Details on a year-old Apple acquisition have quietly emerged

21 Aug 20201.19k Views

An iPhone 11 Pro. Image: © Kicking Studio/Stock.adobe.com

Israeli newspaper Calcalist has shared details on a secret Apple acquisition that took place within the last year or two, in which the company snapped up AR photography firm Camerai.

At some stage between 2018 and 2019, Apple acquired an augmented reality and computer vision start-up called Camerai, according to a new report by Israeli newspaper Calcalist.

The news was confirmed by a separate source to TechCrunch and the publication has also contacted Apple for further verification.

According to Calcalist, Camerai was originally co-founded under the name Tipit in 2014. Co-founders Aaron Wetzler, Erez Tal, Jonathan Rimon and Moty Koshrarovsky eventually sold the company to Apple. The start-up’s team of 13 employees were reportedly then integrated into Apple’s Herzliya office.

Camerai, as the company was renamed in 2018, developed a platform that enabled app and software developers to create augmented reality (AR) and image processing graphics without the need for technical knowledge or the writing of code.

A quiet acquisition

Sources told the Israeli publication that Camerai was sold to Apple a year and a half ago for “several tens of millions of dollars” and that the founders chose to keep the company in stealth mode throughout its years of existence.

Calcalis noted that Camerai’s funding rounds were relatively small, with estimated total investments of €3m from the Atooro Fund, angel investor Moshe Meidar and the Spinach group of angel investors.

The start-up was reportedly integrated into Apple’s development centre in Israel, which is estimated to employee more than 1,500 people, largely consisting of staff who joined as part of local acquisitions.

Apple is generally tight-lipped about acquisitions, with CEO Tim Cook previously stating that the company buys a start-up or smaller company every two to three weeks on average. Cook said that Apple often doesn’t announce these deals because the companies are small and Apple is “primarily looking for talent and intellectual property.”

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When Apple does make an acquisition, it usually issues its boilerplate statement: “Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans.”

TechCrunch noted that Apple’s Camerai acquisition came during the peak of AR hype, when numerous big deals were made in that space including a raise worth almost $1bn from Magic Leap.

TechCrunch also said that Camerai built a software development kit (SDK) and a range of software-based AR tools to help edit and use camera-made images in more sophisticated ways. The technology enabled users to detect different objects in the picture and outline them to alter them and apply filters.

Focusing on photography

While there’s no way to know how many companies Apple has acquired over the past year, what we do know is that the company has been investing more in camera technology.

In December, Apple acquired photography technology start-up Spectral Edge. Based in the Cambridge Science Park, the company developed a way to combine patented image fusion tech with deep learning to reveal more of the colour, detail and clarity within an image.

Before the acquisition, Spectral Edge had been investigating the potential role that its AI and machine learning photo technology could play in the security industry.

In the realm of AR and virtual reality (VR), Apple has also recently acquired NextVR. The start-up has developed technology for broadcasting and producing both live and recorded events in VR.

At the time, The Verge suggested that the acquisition could be related to Apple’s plans for the future of AR, saying that the company may introduce a VR component to its planned AR headset and glasses.

While speaking in Dublin earlier this year, Apple’s CEO remarked that AR will eventually “pervade our entire lives,” showing that the company has a keen interest in the potential of the technology.

Kelly Earley is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

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