Thyng wants to create the first augmented reality platform. Last week, the studio launched its free app Thyng 4.0 on iOS, which it built using Apple’s ARKit software development kit. It enables users to create AR scenes by dragging and dropping pre-designed 3D objects or personal photos and videos.
Ed LaHood is the founder and CEO of Thyng, and he has a lot of experience working with cutting-edge tech. In 1991, he founded Vream, one of the earliest startups to experiment with virtual reality. Similar to what Thyng is doing with AR, Vream focused on creating technology that enabled people to create their own VR environments. It was eventually acquired in 1996 by Platinum Technology, Inc., a database management company.
“We’ve been doing this stuff and thinking about this stuff for a long time,” said LaHood in a phone call with GamesBeat. “We have an interesting perspective on it. Obviously VR and AR are super hot these days. VR had this cool big resurgence after Facebook bought Oculus. But a lot of this stuff is kind of the second wave of a lot of things happening.”
Since the Vream days, LaHood has done other work with VR and AR. He was the CEO of Exclusive Domains, Inc., a VR real estate company, and he founded Thyng over three years ago. He says that in the early 2000s, they were developing custom code and hardware to see what they could do with AR.
“We started Thyng about three and a half years ago,” said LaHood. “The idea with Thyng was to focus on the AR space. At the time, similar to how it is now, AR was very cool. It was pre-ARKit and pre-ARCore. But there was still a lot of interesting stuff going on. AR really hadn’t gone mainstream a few years ago. It was cool, but it wasn’t part of everyday behavior.”
LaHood and his team have always been interested in creating a platform where folks could add their own content easily with drag-and-drop. To start, they focused on target-based AR, though Thyng 4.0 features both target- and surface-based AR.
“If [people] didn’t know how to make 3D models, they could use photo or video content,” said LaHood. “A lot of our technology revolved around target-based AR, meaning being able to recognize a product or a logo or a photograph, and then overlaying an AR message on top of that product or logo or photograph.”
Thyng wants to not only enable people to experiment with AR but also to provide a way for brands to reach consumers in a new way. LaHood says that he thinks it’s never too early to start thinking about monetization.
“One of the things we’ve done is we’re positioning a lot of our technology so that when we work with brands, we can provide them a variety of solutions using our general Thyng app, so that brands can create experiences that will filter through the general Thyng app, or we can use our technology and create white-label solutions for brands,” said LaHood. “If a brand is interested in having an AR app in the app stores that is listed under their own name, we can work with them to make that happen with Thyng technology built into it.”
Though Thyng started out by building its own tech, it did build Thyng 4.0 with ARKit. LaHood says that it’s exciting now to see companies like Apple and Google roll out SDKs like ARKit and ARCore. Not only does this bring the technology to more people, but he says it also validates the AR market.
“Our whole feeling is we can provide this layer on top of that functionality on both platforms to allow consumers to easily access the technology, and allow consumers and brands to easily use the technology now, to create their own AR experiences, their own games, share the experiences, and really start to use a lot of the stuff we’ve historically put into place on top of ARKit and ARCore to provide consumers with a whole new way to use these technologies, potentially in their everyday lives,” said LaHood.
Now that iOS 11 has rolled out to all compatible iPhone and iPads, there’s the opportunity to reach a wide audience with AR apps. However, LaHood says that there’s still a lot of work to be done. Based on his experience as part of the first wave of VR, he cautions startups in the VR and AR spaces to manage their growth and to learn what the market really wants. Not only that, but any company or developer who’s creating AR apps has to understand that they’re essentially creating a new market and there’s a lot of consumer education to be done.
“In a lot of ways it makes sense to use a lot of old world principles when you’re building a company, even in a new space, so that you’re building gradually,” said LaHood. “When you build it that way, then you can withstand a lot of the peaks and valleys and keep your company up and going, keep your company profitable, keep your company on the forefront so that when the technologies do really hit, and when the market does really hit, you’re ready for it.”