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Maxar Technologies, a provider of satellite imaging services, has announced a strategic investment in Blackshark.ai, which creates earth-scale digital twins. The exact terms of the funding were not revealed.
The companies plan to work together to combine their technology portfolios to support new use cases. Blackshark has developed tools to transform petabytes of raw data into semantically labeled digital twins that describe roads, buildings, vegetation and other structures without human intervention. Maxar’s Vivid base map product transforms timely cloudless satellite imagery into geointelligence about weather, productivity, pollution, crop yields and other use cases at scale.
There are many companies providing satellite imagery and visualization tools. Blackshark’s advantage lies in transforming these into a semantically labeled digital twin, making it easier to use in various simulation use cases. More importantly, the company continuously updates this digital twin to keep the models fresh and drive alerts in response to changing conditions at scale.
“Our technology outperforms other solutions in scalability,” Blackshark CTO Arno Hollosi told VentureBeat. “Our platform backend can process imagery of the entire planet in less than 72 hours, allowing us to create and update these large-scale semantic environments extremely quickly.”
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Maxar adds new services
The strategic investment in Blackshark allows Maxar to bring additional 3D capabilities to broader markets for more customers and opens a new revenue stream from Blackshark. Blackshark will leverage Maxar’s global cloudless satellite imagery base map, Vivid, to create a highly performant and photo-realistic 3D map for enterprise and government customers in industries such as gaming, metaverse, simulation and mixed reality environments. For example, this type of offering would enable flight simulator customers to access immersive 3D digital experiences with low latency and global scale. This could support customers who may not need the global accuracy of Maxar’s full Precision3D suite.
Blackshark came from the same team that built the realistic 3D models used in Microsoft Flight Simulator. The current offering continuously updates these models for new use cases like smart cities or better computer games. Maxar chief product officer and senior vice president Dan Nord spent ten years in the video game industry at Electronic Arts and Amazon, building large-scale simulation games before joining Maxar last year. At Maxar, he has led work on Vivid, its global 2D base map product and Precision3D, a 3D digital twin.
The two companies provide a suite of 3D products covering nearly all use cases spanning from high resolution/low accuracy to low resolution/high accuracy across defense, intelligence, navigation and ESG. Nord believes the partnership could help Maxar expand these core offerings to a larger audience.
“We expect the partnership with Blackshark to open up new revenue streams for Maxar by being able to enter new markets and reach customers who value photo-realism,” he told VentureBeat. “Our joint offer will position us well in industries such as metaverse, simulation for autonomous driving and flying, synthetic training environments and entertainment, among others.”
Blackshark gains new imagery and sales
The partnership will streamline Blackshark’s image acquisition process on the product development side. Until now, Blackshark acquired new satellite input imagery for customers on demand. Blackshark plans to collaborate with Maxar on the product side to provide the best available satellite image data on a global scale.
The partnership will also provide a richer starting point to help refine Blackshark’s tools for automatically generating semantic labels for characterizing objects in petabytes of data. “Having consistent image quality across the entire planet will significantly increase our detection and 3D output quality,” said Gastao de Figueiredo, Blackshark senior VP of strategic partnerships.
The partnership will also leverage Maxar’s sales channels. Blackshark CEO Michael Putz said, “We expect this to be a multiplier for our business,” said Blackshark CEO Michael Putz.
The companies neglected to share financial details about the latest investment. Last November, Microsoft’s Venture Fund, M12, and Point72 Ventures invested $20 in a Series A round, joining a syndicate with i5invest. At that time, Google Earth cofounder Brian McClendon, former CEO of Airbus Space & Defense Dirk Hoke and CEO of Applied Intuition Qasar Younis also joined as advisors to the board.
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