Israeli AR Startup Infinity AR Acquired by Alibaba
The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has acquired the Israeli augmented reality startup InfinityAR for an estimated $10 million according to market sources. Alibaba already held a major stake in the startup from an earlier funding round. The Israeli startup has a technology which can utilize basic hardware to transform any device into a content augmentation platform.
InfinityAR developed the technology solution which allows application developers to offer augmented reality applications in mobile devices and wearables thereby giving users a richer augmented reality experience as well as a user interface that is both natural and intuitive.
The Israeli startup was started in 2012 by Moshe Hogeg and has to date raised more than $25.5 million from a host of investors that includes Alibaba, the Japanese tech giant Sun Corporation and the Israeli venture capital firm Singulariteam.
InfinityAR will now become Alibaba’s research and development center in Israel and the Chinese e-commerce giant will merge the 25 employees at Infinity’s center in Israel with another of its existing R&D team in Israel that’s working at its Machine Vision Laboratory bringing Alibaba’s total R&D team in Israel to 50. Machine Vision Laboratory, Alibaba’s Tel Aviv-based research and development center, is mainly focused on artificial intelligence and computer vision technologies.
Alibaba is interested in the InfinityAR product since it’s an open platform that could be a game-changer in the gaming and shopping world in the not so distant future. With the cellular system about to undergo a revolution with roll-out of technologies such as 5G, augmented reality applications will gain more currency and acceptability among users and Alibaba is keen to be in a pole position in readiness for this AR revolution.
Alibaba is currently valued at $457 billion and first made its foray into the Israeli startup scene in 2015 with its acquisition of Visualead, a startup based in Tel Aviv that specializes in developing quick response codes. The Chinese e-commerce giant also partnered with the Israeli venture capital firm JVP in the same year to invest in various Israeli tech startups such as ThetaRay, Twiggle, Infinity and Lumus. As part of its $15 billion global research and development drive, the company also set up a hub in Tel Aviv.
With its vast experience in consumer-facing tech and applications, Alibaba has built the expertise over the years of transforming innovations and technologies into next generation products that can serve as a launching pad for future advancements in artificial intelligence, augmented reality and computer vision.
Alibaba has partnered with InfinityAR for the past three years. The Israeli team brings to the table vast experience and unique know-how in computer vision, sensor fusion and navigational technologies that both parties hope to explore further to unlock their benefits for their customers and developers.
InfinityAR raised $18 million in its 2016 funding round which represented 22% of the value of the startup and reflected a valuation of $80 million at the time. Alibaba invested $15 million in that funding round with Sun investing $3 million although some market sources had suggested that the acquisition had been made at a lower value.
The InfinityAR technology is capable of transforming any device into a powerful and versatile content augmentation platform with just basic and affordable software such as simple stereoscopic cameras. The Israeli startup has an advanced augmented reality SW engine which makes it possible to create accurate 3D digital representations of the current physical environment of a user. The engine also enables users to seamlessly interact with augmented reality within their physical environments just by using simple hand movements.