AR and VR technologies have gone mainstream.
For Ed LaHood, a Chicago entrepreneur and veteran of the virtual reality scene, this moment has been long in the making. LaHood launched a VR company in 1991 as part of the first wave of virtual reality startups.
“Everyone had high hopes for virtual reality, but it really didn’t gain much traction at the time,” said LaHood. “But now, between the really great hardware available, the cloud and the internet, the infrastructure is in place to start to see significant penetration for virtual and augmented reality technologies.”
We like being one of the weirder apps out there."
With his new startup, Thyng, LaHood wants to bring augmented reality experimentation to the masses. Its smartphone AR app lets users “decorate” the spaces around them with 3D objects, as well as their personal videos and photos.
If this strikes you as kind of, well, weird, LaHood doesn’t disagree.
“We like being one of the weirder apps out there,” he said. “That’s the whole idea: to create a new type of experience.”
Thyng, which is currently available for iOS devices and has an Android version on its way, can also be used to scan real-world objects to unlock digital content. For instance, if a cereal manufacturer wanted to advertise through the app, Thyng could automatically play a cartoon when the user placed its cereal box inside the viewfinder.
For now, augmented reality experiences vanish when a user closes the app. But LaHood’s long-term vision is to turn Thyng into a messaging platform that lets users create augmented reality experiences for each other.
With that functionality, you’d be able to plan an AR scavenger hunt, build a murder mystery investigation game for your friends or create a guided tour of a city. Thyng could also be used by companies to create branded experiences.
“One of the things we want to do is to make the technology easy and fun enough to use that our users can come up with new applications for the technology that will continue to amaze and surprise us,” said LaHood.
With a current team of about nine employees, LaHood said he expects to expand the company as Thyng makes a push to build out the app’s feature set.