Dekko In A Box: Justin Timberlake Follows MySpace Investment With AR Tech Play

Fresh from injecting cash into a reviving MySpace, JT’s also pushed money into augmented reality firm Dekko. It’s in stealth mode, but here’s what we know.


Dekko is a stealth startup that’s being funded by early-stage venture firm Venture51–and now Justin Timberlake. Not bad for a firm that was only founded in May. There’s a Twitter feed (empty), a Facebook page (“We have our first 20 Likes.. yippy”) and a website that seems to be disconnected right now. So…stealthy, indeed!


Timberlake invested cash in MySpace only a few months back, explaining that he wanted to help “revitalize” the ailing social network to “bring artists and fans together in one community.” That’s something we thought was happening more and more on Twitter, but at least we can get the connection to Timberlake’s day job as an international music superstar/budding thespian. Dekko, on the other hand, seems like a more mysterious choice.

Here’s what it is intending to do:

“…pull back the curtain that separates the online world from the real world. No longer will we need to rely on text, icons, lists or maps to experience what is right in front of us. We will see and interact with characters from parallel universes walking amongst us. We believe that mobile, social and local services should not only bring you real benefit, but should also be fun.”

And there’s more:

We believe that the more visually engaging a medium is, the more it will supersede prior mediums. We believe a picture paints a thousand words, that what we see we remember, but when we do we understand. Dekko is building a platform combining technology from several domains including the military, computer vision, research labs, gaming and mobile services to change the way you look at the world.

The idea would seem to be an augmented reality system that sounds closer to the kind you may have seen in manga cartoons or sci-fi movies than the limited “hold your smartphone at arms length in front of you” type that we have today. There’s mention of social, so presumably you’ll be able to identify other members through the system, who would otherwise look unremarkable to un-augmented eyes in a crowd. Local services are in the mix too, so we can expect handy hints to the nearest Wendy’s or metro station. And “characters from parallel universes” and “fun” kinda suggests that the AR world Dekko is imagining may have some element of fictional characters interspersed with real reality.

There’s also much emphasis on the visual nature of the idea, and imaging tech from gaming and military domains. So perhaps instead of the very text-based AR systems we’ve had till now, Dekko’s planning a more intuitive graphical interface, possibly married to tech like the AR goggles from firms like Vuzix–that actually superimpose extra data over your view of the real world.


That’s all speculation, of course. But “dekko” is British slang, most commonly associated with an older era of private school speak, that means to “take a look” with your eyes–usually at something interesting or important (fictional air ace Biggles took “dekkos” to look for enemy planes)…and this does align with the bits and bobs of info from Dekko’s web presence. Meanwhile cofounder Matt Miesnieks has a “strong technical product background” according to his LinkedIn profile, and was previously head of customer development at Netherlands-based Layar–one of the most promising AR browsers on smartphones at the moment. And the other founder Anthony Maes seems to have a serious background in coding, including developing games for Layar. (We’ve emailed Dekko for more information and will update this post as soon as we hear back from the company.)

How could this square with Timberlake’s plans? He may be just a tech fan, but one with shrewd insight that Dekko may turn into something very interesting. And of course it’s easy to imagine how a graphically rich AR experience could enhance a super high-tech music video or future performance piece.

[Image: Flickr user doctabu]

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I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise. I've also got a PhD, and worked in such roles as professional scientist and theater technician...thankfully avoiding jobs like bodyguard and chicken shed-cleaner (bonus points if you get that reference!)