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Snap buys another business to make AR shopping a reality


Snap is making a big bet on AR purchases.

Snapchat’s parent company has acquired Vertebrae, a company that allows brands to create and manage 3D versions of their products. Vertebrae’s 50-person team will continue to develop the platform for existing and new customers, according to a spokesperson for Snap. The idea is that a business can easily upload visuals and other information about an item into Vertebrae and have a 3D version designed for shoppers to access, and potentially purchase directly, in Snapchat.

While Snap first used its augmented reality technology for silly effects like rainbows and dancing hot dogs, the company is increasingly seeing AR as a way to shop. Early testing of AR shopping experiences, such as a recent collaboration with Gucci to allow people to virtually try on a limited-edition pair of sneakers, showed Snap that people are more likely to buy something after interacting with it in 3D.

“We are delighted to join Snap, where we will strengthen and develop our world-class 3D asset platform for retailers and brands,” said Vince Cacace, CEO of Vertebrae, in an exclusive statement to The edge. “The future of AR commerce is bright, and we will continue to make it easier to build, manage and deploy AR experiences for our partners across all customer touch points. “

Vertebrae’s interface for brands.
Image: Vertebrae

Snap declined to say how much it paid for Vertebrae, but the deal was likely low compared to its $ 500 million acquisition of WaveOptics, which makes the AR displays in its Spectacles smart glasses. Vertebrae has raised around $ 10 million in venture capital funds to date. It lists Toyota, Adidas, CB2 and other well-known brands as customers on its website. This too worked with facebook – Snap’s biggest competitor – on AR buying technology in 2019.

When you assemble Vertebrae with other Snap acquisitions and shopping-related features, including Fit analysis and Screenshop, it is easier to get an idea of ​​your ambitions to be a shopping destination. For brands, the company is implementing a self-service system to easily download and manage AR versions of their products that people can discover on Snapchat. For Snapchat users, imagine being able to scan just about anything in the real world and turn it into a virtual object that you can manipulate, resize, and then purchase without leaving the app.

If people really do AR shopping with their phones, it will make Snapchat more useful in the short term while also making its ads more effective, as someone’s purchases are a strong indicator of other items they might be interested in. And looking beyond smartphones, AR purchases are more compelling in a future world where more and more people potentially wear smart glasses with screens, like Snap’s latest glasses.