Apple have been snooping around VR related technology as well as facial recognition start-ups for a while now. Back in 2010, Apple acquired Swedish facial
recognition firm Polar Rose, and the company has filed several patent applications related to the technology. The Cupertino based giant also snapped up real time 3D motion capture technology firm— PrimeSense, for which Apple reportedly paid nearly $350 million. Earlier this September there were rumors that Apple had also secretly acquired Swiss real-time motion capture firm Faceshift. Indications have now emerged that the company has indeed been bought out by Apple. Faceshift reportedly been working with game and animation studios, as well as smaller companies, on technology to quickly and accurately capture facial expressions using 3D sensors, including releasing Faceshift Studio software with plugins for animation software like Maya and Unity. Also notably, recently, the swiss firm has been rumoured to be working towards developing consumer-facing software such as a Skype plugin that would support real-time avatars for video chating. Tactically confirming the acquisition today, an Apple spokesperson hinted using the company’s signature line;
“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”
It is still unclear how exatcly Apple intends to utilise Faceshift’s technology but it is highly likely that the company may have a Vitual reality card up it sleeves. Though not enough reason, but with perceived competition like facebook, Sony , Samsung and even Microsoft’s recent dive into the VR sphere, its entirely plausible for Apple to try to keep taps on potential competition. Also pointing towards the VR corner is the inclusion of industry veteran Doug Griffin , who was brought in by Faceshift in the end of the second quarter of 2013 from Industrial Light & Magic and Electronic Arts, to head up its San Francisco office. During a Silicon Valley Virtual Reality expo in May, Griffin hinted that the Faceshift’s technology demo on display was running using a Carmine 3D sensor from PrimeSense, which Apple acquired in 2013. Still pointing towards the possibility of a potential Apple VR product is its acquisition of Metaio , an augmented reality startup that launched way back in 2003. Metaio was well established with a handful of impressive projects. Some of which includes a deal with Ferrari for a software that gives a potential buyer an AR tour of the car, another for travelers in Berlin to see what the scene they are looking at would have looked like when the Berlin Wall was still up. The second program uitilises historical footage that you can see by pointing your smartphone or tablet at a particular place.
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Apart from the obvious Virtual reality implications of Apple’s latest acquisition, Faceshift technology could also be used in a range of other interesting ways by Apple. In gaming which apple has shown considerable interest recently, faceshift technology could allow people adopt avatars whose faces will alter based on the
players’ actual expressions for a more immediate and realistic experience. In film
production, the technology can be used to improve the process of animating characters to more closely mimic the actors’ facial movements and expression. A reputable Example of faceshift’s technology is in the highly acclaimed Star Wars SciFi were the tech is used to make non-human characters more human-like in their expressions. Though Apple itself already has patents and assets across the field of 3D motion capture, facial recognition and augmented , its acquisition of Faceshift could complement and expand Apple’s capabilities in these areas going forward.