Last updated October 11th 2018
The human eye takes in the world in rich three-dimensional detail, with an instinctive understanding of depth perception, space, and motion. But much of our digital experience is still in 2D.
Mantis Vision, an Israeli company that borrows part of its name from the praying mantis, an insect with a unique form of 3D vision, is looking to radically change how we create, capture and consume digital content, particularly on mobile.
The company, founded in 2005, developed patented, innovative 3D technology based on structured light to capture detailed 3D environments, more so than other similar technologies. Structured light is the process of projecting coded patterns onto scenes and capturing depth and surface area calculations.
Mantis Vision’s technology, according to the company, uses a special coded light pattern to gather an unprecedented amount of data and “produce an accurate, detailed depth map of the captured scene,” the company says.
This tech can be integrated into everything from a handheld 3D professional scanner to a low-cost camera small enough to fit into a smartphone, and in live volumetric studio capture. But the applications and possibilities go well beyond.
Mantis Vision says it “empowers consumers, application developers, and industry professionals to instantly capture and share high-quality 3D volumetric content… transform[ing] objects, places and live people into high-resolution 3D digital content in real-time.”
“Smart vacuum cleaners will navigate a room by sensing exactly where things are, rather than bumping into them. Cars will immediately recognize when a driver starts nodding off and bring the car to a smooth stop on the side of the road. You’ll be able to record the world around you in volumetric 3D – for a memorable wedding video; or a very lively, telepresence powered, good night chat with your kid while you’re on the road; or if you are a rock star, your fans all over the world will have the opportunity to be on stage with you, using AR on their smartphone or wearing a VR headset. That’s just the beginning of what’s possible,” wrote Dede Goldschmidt, foreign corporate VC at the Samsung Catalyst Fund, Samsung’s investment arm.
Mantis Vision AR Volume application for smartphones. Captures & Shares data in 3D. Available on Android and iOS. pic.twitter.com/ZXbk1t0uWA
— Mantis Vision (@mv4d) June 12, 2018
The fund, has invested in Mantis Vision since 2014 because the company “does 3D differently,” Goldschmidt wrote.
In March, South Korean financial news outlet The Bell reported that the Israeli firm developed 3D sensing camera solutions for the South Korean electronics giant’s next-generation Galaxy S smartphones (also known as Galaxy S10.)
Mantis Vision CEO and founder Gur Arie Bitan tells NoCamels that the company can’t comment on future commercial products for clients, but acknowledges that his firm has “a very long relationship with Samsung as a strategic investor.”
The Bell reported that Mantis Vision was collaborating with South Korean company Namuga to integrate its unique 3D sensing software into a camera module. Namuga is Samsung’s camera module supplier for mid-range and low-end smartphone series, including the Galaxy A and J, and also provides 3D sensing camera modules for Intel’s RealSense AR cameras.
Samsung’s current Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus smartphone, while equipped with a fingerprint sensor and an Intelligent Scan security feature that combines data from facial recognition and an iris scanner to recognize its user, still relies on 2D solutions, which means there is a lot of room for error. Samsung is currently working with a few 3D sensor suppliers to remedy this, and perhaps in an effort to take on Apple’s Face ID, launched back in September 2017.
Mantis Vision and its technology appears to be getting endorsements from other big players in the industry.
In July, Mantis Vision announced it had raised $55 million in a Series D funding round led by Asian investors including Samsung Catalyst Fund, and Chinese investment firm Luenmei Quantum. As part of the deal, the firm formed a venture with Luenmei Quantum called MantisVision Technologies, to help its growth in the Chinese market. The venture is owned by both Mantis and Leunmei and has 30 employees in offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.
Though Bitan calls China “the biggest market for mobile, if you exclude Apple,” he explained that “it’s difficult for companies to break into the Chinese market if they don’t have boots on the ground,” as his reasoning for the joint venture.
Two months prior, the company announced a strategic partnership with Chinese electronics company Xiaomi. As part of the collaboration, Xiaomi integrated a 3D camera operated by the Israeli firm as the 3D front camera for the company’s Mi8 flagship device, announced by Xiaomi and Mantis Vision at the Augmented World Expo (AWE) event in California.
The M18 is the world’s first Android device with integrated 3D imaging and scanning capabilities, enabled by Mantis Vision tech. It allows for face scanning and facial recognition, including, face 3D capturing for a secure e-payment and other features that in the past had only been available through 2D image analysis software, according to the company.
Last week, rounding out its activity in Asian markets, Mantis Vision announced that it will be joining the China Mobile 5G Alliance to welcome next-generation cellular networking with quicker speeds and lower latency than 4G, which will drive the kind of high-precision 3D content Mantis Vision aims to push forward.
The alliance is an industry partnership established in China’s Zhejiang province with more than a hundred test sites for 5G technology, led by China Mobile, the largest mobile telecommunications corporation by market capitalization in China and considered the world’s largest mobile phone operator with a total number of 902 million subscribers as of June 2018.
China Mobile, along with the country’s two other major domestic carriers – China Unicom, and China Telecom – have already been building 5G test sites in some major cities.
“We want to be part of the process to implement 5G,” Bitan told NoCamels, after participating in the China Mobile IoT Developer Summit on September 16 with China Mobile partners like Intel, Qualcomm, Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson, “You need a lot of partners to deploy all the aspects of content driven by 5G,” he said, noting that companies, carriers, and manufacturers like AT&T and China Mobile want to invest in 5G, but no one knows when an official rollout will happen.
“Good 3D content will drive them to invest in 5G sooner,” he explains.
Snapping up sophisticated tech
Last month, the company announced its foray into the convergence of artificial intelligence and 3D with the acquisition of Israeli-based AI startup BrainVU, a company that emerged from the Technion labs at the Technion – Israeli Institute of Technology with machine vision tech that deduces the mental state of a person from an image captured by a smartphone camera. The patented technology combines eye movement tracking and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fmri), measuring brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow.
“BrainVu has a specific facial recognition algorithm that requires a special camera to identify human emotional responses,” Bitan tells NoCamels, “We provide that 3D camera.”
As part of its expansion strategy and effort to offer more sophisticated technological advantages, Mantis Vision also acquired Alces Technology, a Utah-based based depth sensing startup with patented high-resolution structured light technology, and a partnership with Honeywell, the US multinational conglomerate company that makes a variety of commercial and consumer products, engineering services and aerospace systems for a wide variety of customers. While no details of the buyout were disclosed, sources suggested to Globes that the deal was valued at approximately $10 million.
Prior to the acquisition, the company had raised $83 million in venture capital funding to date.