Some may remember Gowalla as the late 2000’s social/local/mobile check-in app that competed with Foursquare in the “ location wars.” It was acquired by Facebook in 2011, then mostly faded away. But now it’s back for more SoLoMo action….this time with an AR focus.
Specifically, it will launch later this year to offer geo-relevant AR experiences, such as location-specific lenses around businesses and points of interest. This not only keeps it true to its location-based roots and competency but taps into Gen-Z’s growing affinity for the camera.
To validate this, Gowalla recently secured $4 million in seed funding from GV, Spark Capital, Niantic, Upside Partnership, Otherwise Fund, Capital Factory, Form Capital, and angels that include Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley. The latter is a notable twist (more on that in a bit).
Gowalla’s new UX details are scant. But generally speaking, it will offer gamified experiences for creating geo-anchored AR content and discovering places. If that sounds familiar, it’s the high-level concept behind the original Gowalla (and Foursquare), a la badges and leaderboards.
Though that may seem passe, there’s still ample opportunity in socially-fueled and gamified local experiences. Gowalla hopes to infuse novelty and stickiness through visually-immersive experiences: Hold up your phone to reveal game elements or notes that friends left for you.
That’s mostly our speculation based on early clues. To provide more color, co-founder Patrick Piemonte, tells TechCrunch that it takes inspiration from the social side of TikTok and the platform side of Roblox. The latter could make it a sort of MMO for the real world ( credit: Ubiquity6).
Gowalla also hopes to create stickiness through user incentives. That could be gamified elements as noted (points, badges, etc.), as well as monetary rewards or discounts for partner locations. That last part is speculative but could represent a revenue stream in local business promotions.
[Update 2/12/21: Gowalla Co-founder & CEO Josh Williams addressed the above speculation directly in the following tweet.]
Possible revenue models are likewise signaled by Gowalla’s “Street Team.” Users pay a flat $49/year fee to gain VIP membership and perks that they’ll access through the dedicated Street Team App (see below). There they can access a private Discord group and branded swag.
Bringing interactive and socially-fueled visuals to local commerce could be AR’s next logical step. In fact, the much-lauded AR cloud is based on this concept of having geo-anchored content that gains relevance based on its real-world placement. Think of it as an Internet of Places.
Gowalla now joins the mix with less reach and spending power than the above players. But it may have an edge in its competencies with building location-based experiences. That’s an advantage that others continue to build in the AR world, most notably Niantic (one of Gowalla’s investors).
Meanwhile, Gowalla original founder Josh Williams is motivated to make Gowalla work after seeing it fade away in its first incarnation. He’s joined this time by Piemonte (mentioned above) who previously worked at Apple as an interface designer and founded AR startup, Mirage.
Finally, we’ll note that this is the second company from the late 2000’s “location wars” to enter AR. Foursquare — which has since reinvented itself as a B2B data powerhouse — launched an audio AR app. We’ll look out for any other Web 2.0 all-stars that reemerge to tackle AR.
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Solaris: Offworld Combat is coming to PSVR this June with a physical release from Perp Games. According to a First Contact Entertainment representative, the digital version is planned to release a month earlier in May.
Perp Games on Twitter: “We’re not finished just yet. Solaris Offworld Combat is the next game to be getting a physical box release. Coming in June to global markets! Will you be buying it? https://t.co/5sphrqsh10” / Twitter
Solaris: Offworld Combat on PSVR
Originally, Solaris was coming to PSVR late last year around the same time as the Quest and PC VR version of the game but got delayed. Now, it’s slated for release in just a couple of months.
The latest VR shooter from First Contact Entertainment (creators of Firewall Zero Hour) is a sci-fi competitive VR shooter that feels a bit like Quake in VR due to its speed and intense arena levels. It’s a very breezy, fast-paced game that’s accessible and easy to quickly jump in and out of. The closest comparison is probably Hyper Dash.
Soalris is a notable release because other than Firewall Zero Hour, there really haven’t been many options for shooter fans on PSVR. Alvo is coming soon too, but the headset is on its last legs at this point.
The PS Aim Controller continues to be one of the best things about the PSVR platform, so I’m all for seeing more games support it, but it’s a shame games like this didn’t hit PSVR earlier in its life cycle. Hopefully PSVR 2 on PS5 is backwards compatible and it can give late-life cycle games like this one new life when it releases.
Solaris is coming to PSVR very soon with a planned digital release in May and physical release from Perp Games in June. For more on this game make sure and read our Solaris: Offworld Combat review and stay tuned for all the latest in VR.
The VR fitness genre is still relatively new, all things considered. Even though the space is still somewhat niche, it’s absolutely growing at a fast pace as seen by the number of games and players that continue to spring up. How did we get to this point though, you might ask?
Microsoft won a large US Army contract to supply advanced AR headsets for frontline soldiers, based on the HoloLens platform.
The US Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) program aims to equip infantry with AR helmets for situational awareness and convenient display of sensor outputs.
The contract is worth up to $21.88 billion over 5-10 years. While the order has been widely reported as 120,000 units, a US Army statement to Breaking Defence suggests that is the maximum, not a fixed quantity.
Early evaluation units based on HoloLens 2
In 2018 Microsoft won the $480 million evaluation contract for just over 2500 units, based on HoloLens 2 with some modifications and an extra sensor.
The current, ruggedized, upgraded IVAS
The evaluation found the hardware not rugged enough for military use, and identified problems with the sensors at night. Since then the hardware has been significantly upgraded. It’s more ruggedized and houses many more sensors.
The field of view has been significantly increased from roughly 40°x30° to 80°x40°. That’s significantly wider than any other see-through AR headset on the market.
Reported use cases for the headset include:
overlaying icons on friendly units, objectives, threats, and points of interest
built-in night vision & thermal view modes
live picture-in-picture feeds from drones, including the Soldier Borne Sensors (SBS) personal drone
simulated weapons & enemies for training exercises
scanning nearby people for high temperature (COVID-19)
facial recognition for hostage rescue situations
The Army is also testing integrations with vehicles, such as soldiers being able to see-through the walls of the armored vehicle carrying them. That means on dismounting they’ll be situationally aware.
Some Microsoft employees have protested providing technology for the military, but that’s unlikely to have any effect given the enormous potential value of the contract.
IVAS is still in the late testing & evaluation stage, and the scale of deployment will depend on future budgets. But if things go to plan, frontline soldiers could be equipped with these game-changing AR capabilities by the end of the decade.