Facebook’s acquisition of visual positioning specialist Scape Technologies in February 2020 has the potential to transform Facebook’s efforts in mapping and augmented reality (AR) according to a new report from Strategy Analytics, Is Facebook’s Scape Acquisition a New Vision for Location or a SLAM into AR?.

The acquisition potentially pits Facebook against other location and mapping platforms: Google, HERE, Mapbox and TomTom. All are aiming to provide next generation maps to support real-world augmented reality (AR) experiences across a variety of sectors, in addition to assisting machines such as autonomous vehicles, robots, and other connected objects navigate the world.

“While Facebook does not comment on the acquisition of smaller companies, we view Scape’s technology as a game changer for Facebook’s efforts in AR,” says David MacQueen, executive director at Strategy Analytics. “Scape’s technology will allow Facebook to transform its currently limited AR capabilities by enabling real-world object detection, improve contextual awareness and environment understanding, and Simultaneous Location and Mapping (SLAM). This will open up a variety of use-cases going beyond Facebook’s capabilities today, such as AR multiplayer gaming, enhanced navigation, or any AR application which drives value by enabling users to meaningfully interact with the real world.”

Scape Technologies has initially focused on visual positioning as its primary use-case, with the goal of enabling any camera-enabled machine or device to navigate and understand the real world.

“Facebook must be viewed as a potential competitor, or partner, to location players Google, HERE, TomTom and Mapbox,” Nitesh Patel, director at Strategy Analytics said. “These companies understand that visual positioning, machine maps and computer vision are key building blocks for the next stage in evolution of the location sector and for providing advanced location services. Both Google and HERE are testing visual positioning as an alternative to GPS, particularly in urban environments where GPS performance is hindered by urban canyons.”