Walking in the Flats one afternoon in 2035, one stops to activate a link visible through augmented reality glasses. The link could lead to a d. a. levy poem, Cleveland Magazine article or video from last night’s Music Box Supper Club show, but it’s powered by Montre Augmentaverse, the Cleveland-grown augmented reality app that's bringing media-sharing to the next tier.
This is the vision of Montre co-founders Ike Dawson, Cambron Jones and Stephen Prewitt. While waiting for Apple to release its rumored AR eyewear, the company plans to integrate digital real estate, avatars adorned by an online retail registry and multiplayer AR games within the augmentaverse.
Best illustrated in 2016 with "Pokemon Go," AR transposes digital items onto the physical world. Montre is the first AR app that allows users to share non-preset objects, including audio, within a 150-square-foot radius.
Dawson, Jones and Prewitt first met at the University of Akron 15 years ago, bonding over Jay-Z albums and video games. Interested in virtual reality but deterred by its cumbersome headsets, Jones began to dabble in AR, eventually programming an AR drawing app.
On a Saturday in April 2021, the University of Akron '06 alumni crowded a table in the student center, trying to fit in with the young blood. Jones pitched the app to Dawson and Prewitt and its evolution began. The trio put $800 into the project. In August 2021, Montre launched in Apple’s app store.
According to Fortune Business Insights, AR is estimated to be worth $97.7 billion by 2028. By 2030, Grand View Research predicts $597.5 billion. Jones doesn’t scoff at the projections, especially after the explosion of social media. Augmentaverse remains a fluid concept — Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is actively defining the Metaverse. Montre’s largest challenge is explaining its revolutionary app.
“We can’t say, ‘Oh, it’s like Instagram’ or ‘It’s like Facebook,’ because it’s not,” Jones says. “If people have a hard time understanding what you’re doing, that means that it hasn’t been done yet. People only understand what has already been done.”
Montre’s namesake — meaning “watch” or “show” in French — alludes to this point.
While an Android version of the app is an overdue, smaller step for the next year, Jones is most excited to launch digital real estate.
The most turbulent, albeit fascinating, aspect of the augmentaverse, digital real estate charges a user for control of a cyber area. Montre users could upload as they please, but the owner of the digital space would have the power to monitor undesired content. (Think Pepsi buying a city block and deleting Coca-Cola ads from its Pepsi-controlled area.) Jones envisions rates for the digital spaces could be set based on popularity or time of day.
Without fees or gatekeepers, Dawson says he hopes the name Montre will one day be synonymous with free expression. Montre's AR art shows at Re:Bar in November 2021 and FutureLAND in October 2022 proved, with Montre, artists can host shows virtually anywhere.
But until 2035, we’ll just have montre.
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