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Apple acquires Danish company with futuristic green screen technology

Published Oct 10th, 2018 9:09PM EDT
Image: Shutterstock

One of Apple’s strengths is that it doesn’t acquire companies without a mapped out strategy in mind. Every time Apple makes an acquisition, it’s because Apple has a specific idea of how to incorporate the target company’s technology into its own line of products and services. In stark contrast, some other tech giants — like Google, for example — tend to go on acquisition sprees and snatch up companies without really thinking about or expressing an end-goal. Google’s 2013 acquisition of Boston Dynamics is a prime example.

With that said, every Apple acquisition tends to be big news because it can often signal the type of features we might eventually see in future Apple products. When Apple purchased AuthenTec in 2012, for example, the company’s fingerprint authentication technology was built into the Touch ID feature that shipped on the 2013 iPhone 5s. With that said, Apple a few months ago made a rather interesting acquisition that hasn’t been made public until now.

According to the Danish publication Børsen, Apple late last year acquired Spektral, a Danish startup company with an expertise in visual effects technology and machine learning. The purchase price is believed to be in excess of $30 million. As to what makes the Spektral purchase so intriguing, Fortune reports:

Spektral got its start by developing software that enabled photographers to digitally pluck a person—down to the pesky stray hairs on their head—from one green screen-like background and plunk them down in front of another. Think school portraits.

That technique is called “cutouts” and the company went by the name CloudCutout at the time. It offered a way to do in the digital cloud something photographers once did by hand with film and later did by mouse in photo editing software.

But all those math Ph.D.s at CloudCutout got restless and trained their machine-learning software to cut out a person from moving pictures without the need for an actual Hollywood-style green screen. Now the company advertises that it can do that in real time, creating a “mixed reality.” Think Pokémon Go.

So how does this all factor into Apple’s plans? Well, Spektral’s website — which is surprisingly still up — notes that the company in 2016 began harnessing its technology to facilitate the creation of “mixed reality content for video in real time.”

“We have been working fiercely with our algorithms on getting this cool technology available on a smartphone and thereby enabling anyone […] anywhere to create mixed reality content,” the company’s website reads.

A video highlighting what the company’s technology can do can be seen below:

Yoni Heisler Contributor

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.