AR headset company meta shutting down after assets sold to unknown company

Meta, maker of the Meta augmented reality headset, has been sold to an unknown company after a months-long struggle to keep its doors open. Next reality unearthed a legal filing last week saying that Meta’s assets had been sold. Now, Meta is confirming the news — but expressing guarded optimism about the new owners. According to both the legal filing and Meta CEO Meron Gribetz, the bank holding Meta’s debt foreclosed the company’s loan and sold all its assets. Gribetz isn’t revealing the buyer’s name, nor what it plans to do with its purchase.

According to him, Meta had “very little” input in the asset sale, which took place as the company was attempting to raise more money. And he describes the move as unexpected — the buyer had apparently expressed interest in Meta’s assets, and the bank agreed to sell them.

AR headset yole


However, Gribetz told The Verge that he was “somewhat encouraged” by the sale. “I feel like it’s a good home for the Meta assets, and that it could provide a future for them,” he said, repeatedly describing the unknown buyer as “formidable.” The buyer will supposedly keep maintaining Meta hardware and software for existing owners, though it’s unknown whether any Meta products will be sold in the future — under either the Meta name or another brand. Gribetz also couldn’t reveal whether the buyer hired any Meta employees, or how the buyer will handle an ongoing patent infringement lawsuit brought by the company Genedics.

Meta has been financially struggling since last September, when the Trump administration’s trade war with China derailed a round of funding led by a Chinese investor, forcing the company to furlough nearly all its employees. But through the end of 2018, Meta maintained a small team that continued to work on future iterations of Meta hardware. After initial reports of its shutdown last week, Meta released a statement saying it “[remained] in full operation.” And Gribetz said that Meta had around two dozen employees when its assets were sold, including some furloughed workers who had been re-hired.

Meta’s situation echoes that of Osterhout Design (ODG), another floundering augmented reality headset company. ODG announced a series of smart glasses for industrial and consumer use, but the company failed to meet shipment deadlines and reportedly spent much of 2018 looking for a potential buyer. After a deal with well-funded competitor Magic Leap allegedly fell through, it also put its assets up for sale earlier this month.


Gribetz believes that Meta is in a different position than a company like ODG. “I think we’ll see that the fate of the assets is actually a bit different between us and other parties that went in this direction, and that there may actually be a really formidable future for this,” he said.

However, he acknowledged that a number of augmented reality companies are struggling — a fact he chalks up to the cost and difficulty of developing AR hardware; the gap between hype and reality; and the extent to which AR companies have relied on Chinese investment, which has been harder to secure since the trade war. “Not only were the investors in China told not to invest in US companies, but that’s where the vast majority of the money [for AR investment] came from,” he said.

The Meta 2 headset had some technical disadvantages compared to its primary rivals, the Microsoft HoloLens and Magic Leap One. The device was tethered to a computer, it was unusually bulky, and its holographic illusions were somewhat transparent. But it had a comfortable design and a wider field of view than either of those headsets. And augmented reality remains a hot field for research and development, even as individual players have struggled. (Microsoft is expected to announce a second-generation HoloLens next month.) So it’s plausible Meta’s technology will stick around, even if the company as we know it appears to be finished.