Does Apple’s acquisition of motion-capture firm Faceshift signal VR ambitions?

Apple on Tuesday confirmed it has acquired Faceshift, a Swiss-based motion-capture company, in a deal that offers intriguing possibilities into the technology’s future uses.

“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” Apple said in a typically vague, boilerplate email to TechCrunch. As promised, Apple did not comment on how it may use the technology. Which just begs us to speculate.

Faceshift’s technology was used to help create lifelike alien characters in the upcoming “Star Wars” movie, but its applications could be far wider. Faceshift’s software uses “real-time motion capture” to track facial expressions and movement, essentially bringing an animated face to life.

So what could Apple do with that? The short answer: A lot.

Among the possibilities:

• Video games and chats. How about your own customized avatar that reflects your expressions? Or full-body motion capture, to create a virtual you? It could also be used for Facetime video chats, to give users fun new looks along the lines of Snapchat’s crazy selfie lenses.

• Virtual or augmented reality. Six months ago, Apple also bought German augmented reality firm Metaio. Then Apple took its first step into VR last month with an experimental U2 video. Might it be looking to develop a fully immersive product down the line to compete with Facebook’s Oculus Rift or Samsung’s Gear VR? It’s hard to believe Apple would not have huge ambitions for an emerging personal tech field such as VR.

• Security. You can already unlock your iPhones with a fingerprint; what if they had facial recognition? Or even if your ID was connected to a specific facial expression? Such biometrics could also be used to make payments or to access your account.

• Tracking. Talk about a smart TV: How about a responsive Apple TV that recognizes who’s watching and sets a favorites menu or volume accordingly? Or can sense when you’ve fallen asleep and turns itself off?

• Tagging. Apple may be trying to bolster the facial recognition aspect of its Photo app, which currently lags behind Facebook and Google in its ability to auto-tag people in photos.

• Cars. Or could it be incorporated into Apple’s secretive car plans? Perhaps using the technology to unlock doors, start the car, or even make automatic driving adjustments if it senses the driver is distracted or drowsy.

Whatever its uses may be, keep an eye out for some cool development in the not-too-distant future. Remember, Apple will be adding tens of thousands of jobs in Silicon Valley in the coming years, and they won’t be just sitting around doing nothing.


At top: A screenshot of Faceshift’s real-time motion capture technology.



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  • USMC 8th and I

    Oh, come on! We all know Apple has lost it’s innovation………/s

  • retiredinboyntonbeach

    But — that other article, from CNBC, said Apple is a dying company and its products aren’t any good any more. That’s inconsistent with this article. Gee. Hmmn. What pays better, writing an Apple-boosting article or writing an Apple-bashing article?

  • fstein

    Fun to see the possibilities. My bet is they will fold this into platform software tools, especially targeting game developers. And then get 30% on all those games sold on all the iOS platforms.

  • MarkS2002

    Take some of the processes, a couple of engineers, and shut it down.