Snap announced the latest version of its augmented reality glasses from Spectacles yesterday, and today the company announced more news: It is also acquiring the startup that supplied the technology that powers them. The Snapchat parent grabs WaveOptics, an AR startup that makes the waveguides and projectors used in AR glasses. These overlaid virtual images on top of the real world views someone with glasses can see, and Snap worked with WaveOptics to create the latest version of Spectacles.
The deal was first reported by The Verge, and a Snap spokesman directly confirmed the details to .. Snap is paying over $ 500 million for the startup in a cash-and-stock deal. The first half of this will come in the form of shares when the deal is officially closed, and the rest will be payable in cash or shares in two years.
This is a big jump for WaveOptics, which has raised around $ 65 million from investors like Bosch, Octopus Ventures and a variety of individuals from Stan Boland (veteran entrepreneur in the UK, most recently at FiveAI) and Ambarish Mitra (the co-founder of the early AR Startups Blippar). PitchBook estimates the most recent valuation was only around $ 105 million.
WaveOptics was founded in Oxford and, to the best of our knowledge, will continue to be based in the UK.
We have been reporting on the company since its earliest days when it showed off some very interesting, early and contemporary technologies: waveguides based on hologram physics and photonic crystals. Most important and important is that the technology drastically compresses the size and utilization of the hardware needed to process and display images, which means a much wider and more flexible range of form factors for AR hardware based on WaveOptics technology .
It’s not clear if WaveOptics will continue to work with other parties after the deal, but it seems an obvious advantage for Snap is making the startup’s technology exclusive to itself.
Snap has been on an acquisition march recently – at least three other acquisitions have been made by startups since January, including Fit Analytics for an AR-supported entry into e-commerce and Pixel8Earth and StreetCred for its mapping tools.
However, this deal marks Snap’s largest acquisition to date in terms of valuation. Not only is this a token of the premium price the technology continues to charge for basic artificial intelligence – in addition to the team of scientists who developed WaveOptics, it also has 12 patents pending and pending – but Snap’s financial and pending price tag as well frankly existential patents obligation to have a seat at the table when it comes to not just social apps that use AR but hardware as well, and to be the focus of not just using the technology but the pace and agenda for it determine how and where this should take place.
It was a persistent and not always worthwhile place, but the company that has long referred to itself as the “camera company” has kept hardware in the mix as an integral part of its future strategy.