Snapchat buys French neuroscience startup for its Spectacles AR glasses
The Snapchat group has bought a Parisian start-up that works in neuroscience and more specifically on the ability to control electronic objects through thought.
NextMind: a young company already known internationally
NextMind was founded by French neuroscientist Sid Kouider and has already participated in the annual Las Vegas tech show in 2020. It is offering a kit for developers from December 2020 that allows neural signals to be analysed using a headband to understand intentions and transcribe them into an adapted application.
To put it simply, it is possible to know when an individual "clicks" on something (by analysing their concentration on a visual element) thanks to the NextMind prototype.
At the moment this technology has little use in our society but it was intended to be integrated into video games to accompany the controls already present.
Snapchat acquires NextMind for its Spectacles
Of course, Snapchat did not buy this start-up by pure chance. Indeed, the American group wants to improve its research and projects on augmented reality. In order to offer the Spectacles to the general public, the acquisition of the start-up will allow to improve the functionalities of the Spectacles and to have a significant added value: the control of the Spectacles thanks to thoughts.
Indeed, it all makes sense when you consider that Spectacles are intended to project augmented reality and will not have any means of control (joysticks or voice commands). So, with eye tracking, Snapchat hopes to allow users to control their interface with their eyes and without their hands.
For now, this goal is being researched but we know it will be achievable in the future. It will allow Snapchat to offer a unique product since for the moment no competitor has yet talked about this technology for their AR glasses.
NextMind will therefore stop marketing its products and its entire team will join Snap while remaining based in Paris.
The race is on for the augmented reality glasses market
Snapchat has been buying up companies in recent years, but not in order to improve its social network. Indeed, if we look at the list of acquisitions, it is rather a long-term research objective and more specifically for augmented reality glasses. Thus, before NextMind, the giant bought Compound Photonics, a component manufacturer and recently WaveOptics, the supplier of the Spectacles 4 screens.
Of course, Snapchat is not the only group to position itself on the augmented reality glasses market. Indeed, we can identify Meta which is also investing a lot in this technology. Unlike Snap, it is positioning itself on a haptic glove that will allow you to control augmented reality with your hands. This glove is currently the most advanced object in terms of controlling the AR interface, but it has still not been commercialised and is in the development phase. It is by buying the start-up CTRL-Labs that Meta has been able to invest in this research since September 2019.
The metaverse in augmented reality: soon a reality
Although Meta is already talking about virtual reality metavers, for the time being AR could take an important place in our daily life. This is why many companies are focusing on augmented reality in order not to miss an opportunity. Indeed, AR glasses are the ultimate proof since they will allow to replace smartphones and to offer a better experience in augmented reality and thus a qualitative metaverse.
For example, it is now possible to buy plots of land on OVR to offer augmented reality experiences on one's property. This trend will open up a new market and become a metaverse in its own right.