riel AI, a British artificial intelligence start-up which focuses on augmented reality, has been acquired by Snap, the parent company of Snapchat. 

Prior to the acquisition, Ariel AI raised $1.1 million in funding from investors. The start-up was founded in London in 2018 by a group of 12 former Google and Facebook research scientists including Chief Technology Officer George Papandreou and Chief Executive Iasonas Kokkinos. The news comes as no surprise as Snap continues to develop their augmented reality offering and was confirmed by CNBC and Snap themselves on Tuesday. 

The start-up has been focusing its efforts on a part of AI known as computer vision, used to develop augmented reality features. Ariel AI’s website claims that its software allows “3D human perception” in real time and that it can be used to power “the next generation of consumer experiences on mobile devices.” In a recent interview with CNBC, Snap confirmed that Ariel AI’s team joined its computer vision team in London at the end of 2020.

The Ariel team has been tasked with enhancing the Snapchat camera, making it smarter and improving the quality of the augmented reality experience which allows Snapchatters to engage with the real world. The work will consist of understanding geometry, semantics and more of what is in the field of view of the camera.

AI investor at Air Street Capital, Nathan Benaich spoke with CNBC about the acquisition, stating he wasn’t surprised that Snap bought Ariel AI, especially due to their focus on  on-device 3D mesh building in a snappy and battery efficient way with a use case in AR. He also noted that Snap probably also bought the company for the talent that it has across its workforce considering social media platforms are racing to develop the most sophisticated AR experiences for their users.

Jan 28, 2021
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