Today we’re looking at the recently unveiled news that Google has quietly acquired a U.S. and Czech-based start-up that helps developers to easily place avatars into their app, game or website.
According to the company’s LinkedIn profile “Alter is an open source, cross-platform SDK consisting of a real-time 3D avatar system and motion capture built from scratch for web3 interoperability and the open metaverse. With Alter, developers can easily pipe avatars into their app, game or website.” But what exactly does Alter’s solution do? And why have Google reportedly paid $100 million for the start-up?
Co-founded as Facemoji in 2017 by Chief Executive Officer Robin Raszka and Chief Operating Officer, the New York City-headquartered company raised $3 million in seed funding from early investors Play Ventures, Roosh Ventures, Twitter, as well as some angel investors. Alter recently acquired Comixify.ai, a machine learning start-up developing cutting-edge computer vision and machine learning technology.
Alter was founded on the belief that developers want to easily build their own avatar systems without having to rely on plugins, such as the Unity Multipurpose Avatar (UMA) system that allows you to create customizable characters. Alter’s solution relies on its own rendering pipeline and its Software Development Kit (SDK) allow developers to easily add AI avatars to social media platforms allowing users and brands to express their virtual identities. The ambition is to build a consistent cross platform avatar system.
This puts Alter in the same space as Ready Player Me, an avatar creation system that allows users to maintain a consistent identity across environments, such as VRChat and Animaze. Other competitors include Loom.ai, which was acquired by Roblox in 2020, and HyperSense, which was acquired by Epic Games, also in 2020.
Loom.ai can take a single photograph and transform it into a fully representative, three-dimensional avatar. Animatable and expressive in real-time, these avatars can be used to power current and future applications in mobile messaging, entertainment, AR/VR, e-commerce, video conferencing, and broadcasting. Hypersense (formerly known as Binary VR), specialises in real-time capture of face movements, which can then be recreated as a fully animated three-dimensional avatar.
The acquisition was reportedly completed about two months ago, but neither company announced it publicly. According to reports Google hopes to use Alter to improve and ramp up its content offerings and compete with TikTok, which is quickly becoming the search engine of choice for Generation Z, the generation of people born between 1997 and 2012, or, more simply 10- to 25-year-olds.
TikTok currently has over 1 billion monthly active users, and nearly 40% of Gen Z prefers TikTok or Instagram to Google search. You can search on TikTok in a few different ways. While the most common search methods being hashtags, sounds, or filters., you can also search by typing a subject or question. Google have recently added custom emojis to Chat for a more personalised experience.In acquiring Alter, Google appears to be responding to TikTok’s advantage of being aligned to popular culture and current events. An avatar sporting a clickable/searchable Ukrainian flag t-shirt or a pair Nike Air Force 1s would allow google to tap into this revenue stream. Please leave a comment below!