Apple secretly buys AI start-up Silk Labs

21 Nov 2018

Apple iPhone XS and XS Max. Image: ifeelstock/Depositphotos

Another stealthy Apple acquisition gets noticed.

Tech giant Apple’s penchant for secretly buying start-ups continues with the news that it has acquired an AI and machine-learning player called Silk Labs.

Silk Labs specialises in making AI software that is lightweight enough to work on hardware such as smartphones, cameras and digital home devices.

The company was founded in 2015 by Andreas Gal, Chris Jones and Michael Vines. It raised $2.5m in funding in 2016 from Sparkland Capital, Qihoo 360 Technology and a group of private investors.

Gal was previously the chief technology officer at Mozilla.

A supercomputer in your pocket

According to The Information, the acquisition of the Californian start-up occurred earlier this year.

“Using the latest advances in deep neural networks, we empower businesses to build the next generation of intelligent connected devices,” is how the company describes itself on its website.

It says it provides a “custom-built, highly optimised engine for SoCs [systems on chips], enabling seamless integration of Silk’s AI platform with your product”.

The acquisition makes sense when you consider the sheer tech firepower going into the latest iOS devices from an AI perspective. The latest iPhone XR, XS and XS Max devices come with the new A12 Bionic processor, the industry’s first seven-nanometre chip. It can process 5trn operations a second and enable the devices to handle complex augmented reality and AI workloads.

Silk’s technology enables deep learning and the power of a “super computer in your pocket”, which chimes neatly with where the latest generation of powerful smartphone and tablet devices is going.

Apple iPhone XS and XS Max. Image: ifeelstock/Depositphotos

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years