Confirmed: Magic Leap acquires 3D division of Dacuda in Zurich

Magic Leap, the augmented reality startup that has raised $1.4 billion in funding but has yet to release a product, has made an acquisition to expand its work in computer vision and deep learning, and to build out its operations into Europe.

The company has acquired the 3D division of Dacuda, a computer vision startup based out of Zurich. One of Dacuda’s focuses had been developing algorithms for consumer-grade cameras (and not just cameras, but any device with a camera function) to capture 2D and 3D imaging in real time, “making 3D content as easy as taking a video.”

Dacuda has confirmed the acquisition with a short announcement on its site. It notes that the whole 3D team has moved to Magic Leap and that Dacuda’s founder, Alexander Ilic, is now leading Magic Leap Switzerland.

“Dacuda successfully sold its 3D division to mixed reality leader Magic Leap. The complete Dacuda 3D team joins Magic Leap to form its first European presence. The office in Zurich allows Magic Leap to further extend its leadership role in computer vision and deep learning technologies. Magic Leap Switzerland is led by Dacuda founder Alexander Ilic.

Under the lead of Peter Weigand and Michael Born, Dacuda refocuses its activities on its successful productivity solutions with leading customers such as Sunrise, Crealogix, Unisys, and SITA.”

As you can see, no detail about what the two might be working on. The acquisition was first rumored last week — after Dacuda posted a note on its blog about selling its 3D division, and then some Dacuda employees updated their LinkedIn profiles as Magic Leap employees (one example here). Tom’s Hardware then speculated it could signal Magic Leap using technology developed by Dacuda to enable room-scale, six degrees of freedom tracking (essentially to improve its image capturing sensors in 3D environments).

What’s also notable is that it could point to how Magic Leap may be looking at tech that it would use in other companies’ hardware, since working with OEMs was part of the original premise of the scanning technology that Dacuda was building. In fact, when the University of Zurich confirmed the acquisition, it noted one demo of this tech in action using an iPhone and Daydream to simulate an HTC Vive headset.

This is Magic Leap’s first leap into Europe, but even more significantly, it is being made by way of a country that has a strong reputation for computer vision research and development.

There are numerous startups and academics in Zurich and other Swiss centers working on AR and VR technology, specifically the areas of computer vision and deep learning, and so a presence there will let Magic Leap plug into that scene more directly.

The ecosystem there is attracting other big-name M&A. Faceshift, a motion capture startup acquired by Apple in 2015, was also founded in Zurich. Facebook’s Oculus VR in August 2016 also quietly acquired a startup called Zurich Eye, incubated at the University of Zurich and ETH, the federal institute of technology. Zurich Eye became the basis of Oculus and Facebook’s office in the city. Zurich Eye, ironically, was co-founded by a three former software engineers from Dacuda (they all now work for Oculus VR).

Adding more talent, and building out more connections into the computer vision ecosystem, could be coming at the right time for Magic Leap.

As you might already know, the company has hit some stumbles in recent times with unflattering leaks of its products, executive departuresreports that the tech and hardware may not be up to scratch and the lingering question of whether anything can ever meet the hyped-up expectations that a $4.5 billion valuation confers on a startup, at least in the short term.

Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed. Dacuda has been around since 2009 and, according to Crunchbase, had raised an undisclosed round, plus $542,000 in crowdfunding on Kickstarter for one of its productivity solutions, the PocketScan handheld scanner, back in 2014 (we covered it here).

What is also not clear is how this acquisition will impact existing business development deals that Dacuda’s 3D division already had in place.

For example, in October the company had linked up with MindMaze, another virtual/augmented reality startup out of Switzerland, to build a platform they were calling “MMI, the world’s first multisensory computing platform for mobile-based, immersive and social virtual reality applications,” MindMaze noted.

MindMaze said it planned to “deploy the technology for users globally to address a void left by Google’s DayDream View for positional tracking and multiplayer interactions.” We have contacted Magic Leap for comment and will update this post if and when we learn more.

This is Magic Leap’s second disclosed acquisition. The first, in 2016, was of Israel-based cybersecurity startup Northbit.

We have also contacted Magic Leap for comment and will update as and when we learn more.