The Block Party Goes Virtual with Fabric's AR App

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

The Block Party Goes Virtual with Fabric's AR App
  • The pandemic has given Fabric an opening to grow as it promotes virtual hangouts
  • Fabric is targeting sports teams and other businesses trying to build community

The coronavirus ended weekend parties and random gatherings. Fabric's augmented reality social app wants to revive them with virtual hangouts.

The L.A.-based augmented reality startup has raised $1 million to connect users that are in the same neighborhood or building through their app, allowing them to share an approximate location and what they are seeing.

The idea behind the app is to create community by letting users watch a game together while they all comment on the platform. It's a cross between Twitter and FourSquare with AR sprinkled in.

It's a second pivot for the startup founded in 2018 by two friends who wanted to "repair the social fabric," co-founder and co-CEO Saul Garlick told dot.LA.

Users can interact and communicate with one another at sporting venues, trade shows and other live events, providing some virtual closeness. The idea is to make those close to each other feel like they're in one big online gathering.

With the new funding, Fabric's Israel-based development team and L.A. founders will focus on enhancing features that allow businesses and users to build community at a time when in-person interaction is put on pause.

Rather than building its own networks from scratch, Fabric offers tech for communities that already exist, like the social network Bildbord. Garlick said the company will be targeting major sports leagues within the coming weeks.

"Seeing somebody else's thoughts around you in augmented reality is kind of like people being able to hold up a sign of what they're interested in or think about, to compel you to make in-person connection," Garlick said.

Fabric's technology works like a comic strip, says Garlick. App users can post updates or questions to a public feed, disclosing how far away each user is. While others can comment on your post, there isn't a 'follow' or 'friend' feature.

"So much of the use of AR today has been focused on augmented media. Like adding bunny ears to my face, or popping a champagne bottle on the top of the Eiffel Tower. In the life of AR, that makes things a little more interesting. But it doesn't change the game."

The startup is also developing Second Screen, a feature for users streaming TV or videos to read posts from other viewers or promoted content from the content creator.

    The recent funding round was led by Win Churchill — an early investor in Waze — and other investors including Ford Seeman, Julie Zwissler, Shai Robkin and others.

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