Occipital Acquires Paracosm, Plans Collaborative 3D Mapping Projects

Occipital, the spatial computing company based in San Francisco and Boulder, CO, announced this week that it has acquired Paracosm, a Gainesville, FL company developing 3D mapping technology. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Paracosm’s entire team of 13 people, which will remain in Florida, has been absorbed by Occipital.

Adam Rodnitzky, Occipital’s vice president of marketing, says Paracosm caught Occipital’s eye because it had built a sizable team and impressive technology.

“In the world of computer vision, there are lots of small companies that never get past the stage of working out of their garage,” he explains. “Paracosm is one of those rare companies that have proven they’re able to commercialize computer vision.”

Commercializing computer vision tools is Occipital’s bread and butter. Rodnitzky describes the company’s products, including 3D sensors for VR headsets and mobile devices, as having both business-to-business and consumer applications.

For the past couple of years, Rodnitzky says Occipital and Paracosm were on a parallel but complementary path.

“If you look at the Venn diagram overlap of what the companies do, both are focused on the 3D capture of spaces,” he says. “At Occipital, we were doing it at room scale. With Paracosm’s technology, we can capture 3D up to the scale of entire city blocks. There’s a lot of good overlap where we can crosspollinate, but there’s no market cannibalization.”

Paracosm spent most of the year building a handheld device called the PX-80, which the company describes as the first mobile LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scanner capable of producing data in color. Rodnitzky says one of the first collaborative projects the companies will work on post-acquisition is integrating Occipital’s Canvas software, which enables the creation of accurate 3D models of interior spaces, with the PX-80. That will allow the construction, architecture, and engineering industries to quickly capture 3D scans and generate CAD files for large projects at a fraction of the cost, he adds.

Paracosm’s use of LiDAR also intrigues Occipital. Calling it the “defacto sensor for autonomous vehicle initiatives,” Rodnitzky says it’s now possible for Occipital to explore the autonomous vehicle market “from a hardware perspective”—although there are no immediate plans to do so.

Occipital was founded in 2008 by two University of Michigan engineering alumni, Jeff Powers and Vikas Reddy. They released the RedLaser app in 2009, which let iPhone users scan barcodes, and sold RedLaser to eBay for an undisclosed sum in 2010. Occipital has continued to operate since then, and today, the team has grown to 60 people; its investors include the Foundry Group and K9 Ventures.

In 2018, Rodnitzky says the plan is to broaden the PX-80’s presence in the market.  (The devices will start shipping to pre-order customers at the end of the month.) Occipital is also expecting an uptick in companies wanting to license its tracking software for use in virtual reality, mixed reality, and augmented reality headsets.

Many headset systems, he says, require “lighthouses” containing sensors or cameras to be set up in the corners of the room, which allows the headset wearer to move around within virtual reality games. The problem with this arrangement, he says, is that the person can walk out of view of the lighthouses and effectively end virtual reality, which can be very disorienting.

“Our technology mounts to the front of the headset, so you never lose the view of the camera,” Rodnitzky says. The industry term for this is “inside out,” and he says further development of inside-out technologies will be a major focus for the company in the coming year.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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