TechCrunch reported that Facebook has acquired Scape Technologies. The company was founded in 2016 and is located in Shoreditch, London. Scape Technologies is building a cloud-based Vision Engine that allows camera devices to understand their environment, using computer vision.
Rather than relying on 3D maps built and stored locally, Scape’s Vision Engine builds and references 3D maps in the cloud, allowing devices to tap into a ‘shared understanding’ of an environment.
Initially focused on augmented reality, Scape’s first product is an SDK that allows AR content to be anchored to specific locations, outside and at an unprecedented scale.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to both TechCrunch, and Engadget: “We acquire smaller tech companies from time to time. We don’t always discuss our plans.” As such, we are left to speculate about why Facebook wanted to acquire Scape Technologies, and what the companies will create together.
Scape Technologies describes its Vision Engine as being built from scratch to process imagery from any source, resulting in a 3D representation of the environment. After the Vision Engine has created a 3D map, their ‘Visual Positioning Service’ determines the precise position of the camera devices, in the cloud. This allows Scape Technologies to achieve higher scalability and performance than any other approach.
To me, it sounds like the Vision Engine could be used to make a virtual reality game of some kind. In 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion.
Or, maybe Vision Engine could be used for other purposes. Scape Technologies says that its visual positioning service is currently available within London, but more cities will be announced shortly. They are also working on a public API that will allow any device to determine its location, given an image as an input, regardless of what use-case or platform you are targeting.
To me, this sounds like the Vision Engine could potentially be used for surveillance or law enforcement. That makes me very uncomfortable. Again, this is all speculation, and we will have to wait and see what happens.