Skidattl wants to use augmented reality to engage people in the real world. It’s a story we’ve heard from AR companies before, especially as they compete against the potentially isolating effects of virtual reality. But instead of chasing metaversal Pokémon creatures on the street, Skidattl wants to use AR “beacons” to show people what’s going on around them.
Skidattl co-founder Randy Marsden said they’ll be like “a Bat signal for fun” once the app launches.
Anyone can make a beacon and anyone can see them. Companies can set up beacons, which have a lifespan of one hour, to advertise two-for-one coffee sales, movie times or open bowling alleys. People can fire a beacon at a music festival to help their friends find them in the crowd. All a user needs to do is scan the horizon with their phone, or eventually with AR glasses, to see a series of beacons at a distance of up to 100 meters, Marsden said.
When Skidattl exhibited as part of the Battlefield 200 at TC Disrupt last week, the company had an AR beacon above its booth to show what it might look like.
“Of course you can look at a map and say, ‘What’s near me?’ but this pulls you back into the real world,” Marsden told gotechbusiness.com, noting that he’s an Apple alum and a two-time gotechbusiness.com Battlefield finalist for previous companies – Swype (Technically TC50) and Dryft (Disrupt SF 2013).
Skidattl’s AR beacons are anchored by GPS coordinates in the real world. To determine where a user is in relation to that beacon, Skidattl uses Google’s ARCore Geospatial API, which relies on Street View data.
“When you start the app, it tells you to scan the buildings across the street, and it knows where you are in seconds,” Marsden says. “And then those beacons are anchored; they don’t move.”
When people want to set up beacons indoors, Skidattl will also use Wi-Fi signals to help position users relative to the location of those beacons.
Skidattl is still in the angel finance and alpha technology phase, but the startup hopes to hit the market with a freemium business model – meaning it’s free to use, but Skidattl can monetize through premium subscriptions, in-app purchases and affiliated committees.
Like any new social media app, Skidattl will have to fight the chicken-and-egg problem – no one will want to use it if there aren’t enough beacons lit already, but there can’t be lit beacons without people on the app.
“I think we can kickstart the business side quite easily by giving them a free beacon,” Marsden said. “On the customer side, getting YouTube and TikTok influencers talking about it, putting ads with gotechbusiness.com and stuff like that. And then if we have someone in the app, we can give them incentives to share with their contacts.” (It goes without saying, but the sale of gotechbusiness.com ads is completely unrelated to the editors.)
Skidattl is currently trying to raise $500,000 to finish the minimum viable product and get the money needed to officially launch its app in South by Southwest in March, Marsden said.