Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has acquired New York and Palo Alto-based augmented reality startup Flyby Media, which says it is changing the way people discover, capture, and see the world around them. Flyby’s technology enables high performance applications across a broad range of markets, including indoor mapping and navigation, autonomous navigation for drones and automotive vehicles, and advanced tracking for head mounted display (HMD) systems.
Flyby Media had previously raised $13.78 million in equity capital and $5.39 million in debt, from Chart Venture Partners, CNF Investments, Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH, Boulder Ventures, and Observatory Capital.
Apple’s buyout of Flyby Media came to light as news and rumors started circulating that augmented reality startup Magic Leap had raised $793.5 million in a Series C funding round, led by Alibaba, Google, Qualcomm and other major investors.
Two weeks ago, Oxford, UK-based WaveOptics, an augmented reality technology development startup, quietly revealed it has raised a new “multi-million pound funding round” led by Imperial Innovations Group plc, alongside Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH — who is also backing Flyby Media — Octopus Ventures, angel investors and existing investor, Blippar, one of the biggest companies in the augmented reality sector. London-based Kino-Mo also claims to be making holograms “affordable and available to retailers and the high street for the first time”.
Flyby Media, formerly known as Ogmento, Inc., was founded in 2010 by Cole Van Nice and Oriel Bergig. Its president and CEO is Mihir Shah, former CEO at Tapjoy. Flyby developed V-Fusion, a spatial perception platform at the core of the company, which provides mobile devices with a human-scale understanding of real world environments, enabling them to see, understand, and navigate the physical world.
Along its journey, Flyby licensed components of its platform to Google’s Advanced Technology and Products Group and supported Project Tango; developed a proprietary iPhone-based product to create scalable floor plans for integration into Apple’s MapsConnect program (to enable indoor “blue dot” navigation); piloted a proprietary retail application that uses our technology for indoor proximity marketing (Shimmer); and demonstrated state-of-the-art performance on drone and car-based systems at distances of up to 10 miles.
Flyby’s technology has the ability to map and localize objects from visual and inertial sensors on an iPhone. After a map of a room is created, visual, inertial and map constraints are optimized within the same framework to provide a robust, accurate and fast localization solution via a tight fusion map.
Flyby has also developed the ability to provide autonomous drone visual inertial odometry solutions, and vehicle visual inertial odometry with loop closures posing graph optimization, which could conceivably be adapted for autonomous driving cars.
Apple is known to have assembled a large team of experts in virtual and augmented reality and has been building prototypes of headsets to eventually challenge Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s Hololens initiatives. After taking over Israeli motion-sensing company PrimeSense in 2013, Apple continued to accelerate its VR and AR recruiting and dealmaking efforts, by acquiring Metaio and Faceshift.