Apple bought Spektral for $30 million. What is more interesting is that the deal happened last year. Apple did not make it public.
Many independent sources confirmed it to Borsen. Some key employees of Spektral changed their LinkedIn profiles to show that they are an employee of Apple.
The iPhone maker focuses more on augmented reality. This purchase might enhance the AR functionalities of iPhone for its FaceTime or Memoji. It might also mean that it is a part of Apple’s plan to create an AR headset, which might be available in 2020 as Bloomberg reported.
What is Spektral?
Previously known as CloudCutout, Spektral can cut out individuals from video backgrounds in real-time on mobile phones. It is possible through machine learning and computer vision techniques.
The company was founded four years ago. The people behind the company have Ph.D. degrees in theoretical mathematics. They could break the machine learning code to create something that is useful.
The company describes its technology as:
“Our pioneering and unique technology is based on state-of-the-art machine learning and computer vision techniques. Combining deep neural networks and spectral graph theory with the computing power of modern GPUs, our engine can process images and video from the camera in real-time (60 fps) directly on the device.”
The use of techniques to separate objects from backgrounds is not new. In fact, Apple included same functionality to iChat in 2006. However, the most challenging part here is to make it work in real time. On iChat Backgrounds before, users had to step out of the view. Then, the user can place anything on a fake background. Unfortunately, the effect was not good because the pixel issues were obvious. The result was artificial.
Although Spektral did not comment on this acquisition, the startup’s co-founder has listed Apple as his employer.
The stock exchange communicated with Apple to inquire about the acquisition. However, the contact person of Apple in Denmark declined to comment. The former CEO of this Danish company also did not wish to comment.
In addition to the founders, other shareholders also benefitted from the purchase. These shareholders would include the Buckley Family and Rethmann Invest.
Apple is known to acquire startups. But this deal is rare as the startup is situated in Denmark. Before Apple buys a company, it must have a potential first. In other words, Spektral does have something special.
It is also common for Apple to enter the market and get knowledge by purchasing companies.
In the past, Apple bought several companies that can help it boost its AR department. In 2017, it bought SensoMotoric Instruments, a German company. Last month, it acquired Akonia Holographics, an AR lens company that builds lenses for smart glasses. The glasses can show AR images over the real world. The lenses are thin and can display vibrant images.
It is typical for Apple not to discuss anything about its purpose for acquiring a startup. However, it seems that it believes in the emerging AR technologies.