While the Florence hurricane was running rampant the Weather Channel graced its viewers with the most horrific Mixed Reality presentation we have seen. It was powerful, both as a warning, and as a showcase of what MR can do on National TV.
Now that the storm has settled, we have unearthed new details about an under-the-radar MR technology development. The Danish publication Brsen, recently revealed that Apple acquired Spektral, a Danish startup that develops machine learning and mixed reality object separation for a “green screen” effect. The details of acquisition are largely kept secret, but the purpose, though never officially confirmed, can be guessed at with some degree of certainty.
The acquisition is actually late news that is surfacing just now. It occurred almost a year ago for the price of around $30 million U.S. The company’s co-founder, Toke Jansen, is now serving under Apple badge as a manager for Computational Imaging. Apple waved the inquisitive public with a traditional ‘no-discuss’ flag when asked about the acquisition. Still, given the amount of money and talent that’s pouring into such endeavors, it is certain that the Silicon Valley giant is serious about MR prospect.
What is so special about the Danes for Apple to break the krone bank? It turns out that Spektral has many tricks up its sleeve. Formally known as “CloudCutout”, the startup later made a name for themselves with a web service that helped photography aficionados create images from product photos. The real-time system of ‘cutouts’ followed, marking the transition to Mixed Reality almost complete. At the time when Apple stepped in, Spektral was sweating to enable its MR technology for smartphones.
Getting techy here, Spektral’s visionary cutouts rely on object separation through computer vision technology run by machine learning. The ‘green-screen’ effect is attained by running smart, fast object separation system, able to run in no-too-shabby 60 frames a second. ‘Combining deep neural networks and spectral graph theory with the computing power of modern GPUs, our engine can process images and video from the camera in real-time directly on the device’ Spektral claims. Translated, this means that Spektral’s green screen MR technology can cut out images of people from videos and transfer to another background. Real-time.
The ‘why’ steps in here and demands some clarification. It is no secret that Apple is investing money and talent into reality technologies. iOS 12 will be heavy on such features, while plans for Apple glasses have taken flight. Where the real-time Mixed Reality technology, as imagined by Spektral, comes into picture is perhaps with camera-clip features. It is not far-fetched to imagine that animoji and memoji will receive an MR reimagining.
This is not the first acquisition of its kind for Apple. In terms of common knowledge of Apple’s publicly known acquisitions, the more recent takeover of Akonia was big news at the time. Apple’s recent moves point towards the tech company moving forward with MR technology development. The codename ‘T288” is hinting at the potential Apple headset set to out in 2020. Something is definitely cooking here, we’ll just have to wait and see what.