Apple has acquired yet another technology startup, this time a San Diego company called Emotient, which uses a combination of artificial intelligence and facial recognition to detect a person’s emotions. Emotient’s website, which was recently revised to remove details about the company’s services, emphasizes that the company “is the leader in emotion detection and sentiment analysis.”
Emotient uses facial recognition technology which, in a nutshell, analyzes a person’s facial expression to determine their mood or emotions. According to The Wall Street Journal, the company had previously raised around $8 million from investors, including from Intel. In May, the company was granted a patent for technology that collected and analyzed 100,000 facial images a day in an effort to bolster their emotion-detecting technology.
Emotient’s services were primarily sold to advertisers to ascertain viewers’ honest reactions to their ads. The Wall Street Journal also mentions that the technology was used by doctors to aid in interpreting “signs of pain among patients unable to express themselves.”
Apple purchased the company this morning for an undisclosed amount. When pressed for a comment, Apple released the same canned response they give every time they purchase a smaller tech company – “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and [they] generally do not discuss [their] purpose or plans.”
It’s unclear what Apple will be using the technology for, but Apple has been interested in the field of facial and emotion recognition for quite some time. A 2014 Business Insider article mentioned a patent application by Apple that described a “hypothetical system which would analyze and define people’s moods based on a variety of clues including facial expressions, perspiration rates, and vocal patterns.”
In October, Apple purchased two artificial intelligence startups – Perceptio, which used artificial intelligence to classify photos on smartphones, and VocalIQ, which focused on helping computers better recognize and understand natural speech.
Apple may use the technology as advertisers previously have – to determine honest customer reaction to the company’s products and advertising. Or perhaps the company acquired the startup to harvest the talent of its staff.
There is plenty of speculation out there as to why the purchase was made, but Apple is certainly looking to strengthen their artificial intelligence technology. Hopefully they have something big up their sleeve.