Chinese eCommerce giant Alibaba has acquired Israel augmented reality (AR) company InfinityAR. Financial details about the acquisition were not disclosed but market sources estimate that Alibaba, which already holds a major stake in the startup, paid over $10 million.
InfinityAR was founded in 2012 by Moshe Hogeg and since 2014 has been managed by CEO Motti Kushnir and CTO Matan Protter.
In 2016, InfinityAR raised $18 million for 22% of the startup, reflecting a company valuation of $80 million, after money. Alibaba invested $15 million along with Japanese company Sun, which invested $3 million. Market sources believe that the acquisition has been made at a far lower valuation than that. Previously the company had been traded over the counter on Wall Street at a company valuation of $9 million.
Kushnir and Protter joined the company after it began working as an open platform for mobile app developers of augmented reality. They teamed up with Hogeg in an existing company rather than found their own startup.
InfinityAR’s technology can turn any device into a powerful content augmentation platform, using basic and affordable hardware – simple stereoscopic cameras. The ciompany’s advanced augmented reality SW engine enables accurate 3D digital scene representation of the users current physical environment and allows users to intuitively interact with augmented content in their physical surroundings, using natural hand movements.
InfinityAR currently has 25 employees at its Ramat Gan offices and are expected to become part of Alibaba’s Israel Development Center, which has 20 employees.
Kushnir told Globes, following Alibaba’s initial investment, “Alibaba is very interested in our product because it is an open platform, and it believes that it will be a milestone in the shopping and gaming world in the near future. There are experts who claim that the entire cellular sector will undergo a revolution and some of it will even become superfluous with the entry of the augmented reality revolution.”
Alibaba’s Israel development center was opened just over a year ago as part of the company’s research department called DAMO academy and is one of eight such centers worldwide. The Israeli center, under the directorship of Prof. Lhi Zelnik-Manor of the Technion, focuses on computer vision, AI, and machine learning.
She said, “Alibaba is delighted to be working with InfinityAR as one team after three years of partnership. The talented 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.”