Apple does go out shopping for smaller tech companies every now and then and the Cupertino giant has now scooped up an artificial intelligence software startup that specializes in running its software not in data centers, but rather on devices with lesser computing resources called Xnor.ai.
Xnor.ai is said to be a Seattle-based company that specializes in putting edge-based AI software on smartphones and Apple is said to have spent a sum of around $200 million for the acquisition. According to GeekWire, Xnor.ai has a fair bit of history with it as well. The startup spun out of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, or AI2, created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
While most may of us may not have heard much about Xnor.ai, the company specializes in AI that utilizes edge-based person recognition, the very same technology that is used by Wyze, a company that makes affordable smart homes cameras, popular in the US.
But how is this acquisition any good for Apple? Well, the Cupertino giant hasn’t obviously stated how the acquisition is expected to help but doing AI work on devices is a key trend, especially for Apple, as it makes it easier to offer privacy protections.
“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” the company told CNBC, offering the tell-tale statement it gives when it makes an acquisition.
There are many ways Apple could put Xnor.ai’s technology and know-how to use. One obvious application is improving the power efficiency of the system-on-chips inside the iPhone and iPad, which have machine learning accelerators to boost application performance.
Some parts of the Xnor.ai platform may also find their way the augmented reality headset Apple is reportedly developing. AI, after all, can help with tasks like rendering content, but any neural networks deployed on an AR headset must be highly power-efficient to avoid draining the battery too fast. Researchers at Facebook are already working on ways of using machine learning to enhance its Oculus headsets.
The Xnor.ai team, meanwhile, will apparently relocate to one of Apple’s corporate locations. GeekWire reported that the startup is currently in the process of moving out of its Seattle office.