Apple buys company whose technology analyzes facial expressions

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple has acquired Emotient Inc., a startup that uses artificial-intelligence technology to read people’s emotions by analyzing facial expressions. The article doesn’t say how much was paid for the buy-out, but it’s Apple’s first (known) acquisition of 2016.

The WSJ says it isn’t clear what Apple plans to do with the company’s technology, which was primarily sold to advertisers to help assess viewer reactions to their ads. Doctors also have tested it to interpret signs of pain among patients unable to express themselves. Emollient says its cloud-based services deliver direct measurement of a customer’s unfiltered emotional response to ads, content, products and customer service or sales interactions. 

This isn't the first time Apple has bought a company that made facial recognition products. Last September Apple bought Faceshift, whose (discontinued) Faceshift Studio is a markerless facial motion capture system. The software analyzes the face motions of an actor, and describes them as a mixture of basic expressions, plus head orientation and gaze, to create a custom 3D avatar, and to record facial animation data in real time. The animation data may be streamed live into Maya, MotionBuilder or Unity, or exported in a range of standard file formats, including BVH and FBX.

In 2010 Apple scooped up all of the shares of a Swedish face recognition company called Polar Rose. The company had a service that allowed users to name people in their photos on photo sharing sites like Flickr and using their Facebook contacts. Using their facial recognition Polar Rose applied auto-tagging for users.