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Magic Leap Acquiring Dacuda's 3D Scanning Assets

Update, 2/19/17, 5:36am PT: Dacuda now has an official (but rather short) statement confirming the acquisition. There are still almost no details, but a new tidbit is that the departing Dacuda team will apparently remain in Switzerland and will be led by Alexander Ilic, whose new role is GM Switzerland & Senior Director SW Engineering at Magic Leap. Current Dacuda CEO Peter Weigand will remain in his current role, leading the remaining productivity solutions wing of the company. Here is the statement in full:

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.

Original article, published 2/17/17, 7:50am PT:

Magic Leap, the secretive MR startup with a sky-high valuation, is acquiring computer vision software company Dacuda. Or at least, parts of it.

According to a cryptic Dacuda blog post, the company is divesting its 3D scanning assets and refocusing on its other projects. “Dacuda is refocusing its product portfolio on their well known Productivity Solutions,” reads the blog post in part. “Dacuda boasts a successful eight year track record in B2B solutions, with products such as the world’s first Scanner Mouse and the world’s fastest mobile ID Reader.”

A look through the LinkedIn profiles of several Dacuda employees show that they’re now employees of Magic Leap. These include Sven Johner, former Dacuda finance head; Martin Zahnert, senior manager of software engineering; Quim Sanchez and Benjamin Langmann, senior software engineers; Daniel Donatsch and João Faro, software engineers; and Executive Admin “Charizze W.”

A source confirmed that the above personnel moves are part of the acquisition, not a departure en masse from Dacuda, and that Magic Leap is indeed the acquirer.

Magic Leap is the great gamble of the XR world. Although it’s shown its mixed reality demos to only a chosen few, it has shown nothing publicly and almost nothing privately to the media. Even so, the company, which does not yet sell a product, has enjoyed an eye-popping $1.3 billion investment, including a cool half a billion from Google. The company has published demos of its tech in action, but it appears that some aspects of those have been faked. There’s also been essentially no mention of the company’s hardware.

All of the above makes Magic Leap a candidate for vaporware of the decade, yet those who have seen the demos continue to be sufficiently impressed that they’re throwing money and acclaim at the startup. We know, at least, that Dacuda’s technology works because we’ve seen in in action.

We can extrapolate a bit about how it may play into Magic Leap’s larger plans. Dacuda uses its SLAM Scan software and a technique called sensor fusion to perform inside-out, 6DoF, room scale tracking. We saw the tech in action on an otherwise unaltered iPhone--which is to say, any device with the requisite internal sensors and this software on board can perform this same room scale tracking. It’s plausible that Magic Leap will incorporate the software into its hardware and software stack to help enable world-scale 6DoF tracking.

Presently, Magic Leap’s acquisition of Dacuda has not been officially announced, so we don’t know any terms or conditions, including the price tag. It’s also unclear what will happen to the remaining Dacuda assets and employees, but we expect to learn more about it all within days or weeks.

  • bit_user
    After the Google investment, I assumed it would just use Tango. Maybe they just want the patents, for strategic reasons, and Dacuda's SLAM team as a quick way to add skilled & knowledgeable workers to their staff.
    Reply
  • scolaner
    19313619 said:
    After the Google investment, I assumed it would just use Tango. Maybe they just want the patents, for strategic reasons, and Dacuda's SLAM team as a quick way to add skilled & knowledgeable workers to their staff.

    I bet Google thought that too. ;)

    On the other hand, as I understand it, Tango and SLAM are quite different beasts. Tango has multiple components (some specialized) plus software. SLAM just uses any smartphone camera plus software. They also have slightly different applications, too.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    19313628 said:
    On the other hand, as I understand it, Tango and SLAM are quite different beasts. Tango has multiple components (some specialized) plus software. SLAM just uses any smartphone camera plus software.
    Tango is a software stack that sits atop various hardware to provide SLAM features in a consistent API. It's not tied to any particular CPU, GPU, or sensor hardware, as they've demonstrated by getting it running on x86 & ARM CPUs and Nvidia, Intel, & Qualcomm GPUs. Sensor hardware they've used includes ToF, structured light, and stereo.

    In point of fact, they're only now reaching the level of exposing full SLAM. Previously, they've not exposed much in the way of Mapping. The API mostly just exposed Localization, giving you the device's pose (location + orientation). They added 3D reconstruction, only somewhat recently. The latest release includes tantalizing floor plan mapping and 3D mesh extraction features. Here's the full release history:

    https://developers.google.com/tango/release-notes

    Tango is fine for smartphones and tablets, but should be great in an AR HMD, as people have been experimenting with. On the Google+ Tango feed, someone recently posted this AR visor to hold Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro.

    https://plus.google.com/+AsierArranz/posts/Hz5EtWFJSWs

    BTW, if you want to see some things people are actually doing with AR, the Google+ feed is not a bad source. Takes a while to sift through, however.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    Speaking of their Google+ feed, this post is worth checking out, for some dirt on Magic Leap:

    https://plus.google.com/108763673144961418891/posts/XUvrDRKAcRt

    I always suspected that realtime lightfield rendering had to be at the very edge of technical feasibility. Especially in a portable device.

    The source said that developers do not have the necessary hardware to begin making Magic Leap software, and that means it will be hard to ship Magic Leap with any applications this year.
    This is all the greater reason they should just use Tango. Tango apps are up on Google's Play store, today.

    But their investors are probably worried that supporting Tango will turn their device into a hardware play. They know the big money is when you take first rate hardware and use it to leverage yourself into all kinds of new markets, like Apple has done with the iPhone. In order to do this, you need to own the application stack - not be "just another" Tango device.

    Venture capitalists are in it for a 10x return on investment. They regard anything much less as a failure. However, $1.4B is a lot of money, and if they can even get a 1x return, that's got to be an option they can't disregard. But, if they thought they had the next iPhone on their hands, you can see why they'd pump so much cash into it.
    Reply
  • Craig_67
    That is a DODOcase SMARTvr in the photo
    Reply
  • bit_user
    19315508 said:
    That is a DODOcase SMARTvr in the photo
    Yeah, I think Magic Leap hasn't officially released any photos, because here's the leaked prototype that's started the recent buzz:

    http://www.businessinsider.com/magic-leap-photo-leak-prototype-2017-2

    I don't really see the problem. Looks to me like a Nvidia Parker development board, integrated into a VR backpack. IMO, if their tech works reasonably well, I don't see it as a dealbreaker if they need a backpack for the first gen.

    The thing is, Nvidia Tegra dev boards are always about that size, but then the chips get integrated into tablets and such. The point of a development board is to be adaptable to any application, so it has every conceivable connector and peripheral on it, plus debug headers and extra space to work.

    Plus, there's the fact that they say it's not even a production prototype, but rather a data collection test rig. I guess we'll see a real production prototype (with a belt pack), soon enough.
    Reply
  • computerguy72
    I saw the backpack photo the other day as well. That Tegra box could end up smaller than the box for the Nvidia Shield. So it's my guess it's clocked high and needs that big heat sync as presumably it is running un-optimized code. They might also be anticipating a later chip but testing with an overclocked existing model. The primitive nature of it's looks is probably not an issue.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    19318177 said:
    I saw the backpack photo the other day as well. That Tegra box could end up smaller than the box for the Nvidia Shield. So it's my guess it's clocked high and needs that big heat sync as presumably it is running un-optimized code.
    Look, it's mostly likely just a generic board straight out of the Tegra development kit:

    http://www.nvidia.com/object/jetson-tx1-dev-kit.html

    19318177 said:
    They might also be anticipating a later chip but testing with an overclocked existing model.
    They said it's a data acquisition system, to gather video & sensor data for the benefit of their algorithm development. In this case, they probably just took what they had lying around and slapped together something they could use for this purpose.

    For context, check out the businessinsider link, and read the article below the image.

    What will be really interesting is to see the prototype with the belt pack(s). The article was published on the 10th, and they said the meeting would be "next week". So, it might've already happened. But they said it was a board meeting, which is non-public. Who knows if those will leak, but it's debatable whether they have anything to gain by releasing them.
    Reply