Snap Acquires British AI Startup to Boost its AR Features
The startup company behind the social media app Snapchat has acquired a British AI startup with the aim of enhancing its augmented reality features.
Snap acquired the British AI startup Ariel AI that was founded in 2018 by former Facebook and Google researchers in London including former CTO George Papandreou and Chief Executive Iasonas Kokkinos. The startup focuses on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for better augmented reality.
The startup’s website describes the use of AI technology for simulating human 3D perception in real-time on a smartphone. According to the startup, its technology should enable the next-generation of smartphone augmented reality.
News of the acquisition was first reported by Business Insider.
Before its acquisition by Snap, Ariel AI had raised $1.1 million from investors. Snap did not comment on how much the acquisition was worth but according to CNBC, the deal is probably in “single-digit millions.”
Ariel AI has been working in the area of AI called computer vision used, in developing AR features. A YouTube demo on the company’s website shows its AI technology is capable of rendering a 3D model of a person in real-time. This model can be put into some useful real-life applications such as immersive gaming and clothes try-ons.
In a statement, Snap said that Ariel AI’s team have now joined the social media company’s computer vision team based in London.
Ariel’s 12 engineers have now been tasked with making a “smarter” Snapchat camera and also enhancing its AR experiences that enable Snapchat users to interact with the real world.
Snap also revealed that the team’s work will be focused on understanding the geometry, semantics as well as more of what is in the camera’s field of view.
The leading social media companies such as Facebook and TikTok are currently in the race to build some of the most sophisticated augmented reality experiences for their user-base. These experiences are varied, ranging from dog ears that users can superimpose on their heads to other special effects.
The recent years have seen U.S. tech giants acquiring various British Artificial Intelligence startups. In 2014, Google acquired DeepMind for a reported $600 million while Twitter acquired Magic Pony Technology for $150 million. Facebook also acquired Bloomsbury AI in a deal that was valued at $30 million.
Last November, Snap acquired the startup Voisey that built an app which enabled users to overlay their voices on short music.