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Why the acquisition of 6D.AI is big news

Thijs Morlion
AR Team Lead

For AR enthusiasts like us, last week opened with a big bang. A couple weeks after we had the honor to interview Matt Miesnieks, the CEO of 6D.AI, the company was acquired by Niantic. We all know Niantic from their billion dollar game Pokémon Go, which helped to bring AR to the masses. It maybe wasn’t a full AR experience, but people got the idea. With the acquisition of 6D.ai, the company might take the technology to the next level.

First, let us recap some important terminology. In our Shift 20 report, we already wrote about the AR Cloud and how this technology will be some kind of operating system of the world. It will completely change the way we interact with all the information that is around on the World Wide Web. Searching for data on the internet is still a difficult task to do. You need to think about the right keywords, perhaps change some of them based on a suggestion the search engine provided and if you are lucky you'll find the information you are looking for after clicking three ads and browsing several pages. Not very intuitive. Especially if you walk around in the streets, using your mobile phone as a search tool.

In another blog post, we explained why even a smartphone is not the ideal way of transferring information. This is due to something called 'Cognitive Distance'. We still need to translate the information we read on the information to the spatial 3D world around us. Although we don't notice it, it’s not a natural thing to do. How many times did you miss your exit on the highway, because you misinterpreted the data on your GPS? Right, cognitive distance. What if there would be some kind of way that information is immediately transferred onto your eyes and is directly linked to the objects or the spatial environment you are looking at? The cognitive distance is nearing zero then and instead of creating confusion, it creates an ease of mind. To get the technology to a point where this all happens instantly, and moreover, flawlessly, we need to map the world around us. Technology needs to clearly understand what we are looking at, so it can provide the user with the correct related information.

All of this technology needed sometimes is referred to as The Operating System of the World. We're not quite there yet, but once we do, it will launch our race into a new technological era. You can imagine that the race between companies to be a part of this journey is hard and ruthless. Some big companies that now exist, won't be there anymore in about 10 years. Think of IBM and Nokia that once were big firms, and now are not so relevant anymore. At the beginning of this year, Facebook acquired Scape Technologies. This startup also created technology that maps our world, which is a big part of what the OS of the World needs to be able to do. It is also exactly what 6D.ai is capable of. It was not a matter of what but more of when the acquisition of the company would take place and also important who would acquire them. Niantic now has a lot of extra knowledge, people and software in house to lift their Real World Platform to the next level.

But why is this acquisition so important?

The OS of the World will have to be a scalable system supporting millions of users experiencing AR at the same time and perhaps even at the same location. With its games, Niantic already has proven they can build games for the masses. Ingress, Pokemon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite have been very successful games. To build the OS of the World, we preferably will need a big virtual copy of the physical world. A digital twin you could call it. Thanks to this acquisition, Niantic has the technology to let their millions of users create it, piece by piece. Combine the technology of 6D.ai with all of the research Niantic is doing on understanding the world with AI and we could see some interesting things happening in the future.

With their Real World Platform, other developers can create AR experiences that use the real world as their platform. It is actually the very beginning of The Operating System of the World. By insourcing this technology, both Niantic and Facebook took a big step forward. What other companies like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft will do is still a mystery. There are definitely more startups to be bought out there (eg. Immersal). One thing we can be certain of: technological advancements are moving. And they are moving fast.

We can’t wait to see the powers of Niantic and 6D.ai elevating each other. In the Pokémon series Ash Ketchum wanted to be ‘the very best, like no one ever was’, and we hope Niantic is as ambitious!

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