(Editors' Note: This article covers a micro-cap stock. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.)
Imagine watching a football game from the point of view of the quarterback. During each snap, each sequence, you are seeing what he sees in real time. As he sends the ball arcing through the air, you switch to the viewpoint of the receiver as he snares the pass in the end zone. The game goes to a commercial and moments later, you alight on the top of the Eiffel Tower, the avenues intersect and diverge below, clouds ascend the twilit sky. An older couple stands beside you. The man nods. His wife smiles, her hair tossing in the wind. Birds settle in the angles of the tower's iron frame and you almost forget about the pressing, stateside matters of football. Almost. You snap back to the game and the viewpoint of the kick-returner just as he is driven to the turf by a vicious blindside hit.
Does it seem like a distant pipe dream or pricey gadget only the very wealthy can afford? You'll be relieved to hear the technology enabling users to go from an NFL field to the observation deck of one of the world's most famous landmarks in an instant is both imminent and affordable. In short, the way that we see our world and interact with it will undergo a dynamic shift that will make the dawn of the Internet seem like the dark ages. Augmented Reality (AR) is here.
Google, Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) created "Project Glass," the first platform to make augmented reality technology widely available to the public. Google leads the way, undoubtedly, but as other notable telecomm heavyweights; Qualcomm, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) and Nokia Corp. (NYSE:NOK) continue to increase their interest and investments in the field, and the value of companies who can successfully integrate commercial strategies within the platform of the new technology will see their value enhanced.
Google Undervalued with its Augmented Reality Assets
Augmented Reality offers the user a live, as in: "real-time", direct or indirect, view of a physical, actual, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. The user can interact with the real world environment via inputs generated by the platform itself. Developers will be able to overlay their own software on the Google Glass platform, enabling them to interact with consumers with an unheard focus and specificity.
As such, a leading innovator in the industry, as Seeking Alpha contributor Andy Batts promulgates, Google should have a higher valuation, solely because of initiatives with Google Glass, which is setting the pace for AR technology. Even with a gradual beta-testing process and measured introduction to consumer markets, Google Glass is and will be in the vanguard of this important and pivotal technology. Batts notes analysts and investors on the Street remain skeptical of the technology and Google's efforts to commercialize it. Individual ventures, even those undertaken by firms like Google, are bound to attract risk-takers and doubters alike. It is one thing to be skeptical of Google Glass, but, too often, the Street's jaundiced view of AR technology as a whole should not engender cautiousness in the savvy investor. Augmented Reality technology is a game-changer and in the near future, it's going to be everywhere. Individual firms, as we have noted, may struggle thanks to the natural perturbations of the market, but the technology itself will rapidly change the way many of us interact with the world around us.
Fellow contributor Joseph Harry also sees augmented reality as a potential boon for Google growth as its uber-popular search engine goes everywhere the glasses go. Harry is spot on given the steady growth curve for the $23-billion search industry (in North America alone) that Google dominates. It is self-evident that Google's upside, strong from $1138 per share, has been driven in part by its AR initiatives. Value investors are noting that mounting indicators suggest a stratospheric increase in the share price.
Other Augmented Reality Notables
Glu Mobile Inc., (NASDAQ:GLUU) formerly known as Sorrent, Inc. develops and publishes a portfolio of action/adventure and casual games for the users of smartphones and tablet devices. The company develops games based on its own brands, including Blood & Glory, Big Time Gangsta, Contract Killer, Samurai vs. Zombies Defense, and Stardom, as well as third-party licensed brands. Glu Mobile sells its products through direct-to-consumer digital storefronts. By being the only publicly traded mobile game company, Glu Mobile has the capability through its acquired hit, the "Deer Hunter" brand, which it required last year for $5 million. The company generates revenue through in-game micro-transactions consisting of $1.99 or less.
In the US, users spend upwards of 12% of content viewing time on a mobile device, and for the next several years, the mobile gaming market is expected to grow at a rate of 35% annually. In 2012, Glu Mobile delivered poor operating margins, but then took off growing its revenues by 46%. Currently trading at $4.16 per share, the company has a cash balance of about $27.7 million and no significant debt to speak of. It has a market cap of $266 million with annual revenue approaching $100 million. If the company remains on its path of timing great releases, the company expects in a year-over-year jump of 54%. With the momentum the company has been showing and the consistent popularity of mobile gaming, I recommend buying Glu Mobile now and ride the wave to new heights.
Infinity Augmented Reality, Inc. (OTCQB:ALSO), is developing the first AR software platform delivering a full AR suite that connects universally with digital eyewear, smart phones and tablets. Utilizing the Internet, the system employs a full spectrum of cutting-edge technologies such as location, image, voice and facial recognition to supply an unprecedented stream of information to the user anywhere that they are connected. Infinity AR provides users with the ability to manage email, SMS and calls with enhanced settings and control. In its simplest sense, this means wearing a pair of glasses, using voice commands to access these functions through quickly accessible commands.
The company recently launched its development of Amazing Relevance, which allows users, via Twitter feeds, social media postings, websites browsed, products ordered, common GPS locations at particular times of the day, to develop an intuitive profile of the user's preferences. For instance, the next time the user is hungry, looking to buy shoes, plan a vacation or go to a show, Amazing Relevance anticipates a digital device user's needs, and then uses that information to effectively expedite their wishes with a contextually relevant experience. This technology will revolutionize a user's life by anticipating needs which is more about the individual and less about gimmicky technology.
Additionally, Infinity AR's technology recently attracted William Hill, one of the leading European online gaming and betting businesses with more than 500,000 betting opportunities on offer every week and a full suite of gaming products, to agree to a partnership agreement with Infinity AR providing the gaming augmented reality experience.
Infinity AR is one of the most speculative augmented reality stocks, the flipside is that it can also provide great rewards. Infinity AR is a ground floor opportunity software technology that is poised to grow as augmented reality becomes the next big thing.
Himax Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ:HIMX), currently trading at $14.24, designs, develops, and markets semiconductors for flat panel displays, which provides roughly 84% of the company's revenue. However, the company's non-display driver products solutions including CMOS image sensors, liquid crystal on silicon, or LCOS, microdisplays used in head mounted displays, and touch panel controllers, is expected to provide the long term revenue for Himax. This is evident in the third quarter results for 2013 that revealed that the large panel display drivers' revenue was down 24.7% year over year, while its contribution towards total revenue declined to 29.9% from 40.2% in the third quarter of 2012. Revenue from selling small and medium sized display drivers was up 15.1% year over year, while its contribution towards total revenue was 52.1%, up from 45.8% in the third quarter of 2012.
The augmented reality tie-in for Himax kick-started when the company agreed to Google's minority investment in a subsidiary in the company's subsidiary, Himax Display), which fabricates the Liquid Crystal on Silicon chips and modules necessary for the deployment of Google Glass' head-mounted display. The augmented reality technology serves as a fuse for companies like Himax that sets profits in motion. The company's non-display driver business continued its robust growth with revenue rising 30.5% year over year in the third quarter of 2013 and the future for Google Glass and other wearable computers makes this an attractive buy at the current price.
Augmented reality opens a new world of opportunities for investors looking to capitalize on the next big technology at an early stage. Now is the time to invest in the companies that facilitate, support, and provide useful products and experiences in this next big technological advancement.