Apple Acquires Emotient Artificial-Intelligence Startup

Emotient's technology analyzes facial expressions to detect people's emotions and sentiments to help companies understand their customers.

Emotient, Apple, artificial intelligence, emotion detection, acquisitions, startup, Mapsense, Faceshift

Apple has acquired emotion-detection startup Emotient as the company continues to invest in businesses in a wide range of niches to add to Apple's features and technologies.

The Emotient purchase, which Apple made quietly without announcing its terms or sale price, was reported Jan. 7 in The Wall Street Journal.

Emotient provides data about customer attention, engagement and sentiment by analyzing a user's facial expressions and detecting their feelings with its cloud-based services, according to the company's Website. "The company is at the vanguard of a new wave of emotion analysis that will lead to a quantum leap in customer understanding and emotion-aware computing," the site states.

The company's services give "direct measurement of a customer's unfiltered emotional response to ads, content, products and customer service or sales interactions," according to Emotient.

Apple has not said how it will use Emotient's technologies, the article reported, but the company acknowledged its purchase and refused further comment.

The Emotient acquisition continues Apple's ongoing acquisition spree, which took on a new fervor in 2015 as the company worked to spend some of the more than $178 billion in cash it amassed in recent years on research and acquisitions.

In November 2015, Apple confirmed that it had acquired motion-capture technology startup Faceshift, which builds applications that capture human facial expressions as animated avatars or characters. Faceshift's motion-capturing technology has been used in the making of earlier Star Wars movies. In addition, Faceshift has also worked with Intel and Pepsi on previous marketing campaigns that used the company's motion-capture technology.

In October 2015, Apple bought Perceptio, an artificial intelligence startup that works on ideas that could be integrated into future iPhones. Perceptio's technology helps smartphone owners more easily organize and store photos on their iPhones, making them easier to find and use. The price of the acquisition and terms of the deal were not announced.

In September 2015, Apple reportedly acquired Mapsense, a mapping visualization startup, for $25 million to $30 million to bolster its mapping assets as it continues to develop better map tools in iOS 9 and other Apple products, according to another eWEEK report. Mapsense works to help customers create data-driven maps for a wide range of business uses, while also offering mapping visualization tools and services to developers and enterprises. Apple has been struggling with mobile mapping services in the last several years, especially compared with Google Maps and its offerings.

In May, Apple acquired Coherent Navigation, a Silicon Valley startup that has been using the Iridium satellite network to develop a commercial, high-precision navigation service for a wide range of industries. The price of that deal was not revealed.

In April, Apple paid about $20 million to acquire LinX Computational Imaging, an Israel-based company that focuses on designing and selling tiny cameras for use in mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. According to its Website, LinX "brings revolution to mobile photography" on smartphones, tablets and Ultrabooks through multi-aperture imaging technology. LinX combines innovative image processing and advanced sensor and optics technology to create cameras that offer improved image quality, better low-light performance, improved color fidelity and less shutter lag than competing technologies, according to the company.

In March, Apple acquired the startup behind the Foundation DB database in a move that could be aimed at helping Apple continue to improve and support its own services to its own customers. The companies did not announce financial terms of the acquisition. FoundationDB is a high-performance database that provides NoSQL and SQL capabilities for users. Such databases have become more popular in recent years compared with traditional relational database management systems because they better serve the emerging generation of interactive applications, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

Apple has been spending some of its huge cash pile on other ideas. Apple has been looking to diversify into electric car production, possibly by 2020, as it explores new business opportunities outside its core consumer technology and computer, tablet and smartphone businesses, according to reports.