Technology

After the Smartphone: The Race for the Next Big Thing – The Wall Street Journal

A man wearing Magic Leap VR glasses tries out a Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle at the Panasonic exhibit at CES 2019 in Las Vegas this week.
A man wearing Magic Leap VR glasses tries out a Harley-Davidson LiveWire electric motorcycle at the Panasonic exhibit at CES 2019 in Las Vegas this week. Photo: robyn beck/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

As the smartphone market matures, startups are racing to predict what’s next, and venture-capital firms are spraying money into fields like virtual reality, smart watches and even implants in the brain. Here are some of the startups attracting investment.

Magic Leap

Investors including Google parent Alphabet Inc. and Saudi Arabia’s main wealth fund have poured money into this much-hyped maker of augmented-reality glasses. The bugeye-like glasses with tinted lenses—released only to software developers thus far—overlay virtual reality-like images onto the real world, designed for use by gamers and neurosurgeons alike. Early reviews have been lukewarm. Funds raised: $2.4 billion. Latest Valuation: $6.4 billion, according to PitchBook Inc.

Focals by North

Priced at $999, Focals by North represents a less flashy but potentially more practical version of futuristic glasses. The glasses, released last fall, can display directions, texts and other simple displays by beaming hologram-like images into eyes. Funds raised: $140 million.

Paradromics

Many startups are diving into brain-computer interface tech, where
a device reads neurons firing in the user’s brain and translates those messages into information that can be processed by a computer. Such startups are largely medically focused, such as Austin-based Paradromics, which aims to build a nickel-sized, cortex-connected device that could control prosthetics or send vision signals to a blind person. These uses are still years away, but many in the field hope that broader uses could follow. Funds raised: $25 million.

Zoox

Is the self-driving car the new smartphone? Much of Silicon Valley is obsessed with the autonomous car’s potential as a digital platform. While Alphabet’s Waymo and major automakers are working on their own products by retrofitting existing cars, Bay Area-based startup Zoox Inc. is trying to build an autonomous car from the ground up—one that might not include a steering wheel. Funds raised: $790 million. Latest valuation: $3.2 billion.

Write to Eliot Brown at eliot.brown@wsj.com

Appeared in the January 12, 2019, print edition as ‘The Next Big Thing.’

Source : Google News

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