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
71 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
71 months ago
I hope this reaches Tim Cook.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
keysofanxiety Avatar
71 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
71 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
71 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
71 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)

Popular Stories

airpodsinear 1

AirPods Save Woman's Life With Feature Everyone Should Know

Friday January 21, 2022 2:13 am PST by
Apple's AirPods have been credited with saving a woman's life after a potentially fatal fall, People reports. When a 60-year-old florist in New Jersey tripped and hit her head in her studio, she lost consciousness and awoke heavily bleeding. With nobody around to call for help, she realized she had her AirPods in, and used a "Hey Siri" command to call 911. An operator was able to stay on the ...
maxresdefault

Review: M1 Max MacBook Pro After Three Months

Wednesday January 19, 2022 11:30 am PST by
It's now been a few months since the M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pro models launched in October, and MacRumors video editor Dan Barbera has been using one of the new machines since they debuted. Over on the MacRumors YouTube channel, Dan has shared a three month review of his MacBook Pro to see how it has held up over time and how it's changed his workflow. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube ...
iphone se 2020 top

New iPhone SE Likely to Launch in April Based on Production Timeframe

Wednesday January 19, 2022 6:44 am PST by
Apple suppliers will begin producing display panels for the third-generation iPhone SE this month, with final assembly of the device likely to start in March, according to information shared by display industry consultant Ross Young. Based on this production timeframe, Young believes the third-generation iPhone SE is likely to launch in the second half of April, or perhaps in early May at...
iphone 13 earpods

Apple to Stop Including EarPods With Every iPhone Sold in France From Next Week

Friday January 21, 2022 3:21 am PST by
Apple will no longer include EarPods with every iPhone sold in France, starting on January 24, according to a notice posted by a French carrier (via iGeneration). Apple was previously required to include EarPods in the box with the iPhone due to a French law that required every smartphone sold in the country to come with a "handsfree kit," but the law has now been changed in favor of reducing the ...
Spring 2022 Apple Products Feature

New iPad Air, Macs, and iPhone SE With 5G Likely to Be Announced at Apple Event This Spring

Thursday January 20, 2022 8:32 am PST by
Earlier this week, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman tweeted that Apple "will be holding a spring event" to announce a new iPhone SE and other hardware. In a recent edition of his newsletter, Gurman said the event is likely to occur in March or April. Gurman did not elaborate on what "other hardware" will be announced at Apple's purported spring event, but rumors suggest at least four products are...
peloton tv workout cardio

Apple Floated as Potential Buyer of Peloton

Friday January 21, 2022 6:11 am PST by
Following months of bleak news about Peloton's "precarious state," including the revelation that it has halted production of its bikes and treadmills, Apple is being floated as a potential buyer of Peloton's troubled fitness business. Yesterday, CNBC reported that Peloton will temporarily stop production of its connected fitness products due to a "significant reduction" in consumer demand, a ...
apple watch series 7 aluminum colors yellowbg

Apple Watch Charging Bug Fixed in watchOS 8.4 Release Candidate

Thursday January 20, 2022 4:01 pm PST by
The watchOS 8.4 release candidate that was seeded to developers and beta testers this morning addresses an ongoing bug that could cause some Apple Watch chargers not to work properly with the Apple Watch. Back in December, we reported on a growing number of charging issues that Apple Watch Series 7 owners were facing. Since watchOS 8.3, there have been a number of complaints about...
appleprivacyad cleaned

iOS 15 Patched Security Hole That Potentially Exposed Users' Private Apple ID Information to Third-Party Apps

Thursday January 20, 2022 3:32 am PST by
Apple patched two significant security vulnerabilities when it released iOS 15 that could have potentially exposed users' private Apple ID information and in-app search history to malicious third-party apps and allowed apps to override user Privacy preferences, Apple has revealed in a recent support document update. With most iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS updates, Apple provides a list of...
safari icon blue banner

macOS Monterey 12.2 and iOS 15.3 Release Candidates Fix Safari Bug That Leaks Browsing Activity

Thursday January 20, 2022 1:30 pm PST by
The macOS Monterey 12.2 and iOS 15.3 release candidates that came out today appear to address a Safari bug that could cause your recent browsing history and details about your identity to be leaked to malicious entities. As shared last week by browser fingerprinting service FingerprintJS, there is an issue with the WebKit implementation of the IndexedDB JavaScript API. Any website that uses...