Apple Bought Augmented Reality Headset Company Vrvana

Apple recently purchased Vrvana, a company that developed an augmented reality headset called Totem, reports TechCrunch.

Two sources with knowledge of the deal confirmed the acquisition, but Apple declined to comment and did not provide its usual acquisition statement. TechCrunch says Apple did not deny the story, though, and several employees who were previously with Vrvana are now with Apple.


Apple is said to have paid $30 million for Vrvana, and the deal may have taken place this summer. Vrvana's website is still up and running, but social media accounts ceased updates in August.

Vrvana developed a sort of mixed reality headset called Totem, which was never released. It was designed to combine both augmented and virtual reality technologies in a single headset, merging full VR capabilities with pass-through cameras to enable screen-based augmented reality features.

Essentially, Totem used a set of cameras to project real world images into its built-in 1440p OLED display, a somewhat unique approach that set it apart from competing products like Microsoft's HoloLens, which uses a transparent display to combine virtual and augmented reality. With Totem's approach, much richer virtual experiences were available, as full VR objects could be combined with a real-world view.

The built-in cameras were used to track the device's position in space, and additional infrared cameras were used to detect a user's hands. Several media sites were able to check out the Totem last year, and it received largely positive reviews.

Totem's technology could be built into a future Apple device, as multiple rumors suggest Apple is working on some kind of augmented reality headset or smart glasses product.

Apple is said to be building an AR headset that features a dedicated display, a built-in processor, and a new "rOS" operating system. The company is aiming to finish work on its augmented reality headset by 2019, and a finished product could be ready to ship as soon as 2020, should the project progress on schedule.

While Apple has acquired other augmented reality companies like Metaio, Faceshift, Flyby Media, and SensoMotoric Instruments, this is the first dedicated AR/VR headset hardware company Apple has purchased, signaling a deep interest in developing some kind of AR/VR wearable device.

Related Roundup: Apple VR Project

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Apple May Have Acquired Camera Sensor Company InVisage Earlier This Year

Apple has reportedly acquired or at least hired some talent away from InVisage, according to the blog Image Sensors World. The report, citing two unnamed sources, claims the deal was closed in July of this year.


Beyond the sources familiar with the matter, there are only subtle clues that Apple may have scooped up InVisage.

Image Sensors World, for example, highlighted that InVisage is no longer listed as a current investment in the portfolios of venture capital firms Nokia Growth Partners and InterWest Partners.

InVisage also removed a news page and a list of employee profiles from its website, compared to an archived version from February. Many companies acquired by Apple in the past have simplified or even removed their websites.

LinkedIn lists at least six Apple employees who previously worked at InVisage, although only two joined the company this year. One of them, Nail Khaliullin, appears to have joined Apple as a hardware engineer in July.

InVisage also filed to register a manufacturing subsidiary in June with the state of California, where the company is headquartered, but it later surrendered the request and the entity was legally dissolved in early October.

InVisage, founded in 2006 and based out of Newark, California, has developed new image sensor architecture with a dedicated QuantumFilm layer that can maximize a smartphone camera's light sensing capability.


The company's website says QuantumFilm pixels have over three times higher dynamic range, allowing users to capture "supremely detailed images in almost any lighting condition where there is bright sky."

QuantumFilm is a photosensitive layer that relies on InVisage's newly invented class of materials to absorb light; specifically, the new material is made up of quantum dots, nanoparticles that can be dispersed to form a grid once they are synthesized. Just like paint, this dispersion of solid materials can be coated onto a substrate and allowed to dry.
InVisage's technologies could certainly be implemented as part of annual improvements to iPhone and iPad cameras.

Apple did not immediately respond to our request for comment, but we'll update this article if the company confirms the deal.


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Apple Acquires Wireless Charging Company PowerbyProxi

Apple recently purchased PowerbyProxi, a company that designs wireless power solutions, reports New Zealand website Stuff. Apple's senior vice president of hardware engineering Dan Riccio told Stuff that the PowerbyProxi team will be a "great addition as Apple works to create a wireless future."

"We want to bring truly effortless charging to more places and more customers around the world," Riccio added.


PowerbyProxi was founded in 2007 to develop wireless charging technology that lets people charge smartphones and other devices without requiring a cord. PowerbyProxi has developed the Proxi-Module, a modular wireless power system that can adapt and integrate into a wide variety of products and situations, delivering up to 100 watts of power to devices like drones and robots.

The Proxi-Module, which features a modular, waterproof design that lets it adapt to a range of use cases, is said to offer the highest power density of any solution on the market with an end to end efficiency of 91 percent, offering "unprecedented performance" with reduced power and heat losses.

PowerbyProxi has also been working on the development of the Wireless Power Consortium's future Qi wireless charging standard and has received accolades and funding for its work. Apple is also a member of the Wireless Power Consortium as of February 2017.

In a statement, PowerbyProxi founder Fady Mishriki said his team is "thrilled" to be joining Apple.
"The team and I are thrilled to join Apple. There is tremendous alignment with our values, and we are excited to continue our growth in Auckland and contribute to the great innovation in wireless charging coming out of New Zealand."
Apple in September unveiled the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X, and all three new devices are equipped with Qi-based wireless charging capabilities that allow them to charge from Qi-certified wireless chargers.

Apple is already developing its own wireless charging mat that can charge the iPhone, the Apple Watch, and the AirPods at the same time, and with the addition of PowerbyProxi, Apple could expand into a range of other charging accessories for both home and retail use.

It's not clear how much Apple paid to purchase PowerbyProxi, nor did Dan Riccio elaborate on how the PowerbyProxi technology will be used by Apple in the future.


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Apple Hires AI Team From Init.ai to Join Work on Siri

Apple this week "acqui-hired" the team from Init.ai, a startup that designed a smart assistant to allow customer service representatives to easily parse through and automate some interactions with users, reports TechCrunch.

The startup focused on creating an AI with natural language processing and machine learning to analyze chat-based conversations between humans.


Init.ai announced that it was shutting down its service earlier this week to join a new project.
Today is an exciting day for our team. Init.ai is joining a project that touches the lives of countless people across the world. We are thrilled and excited at the new opportunities this brings us.

However, this means Init.ai will discontinue its service effective December 16th 2017. While we wish to make this transition as smooth as possible, we cannot continue to operate Init.ai going forward.
Apple did not purchase Init.ai and will not obtain any intellectual property nor is there an indication that Apple plans to use any existing Init.ai services. Instead, Apple has taken on the Init.ai team, who will now work on Apple's Siri personal assistant.

The addition of the Init.ai team may hint at Apple's future Siri plans, with the company perhaps planning to build out more business integrations to supplement Business Chat, the iOS 11 iMessage feature that allows businesses to communicate with customers.

TechCrunch says it's not entirely clear how many people from Init.ai will be transitioning to Apple, but the startup only employed six people.


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Apple Acquires Regaind, a French Computer Vision Startup Focused on Photo Analysis

Apple has acquired Regaind, a small French artificial intelligence startup focused on photo analysis, according to TechCrunch.

Apple essentially confirmed the deal with its standard statement:
Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.
Regaind has developed a computer vision API that can extract "game-changing insights" from images, according to its website.
We help businesses and developers deal with massive flows of images by using state-of-the-art artificial intelligence to analyze and sort them. Your problem is often not reduced to finding a photo of a "sailboat" or of a "lion": it's also about finding the right one for your specific use, among many others. Regaind enables you to understand the content of an image, as well as to assess its technical and aesthetical values, so as to maximize your impact with high quality photos.
Regaind is able to analyze the aesthetics, sharpness, exposure, colors, and other properties of photos, and use that information to promote the most relevant ones in a meaningful way.

Regaind's computer vision API can also detect faces in a photo, as well as the gender, age, and emotion of the people that appear. It's possible that Apple is already using this technology for facial recognition features like Animoji in the iPhone X, and there could be additional implementations to follow.

Apple could use Regaind's technology to improve the Memories feature in the Photos app on iOS, for example, which already intelligently curates photos and videos based on activities, trips, holidays, people, pets, and more.


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Apple Acquires German Eye Tracking Firm SensoMotoric Instruments

Apple has almost certainly acquired German computer vision company SensoMotoric Instruments, a provider of eye tracking glasses and systems, based on evidence compiled by MacRumors.


On May 2, Apple's vice president of corporate law Gene Levoff, representing Delaware-based shell company Vineyard Capital Corporation, granted power of attorney to German law firm Hiking Kühn Lüer Wojtek to represent Vineyard Capital Corporation in all business related to the acquisition of SensoMotoric Instruments.


On June 16, SensoMotoric Instruments filed several documents with the German Company Register outlining new articles of incorporation. SensoMotoric's previous managing director Eberhard Schmidt was replaced by Dr. Ali Sahin, one of the German attorneys representing Vineyard Capital Corporation.

Vineyard Capital Corporation is listed as having acquired all company shares of SensoMotoric Instruments.

Apple takes steps to hide its acquisitions through shell companies, which essentially only exist on paper, but Levoff's signature on one of the documents is a clear giveaway that Vineyard Capital Corporation is Apple. Levoff even notarized the document in Cupertino, California, where Apple is headquartered.

SensoMotoric Instruments recently updated its website, removing over a dozen pages with detailed information about its products. The website also no longer has a jobs portal, news blog, schedule of events and workshops, contact information, list of distributors and resellers, or mailing list signup form.

An archived version of the website from last week indicated the company was hiring, but the current version does not. Schmidt's name and headshot have also been removed from the website now that he is no longer managing director. Christian Villwock, Director of OEM Solutions Business, was also removed.

The acquisition is backed up by an anonymous tipster, who told us that he allegedly spoke to an Apple employee today who said the deal has been completed. Additionally, one of SensoMotoric's clients informed us that they have been attempting to contact the company for several weeks without hearing back.

Apple and SensoMotoric Instruments did not respond to multiple requests for comments. SensoMotoric's phone line was out of service.

SensoMotoric Instruments, founded in 1991, has developed a range of eye tracking hardware and software for several fields of use, including virtual and augmented reality, in-car systems, clinical research, cognitive training, linguistics, neuroscience, physical training and biomechanics, and psychology.

The company's Eye Tracking Glasses, for instance, are capable of recording a person's natural gaze behavior in real-time and in real world situations with a sampling rate up to 120Hz. As seen in the video below, one possible use case is for athletes looking to evaluate and improve their visual performance.


SensoMotoric has also developed eye-tracking technology for virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift, which can analyze the wearer's gaze and help to reduce motion sickness, a common side effect of VR. The solution can also allow for a person's gaze to control menus or aim in a game with their gaze.


SensoMotoric's other eye-tracking solutions include standalone devices, such as the RED250mobile, which allows saccade-based studies to be conducted at 250Hz for researchers who require both mobility and high sampling rate.

Apple has reportedly prototyped a pair of "smart glasses" that would connect to an iPhone and display "images and other information" to the wearer, and SensoMotoric's eye-tracking technology could feasibly play a role in that product alongside solutions from Apple's other acquisitions like Faceshift.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has also repeatedly expressed a "profound" interest in augmented reality, calling the technology "a big idea" like the smartphone. He said augmented reality should "amplify" human contact, but noted "there are things to discover before that technology is good enough for the mainstream."

With iOS 11, Apple is delving into augmented reality in a big way, introducing an ARKit development platform that will allow developers to quickly and easily build augmented reality experiences into their apps and games.

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SensoMotoric Instruments is headquartered in Teltow, Germany, near Berlin, and its website said it had an office in Boston as well. It's unclear if the company and its roughly 60 employees, according to LinkedIn, will merge within Apple or remain an independent subsidiary. Financial terms of the deal are unknown.

Eric Slivka contributed to this report.


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Apple Acquires ‘Dark Data’ Machine Learning Company Lattice Data

Apple recently paid around $200 million to acquire Lattice Data, a firm that aims to turn unstructured "dark data" such as text and images into structured data that can then be handled with traditional data analysis tools. News of the acquisition comes from TechCrunch, and Apple has essentially confirmed the acquisition by issuing its standard statement on the topic.


Lattice uses machine learning techniques to take mass amounts of initially unusable data and turn it into properly labeled and categorized data that can be used for AI, medical research, and more.
It’s unclear who Lattice has been working with, or how Apple would intend to use the technology. Our guess is that there is an AI play here: Our source said that Lattice had been “talking to other tech companies about enhancing their AI assistants,” including Amazon’s Alexa and Samsung’s Bixby, and had recently spent time in South Korea.
TechCrunch says the deal closed "a couple of weeks ago," with roughly 20 Lattice engineers having joined Apple.


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A Look at What Apple Could Do With Beddit’s Sleep Technology

Apple recently purchased Beddit, a sleep monitoring system that pairs a pliable under-sheet sleep sensor with an app, all of which is designed to help users analyze and improve their sleeping habits.

The acquisition is unusual because it appears Apple plans to keep selling the Beddit hardware while collecting sleep-related data from users. For that reason, we took a look at some of the things Apple might be planning to do with this data and how it might impact future products.

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Apple's Beddit purchase came to light because Beddit updated its privacy policy to both highlight the acquisition and implement Apple's privacy rules. "Your personal data will be collected, used and disclosed in accordance with the Apple Privacy Policy," reads the site.

Apple appears to have purchased Beddit for its sleep sensing technology. Beddit uses a $150 sleep monitoring device that's placed under the bottom sheet of a mattress, collecting data on everything from sleep time and efficiency to heart rate and respiration. It also tracks movement, snoring, room temperature, and room humidity to determine factors that might disturb sleep.

Beddit's sensor uses ballistocardiography (BCG) to measure the mechanical activity of the heart, lungs, and other body functions, a non-invasive monitoring technology that's similar to the light-based photoplethysmography the Apple Watch uses to monitor heart rate.

With BCG, when the heart beats, it measures the mechanical impulse generated by the acceleration of the blood through the circulatory system, providing a wealth of data about the body.

Apple is likely interested in the sensor technology used in the Beddit device, and has indeed hired medical experts who have worked with ballistocardiography in the past, but the data collected also seems to be of interest due to the company's decision to keep selling the Beddit sensor.

Beddit's technology and data could be used for any number of things, from advancing sleep research for efforts like HealthKit and CareKit to implementing more advanced health-tracking technology and sleep monitoring functionality into the Apple Watch or other future wearable devices.

For the immediate future, it appears Apple will continue to sell the Beddit hardware as part of a standalone brand like Beats, but the company's longer-term plans for Beddit are unknown.


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Apple Acquires ‘Beddit’ iPhone-Connected Sleep Monitoring System

Apple recently acquired Beddit Sleep Monitor, an app and sleep system designed to monitor daily sleep habits through the iPhone, according to an updated privacy policy posted both on the Beddit website and in the Beddit app when creating an account. A link within the app also directs to the Apple Privacy Policy.

As of May 8, the Beddit privacy policy says the following:
Beddit has been acquired by Apple. Your personal data will be collected, used and disclosed in accordance with the Apple Privacy Policy.
The Beddit 3 Sleep Monitor, which can be purchased from Apple for $150, is a thin, flexible sensor that's designed to be placed under the sheet on the top of a mattress. It collects and analyzes sleep-related data like sleep time and efficiency, heart rate, respiration, movement, snoring, room temperature, and room humidity.

All of the data collected by the Beddit Sleep Monitor is then made available to iPhone users through an accompanying Beddit iPhone app, which provides "personalized insights" and "customizable sleep coaching" to help users improve their sleep habits.


According to the Beddit website, the device uses ballistocardiography (BCG) to measure the mechanical activity of the heart, lungs, and other body functions. When the heart beats, for example, the Beddit sensor can measure the mechanical impulse generated by the acceleration of the blood through the circulatory system.

Based on the changes to the Beddit privacy policy, it appears Apple may have plans to continue selling the device and collecting health-related data from it, which could potentially be used to enhance future versions of products like the Apple Watch.


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Apple Acquires Popular Automation App Workflow

Apple has acquired well-known and popular automation app Workflow, reports TechCrunch. The deal was reportedly finalized today for an unspecified sum.

Workflow, first released in 2014, is an automation tool that can essentially do anything. It allows users to create a variety of workflows to accomplish tasks like creating GIFs from a series of photos, pulling images from a web page, translating an article, posting photos to multiple social networks at once, calculating a tip, and tons more.


It is equipped with a built-in Gallery, which allows people to quickly find and use a wide range of automation tasks, and it can be used to create custom automations.

Apple is purchasing the Workflow app and the Workflow team, including Ari Weinstein, Conrad Kramer, and Nick Frey, will be joining the company.
"We are thrilled to be joining Apple," said Weinstein in a statement. "We've worked closely with Apple from the very beginning, from kickstarting our company as students attending WWDC to developing and launching Workflow and seeing its amazing success on the App Store. We can't wait to take our work to the next level at Apple and contribute to products that touch people across the world.
Apple confirmed the acquisition of Workflow, which notably received an Apple Design Award in 2015 for its excellent accessibility features, likely one of the reasons behind the purchase.

Typically apps acquired from Apple disappear from the App Store, but Workflow will remain available and will be made free starting later today. The Gallery will continue to be updated on a regular basis, as will app integrations.

Beyond the app, it is not clear what Apple will do with Workflow in the future, and whether it will be built into future versions of iOS and macOS, but it is definitely a possibility. TechCrunch speculates that it could be used alongside Siri in the future, or perhaps be the backbone of powerful automation tools for the iPad.

Update: Workflow can now be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]


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