Lehi-based augmented reality tech company brings businesses into the metaverse

It's happened to many of us before: After ordering something online, the product that's delivered to your doorstep is not what you expected. Maybe it's too big, too small or just doesn't look like how it was online.

But there's a Lehi-based tech company that can help.

SeekXR and its augmented reality capabilities allows for consumers to simply scan a QR code and that couch you've been eying or a new desk can appear in your living room through the screen of your smartphone.

Though much of the company's business deals with this type of augmented reality, Seek's founder and CEO Jon Cheney said the company has an eye geared toward another realm of potential tech and business: the metaverse.

Cheney said that the company is aiming to deal more in the metaverse as demand grows. Cheney said the metaverse can "be as simple as just viewing a product on your phone or your screen to a full-on game that is fully immersive, whether that's on a computer or on a (virtual reality) headset."

The metaverse — a term increasingly thrown around and the focus of expansion by tech giants like Facebook and Google — can mean different things to different users. Digital services like the video game Fortnite and virtual world the Sandbox can be described as metaverse platforms where users can buy and sell digital goods or attend online events like concerts, among other experiences.

As companies in tech and other industries look to enter this new space of tech, Cheney said Seek is an asset for businesses looking to tap into the emerging market for businesses looking to expand its reach through augmented reality or expand into the tech realm of the metaverse.

"We can help any brand or company onboard into the metaverse ... in a way that starts to interact with their customers in a much more positive and meaningful way than was ever possible before."

'Seek and you will find'

Cheney said he didn't get into the business of augmented reality and the metaverse on purpose.

While seated in the company's new office in Lehi, he says Seek first started as Treasure Canyon, a company that put on treasure hunts where customers would pay to participate in the search. Cheney points to a treasure chest on a bookshelf in his office, explaining that it was once filled with a $10,000 prize and lugging it up a mountain to hide is no small task.

Treasure Canyon shifted in 2016 with the release of Pokemon GO, as the hugely popular app used augmented reality so users could catch their favorite Pokemon while out in their community. Cheney saw the tech in action and wanted to apply it to Treasure Canyon, which by that time had an app. The change brought a new name, too.

"We called the app Seek, like 'seek and you will find,' that's where the name came from," Cheney said, referencing a phrase that can be found in versions of the biblical books of Matthew and Luke.

Soon the company added developers to their staff, and it began moving toward augmented reality. That shift continues to the present day, as Seek continues to move toward an emphasis on extended reality, or XR, which Cheney said can be more broadly defined as the metaverse.

Augmented reality as a consumer tool

As of now, the bulk of Seek's business, Cheney said, is driven by its ability to take its client's products and allow a user to visualize the item in real time.

In his Lehi office, Cheney calls up a QR code on his laptop. He scans the black-and-white box with his smartphone, and moments later a 3D model of a Nespresso coffee machine appears.

"I actually don't drink coffee, so I don't really know what this is, but it looks really nice," Cheney, a Brigham Young University graduate, said with a laugh.

On his phone screen using its camera, the model can be placed and moved around the room, giving a true-to-size comparison of what the product would look like if it was actually in the room.

Jon Cheney, CEO of Lehi tech company Seek, talks about the company and where they hope to take it, during an interview on Monday.
Jon Cheney, CEO of Lehi tech company Seek, talks about the company and where they hope to take it, during an interview on Monday. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

For Cheney, a personal favorite use of Seek's technology is with Lego, the popular children's building block toy. In Walmart stores, Seek's tech powers QR codes found near Legos in the toy aisle. Users just have to scan the code, and moments later, "the Lego set would come to life right before you," Cheney said.

The augmented reality Seek employs can be used for a variety of products: viewing Lego sets in a store, putting a coffee machine in your kitchen, or seeing if a shelf fits in your child's room.

Cheney says that employing this level of tech can be hugely profitable for retailers, adding that Nestle, Nespresso's parent company and the largest food company in the world, reported its sales conversion rate tripled on products with Seek's 3D assets.

Instead of requiring users to download an app, the visualization is done through a smartphone's web browser, making the experience more accessible and able to be viewed quickly. That's a key to the user's experience, Cheney said.

"I think that's really, really important for businesses that are trying to put these types of experiences in front of their customers, it has to be easy," he said.

"Don't make them download an app, don't make them sign into an account, don't make the process complicated so they have to learn something new. Just one click, and you're up and running."

Growth focused on the metaverse

Though much of Seek's business is focused on commerce, Cheney's sights are set on the future and bringing brands into the metaverse, specifically combining Seek's handling of 3D assets and blockchain technology to allow users to utilize NFTs in their preferred platform.

NFT, which stands for non-fungible tokens, are unique, digital pieces of art that can be in the form of photos, videos or audio. Unlike the more prevalent types of NFTs online that resemble pieces of artwork and often sell for large amounts of money, Cheney says Seek's NFT vision has a more tangible use in the metaverse.

If you wanted your character in Fortnite to don a Utah Jazz jersey, you would be able to use Seek's capabilities to buy an NFT of that jersey and place it on your avatar (so long as a copyright holder would allow such an item to be minted into that platform for use).

Using blockchain technology, a user would be able to verify the transaction and provide proof of ownership, Cheney said. The same NFT can be sold using the technology as well.

Cheney expects Seek to continue its quick growth, which is one of the reasons the company has resisted being purchased by larger groups shelling out eight-figure offers. As of now, Cheney said Seek's latest valuation at which they've raised capital is around $130 million.

That growth is expected to be in the NFT and blockchain side of the business, as Cheney said those aspects are expected to grow at a substantial rate. He believes the future lies in the use of this type of technology to revolutionize how everyday things, like attending a sporting event, can be enhanced.