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Snap Invests in Brain-Computer Interface Company NextMind for Advanced AR Glasses

NextMind offers a headband that facilitates thought-based virtual object control

Augmented reality (AR) glasses are quite popular today as a number of tech giants are developing their own versions of this technology for their customer bases. The cutting-edge of innovations in this domain has nudged manufacturers and developers to deliver tailor-made offerings that are intuitive and easy to use. Now, it might be possible to gain full control over their smart glasses without even touching any input devices like a keyboard or a mouse.

A brain-computer interface is one of the most widely anticipated technologies that the industry at large has looked forward to. Not much progress has been made in this regard so far. Social and technology solutions company Snap had recently announced the acquisition of NextMind, a neurotechnology startup based in Paris that has a headband that lets its wearer gain control over several aspects of a computer. This includes aiming for weapons in video games or unlocking devices with just the power of one’s mind. Snap may have plans for introducing the technology into future editions of the Spectacles AR glasses of the company.

The thought control headband is part of a developer kit by NextMind, with a price tag of $400. It was released two years back and is set to be discontinued following the investment by Snap. However, the workforce of NextMind will continue their employment, as part of Snap Lab. This division is responsible for products such as Spectacles, and many other gadgets that are yet to be released. Currently, there is no confirmation regarding how much Snap has paid for the acquisition of NextMind. But, the startup has gathered funding of more than $4 million since its inception. Based on an estimate, the company currently has a value of about $13 million.

Snap has been making a string of investments in augmented reality hardware providers, with a notable one being the acquisition of WaveOptics, an augmented reality display manufacturer, for the sum of $500 million. It also purchased Compound Photonics, a technology brand specialising in AR displays, in January 2022.

Apart from Snap, other companies such as Neuralink by Elon Musk is also curious about brain-computer interface technology. Neuralink’s system operates by putting a device inside the human brain, and it is set to undergo clinical trials soon. Valve, known as a world-famous games publisher, is also in collaboration with an open-source brain-computer interface project known as OrenBCI. Facebook, prior to its rebranding to Meta, had also expressed a lot of interest with the CTRL-Labs acquisition for close to $1 billion. Several other technology companies are looking at the prospects of this technology.

The headband by NextMind relies on sensors placed on one’s head to perform measurements of brain activity through machine learning technology. The entire process of measurement is performed in a non-invasive way.

Sid Kouider, founder and CEO, NextMind, spoke to the VentureBeat publication in 2020, explaining that users of the company’s headband device can use their attention as the control method. It operates by interpreting the intention output of a person.

According to a Snap representative, the company is interested in exploring greater possibilities following the NextMind acquisition.

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