Accessibility Software Suffers Following Apple's Faceshift Acquisition

Back in September, MacRumors uncovered evidence that Apple had acquired Zurich-based real-time capture firm Faceshift, in a move possibly related to the development of biometrics for unlocking devices or authorizing payments through facial recognition techniques. Apple later confirmed the purchase in a statement.

Before the acquisition, Faceshift worked closely with game and animation studios on technology designed to quickly and accurately capture facial expressions using 3D sensors.

One of the lesser known aspects of Faceshift's business was licensing out its face tracking SDK to other companies, one of which was Xcessity, a small Austrian firm that specializes in designing human-computer interaction software to improve accessibility.

xcessity
One of the most popular products made by the firm is KinesicMouse, which enables disabled people and those with degenerative conditions like Parkinson's disease to control a mouse through facial expressions. The functionality of the KinesicMouse software – which is also used in hospital settings – depended heavily on the SDK developed by Faceshift, which received a royalty fee for every purchased license.

Earlier this week, Xcessity CEO Markus Pröll revealed in a tweet and a post on the Xcessity forum that Faceshift had revoked the license following Apple's acquisition of the company, and that he would no longer be able to develop or offer the software:

The Faceshift SDK is the result of a research team that focused on this topic for several years at the university ETH Zürich. Whilst it would not be impossible to create such a software it would take way too much time and resources. Believe me after about four years of development I have tried about everything.

I don't know who or why the decision was made to cancel the existing license agreement. I want to explicitly mention that I don't make any claims that Apple or Faceshift is responsible for the cancellation. On this part I am left in the dark just as you are. All I can tell is that the guys from Faceshift have been very supportive through all those years.

The news came as a blow to users of the software, and Pröll says he has received "quite a few messages" from people who really depend on the app. One user of the software told MacRumors:

People like me depend on this affordable solution to access computer games. It brought me back to gaming although I have suffered from muscular dystrophy since I was a child. Shame on Apple for locking down such a solution.

If the license cancellation is indeed linked to Apple's acquisition of Faceshift, the KinesicMouse software would appear to be an unfortunate casualty, given Cupertino's stated commitment to accessibility. MacRumors has reached out to Apple for comment and we'll update this story with any forthcoming response.

Top Rated Comments

Zirel Avatar
58 months ago

Apple's support for people with disabilities has always been weak.

For example?

http://www.pcworld.com/article/151625/accessible_apple_ipod.html

http://m.imore.com/apple-watch-accessibility-center-stage-new-review

http://9to5mac.com/2016/07/10/apple-accessibility-team-interview/

http://iphone.appleinsider.com/articles/15/05/06/apple-voiceover-accessibility-receives-award-from-american-foundation-for-the-blind

http://www.cultofmac.com/326793/apple-receives-helen-keller-award-for-its-pioneering-voiceover-feature/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/7801280/Apple-iPad-is-great-gadget-for-blind-people.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sara-ruthnum/how-apple-changed-the-life_b_9542918.html
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Onexy Avatar
58 months ago
I hope this reaches Tim Cook.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
keysofanxiety Avatar
58 months ago

Apple's support for people with disabilities has always been weak.

I could not disagree with this more. They are leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
keysofanxiety Avatar
58 months ago
I'd wager this wasn't a conscious or willfully planned consequence of the acquisition and Apple will resolve the issue. :)
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LordVic Avatar
58 months ago

Ahh, I don't think it was a conscious decision. Again I do contest that this was an unforseen/predicted hiccup that will be resolved very quickly, as soon as it reaches Cook's ears.

I believe it was concious, and it isn't the first time Apple has done this sort of behaviour of buying up a 3rd party tech company, killing off it's existing contracts and keeping exclusive access.

For Example: The capacitive technology Apple uses and based it's glass trackpads, and touchscreens based on, was actually invented/developed by a company called FingerWorks. They were well known for gesture based devices, and other input methods for disabled people.

Apple purchased the company in 2005, All other products were discontinued and licenses revoked from any other company, and Apple maintained exclusive use of their technologies

Here's a hint. Apple does not care what damage it causes to other industries or technologies, as long as they maintain control and power over technology that they can profit from.

they did the same thing with TouchID and Liquid metal as well.
[doublepost=1470425710][/doublepost]

I suppose you don't know much about how these things work. Since the company was bought, the licenses would almost certainly need to be re-issued by the NEW owner of the technology. Who depends on a contract to license something from a company that doesn't exist anymore?

When a company is purchased, all licenses and deals are still valid and are in place without the need to renegotiate. the purchasing company, in this case Apple, must take on all contracts as they exist and current ownership.

Apple can then do what they legally have power to do based on those contracts. So if Apple bought the company, and then killed the contracts, it was likely an executive level decision, that had to go through a slew of legal steps in order to cancel.

nothing here was done by oversight or accident
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
StevieD100 Avatar
58 months ago
Has anyone given any thought that it might not be within Apple's ability to restore the licenses?
Perhaps there is some other party involved that licensed bits of the software that they licensed?
Perhaps that party has decided to play hardball with Apple and demand lots more money for their bit of the puzzle?

The reson I ask is that I faced this very thing some years ago.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Top Stories 44 Feature

Top Stories: 'Thinner and Lighter' MacBook Air, Smaller iPhone 13 Notch, iOS 14.4 Incoming

Saturday January 23, 2021 6:00 am PST by
We continued to hear a lot more about Apple's plans for its Mac lineup this week, including word of a high-end redesigned MacBook Air and the return of an SD card slot as part of the upcoming MacBook Pro redesign. It also sounds like Apple has been working on Face ID for Mac, but it won't be appearing in a redesigned iMac this year as originally planned. This week also saw rumors about the...
magsafecasedangle

Apple Elaborates on Potential for iPhone 12 and MagSafe Accessories to Interfere With Implantable Medical Devices

Saturday January 23, 2021 2:42 pm PST by
Since the launch of iPhone 12 models in October, Apple has acknowledged that the devices may cause electromagnetic interference with medical devices like pacemakers and defibrillators, but the company has now shared additional information. Apple added the following paragraph to a related support document today:Medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillators might contain...
Flat MacBook Air Feature

Bloomberg: Apple Working on 'Thinner and Lighter' High-End MacBook Air With MagSafe, Could Launch in Second Half of 2021

Friday January 22, 2021 3:34 am PST by
Apple is working on a "thinner and lighter" version of the MacBook Air that the company plans to release during the second half of this year at the earliest or in 2022, according to a new report by well-connected Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman. It will include Apple's MagSafe charging technology and a next-generation version of the company's in-house Mac processors. Apple has discussed...
2021 mbp sd slot feature2

Bloomberg: Next MacBook Pro to Feature SD Card Reader

Friday January 22, 2021 7:50 am PST by
Last week, reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo outlined his expectations for new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models later this year, including the return of the MagSafe charging connector, the removal of the Touch Bar, a new flat-edged design, and the return of more ports built into the notebooks for expanded connectivity. A concept of a modern MacBook Pro with an SD card reader Kuo did not...
airpods galaxy buds comparison

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro vs. Apple AirPods Pro

Friday January 22, 2021 2:34 pm PST by
Samsung in January unveiled new flagship Galaxy S21 smartphones and alongside the new phones, introduced the $200 Galaxy Buds Pro, which are priced at $199 and offer Active Noise Cancellation. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. These new Galaxy Buds Pro are clearly designed to compete with Apple's AirPods Pro, so we thought we'd compare the two sets of earbuds in our...
maxresdefault

Microsoft Touts Surface Pro 7 as 'The Better Choice' Over MacBook Pro in New Ad

Saturday January 23, 2021 11:02 am PST by
Microsoft yesterday shared a new ad on YouTube titled "Microsoft Surface Pro 7: The Better Choice," in which the company compares its tablet computer to Apple's 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro, as spotted by MSPoweruser. The ad highlights the Surface Pro 7's touchscreen and included stylus as opposed to only a "little bar" (the Touch Bar) on the MacBook Pro. Other advantages of the Surface Pro 7...
iOS 15 icon mock banner

iOS 15 Rumored to Drop Support for iPhone 6s and 2016 iPhone SE

Thursday January 21, 2021 11:58 am PST by
Apple's upcoming iOS 15 operating system, which we expect to see unveiled in June, is rumored to be dropping support for a few of Apple's older iPhones. According to French site iPhoneSoft, iOS 15 will not be able to be installed on the iPhone 6s, the iPhone 6s Plus, or the 2016 iPhone SE, all of which have an A9 chip. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus were introduced in 2015 and are now more...
maxresdefault

Video Demos macOS Catalina Running on iPad Pro via x86 Emulation

Thursday January 21, 2021 11:36 am PST by
A video demonstrating macOS Catalina running on a current 2020 iPad Pro has been shared on YouTube, giving us a look at an interesting hack that has a Mac OS up and working on one of Apple's iPads. There's limited information about how the process of getting macOS Catalina on an iPad Pro works, but it uses x86 emulation and was done through the UTM software that allows virtual machines to...
iPhone 13 Notch Feature

iPhone 13 Rumored to Feature Smaller Notch, Pro Model Cameras to Use Larger Image Sensor

Thursday January 21, 2021 1:38 am PST by
Apple's iPhone 13 series will feature a redesigned Face ID system that will allow for a smaller notch at the top of the screen, according to a new report today. The rumor comes via hit-and-miss Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes, whose supply chain sources also claim that the ultra wide-angle lens in Apple's next-generation iPhones is due for an upgrade. The next-generation iPhones'...
iOS 14

Apple Seeds iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 Release Candidate to Developers and Public Beta Testers

Thursday January 21, 2021 10:14 am PST by
Apple today seeded the RC version of upcoming iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 updates to developers for testing purposes, with the new betas coming a week after Apple released the second betas. iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center or over the air after the proper profile has been installed on an iPhone or iPad. Paired with the HomePod 14.4 beta that is...