Since realistic 3D models are the foundation of augmented reality experiences, and there’s no single dominant AR platform yet, creating digital assets that work across multiple AR devices is critically important to both developers and the businesses that rely on them. Today, Seek announced that it has successfully patented a key technology for that purpose: a system for converting “any type” of 3D model into a platform-agnostic augmented reality asset.
The patent is significant because it could be fundamental in the mixed reality era, giving Seek the exclusive right to produce — and exclude others from producing — tools to create 3D assets that work across different operating systems and AR platforms. Already used in Seek Studio, the company’s AR content management system, the patented technology lets users turn any 3D model into a multi-AR device-optimized asset. In addition to supporting over 30 different input formats, Seek continuously updates Studio to support new devices, guaranteeing that content “can be viewed on any device from one smart, universal link” and promising to cut cross-platform AR development time down to hours.
As consumers increasingly use apps and web-based AR viewers to preview products before making purchases, companies have worked to offer 3D versions of their furniture, clothing, consumer electronics, and vehicles in AR formats. Over the past year, big tech companies have sought to streamline the process of creating AR content, citing the need to bring more businesses into the mixed reality space without burning weeks or months doing development — a widely acknowledged AR pain point. In March, Snapchat debuted a web-based Lens Builder to ease AR creation, enabling brands to create basic AR lenses on their own in minutes, while relying on experienced AR developers for more complex projects. Facebook has similarly sought to make Spark AR apps easier to create and deeper.
Today, AR is primarily viewed through smartphone and tablet screens, using a mix of standalone apps and web-based interfaces, with enterprise AR headsets experiencing much smaller scale adoption due to their multi-thousand-dollar price tags. That’s expected to change later this year with the release of early consumer AR glasses for the Android platform, and to continue with similar products from Apple and Facebook in the future.
Seek’s patent may bolster its position as an intermediary for 3D objects — without its technology, consider the weeks or months required to create digital AR assets for Ikea’s entire range of furniture, Nike’s current collection of shoes, or Audi’s car interiors, then multiply that across multiple target operating systems and/or AR platforms. And the need for these assets is tangible: Seek has already worked with over 100 companies, including Walmart, Lego, Nestle, Overstock, and Nixon. It notes that its web-based AR commerce platform is already increasing sales conversions by 150% and decreasing returns by 25%, with a 600% increase in AR usage since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The U.S. granted patent 10,665,037 to Seek in late May 2020 following November 2018 and October 2019 filings. Seek says it will use the technology to “democratize AR” and enable brands to offer augmented reality solutions without the need for apps.