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Fabric AR thinks augmented reality needs a makeover

CNET Now What explores how one startup intends to crack the code on compelling AR.

Augmented Reality has been the next big thing for years - and it still isn't. Instead, it's been on a permanent low simmer. And while that's more than has been achieved by 3D TV, folding phones and Quibi, AR needs to come to a boil before it overstays its welcome in the public's mind. Now what?

Perhaps a combination of Twitter and Foursquare, overlaid on the real world around us would do the trick. Establishing such "social AR" is the goal of Saul Garlick, CEO of AR startup Fabric, which does roughly that via any smartphone. "Users and brands can post their thoughts in an AR thought bubble that people will be able to see within a certain (physical) radius," he says. "If you want to see what other people are going through and connect with your community, you're able to do that instantly and do it in your context. It feels a lot richer."

Fabric social AR

Fabric AR allows users to place thought bubbles at their location that are viewable nearby in AR, rather than in a feed or in a map. Like many social platforms, posts are ephemeral and not permanent.


Fabric, like a lot of AR, is a little hard to describe, but Garlick is trying to position it between rote utility and absurd gimmick. "When (AR) is a utility it's, say, putting furniture in your room," as done by apps like Wayfair's. "Then there's the champagne bottle popping the top on the Eiffel Tower or bunny ears on Instagram. None of that is super-interesting to us." Instead, Fabric isn't shy about brands using the technology to interact with consumers' thought bubbles and, therefore, their real world needs. 

While Fabric offers standalone apps for iOS or Android, it has no delusions about becoming the next big destination itself, instead focusing on making its technology part of other brand's apps.

Saul Garlick had a lot of useful thoughts on the future of AR; hear them all in his conversation with CNET's Brian Cooley in the video above.


Now What is a video interview series with industry leaders, celebrities and influencers that covers trends impacting businesses and consumers amid the "new normal." There will always be change in our world, and we'll be here to discuss how to navigate it all.