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Snap Inc to Acquire AR Firm WaveOptics

CIO Insider Team | Saturday, 22 May, 2021

Snap Inc., a camera company, announced that it would pay over $500 million to complete the purchase of WaveOptics Ltd, a British augmented reality (AR) technology company. Snap, along with other tech titans like Facebook and Apple, is preparing to develop augmented reality systems as the next technological frontier after the smartphone.

The deal, first stated by The Verge and verified by a Snap spokesperson, would help Snap, the owner of the photo messaging app Snapchat, make its way into a future where augmented reality eyewear might be commonplace.

AR eyewear's vision is that it would enable users to digitally see route directions in front of them, or information about a landmark in their immediate vicinity.

Snap recently introduced a new version of its Spectacles glasses with two built-in cameras, two speakers, and four microphones, making it the first to incorporate AR.

Snap said it would pay half of the US$500 million in stock at closing and the other half in cash or stock for the next two years.

The new Spectacles feature dual waveguide displays that can overlay AR effects created with Snapchat's software. Four built-in microphones, two stereo speakers, and a built-in touchpad are included in the frame. Front-facing cameras assist the glasses in detecting objects and surfaces you're looking at, allowing graphics to communicate with the environment more naturally.

These Spectacles, on the other hand, are not yet ready for mass consumption. Snap is really not selling them, unlike previous ones. Instead, it will distribute them to an unspecified number of AR effects developers through an online application program.

According to CEO, Evan Spiegel, the aim is to get a small percentage of the 200,000 people who already create AR effects on Snapchat to try their hand at designing experiences for the new Spectacles.

However, since augmented reality is already a major part of the Snapchat platform, Snap is well on its way to getting dozens of new convincing augmented reality applications. Snapchat users can already use AR on their phones to do things like buy, create video and picture filters, and more.

With the release of its third-generation Spectacles in 2019, Snap, which bills itself as a camera company, began heading more toward AR. A second camera was added to that model to detect depth in images, enabling more sophisticated effects to be implemented later. They lacked, however, displays.

Snap said it would pay half of the US$500 million in stock at closing and the other half in cash or stock for the next two years.

The latest fourth generation of Spectacles comes from Snap Lab, the company's secretive hardware division, which is also working on a camera drone. They weigh 134 grams, which is more than double the previous version but significantly less than Microsoft's Hololens AR headset. They are built to be worn indoors or outdoors, with a display brightness of up to 2,000 nits, a simple tradeoff that favors display richness over battery life.

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