Snap Inc. to Acquire WaveOptics, Announces Updated Smart Glasses

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Snap Inc., the maker of the Snapchat app, will acquire the Prism Award-winning British AR technology company WaveOptics. The $500 million acquisition is Snap’s largest to date. It aims to strengthen the company’s position in the AR eyewear market. The acquisition follows the company’s 2014 purchase of smartglasses maker Vergence Labs.

Snap also announced the fourth generation of its “Spectacles” product, for which WaveOptics is providing 3D waveguide displays. The product features dual displays with a 26.3° diagonal field of view. Two RGB cameras bring in information from the environment, which is then processed and interpreted via Lens Studio, Snap’s application designed for AR creators and developers to build and distribute “Lenses.”

WaveOptics, which won its second Prism Award in 2021 (in the Vision Technology category), is a developer and manufacturer of optical waveguides for augmented reality (AR) hardware. The company’s transparent optical waveguides offer a wide field of view for full-color near-eye AR displays. Light is transmitted along the waveguide via total internal reflection toward the output region where it is guided toward the eye. This process is known as 2D pupil expansion and allows a small light engine to support a large eye box (the display portion of the lens), enabling devices using the technology to be small and light, while also accommodating different head sizes and eye separations.

Snap Looks Ahead

The latest acquisition comes as Snap continues to add computer vision-oriented features to its most widely used product, the Snapchat app. The “Scan” feature allows users to use their camera to identify objects and to interpret the visual environment and apply visually relevant AR features.

The “Scan” application is also a prominent feature in Spectacles, and can be activated with a dedicated button on one of the glasses’ arms. The product uses stereoscopic vision to deliver better functionality than that delivered by the single lens view of smartphone and tablet cameras that use Scan. Information gathered through Scan with the Spectacles product is displayed via WaveOptics 3D waveguide displays, which are capable of 2000 nits of brightness, enabling their use in a broad range of lighting conditions.

Currently the product is only available to developers. Previous iterations of the device, which featured noticeably more fashion-focused designs, have been available to the public in a limited capacity.

Published: May 2021
augmented reality
Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that integrates digital information, typically in the form of computer-generated graphics, images, or data, with the real-world environment in real-time. AR enhances the user's perception of the physical world by overlaying or combining digital content onto the user's view of the real world, often through devices like smartphones, tablets, smart glasses, or specialized AR headsets. Key features and principles of augmented reality: Real-time...
computer vision
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