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Snap Buys UK Tech Startup Ariel AI, Signaling Push Into AR

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology company Ariel AI has been acquired by Snap. Ariel AI had been concentrating on a type of AI called computer vision, which is used to develop augmented reality (AR) functionalities, CNBC reported.

Ariel AI had landed $1.1 million in investments before the Snap deal, CNBC reported, citing Crunchbase.

Snap told the outlet that the AR startup’s workforce became part of its computer vision personnel in London at the end of last year. Ariel AI’s engineers have been put to work making the Snapchat camera “smarter” and enhancing AR experiences for Snapchat users.

Ariel AI was established in the U.K. in 2018 by ex-Facebook and ex-Google research scientists, including CTO George Papandreou and CEO Iasonas Kokkinos.

An online video demonstrates how the firm’s technology can render a 3D model representing a live individual, which can be used to test the fit of clothing in addition to gaming purposes, according to the report.

Companies such as Facebook and TikTok have been competing to build out intricate AR experiences and special effects.

The news comes as virtual reality (VR) and AR are beginning to make larger gains in the retail world. For example, commerce operators like Timberland and Macy’s are demonstrating how to leverage VR-equipped smart mirrors for tasks like checkout and product testing.

In addition, clothing sellers like The North Face and Tommy Hilfiger are using VR-enabled headsets to offer 360-degree outdoor views in the center of the mall as a means of enticing shoppers to purchase products.

The proliferation of AR and VR technology is not only for brick-and-mortar retailers online shopping companies are getting into the game, too. Moreover, the number of VR users globally increased to 171 million in 2018.

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