Apple Acquires Facial Expression Analysis Startup Emotient

Emotient is the leader in the emotion detection and sentiment analysis based on facial expressions.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple has confirmed the acquisition, but the company has given no hints as to what it plans to do with Emotient. “For this reason, automating how the system learns to accurately recognize facial expressions and emotions is critical to the entire field of emotion analytics”, said Javier Movellan, founder and lead researcher, Emotient.

“It isn’t clear what Apple plans to do with Emotient’s technology, which was primarily sold to advertisers to help assess viewer reactions to their ads”, the Journal notes. The Emotient deal is Apple’s strategy to acquire small companies with promising technology that can be integrated into future devices.

Companies like Facebook and Alphabet have also been investing in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and image recognition.

There are some obvious applications of Emotient technology for Apple. Emotient’s technology could be used in various parts of Apple. From past couple of years, Artificial intelligence-based analysis of human faces has been a hot topic in Silicon Valley.

“It’s nearly impossible to figure out Apple’s complete motives – even after an acquisition is made public, it tends to play its cards close to the vest”, said Tuong Huy Nguyen, a principal research analyst with Gartner.

Thanks to an abundance of sensors, smartphones now know more about us than ever – but Apple wants to up the ante by making phones that can understand our facial expressions and thus our changing moods.

Just a few months ago, Apple acquired another AI startup, called VocalIQ, whose speech-recognition technology is widely expected to improve interactions with Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri.

San Diego, California-based Emotient was only founded in 2012 and has raised at least $8m in venture capital funding from Intel Capital and Seth Neiman, among others. This is Apple’s latest in a series of recent acquisitions of companies well versed in artificial intelligence.

Stephen Lam

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