Snap just bought a company that could help it literally read your mind

Nextmind Headband
Nextmind Headband (Image credit: NextMind)

What you need to know

  • Snap has bought NextMind, a french company working on mind reading of sorts.
  • Snap wants NextMind's technology to be used in a future version of its AR glasses.

Snap, the parent company behind Snapchat, has bought a company that currently makes technology that is designed to read your thoughts and then translate them into actions on-screen.

French outfit NextMind is now part of Snap, writes The Verge. The buyout hasn't been given a figure so far but the company was thought to have been worth around $13 million depending on who you listen to. What we do know is what Snap intends to do with the technology NextMind has on its books because it wants to use it in future versions of its Snapchat Spectacles AR glasses.

The idea is a simple one. When you create an AR headset — like Apple is thought to be doing — you end up with a computer interface of sorts being superimposed on the world around you. The problem comes with interacting with that interface. There are no keyboards or trackpads, of course. What Snap wants to do is have NextMind's technology read what you're thinking and then use that to interact with the interface its AR glasses create. It's magic and weird in equal measure.

But how does it actually work? How does NextMind's current headband — which will be continued — actually read your thoughts? Founder Sid Kouider says that it doesn't but rather reads the result of your thoughts. Confused yet?

In a 2020 interview with VentureBeat, NextMind founder and CEO Sid Kouider explained it this way: "We use your top-down attention as a controller. So when you focalize differentially toward something, you then generate an [intention] of doing so. We don't decode the intention per se, but we decode the output of the intention."

Snap isn't the only company that is working on an AR device of some sort, of course. Apple has been rumored to have designs on some sort of mixed reality headset for years with Meta being another company with eyes on the prize. Which will be first to market, we don't know. But Snap seems to be keen to make sure that we aren't waving our hands around to control things.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.