So far, the augmented reality (AR) consumer revolution hasn’t taken off as expected. Devices like Google Glass and others in that space proved to be too expensive and inflexible for use by most people. But a new system produced by Israel’s InfinityAR could change that, with a technology that will sharply lower the cost of AR equipment and make it easier for developers to build applications for gaming, medical research, education, and much more.
InfinityAR recently raised $5 million in a second round of funding, with money coming from Japanese SUN Corporation, a prominent player in the Japanese gaming and mobile market, New Zealand private investment fund Singulariteam Fund II, and US-based fund Platinum Partners Value Arbitrage Fund L.P.
The money will be used to fund development of devices based on InfinityAR’s solutions for the Japanese market. SUN Corporation is major player in the Pachinko industry – a form of gaming extremely popular in Japan.
The reason InfinityAR’s solutions could succeed where others have failed, said CEO Motti Kushnir, is simple: His company can bring AR devices to market for a lot less money than others have been able to. Speaking at a recent event on machine vision technology in Tel Aviv, Kushnir described InfinityAR’s stereoscopic camera tech, which, using sophisticated algorithms, renders images and blends them into a scene much more cheaply, efficiently, and quickly than other solutions based on 3D depth sensors.
“We don’t need to scan 3D objects using 3D sensors to render them, which would take a lot of processing power and kill the battery,” said Kushnir. “The software we have developed can take an image and virtualize it, by looking at it from two points of view with two different cameras. The algorithms are able to add depth, and account for light and shadow, providing a superior virtual reality solution.”
Thus, the system can take an image from a library – provided, for example, by a video game – and integrate a 3D version of it in what the wearer of an AR device is looking at. In addition, the system can focus on an object and enhance it, turning a 2D image into a 3D rendering of what that object looks like from a 360-degree point of view.
Earlier this month, InfinityAR won the 2015 European Frost & Sullivan Award for Technology Innovation Leadership. “InfinityAR has clearly emerged as a leading innovator in the augmented reality application developer engine space with its low-cost and simple hardware, which provides product developers a balance between price and performance,” the tech group said. “Conventional AR solutions rely on 3D depth sensors that actively project light onto the world. These sensors demand a lot of power due to the active projection and the required computations. In comparison, by using a passive, natural stereoscopic camera and efficient computer vision algorithms that do not require the entire CPU to process data, InfinityAR’s technology requires only one-tenth the power needed by conventional technologies.”
InfinityAR does not intend to produce devices itself at this point, said Kushnir, but instead is developing a platform that developers will be able to use to produce devices and applications. “We’ve already spoken to a large number of developers and manufacturers, and they love our solution,” Kushnir said. “We intend to license our technology and hope to make it a standard for AR technology.”
For InfinityAR, the new investment, Kushnir said, is about more than money. “It is about the strategic partnership. For us, SUN Corporation is the perfect gateway into the Japanese market and will help us further establish InfinityAR as a leading developer in the augmented reality space. Sun Corporation’s experience, tech, know-how and organizational culture fit perfectly with what our company has to offer, and I believe both sides will benefit greatly from this deal. The existing investors’ continuing contribution is greatly appreciated – it is wonderful to see that our initial funders have increased their support, and continue to share InfinityAR’s vision.”
According to Masanori Yamaguchi, SUN Corporation CEO, “SUN Corporation is actively committed to multiple paths for adding value to our Communication and Entertainment Customers, including via development, technology partnerships, investments and acquisitions, all aimed at delivering innovative solutions which strengthen our positioning. This strategic investment expands SUN’s offering by bringing more value across new channels both within and beyond the Communication and Entertainment market environment.”