Facebook has recently purchased a London-based start-up called Scape Technologies. Facebook has a 75 percent control over the London-based location precision company, there are speculations that the deal could be for $40 million based on other filings.
Scape Technologies was founded in 2016 and work on developing a visual positioning service that will build on computer vision and offer developers capabilities far beyond the scope of normal GPS technology. This technology was initially targeted at augmented reality apps but also had the potential to be used to power applications in mobility, logistics and robotics. Scape also wanted any machine equipped with a camera to be able to identify its surroundings. Currently, they have a staff of roughly 50 people working out of their London offices.
The firm was founded by Edward Miller its CEO and its CTO Huub Heijnen. Miller previously co-founded the start-up Medical Realities which designs virtual reality programmes for training medical students. He had also created the world’s first 360-degree news documentary designed for virtual reality, which covered the Hong Kong protests.
Scape Technologies have designed an SDK called ‘ScapeKit’ which helps developers provide a device with accurate geolocation measurements using computer vision. The firm has built a ‘Vison Engine’ that allows them to build and reference 3D augmented maps in the cloud so that any device can connect and view AR image that are anchored to the same point that they, or a different user, has placed it.
Scape’s technology is about creating a 1:1 digital representation of the physical world, it’s as much a mapping company as an AR startup. It’s seeking to build a platform for the next-generation of “spatial-computing devices,” which includes wearables, vehicles and other devices. Scape wants to make any physical location or place capable of displaying AR content. The challenge has been location precision. Scape has created 3D renderings of the world with location precision that doesn’t rely on current location technologies like GPS. The company claims its visual-positioning system “provides centimetre – level location recognition at a previously unprecedented scale.”
Two Facebook representatives have now replaced Scape’s previous venture capital representatives on the board. Facebook could integrate Scape Technologies’ SDK and engines into their own existing VR and AR technology, in some way or form. If Scape’s visual position service is as accurate as they claim, it could be extremely useful in Facebook’s headsets that use cameras to provide inside-out tracking to determine the player’s position. This deal is the latest in a long line of purchases by Facebook to strengthen its AR and VR position. It could also use Scape for offline attribution in places were Scape has built out its mapping infrastructure. The technology could also enable Facebook to create new mapping and local search applications that it has so far not been able to build.
Facebook could be viewed as a potential competitor, or partner to companies like Google, Mapbox etc. Google is testing visual positioning as an alternative to GPS. AR is still a rapidly developing technology. It offers unlimited possibilities to companies. It can help solve a lot of problems that have come up because of the mass media. We are excited to discover how Facebook will use Scape’s technology.