Chinese giant Alibaba acquires Israeli artificial reality startup
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Chinese giant Alibaba acquires Israeli artificial reality startup

25-person team of Ramat-Gan based Infinity Augmented Reality Israel will become part of Alibaba’s R&D center in Israel

Alibaba founder Jack Ma speaks during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Alibaba founder Jack Ma speaks during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has acquired Israeli startup Infinity Augmented Reality Israel Ltd., a Ramat-Gan based maker of artificial reality technologies, marking the second acquisition for the Chinese firm in Israel.

Details of the deal were not disclosed, but TheMarker financial website estimated it at a few million dollars.

Infinity has developed a technology that allows app developers to provide augmented reality (AR) applications in wearables and mobile devices, providing users with what the firm says is a rich AR experience and a natural and intuitive user interface.

The startup was founded in 2012 and has to date raised some $25.5 million from investors including Alibaba, Israeli VC Singulariteam, and Japan’s Sun Corporation, which develops devices and software for mobile phones, according to the database of Start-Up Nation Central, which tracks the industry. The founders are Matan Protter and Motti Kushnir.

Alibaba will merge the 25 workers of Infinity with its existing R&D team in Israel at its Machine Vision Laboratory, bringing the number at the R&D center to 50, TheMarker said. Alibaba’s Tel Aviv-based R&D center focuses mainly on artificial intelligence and computer vision technologies.

The Chinese giant, whose market value is some $457 billion, made its first foray into the Israeli startup market in 2015 when it acquired Visualead, a Tel Aviv-based startup specializing in developing “designer” quick response codes. Later that year it partnered with Israeli venture capital firm JVP to invest in multiple Israeli tech startups. It has also invested in Israeli startups such as Twiggle, Infinity, Lumus and ThetaRay. The firm set up a hub in Tel Aviv as part of a $15 billion global R&D program.

“Alibaba’s expertise in turning technologies into next generation products will be a great platform for the future technologies of computer vision, AR and AI,” said Kushnir, the CEO and co-founder of Infinity in a statement posted on the Israeli firm’s website.

Prof. Lihi Zelnik-Manor, head of Alibaba Israel Machine Vision Laboratory, said that Alibaba has been working in partnership with the Infinity team for the past three years. The team “brings unique knowhow in sensor fusion, computer vision and navigation technologies. We look forward to exploring these leading technologies and offering additional benefits to customers, partners and developers.”

Over the past year, the Alibaba lab has been partnering with Tel Aviv University to advance studies in video analysis and machine learning, the statement said.

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