Apple Has Secret Team Working on Virtual Reality Headset

Apple has expanded its research efforts in virtual and augmented reality, building out a large team that is experimenting with headsets and other technologies, reports Financial Times in a detailed post on the company’s virtual reality work that covers recent hires and acquisitions.

Hundreds of employees are part of a „secret research unit“ exploring AR and VR, with the team consisting of experts hired through acquisitions and poached from Microsoft and Lytro, the company that developed the Immerge, a Light Field power camera able to blend live action and computer graphics for a live action VR experience. Apple has also hired Doug Bowman, said to be one of the leading virtual reality experts in the United States.

In addition to recent AR/VR-related acquisitions Metaio, Faceshift, and Emotient, Apple has also just purchased Flyby Media, a startup that worked on augmented reality technologies. Flyby Media created an app that worked with Google’s „Project Tango“ smartphone with 3D sensors, allowing messages to be attached to real world objects that were then viewable by one of Google’s devices.

Most notably, Apple’s AR/VR team is said to have built prototype virtual reality headsets that are similar to the Oculus Rift and the Hololens from Microsoft. Multiple prototypes of „possible headset configurations“ have been created in recent months, with Apple’s interest reportedly inspired by the Oculus Rift.

It is not clear if and when Apple’s work on a headset prototype will make it past the development stage into an actual product, and the company often secretly works on technologies that never see the light of day. The scope of what Apple is building is also unknown, but Financial Times says that the company’s work could potentially be useful for the Apple Car project.

Apple has had a team working on virtual and augmented reality technologies since at least early 2015, when rumors suggested there were a small number of employees investigating how Apple could incorporate the technologies into its products. Apple’s interest in virtual reality dates back much further, however, and Apple has filed multiple patents over the years, for products like video goggles, motion-sensing 3D virtual interfaces for iOS devices, and 3D „hyper reality“ displays.

Apple CEO Tim Cook was recently questioned on whether he believed virtual reality could go mainstream. He explained that he does not see virtual reality as a niche product, describing it as „really cool“ with „some interesting applications.“

Tags: augmented reality, ft.com, Apple acquisition, virtual reality
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Apple’s acquires company behind ‘Star Wars’ SFX

When you go to theaters to see the latest Star Wars movie, the special effects – particularly the faces of aliens – will now be driven by Apple technology. That’s because Apple has purchased Faceshift, a Zurich-based company that has created cool tech to capture a person’s facial expressions in real time. Techcrunch reports that […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


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Confirmed: Apple Acquired Real-Time Motion Capture Firm Faceshift

Earlier this year, MacRumors uncovered some evidence suggesting Zurich-based real-time motion capture firm Faceshift was acquired by Apple, and as of today, that acquisition has been confirmed by Apple in a statement given to TechCrunch.

„Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.“

Prior to being acquired by Apple, Faceshift worked with game and animation studios on technology designed to quickly and accurately capture facial expressions using 3D sensors, including Faceshift Studio software with plugins for Maya and Unity. The company was also working toward consumer-facing software like a Skype plugin that would support real-time avatars for video chat.

Based on Swiss company registry filings discovered by MacRumors, Faceshift was acquired by Apple in mid-August. Several Faceshift employees have now joined Apple and are working out of the company’s European offices. Apple is also hiring additional employees to work on related technology in Switzerland, including a senior software engineer that would focus on „cutting-edge imaging algorithms for both mobile and desktop photographic applications.“

Faceshift launched in 2011 out of the Computer Graphics and Geometry Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, and in mid-2013, the company expanded and brought on industry veteran Doug Griffin, formerly of Industrial Light & Magic and Electronic Arts, to head up a San Francisco office. Faceshift has demonstrated its motion capture technology multiple times in the past few years, most recently demoing it at GDC 2015.

It is not clear what Apple will use Faceshift’s Technology for, but there are a wide range of possible use cases. Faceshift’s real-time motion capture work in the gaming and chat arena could be used for things like real-time avatars for FaceTime video chats, but there are also more serious applications such as biometrics for unlocking devices or authorizing payments through facial recognition techniques.

Tag: Faceshift
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Job Listing Lends Further Credence to Apple’s Acquisition of Faceshift

Earlier this month, we reported that Apple likely acquired Swiss real-time motion capture firm Faceshift, based on the company’s corporate directors stepping down in August and being replaced by Martin Frey, a mergers and acquisitions attorney at Baker & McKenzie. Apple has frequently used Baker & McKenzie’s services around the world, including management of some of Apple’s Swiss trademarks.

Lending further credence to the rumor, Apple has posted a job listing for a PhD-level Software Engineering position within its Camera and Media Algorithms Group. The listing provides a generic location of Apple’s Swiss corporate headquarters at Löwenstrasse 29 in Zurich, Switzerland, but the highly technical skills and experience required for the job suggest it may be located at nearby Faceshift.

This engineer will work to create cutting-edge imaging algorithms for both mobile and desktop photographic applications. The ideal candidate will have experience with advanced imaging techniques such as multi-scale, wavelet, or gradient-domain processing. In addition, experience with processing video for computational information is desired including experience with image registration methods. Also, experience working with multi-spectral imaging systems is desired. 5+ years algorithmic development for general image processing, computational photography, color and image quality. Strong understanding of digital imaging/camera pipelines. Strong computational and imaging for information experience. Excellent coding skills in C, C++, and MATLAB Ability to optimize/debug imaging algorithms. Familiarity with common development and debugging tools, ideally for both mobile and desktop applications. Strong verbal and written communication skills in English. Ability to manage multiple tasks and self-prioritize. PhD in image processing or computational photography field required.

Faceshift launched in 2011 out of the Computer Graphics and Geometry Laboratory at EPFL in Lausanne, also known as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and a source working in a similar field told MacRumors that Apple may be working with Switzerland’s other technical university ETH Zurich on image segmentation and characterization at a secretive location in Zurich.

Nevertheless, the acquisition still cannot be proved beyond circumstantial evidence.

Faceshift has largely shut down its website that formerly advertised its upcoming consumer effort and a partnership for integration with Intel’s RealSense 3D camera systems
Faceshift has removed nearly all mentions of its previous Faceshift Studio software from its website and has gone silent on Twitter and Facebook
Multiple employees at Faceshift have updated their LinkedIn profiles with „Currently Looking For New Opportunities“ or „Considering New Opportunities“

Faceshift has demoed its motion capture technology several times in the past few years, including at GDC 2015.

There are numerous ways in which Apple could use Faceshift’s technologies, should this acquisition rumor prove true, ranging from real-time avatars for FaceTime video chats to biometrics for unlocking devices or authorizing payments via facial recognition. Apple’s past acquisition of 3D body sensing firm PrimeSense and Swedish facial recognition firm Polar Rose make it clear the company is interested in the space.



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