Emotient, a company that uses artificial intelligence to analyse facial expression and detect emotion, has been bought by Apple.
Apple confirmed the news to the Wall Street Journal stating that it "buys smaller technology companies from time to time". Characteristically, no further information was given -- "we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," a spokesperson said.
Emotient use facial recognition software to gather "detailed data on emotions". Measuring emotional reaction and facial expression, the company provides businesses with 'Emotient KPIs' in three areas: attention, engagement and sentiment. This, according to them, allows businesses to better understand the emotional connection and attention being given to their advertising and products.
Speaking at WIRED Retail earlier this year, Emotient's CEO Ken Denman described how a rapid rise in data analytics techniques are finally allowing us to detect the micro-expressions that give away what people are thinking.
"It's difficult to get people to tell us what they really feel," he said. "And that's what your business depends upon".
The technology is not just used for facial recognition -- it can also be used in large crowds to identify who is looking at advertising, as well as detect the race, age and gender of who is looking.
Facial recognition is a growing area in which many major companies are beginning to invest. Apple have recently acquired two similar companies; Faceshift, which focuses on facial analysis, and Perceptio, a deep-learning image recognition startup. Facebook's Moments app, however, has failed to get off the ground in Europe because of privacy regulations, and Google Play's automatic tagging feature, which uses similar facial recognition software, is only available in the US.
Although Denman addressed privacy concerns at WIRED Retail -- "all of the pixels captured are exploded, making it impossible for anyone to put them back together" -- it is not known exactly how Apple will use the software.
Read more: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2016-01/08/apple-emotient-ai-emotions