Snap buys mind-controlled headband maker, NextMind

Snap this morning confirmed that it has acquired NextMind for an undisclosed sum. The Paris-based startup is best known for its self-titled controller, which utilizes brain signals to move images on a PC interface. After announcing a $399 dev kit at CES, the company began shipping in Q2 2020. We took it for a spin at the end of that year and called the hardware a “rare ‘wow’ factor.”

“NextMind has joined Snap to help drive long-term augmented reality research efforts within Snap Lab,” the company wrote in a blog post. “Spectacles are an evolving, iterative research and development project, and the latest generation is designed to support developers as they explore the technical bounds of augmented reality.”

The news finds the firm integrating into Snap Lab, the social media company’s hardware research wing. It also marks the end of NextMind’s dev kit as a standalone. Pieces of the technology will almost certainly make their way into future Snap products, including AR plays like Camera and Spectacles.

Founded in 2017 by a team of neuroscientists and hardware engineers, the company’s technology utilizes a wearable headband with a built-in electroencephalogram to detect and read neural activity in the cortex. As the wearer views an image on a display, the headset can determine they want to move it. Mind-controlled interfaces like this make a lot of sense for augmented realty. Head-mounted displays, in particular, have long suffered from a controller problem, which such technologies could go a ways toward solving.

“This technology monitors neural activity to understand your intent when interacting with a computing interface, allowing you to push a virtual button simply by focusing on it,” Snap adds. “This technology does not ‘read’ thoughts or send any signals towards the brain.”

NextMind’s raised a $4.6 million seed round in mid-2018. The team will continue to work out of Paris, with 20 of its employees (largely technical) joining Snap Labs, and focusing on longer-term research and development. Last May, Snap purchased WaveOptics, which makes components used in AR headsets. That same month, the company previewed its fourth-generation Spectacles, which it called the “first pair of glasses that bring augmented reality to life.”