21st Century Fox leads $58M investment in mobile AR/VR smartglasses maker Osterhout Design Group

ODG's R-7 smartglasses. Image: ODG

21st Century Fox reiterated its interest in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) by opening its pocketbook for Osterhout Design Group, a startup that is working to develop sunglasses for the consumer market that can display AR and VR content.

Specifically, 21st Century Fox acted as the principal outside investor and strategic partner for ODG’s Series A venture funding round that raised a total of $58 million. Shenzhen O-film Tech Co., Vanfund Urban Investment & Development Co. and “several individual investors” also participated in the round.

ODG’s CEO Ralph Osterhout promised the funding round would aid the company’s efforts to break into the consumer market with its products, adding that the company plans to show off its latest models at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in January in Las Vegas.

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“People are realizing the potential for mass adoption of high-end mobile devices with the power to transform and simplify their lives. This funding round, our first ever, ensures we are well positioned to introduce our latest designs at CES ‘17, which will likely form the largest category of smartglasses worldwide,” Osterhout said in a release from the company.

Related: VR technologies to draw big focus at IBC 2016

Interestingly, as Recode pointed out, Osterhout got his start years ago building props for James Bond films. He then founded ODG in 1999 to initially build night vision and smart glasses for business and military users. Since 2011, the company has been working to build consumer-friendly products.

Earlier this year, 21st Century Fox announced it would acquire a minority stake in ODG to combine “ODG’s revolutionary technologies with 21st Century Fox’s industry leading content and storytelling.” Terms of the investment weren’t disclosed, but Fox CEO Jim Gianopulos said at the time in a release that “the power of virtual and augmented reality enables us to deliver on our longstanding commitment to bring audiences exciting new creative experiences fueled by next generation technologies.”

It’s unclear what ODG might announce at the upcoming CES trade show, but the company’s current ODG R-7 smartglasses offer a range of high-end features and sell for around $2,750. Specifically, the glasses sport “dual high-definition stereoscopic see-through displays for integrated processing of 3D visualization, display, and interaction with elements and objects,” according to a Frost & Sullivan report (PDF) on the gadget promoted by ODG.

The glasses are powered by a 1300mAH lithium-ion battery and run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805 processor with Google’s Android Kit Kat operating system. The result, according to the company, is a product that allows the user to view a full VR scenario or to overlay virtual objects into a real environment.

Of course, ODG isn’t the only company playing in the VR and AR field, nor is 21st Century Fox the only media company investing in the space. As Variety pointed out, Comcast has invested in Meta and NextVR, while Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment have invested in VR and AR firm Magic Leap. DirecTV, the NFL, YouTube and others have also offered various services and content in the VR space.

Indeed, JPMorgan Securities predicted the VR market will be worth $13.5 billion by 2020.

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