Apple Buys Artificial-Intelligence Startup Emotient That Reads People’s Emotions
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Apple has acquired Emotient, a San Diego artificial intelligence (AI) technology startup that reads people’s emotions by interpreting their facial expressions.
Basically, the AI technology used by Emotient read the emotions on the faces of people, mainly for advertising and marketing purposes, such as measuring a customer’s response to ads and products. It adds to a growing string of artificial intelligence technology purchases Apple has made over the years.
A spokesperson for the Cupertino-based tech giant confirmed the acquisition with the standard statement that Apple “buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we do not discuss our purpose or plans.” The spokesperson declined to provide further information regarding the transaction.
Apple is interested in the field of artificial intelligence. In September, it was reported that the tech giant increased its efforts in hiring AI experts, mainly in machine learning to help develop smarter phones.
In October, Apple confirmed that it had acquired another artificial-intelligence startup, VocalIQ Ltd., a company working on voice-recognition tech that can interpret dialogue and natural language. It was purchased for a sum of between $50 million and $100 million dollars, according to Britain’s Business Weekly.
In a 2014 patent application, it described a software system that would analyse and identify people’s moods based on a variety of clues, including facial expression.
With fewer than 50 employees according to its LinkedIn profile, Emotient had raised about $8m from investors including Intel Capital. Its early customers included marketers and retailers that wanted to understand how consumers were responding to their products. However, according to people familiar with the situation said that the startup was trying to look for a new round of financing from venture capital firms but failed to secure favourable terms. Last year, it released a Google Glass app that could be worn by salespeople, for training and to analyse customer reaction in real time.
In May, Emotient announced that it had been granted a patent for a method of collecting and labelling as many as 100,000 facial images a day. The process allows computers to identify different facial expressions better.
In its website, Emotion claims to a leader in emotion detection and sentiment analysis based on facial expressions. Its cloud-based services provide a direct measurement of a customer’s unfiltered response to ads, content, products, customer service or sales interactions.
Emotient had also suggested its technology might be useful in education or even medical diagnosis. However, Apple often makes technology-focused acquisitions that end up being used in entirely different applications to when the company was independent.
Where there is no clarity as to why Apple acquired Emotient, which mostly sold its software to advertisers, the company has made some other recent acquisitions that are likely complementary. Faceshift, a Swiss company that develops real-time facial motion capture technology, and Perceptio, a company with deep-learning image recognition technology designed for mobile processors, are now also under Apple’s umbrella.