8th Wall wants to put awesome AR experiences on more smartphones

While many augmented reality startups are focused on the future that always-on smart glasses can bring to the world, AR could also bring one of the biggest shifts to how we operate our mobile devices that we’ve ever seen.

Unfortunately, to date, most of these solutions have been less than accessible to users running any other than the latest and greatest in mobile hardware. 8th Wall, an AR startup founder by ex-Facebook and Google engineers, is looking to widen the reach of smartphone AR by making it accessible on more than 90 percent of smartphones out there.

The Palo Alto startup’s broader goal is to make the process of creating a smartphone AR app ten times faster while bringing experiences that make the most of native AR libraries or make due without them just using your phone’s IMU sensors and camera.

Today, the company is launching XR, a free plug-in for Unity developers to start building and experimenting with augmented reality apps. The startup also announced that it has raised $2.4 million from investors including Norwest, Betaworks, the VR Fund, SV Angel, Greylock and Third Kind.

8th Wall co-founder Erik Murphy-Chutorian

8th Wall’s XR software bring features like light and surface estimation as well as calibrated scene display so that digital objects can be places more seamlessly within physical worlds and can react to their environments.

“No one really knows how to design natively for AR yet,” Peter Rojas, an investor at Betaworks Ventures, told TechCrunch. “It really reminds me of the early days of mobile.”

8th Wall’s major sell relies strongly on building across the fragmented AR platforms that are already out there, while leveraging the individual device’s unique capabilities.

“If there are a lot of fracture platforms and we can bridge them, then we are adding a lot of value with XR,” 8th Wall co-founder Erik Murphy-Chutorian tells us.

The platform integrates seamlessly with smartphone AR platforms like Apple’s ARKit and Google’s Tango while also bringing more limited 3DoF AR functionality to less robust devices including iOS devices past the iPhone 5C and Android devices running KitKat and later. The team plans to add support for even more devices going forward.