Oscar raises. Shyp sinks. A vending machine for cars.


The AR/VR flippening looms. 

Mentions of augmented reality are on pace to overtake mentions of virtual reality on corporate earnings calls. 

While VR is still mentioned 2x as often, it's falling steeply from its hype peak last year, while AR has held its ground — as you can see in our earnings call analytics.

Apple is among the companies mentioning augmented reality the most: 9 times in total since 2016. In fact, as we detailed in our recent Apple Strategy Teardown, AR is looking very much like Apple’s next big thing — more so than voice, or cars, or AI. 

“I regard it as a big idea like the smartphone," Tim Cook has said. "I think AR is that big, it’s huge."

There are several reasons why augmented reality is a more promising technology than VR, but the biggest is the wider variety of use cases. 

Boiled down, VR has basically one application: by definition, everything in virtual reality is what my 4-year-old daughter would describe as “pretend.” 

VR is mostly for escapism: games and entertainment. But not for applications IRL. 

AR, on the other hand, overlays images on reality. For example, check out this recent patent from Apple detailing street maps enhanced by AR. 

Even for games, compare the inherently social and physical experience of people running around to play Pokemon Go vs. playing games strapped into a VR headset. 

Adi Robertson of The Verge has written critically about Sony Playstation VR, the most popular consumer VR device: "There’s no getting around the fact that headsets can be isolating. And it’s more jarring than usual here because of how social the regular console gaming experience usually is."

Facebook has bet big on VR by purchasing Oculus for $2B in 2014. This spring, Facebook will launch its third Oculus headset, the $199 portable Oculus GO — though earnings call mentions of Oculus by Facebook are declining.

What if Facebook is simply betting on the wrong technology?

Facebook has misplaced its bets before. In mobile, the company initially bet on mobile web apps over “native apps” geared specifically to Android or iOS. Facebook almost whiffed on mobile because of this. In 2012, Mark Zuckerberg said that missing out on native apps was the biggest mistake Facebook ever made.

Have they made another one in betting on VR over AR? 

Have a great weekend.


P.S. On April 5, we're taking a quick look at the disruption of the luxury sector. Save your spot

This week in data:

  • $165M: The amount raised by health insurance provider Oscar Health in Series D financing. The round was led by Founders Fund with participation by 8VC, Khosla Ventures, and General Catalyst, among others. At a $3.2B valuation, the company has now raised over $890M in total disclosed funding. We examined Oscar’s strategy, partnerships, and where the company is headed in our Oscar Strategy Teardown.

  • $100M: San Francisco-based e-signature technology startup DocuSign filed its S-1, and will be looking to raise $100M in its IPO. The company has raised over $500M in total disclosed funding and was last valued around $3B. The company saw 52% growth in revenue from 2016 to 2017, while losses shrank. DocuSign was featured in our 6th annual Tech IPO Pipeline Report, which looks at 355 of the most promising and highly-valued private companies in the United States.

  • $62M: Shyp, an on-demand shipping startup, revealed that it is shutting down operations, “effective immediately.” The company was launched in 2014 and had previously raised $62M in total disclosed funding. For more on startup death, check out our list of 242 startup failure post-mortems.
  • $40M: Robo-advisor SigFig raised $40M in financing this week. Previous investors in the company include UBS and Santander InnoVentures, two of the top banks investing in fintech. For more on where banks are placing their fintech bets, join us for our briefing next week. Sign up here.

  • $13M: This week, Google acquired GIF search engine and platform Tenor. The company had raised $13M in total disclosed funding from Cowboy Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, and Menlo Ventures, among others. Check out our Google Acquisitions Tracker for real-time updates. 

  • $200B: SoftBank and Saudi Arabia are planning to build the “world’s biggest solar farm.” The farm, which could cost $200B, is projected to generate around 200 gigawatts of power by 2030. For more on the solar industry, check out our explainer on some of the most common, and often confusing, aspects of the industry.
  • 150 million: The estimated number of MyFitnessPal accounts that have been hacked in a breach that took place in late February, according to a report released earlier this week. Data stolen from the nutrition-tracking app (owned by Under Armour) includes user names, email addresses, and passwords. It is one of the larger breaches on record, exceeding the Equifax data breach from last September.
  • 10 minutes: Alibaba and Ford have unveiled a “cat-themed car vending machine” in Guangzhou, China. The “Super Test-Drive Center” is an unstaffed digital vending machine that operates in conjunction with an app that allows users to test drive a car for up to three days. In a 10-minute process, users can select a car, put down a deposit, schedule a pick up, and verify themselves during pickup with a selfie. We dive into this topic in our analysis of Alibaba and Amazon’s physical retail initiatives.

  • 18.2 million: This week, popular sitcom Roseanne returned to television in a debut that garnered 18.2 million viewers — a 10% spike in viewership from the original series finale released 21 years ago. The episode touched on politics, showcasing protagonist Roseanne Barr’s support for Trump and her sister’s support for Hillary Clinton.
  • 113: We looked at the use of profanity in earnings calls since 2008. The number of swear words used hit 113 in 2017, falling from the peak of the 133 used in 2015. The top offenders included wheel maker Titan International, casino and hotel group Wynn Resorts, and real estate company Simon Property Group. 

  • 202 years: America’s oldest gun manufacturer, Remington Arms — a subsidiary of Remington Outdoor Company — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company, which was in operation for 202 years, reported a negative operating cash flow of $7.4M as of March 25, along with declining sales. We put together a list of gun tech startups working to make firearms smarter and safer.
  • 62: This Sunday will mark a number of festivities: Easter, Passover, and April Fool’s. The three holidays last coincided 62 years ago, in 1956.
  • $18.2B: According to an infographic put out by WalletHub earlier this week, people will spend an estimated $18.2B on Easter-related purchases in 2018. Of that, $2.6B will be spent on candy.
  • 90 million bunnies: Chocolate bunnies are one of the most popular Easter basket items, appearing in 89% of baskets, according to WalletHub. Every year, some 90M chocolate bunnies are made for the holiday worldwide. Americans almost overwhelmingly eat bunnies ears-first (59%), though some might spring for the feet or the tail first (4% each).
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