Apple has confirmed its acquisition of Faceshift, a Zurich-based motion capture company whose technology is being used in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Rumors of the acquisition first appeared a couple months ago, and Apple has now confirmed the deal with TechCrunch. Faceshift’s software is able to capture facial expressions and graft them onto digital avatars in near real-time. Intel demoed the technology with its 3D RealSense cameras earlier this year, and the 0:41 second mark of this Star Wars: The Force Awakens video shows a glimpse of Faceshift in action.
As usual, Apple didn’t elaborate on why it made the purchase or how it might use the technology. But one can always speculate.
The ability to recognize someone’s unique facial expressions could be useful for enterprise security applications, as TechCrunch notes. Turning people into digital avatars could also prove handy with the rise of virtual or augmented reality. Although Apple hasn’t revealed any initiatives on those fronts, the company could be toying with ideas given the current VR/AR efforts from Microsoft, Google, and Facebook.
Faceshift isn’t the only company Apple has acquired along these lines. Apple bought face recognition firm Polar Rose in 2010, and picked up PrimeSense, a maker of 3D motion detection sensors, a couple years back. And earlier this year, Apple acquired Metaio, whose augmented reality technology was being used by major brands such as Macy’s and Ikea. So far, however, none of those acquisitions have made an clear transition to consumer-facing Apple products.
Why this matters: As with many Apple acquisitions, it’s possible that Faceshift’s usefulness never becomes obvious to consumers. But it at least shows that Apple is interested in greater interplay between the physical and digital realms.