Augmented reality developer tools startup 8th Wall raises $8 million

Mobile AR had a lot of hype heading into the rollout of ARKit and ARCore this past year, but for the most part mobile AR apps have delivered a pretty heavy thud, failing to deliver on their futuristic promises. 8th Wall believes that this is the result of developers looking to port existing experiences into AR rather than designing for mobile AR’s strengths in the first place.

The company has focused on becoming a sort of one-stop shop for developers interested in bringing AR functionality to the app of game they’re building. With the company’s XR software tools (and Unity plug-in), developers can add full-scale tracking, along with surface detection, lighting estimation and camera overlays to their project with ease. As 8th Wall continues to regularly update its platform, the startup hopes to add more backend tools that deal with measuring persistence, cloud management and computer vision.

“The key thing is that we haven’t seen any of the cool things planned for mobile AR yet,” 8th Wall founder Erik Murphy-Chutorian tells TechCrunch. “In mid-year of 2018, we’re going to see such an influx of applications in the space that it’s really just exciting.”

The startup is raising some more cash as it looks to grow quickly to keep pace with the rate of innovation emerging from the broader augmented reality space. The small team of 9 full-time employees plans to triple in size over the next 18 months.

8th Wall announced today that they have raised $8 million in Series A funding led by Norwest Venture Partners.  General Partner Vab Goel will be joining the startup’s board of directors. The Venture Reality Fund, Shasta Ventures and Sparkland Capital also participated in the round. 8th Wall has raised about $10.4 million to date.

A big part of 8th Wall’s mission is to bring people their first AR experience. For them, that starts with accessibility. While Apple has opened up iOS to iPhone 6S and later, there are still a whole lot of iPhones in use that don’t have access to AR tracking. This is doubly true for Android; Google has only opened ARCore support to a handful of devices. 8th Wall adds tracking support to devices that have previously not boasted AR support. In the past support for other phones outside of the ARKit and ARCore specifications, was limited to just a few of XR’s features, but 8th Wall has recently rolled out the tracking to all phones.

Catch-all phone-based AR solutions are imperfect ones when it comes to the level of precision needed to calculate the relationship between a given smartphone’s onboard camera and IMU sensors. Nevertheless, for many use cases, the tracking doesn’t need to be perfect, and something is definitely better than no AR, especially when developers are trying to court significant audiences to their app or game.

The startup’s founder hopes that by listening closely to AR developers and continuing to deliver regular updates, 8th Wall can maintain an edge in attracting developers to their platform that are going to be the ones building the first wave of apps and games made especially for mobile-based augmented reality.