Meta Platforms circling Canadian smart glasses maker AdHawk: report


Meta considering offer for Ontario-based AdHawk Microsystems

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Meta Platforms Inc. reportedly has interest in acquiring Ontario-based AdHawk Microsystems Inc., a company that has developed camera-free, eye-tracking glasses that can be used for research purposes.

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The owner of Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, might make the company an offer in the coming weeks, Bloomberg News reported, citing “people familiar” with Meta’s apparent interest in Kitchener, Ont.-based AdHawk. The Canadian company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the article. Bloomberg reported that all parties involved declined to comment.

AdHawk was founded by University of Waterloo graduates Neil Sarkar, the company’s CEO; Sandro Banerjee, the CFO; and Nino Zahirovic, who serves as chief technology officer. The company so far has raised at least US$16.8 million, according to Crunchbase. The company’s lead investors are South Korea’s Samsung Venture Investment Corp., Silicon Valley Bank, and Intel Capital.

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The company has developed the AdHawk MindLink, which allows “all-day research that connects eye movements with neurological and ocular health, human behaviour, and state of mind,” and provides “unprecedented speed and data quality in a mobile device.”

AdHawk's MindLink glasses.
AdHawk’s MindLink glasses. Photo by https://www.adhawkmicrosystems.com/

If Meta is indeed circling, it probably is interested in adding AdHawk’s innovations to bolster its push into augmented reality. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg changed the name of the company he created from Facebook last year runs 12 research labs across the globe to develop technologies related to augmented and virtual reality to reflect a new focus on the metaverse, an evolution of the internet that’s based on virtual reality. Meta Platforms runs 12 research labs across the globe devoted to developing technologies related to augmented and virtual reality.

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AdHawk’s glasses use ultra-compact micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) instead of cameras, which eliminates the need for image processing and increases its efficiency.

“The system is so fast it can accurately predict where a user will look next — up to 20 milliseconds before their eyes fixate — and gaze is captured 500 times per second with better than one degree of accuracy,” the company said in a press release in March last year.

Sarkar, who has a background as a chip engineer, said last year that he expects AdHawk’s glasses to enable new research connecting eye movement to neurological and ocular health, comparing his company’s technology to smart watches, which have provided new insights around cardiovascular health.

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In an interview with Venture Beat in March 2021, Sakar said that when the beam from the MEMS hits a part of the eye, it reflects onto a photo detector, and a pulse is received.

“Sometimes we receive pulses from corneal glints, which are just like reflections off the surface of your cornea,” Sakar said in the interview. “But sometimes we receive pulses when the beam crosses the threshold between your iris and your pupil. So, we’re able to both measure your cornea and pupil thousands of times per second with the sensor.”

The technology could potentially detect concussions in athletes faster, measure performance while gaming, and provide more data to eye researchers, according to the company’s website.

The news of the potential takeover of AdHawk comes two years after Alphabet Inc.’s Google acquired Kitchener-based North Inc., a technology company that focused on creating smart glasses.

Meta, Apple Inc., and Google are all working to create augmented reality glasses. While Meta plans to launch its glasses in a few years, it already sells virtual reality headsets. Google recently announced a public testing process for a future product. Apple is planning to launch a high-end mixed-reality headset next year, Bloomberg said.

Augmented Reality smart glasses add extra information, such as 3D images and videos, to a person’s real-world scenes by overlaying the computer-generated information.

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