January 7, 2011

NAVTEQ brings in more 3D skills with PixelActive buy



Gaming and simulation background to help ‘accelerate expansion from a 2D to 3D map’

CHICAGO—Map, traffic, and location data provider NAVTEQ has purchased PixelActive, a California-based firm specializing in 3D urban modeling software for video games, simulation, navigation, and urban planning. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but PixelActive had 16 employees at the time of the buy, and the company’s founders, Steve Rotenberg and Michael Kelley, will both join NAVTEQ in an R&D capacity. 

“This is not very surprising,” said former Gartner software analyst and current president of Velodyne Lidar Bruce Hall, “because any company that was formerly a 2D map provider is finding themselves needing to move to a 3D world, which is a paradigm shift of fairly large proportions.”

While NAVTEQ executives declined to comment for this story, a press release noted PixelActive’s “Cityscape product has been utilized by NAVTEQ in the development of product offerings such as 3D Junction Objects and 3D City Models.  The acquisition of PixelActive is aimed at expanding NAVTEQ’s ability to efficiently build products in a 3D environment.”

“I applaud them,” said Hall, “because I think they recognize where the world is going and they want to be a leader, like they were in the 2D world. They’ve looked at the paradigm shift and they know enough about their own customers and they know what they need to do to evolve.”

He postulated that the move to 3D isn’t easy. “There’s a lot more data to manage,” he noted, and it’s much more difficult to take that data and present it to the end consumer. “Other 2D map companies like ESRI,” Hall said, “and others are looking at this challenge and also pondering how they’re going to evolve their core engines to accommodate the world of 3D.” 

In the press release, NAVTEQ executives echoed Hall’s thoughts. “Future developments in navigation and other location-enabled solutions will rely heavily on 3D mapping capabilities,” said Cliff Fox, executive vice president, NAVTEQ Maps.  “Putting this critical product architecture in place will provide a foundation for the rapid creation of 3D content.”  

“The acquisition of PixelActive underscores NAVTEQ’s continued commitment to providing the most advanced digital maps,” explained Larry Kaplan, president and CEO, NAVTEQ.  “We are quickly moving to a world of 3D maps and NAVTEQ is taking the necessary steps to continue to provide our customers with a superior offering from which they can differentiate their products.”

“You could argue,” said Hall, “that professional map collection and dissemination and the world of gaming rendering are on a crash course. It just makes sense.”

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