Meta raises $23M Series A to refine its augmented reality glasses

Meta, an early startup in the augmented reality industry, has raised a $23 million Series A round led by Horizons Ventures, Tim Draper, BOE Optoelectronics and Garry Tan and Alexis Ohanian of Y Combinator. Danhua Capital, Commodore Partners and Vegas Tech Fund also participated.

The Series A announcement comes at an interesting time. Meta, which was founded in 2012, has been working toward its early promise of Ironman-like augmented reality. Its team has shown me demos involving 3D modeling, the internet of things and even basic web browsing, but just a week ago Microsoft breezily caught up with its HoloLens headset.

But Meta chief product officer Soren Harner characterized it as an exciting time for the company. Augmented reality has struggled to drive the same enthusiasm and exposure as its cousin virtual reality, which was much quicker to overcome technical hurdles.

The Meta 1 developer kit glasses.

The Meta 1 developer kit glasses.

“There are big, credible companies standing behind this space,” Harner said in an interview. “We don’t have other baggage. We’re not promoting platforms beyond augmented reality.”

I have not personally tried the HoloLens, or Magic Leap, another Meta competitor that is rumored to be incredible, but my impression is that Meta is falling behind. I found ODG’s product to be far sharper and easier to use. While it may be true that Meta has the independence to pursue the singular goal of an AR headset, it also doesn’t have [company]Microsoft[/company] and Magic Leap’s team or financial resources.

Harner couldn’t talk about Meta’s future release plans, but the startup’s next headset will be another developer kit, not a consumer version. ODG and Microsoft plan to get their consumer headsets out this year.

Instead of speed of delivery, Meta is concentrating on building its content library. It is hosting two hackathons over the next few months and continuing to ship glasses to developers.

“It’s an integration of hardware and software that’s going to make [augmented reality] happen,” Harner said. “We have traction. We have the resources to push really hard on it.”