After acquiring Ukraine Startup Looksery in 2015 to supercharge animated selfie lenses in Snapchat — possibly changing the filters game for all social video and photo apps — Snap has made another acquisition with roots in the country, co-founded by one of Looksery's founders, to give a big boost to its video capabilities.
The company acquired AI Factory, a computer vision startup with which Snap worked to create Snapchat's new Cameos animated self-based video feature, for a price estimated at $166 million.
The news was first reported by the Ukrainian publication, AIN, and while I'm still waiting for a direct response from Snap about the acquisition, I've had the news confirmed by another source close to the deal. Snap also confirmed the news of another publication, VC.ru (in Russian).
Victor Shaburov, the founder of Looksery, who then became Snap's Director of Engineering— leaving to found and lead AI Factory in May 2018—has refused to make a comment on this story.
Deepfake videos have been around for a while now. But if your experience of that word has strong dystopian undertones, we now seem to be at a time when consumer apps are tapping into technology in a race for new — fun, light-hearted — features to attract and retain users.
Snap was also an investor in AI Factory. Part of its early interest would have been due to the track record of the talent associated with the start-up: the lenses have been a huge success for Snap 70 percent of its active daily users, and they not only bring new users into play but increase retention and revenue through sponsorships or purchases by users, creating new features to give users more opportunities to play around.
LinkedIn's profile says that AI Factory "provides multiple AI business solutions based on image and video recognition, analysis and processing," so that while the company will be under Snap's wing, there may be scope for the team to build some of its technology into more innovative ways for businesses to use the Snap platform in the future.