Apple’s secret Spektral purchase puts Lucas in your iPhone

Apple ARKit 2

It looks so real…

Apple in December 2017 purchased Danish VR firm Spektral in a top secret $30 million deal it kept to itself until the deal’s reveal by local newspaper, Brsen.

Keeping it VR real

Spektral (originally CloudCutOut) was a VR firm with a focus on machine imaging and machine intelligence.

In this case, it used deep learning techniques and machine intelligence running on hardware (think CoreML) to make it possible to do so much more with images, such as taking a subject (down to a single hair) out of one image and into another.

This is significant, as some explanations of the technology describe it as working in a similar way to the green screens used when making movies that enable the subject to be extracted from the background and then placed in a different environment convincingly.

This was an effect widely used in every movie, but Gollum in Lord of the Rings may be a good example.

What Spektral says

Spektral’s tech was smart enough to remove a subject from video running at 60fps. In real-time. On its website (which is still online), it states:

“The human visual system is extraordinary at recognition, segmentation, and compositing -simply through thought. Researchers have for decades been intrigued by these remarkable skills, and have therefore tried to build computer systems with similar properties.

“This is notoriously a very challenging problem, but recently computers are able to reach human precision in certain recognition tasks. With no doubt this trend is bound to continue, bridging the gap between human cognition and artificial intelligence. The implications of these advances pave the way for new business models, as tasks that previously required human intervention can now be solved automatically by algorithms.”

Here’s the deal reveal:

  1. Apple acquired the company in 2017, but the deal was kept secret.
  2. Spektral’s Co-founders Henrik Paltoft and Toke Jansen now work for Apple.
  3. Jansen is now a manager of Computational Imaging at Apple.
  4. Apple is investing deeply in machine imaging and machine intelligence around imaging, including CoreML, photo recognition and ARKit.
  5. Apple has also put its weight behind a file system that should make AR images (such as those captured by Spektral’s tech) much more lightweight and portable.
  6. AR has implications far beyond gaming and collaboration.
  7. Spektral’s website still provides a link to Google, rather than Apple Maps.

What I think?

Everybody has an opinion. There’s a non-family friendly saying about it. All the same, it seems to me that a technology like this has the following implications:

  • Photographers can place people in different environments and make it seem authentic
  • Same for video
  • Video/AR also gets boosted with an affordable way to create and use 3D content
  • Collaboration moves from being face-to-face and becomes 3D – FaceTime Group Chat, anybody?
  • “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi”

Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

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