Why Snap Just Bought Israeli AR Startup

It looks like Snapchat just shelled out upwards of $40 million for Israeli startup Cimagine Media.

What is Cimagine, and what does Snapchat’s parent want with it?

Simply put, Cimagine specializes in augmented reality, and AR is everything to Snap.

Cimagine is best known for a service that lets people virtually experiment with interior decorating. Right from their smartphone, for instance, shoppers can see what a new armoire will look like in their living room.

The acquisition also gives Snap a foothold in Israel, which rivals Silicon Valley as a center for tech innovation.

Per the deal, Snap is expected to use Cimagine as its chief Israeli research and development center.

Snapchat, of course, wouldn’t be Snapchat without its many “lenses,” which let users augment their faces in every imaginable way.

Signaling a new strategic direction, the company recently began testing “World Lenses,” which encourage users to virtually augment the world around them. With world lenses, for example, people can add clouds that spew cartoon rainbows to an otherwise empty sky. 



In other words, while AR has many practical applications, Snapchat is using it to help people have more fun.

Indeed, fun has always been the secret to Snapchat’s success. "In a world in which there is an app for nearly everything, Snapchat has cut through the clutter by injecting fun back into social sharing," Cathy Boyle, a principal analyst at eMarketer, noted in a report released this past summer.

More broadly, the secret to consumers’ hearts seems to be some combination of communication and entertainment -- or what analysts are calling “communitainment.”

In a recent report, Simon Khalaf, SVP at Flurry parent Yahoo, said teens can’t get enough of the stuff. “Communitainment, or communication for the sole purpose of entertainment, is not your standard chat or exchanging pictures over social networks,” he explained.

Driven by this trend, the time users spent consuming media in apps increased 38.5%, year-over-year, according to Flurry. Put another way, the average U.S. consumer now spends 133 minutes per day consuming media in apps.

Israeli business publisher Calcalist first reported the acquisition over the weekend.

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