June 8, 2016 -
A couple of months ago, Snapchat quietly acquired 3D photo app developer Seene (also known as Obvious Engineering) which allows users to capture 3D models from their smartphone’s camera, according to a report by Techcrunch.
The technology opens up several opportunities for Snapchat, including the ability to leverage Seene’s format for a new type of selfie lenses, a new 3D photo format, and perhaps most intriguing, potential future virtual reality projects.
Techcrunch cite undisclosed sources that confirm that Snapchat was interested in Seene’s computer vision technology and its engineering team more than the startup’s existing consumer product.
The technology could have a huge impact on the social platform whose model revolves around its ability to continually keep its users engaged and sharing new content.
Seene’s engineering team is led by CTO and co-founder Sam Hare, whose LinkedIn profile mentions the “deep stack of mobile-focused computer vision tech for structure from motion and 3D reconstruction” which he played a role in developing for the startup.
“We have a great deal more R&D in the pipeline which will be released soon,” Seene writes in his LinkedIn profile. “Please get in touch if you’re interested in finding out more.”
Seene’s team, which is reportedly based out of the U.S. and London, will relocate to Snapchat’s Los Angeles headquarters. However, at least one senior Seene engineer will not be joining Snapchat, Techcrunch reports.
The report also states that the acquisition price — which is a combination of cash and shares — is relatively low.
Seene had previously raised $600,000 from Knight Foundation, Kima Ventures, EC1 Capital, OREFA, Scott McPhee, Richard Fearn, Julian Carter and potentially others, according to AngelList. It remains to be seen whether the Seene app will continue to be maintained.
Seene scans and reconstructs full 3D geometry on the user’s smartphone, and unlike Project Tango or Microsoft’s Kinect, it does not rely on infrared sensors and multiple cameras.
Another considerable advantage Seene’s technology has over its competitors is that it does not require a cloud backend to process 3D scans and recreate 3D objects as the entire process occurs on the user’s smartphone.
Users can scan their face in a few seconds and create a complete 3D selfie:
As a result, Seene is well-suited to support true augmented reality features as it can inject 3D objects around real life items.
Snapchat could also combine Seene’s technology with its Looksery technology — which it acquired last year — to create more complex lenses with a greater sense of depth.
Seene also uses the smartphone’s accelerometers and works with the rear camera to capture 3D scenes — a more interactive combination of a photo and a video.
In the near future, Snapchat could potentially use Seene’s core technology to develop content for virtual reality applications — an area that the social app has been rumoured to be pursuing.