Earlier last week, Apple acquired a deep learning startup called Xnor.ai. The Seattle firm specialized in developing artificial intelligence (AI) programs for edge devices. The Big Tech firm did not disclose terms of the transaction. GeekWire noted the corporation made its latest purchase for around $200 million.
Apple’s acquisition of Xnor.ai is its first of the New Year.
Before its purchase by Apple, Xnor.ai developed cutting edge deep learning models that can perform complex functions without a cloud connection. In the past, the firm created AI capable of facilitating image enhancement, facial recognition, and voice command functions. The company’s clients use its products in smartphones, drones, and various Internet of Things devices.
The company’s ability to embed deep learning solutions in discrete systems or components is useful in a few ways. For one thing, as its AI isn’t restricted by needing to contact an external server, it can operate with less lag than competing systems. Moreover, the startup’s AI solutions offer a higher level of privacy than those that need to ping an outside source.
Until recently, Xnor.ai supplied a person detection program to online-enabled security camera company Wyze.
Since its founding in 2016, the startup secured $14.6 million in outside capital. In its most recent funding round, Xnor.ai secured $12 million in Series A funding, including a contribution from a group called Autotech Ventures.
Why Apple Bought Xnor.ai
As it is wont to do, Apple did not explain why it had purchased the Pacific Northwest-based startup. However, based on Xnor.ai’s past offerings, there are a few ways the Big Tech firm could use its new acquisition’s resources.
For example, Apple could use the startup’s deep learning tech to improve the functionality of its digital assistant Siri. In addition, it could integrate its facial recognition features into future iterations of the iPhone to make FaceID more secure. The company could also use its image enhancement models to improve its devices’ image capturing capability.
However, it’s possible that Apple bought Xnor.ai to help develop a product that it’s been quietly preparing for several years; a smart car.
The Silicon Valley giant reportedly began work on an electric vehicle under the codename “Project Titan” in 2014. But, internal issues and a lack of forward momentum seemingly saw the initiative scuttled two years later. The firm apparently reversed course again in 2017 when the corporation won approval to begin testing self-driving cars in California.
Furthermore, Apple acquired an autonomous vehicle startup called Drive.ai last June. The firm’s driverless system had advanced to the point where the company deployed its vehicles without a human operator. As such, the company might seek to combine Drive.ai and Xnor.ai’s resources to power its first automotive product.
Nevertheless, the conglomerate had made no public comments about its automotive program. Things might change, however, once it integrates its latest new acquisition.
Notably, self-driving vehicle developers have struggled with giving their systems the ability to recognize pedestrians. Xnor.ai made its name on the quality of its person recognition models. Accordingly, the startup’s tech might be what Apple needs to introduce a smart car as revolutionary as the original iPhone.