Snap Incorporates WaveOptics in $500 Million Deal to Enhance AR Glasses


Technology giant Snap is set to take over the augmented reality firm WaveOptics, shelling out an impressive sum exceeding $500 million. The acquisition targets the company that supplies crucial display technology for Snap’s latest venture in AR eyewear. The agreement stipulates that Snap will compensate the price through stocks immediately and has the option to settle the remainder either in cash or additional stock in a span of two years.

The strategic move by Snapchat signals a growing conviction among major tech entities that augmented reality eyewear will soon see a rise in consumer interest. Tech juggernauts like Google, Apple, and Facebook are all developing ventures in AR eyewear initiatives.

Originating in Oxford and founded by ex-BAE Systems employees, WaveOptics has expanded its reach from the UK, to the US, China, and Taiwan. Since its inception in 2014, it has successfully raised around $60 million backed by investors such as Bosch and Octopus Ventures. Upon the completion of the acquisition, WaveOptics’s team of approximately 125 will function under the direction of Steen Strand, the chief of Snap’s hardware arm.

Snap WaveOptics Acquisition

Image Credit: WaveOptics.

WaveOptics specializes in developing the waveguides and projectors that are essential for AR glasses. Their technology minimizes the physical footprint and the processing demands required to present images, which allows for a more dynamic and practical design.

Evan Spiegel, Snap’s co-founder and CEO, remarked that the alliance between the two companies had been pivotal in refining the glass used for AR glasses and the projectors that channel the images onto them.

“Crafting such advanced and intricate components takes substantial time and effort. The aim is to enhance brightness and visual scope, as well as to slim the weight making the glasses more comfortable to wear,” he explained.

Snap has unveiled its latest AR spectacles — featuring WaveOptics’s tech — to a group of AR creators for testing. The glasses offer a visual field of 26.3 degrees, but there’s a limitation: the battery sustains only half an hour of use, and the spectacles weigh 134 grams — which is notably heavier than standard glasses.

A spokesperson for Snap divulged to The Verge that WaveOptics will continue its operations, supplying waveguides to various companies, alongside working with Snap to develop specialized optical systems.

Market leaders like Google and Apple are gearing up to unleash their own AR glasses, developing proprietary waveguide technology. Google, which first introduced Google Glass in 2013, has revitalized efforts in waveguide technology, while Apple acquired the holographic waveguide creator Akonia in 2018, with rumors of an imminent AR headset launch. Facebook, steered by CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of transforming our relationship with technology, is also forging ahead with its waveguide tech for AR glasses.

Recently, Snap has been aggressively expanding its portfolio, having acquired a trio of startups including Fit Analytics, Pixel8Earth, and StreetCred since the year’s start.

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