Real-Time Motion Capture Firm Faceshift May Have Been Acquired by Apple

Based on a few whispers and some research, MacRumors believes that Swiss real-time motion capture firm Faceshift may have been acquired by Apple in recent weeks. Faceshift has been working with game and animation studios, as well as smaller companies, on technology to quickly and accurately capture facial expressions using 3D sensors, including releasing Faceshift Studio software with plugins for animation software like Maya and Unity. More recently, the company has been working toward consumer-facing software such as a Skype plugin that would support real-time avatars for video chat.

faceshift_train_capture_animate
Faceshift was launched in 2011 out of the Computer Graphics and Geometry Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and has shown off some impressive demos of its technology in a number of settings. In mid-2013, the company brought on industry veteran Doug Griffin, formerly of Industrial Light & Magic and Electronic Arts, to head up a San Francisco office.


Faceshift has clearly been acquired by another company in recent weeks, as noted in a Swiss company registry filing from August 19 showing the three original corporate directors having stepped down as of August 14 and being replaced by Baker & McKenzie mergers and acquisitions attorney Martin Frey. Frey does not appear to have any direct links with Apple, but Apple has frequently used Baker & McKenzie's services in a number of countries around the world, including management of some of Apple's Swiss trademarks.

MacRumors contacted several people in position to know about Faceshift's fate to ask if they could confirm whether Apple has acquired the company, and while none were willing to offer outright confirmation, we received no denials and in one case received confirmation of Apple's current interest in face-tracking technology. Apple did not respond to our request for comment on the possible acquisition.

faceshift_avatars
In one video from the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality expo in May, Griffin discusses Faceshift's technology, noting the demo is running using a Carmine 3D sensor from PrimeSense, which Apple acquired in 2013. Griffin is quick to point out he doesn't know whether Apple has interest in the area, but just three months later, something significant has happened at Faceshift as the company has for the most part shut down its website that formerly advertised its upcoming consumer effort and a partnership for integration with Intel's RealSense 3D camera systems.

So what we're showing right now is the PrimeSense Carmine. It's a camera that was originally the internal guts of the original Kinect. And actually they built a really cool camera a couple years ago -- a really tiny one that's embeddable -- and Apple bought that company. We don't know what's happening with Apple. We're kind of hoping they might do something in the future.

Griffin himself has very recently updated his LinkedIn profile to list his occupation as "Considering New Opportunities", suggesting he is no longer with Faceshift following its acquisition. A second Bay Area employee of Faceshift, Steve Macdonald, has also just changed his occupation to "Currently Looking For New Opportunities", showing his employment with the company ended in July.

Faceshift has removed nearly all mentions of its previous Faceshift Studio software from its website and has gone silent on Twitter and Facebook. The company is apparently still answering support requests, but offering no details on the fate of Faceshift Studio beyond its discontinuation.

Taken together, the evidence indicates Faceshift has indeed been acquired by another company that appears to be changing Faceshift's focus away from its current software products. While we have not been able to find a smoking gun linking the purchase to Apple, the highly secretive nature of the acquisition is typical of Apple and signs of Apple's ongoing interest in technology closely related to Faceshift's all make for a tantalizing possibility.

Back in 2010, Apple acquired Swedish facial recognition firm Polar Rose, and the company has filed several patent applications related to the technology. And of course real-time 3D motion capture is the key technology of PrimeSense, for which Apple reportedly paid nearly $350 million.

As for what Apple could do with Faceshift's technology, there are a number of possibilities ranging from the fun such as real-time avatars for FaceTime video chats to the more serious including biometrics for unlocking devices or authorizing payments via facial recognition.

Related Roundup: Apple Glasses

Top Rated Comments

JackANSI Avatar
84 months ago
FaceKit?
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
theheadguy Avatar
84 months ago
iOS X, 2016 ;)
Aww, that's cute... you don't know Apple yet.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Gasu E. Avatar
84 months ago
Faceshift. The only question, which side is the Orc on? ;)
I'm going to get Shift-Faced tonight, myself.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
T'hain Esh Kelch Avatar
84 months ago
I can now look like Steve Balmer while talking to my boss over Facetime? Sweet!
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jayducharme Avatar
84 months ago
biometrics for unlocking devices or authorizing payments via facial recognition
This makes the most sense to me. Just look at your iPhone or Mac and it unlocks for you. With a camera embedded in a television, just walk up to it and it automatically loads your shows and preferences.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Andres Cantu Avatar
84 months ago
I don't get it. And thats really not 2 words.
Two words, two-and-a-half, three, however you look at doesn't matter. I'm giving examples about how Apple has acquired companies in the past and used their technologies to develop their own products in a relatively short time, which is why I had said we could see something come out of this acquisition by 2016 in iOS X.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iOS 15

Everything New in iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4: Face ID With a Mask, Emojis, Apple Card Widget, Universal Control and More

Thursday January 27, 2022 12:08 pm PST by
Apple today seeded the first betas of iOS 15.4, iPadOS 15.4 to developers for testing purposes, adding a slew of new features to the latest iOS operating systems. iOS 15.4 is the biggest update that we've had to iOS 15 to date, and it brings Universal Control, Face ID with a mask, new emojis, and tons more. Face ID With a Mask With iOS 15.4, there is now an option to unlock your iPhone...
iOS 15

iOS 15.4 Adds New Emoji Like Melting Face, Biting Lip, Heart Hands, Troll and More

Thursday January 27, 2022 11:33 am PST by
With the iOS 15.4 update that was introduced today, Apple has added support for Emoji 14, introducing a selection of new emoji like melting face, biting lip, heart hands, and more. There are 37 new emoji and 75 skin tone additions in Emoji 14, resulting in a total of 112 characters. New faces include melting face, saluting face, face with open eyes and hand over mouth, face with peeking eye, ...
intel vs m1 max chip purple

Benchmarks Confirm Intel's Latest Core i9 Chip Outperforms Apple's M1 Max With Several Caveats

Wednesday January 26, 2022 8:56 am PST by
Benchmark results have started to surface for MSI's new GE76 Raider, one of the first laptops to be powered by Intel's new 12th-generation Core i9 processor. Intel previously said that its new high-end Core i9 processor is faster than Apple's M1 Max chip in the 16-inch MacBook Pro and, as noted by Macworld, early Geekbench 5 results do appear to confirm this claim, but there are several...
MAsk On Face ID iOS 15

iOS 15.4's Face ID With a Mask Feature Requires iPhone 12 or Newer

Thursday January 27, 2022 1:22 pm PST by
In today's iOS 15.4 beta that's available to developers, Apple added a useful new feature that changes the way Face ID works. There's now a Face ID with a Mask option that allows the iPhone to be unlocked when you're wearing a mask, but you need to have an iPhone 12 or newer. Right now, an iPhone can be unlocked with a mask if you have an Apple Watch for authentication to add an extra layer...
MAsk On Face ID iOS 15

iOS 15.4 Beta Lets You Use Face ID With a Mask On

Thursday January 27, 2022 10:54 am PST by
The iOS 15.4 beta that was introduced today added a new feature designed to allow Face ID to be used with a mask and without an Apple Watch for authentication. Apple says that the feature can "recognize the unique features around the eye" for authentication purposes. If you opt to use this feature during setup, you will need to rescan your face for Face ID. From there, Face ID will be able...
Apple Watch Red Yellow Green Feature 1

Apple Launches Black Unity Braided Solo Loop With 'Unity Lights' Watch Face

Wednesday January 26, 2022 6:05 am PST by
Apple today announced the Black Unity Braided Solo Loop for the Apple Watch, as well as a new downloadable watch face, to celebrate Black History Month. Following the launch of the limited edition Black Unity Apple Watch Series 6 and Sport Band in 2021, Apple today launched the Black Unity Braided Solo Loop as part of its celebrations for Black History Month this year.Apple is launching a...
ios 15

Apple Releases iOS 15.3 and iPadOS 15.3 With Fix for Safari Bug That Leaks Browsing Activity

Wednesday January 26, 2022 10:00 am PST by
Apple today released iOS 15.3 and iPadOS 15.3, the third major updates to the iOS and iPadOS 15 operating systems that were released in September 2021. iOS and iPadOS 15.3 come almost two weeks after the release of iOS and iPadOS 15.2.1, minor bug fix updates. The iOS 15.3 and iPadOS 15.3 updates can be downloaded for free and the software is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in ...
General Dropbox Feature

macOS 12.3 Will Include Cloud Storage Changes Affecting Dropbox and OneDrive

Tuesday January 25, 2022 3:31 pm PST by
Dropbox today announced that users who update to macOS 12.3 once that software version becomes available may temporarily encounter issues with opening online-only files in some third-party apps on their Mac. In a support document and an email to customers, Dropbox said it is actively working on full support for online-only files on macOS 12.3 and will begin rolling out an updated version of...