In its battle with Layar, Wikitude hires new CEO to continue Euro expansion

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The fight for European predominance in Augmented Reality (AR) is a competitive one. Both Layar from the Netherlands and Wikitude, Austria, are working hard on establishing strategic distribution partnerships and strengthening their position with a raft of handset producers, mobile phone operators and producers of navigation systems. AR itself, of course, has been around for years, but the ubiquity of smartphones has opened up entirely new business models for this type of technology.

Layar, which has raised $16 million from Intel Capital, has a significant head-start given their respectable amount of cash in the bank. Not only cash but also by having scored a partnership with a global handset manufacturer, the startup is definitely the leader in Europe’s AR space.

However, Wikitude, which has significantly less funding, just announced a new addition to their team. Martin Herdina joins the company as their new CEO. He’s a seasoned entrepreneur who sold his last company Fatfoogoo to Digital River for $10m.

With Layar trying to become a somewhat standard for AR technology, Wikitude is focusing on their newly launched “Drive app”, which aims to become a replacement for existing navigation systems for cars and other vehicles.

While both companies seem to be going into slightly different directions, it will be interesting to see if either achieve an exit soon. AR is a rather hyped technology, yet established manufacturers are always keen on buying into the hot technologies of the day in an attempt to broaden their business models.

  • Tracy

    It never fails to amaze me how Techcrunch (the clue is in the name, right?), a leading industry light, continues to downplay the significance of augmented reality. Is there some sort of conspiracy going on?

    Lines like “AR is a rather hyped technology” appear in a few of your articles on the subject.

    It’s not just hyped, Techcrunch. It’s being used! By millions! From industrial & military applications to enterprise management and right down to end consumers on smartphones – it’s here. So why the sour grapes about it?

    I’m disappointed, given the amount of air-time given in this publication to thousands of other dubious little social media outings, that Techcrunch hasn’t embraced AR and seen its potential as the new mass medium.

    Your loss. :)

    • Steve O'Hear

      It is hyped, though the hype could well be justified. But hype it is.

      Though I can’t talk for other TechCrunch writers, my issue with AR is that many of its application seems gimmicky. I also see it largely as an alternative UI that doesn’t always scale. For, example, using it to to discover places nearby by holding up the phone and waiving it around might be fun, but give me a list view instead anytime.

    • Lukas Zinnagl

      A list view is simply way more efficient than a current AR module view. It’s cool, it’s gimmicky and it’s overrated.

      I am referring to consumer-orientated tech products, not on military or other real high-tech usage.

      • Howard

        Hey Lukas,

        List View is nice. Not very good for data visualization or 3D objects though. You seem to be from the school of thought that AR is some kind of navigational medium or points of interest locator – and granted a lot of the content on Layar does have that focus. However, I put the Beatles back on Abbey Road using Layar – how can a list view be appropriate for that?

        The medium is moving on – there are experiences to be had. Like most you haven;t grasped it yet – think beyond POI/Nav. The capabilities are there.

        As for the validity of the medium – I wrote a Layar app that is generating sales for the biggest of all purchases – property. Lots of leads. Every day. ROI proven.

        I speak from the frontline and with experience. Hype or no hype, AR is coming (and wont just tell you where restaurants are).

      • Lukas Zinnagl

        I agree that the capabilities and possibilities are there and broad. yet, until now, i have not seen any real value-added usage of AR, neither from layar nor from wikitude or any other platform that actually facilitates something in my life, improves it or does something beyond a “wow” effect.

        no question that these times are coming but at the moment I don’t see this happening.

  • Vletrmx21

    > While both companies seem to be going into slightly different directions, it will be interesting to see if either achieve an exit soon.

    They won’t.

    I just can’t understand what crossed the mind of Wikitude when they decided to ditch their then-dominating browser to make navigation. Seriously. What do they bring to navigation? Why would a driver look through his phone?

    I get excited every time I read about Layar, I reinstall the app and then it’s always the same mediocre content and the same user experience probably brought to us by a puzzle-maker or satan himself.
    Good thing it’s free.
    16 million for that? Seriously? Better give that to charity.

  • Rodolfo

    AR needs a killer app in order to move into the mainstream market.

  • In its battle with Layar, Wikitude hires new CEO to continue Euro expansion « Margowege's Tech & Gadget Blog
  • Linda Love

    I agree, they need to find a special product

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