Apple has quietly bought Spektral, a Danish machine learning startup that specializes in real-time green screen technology. The $30 million deal actually happened last year, but it was reported today by Danish newspaper Børsen. Apple has been focusing more and more on its AR capabilities lately, and this latest acquisition may be meant to boost the iPhone’s AR features for Memoji or FaceTime or as a part of its plans for an augmented reality headset, which Bloomberg reported may be coming in 2020.
Spektral, which previously went by the name CloudCutout, uses machine learning and computer vision techniques to “cut out” people from video backgrounds in real time on smartphones. “Combining deep neural networks and spectral graph theory with the computing power of modern GPUs, our engine can process images and video from the camera in real-time (60 fps) directly on the device,” the company explained on its website.
It’s definitely not the first AR startup Apple has bought, as the company has acquired a string of computer vision companies in the past. Apple acquired German eye-tracking tech company called SensoMotoric Instruments in 2017 and augmented reality lens company Akonia Holographics last month. Apple usually doesn’t discuss its purpose or plans with the companies it acquires, but it’s clear that Apple believes in the promise of emerging AR technologies.