October 2, 2022

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Forget Mediocre Fashion

Snap buys a brain-computer interface startup to power future AR glasses

You might one day control Snap Spectacles glasses with your mind. Snap has bought NextMind, a French startup developing brain-computer interface technology (BCI) to help steer wearables and other devices by focusing on virtual buttons. There’s no mystery about the intentions — NextMind will aid Snap’s augmented reality development, including work on Spectacles.

Snap didn’t disclose the value of the deal or outline its exact plans. NextMind will remain in its hometown of Paris while helping the Snap Lab team, although The Verge learned the newly-acquired company will discontinue its BCI headband for developers.

The purchase isn’t surprising given Snap’s history. It bought WaveOptics, the company behind Spectacles’ AR displays, in 2021. The social media giant also reportedly bought another display firm, the liquid crystal on silicon company Compound Photonics, in January. Snap is clearly interested in advancing its AR glasses beyond the simple designs of today, which rely on physical buttons to do little more than capture photos and video.

There’s also plenty of competition in the space. Meta bought neural monitoring startup CTRL-labs in late 2019, while Valve is exploring the category through a partnership with OpenBCI. There’s even some indirect competition with the brain implants of Elon Musk’s Neuralink. Snap may need NextMind if it’s going to develop advanced, hands-free AR hardware in time to fend off rivals.