, and it seems that you’ve got a new fan – please have a look at what EnBW’s CEO Frank Mastiaux posted after a product presentation on LinkedIn.