Apple has acquired a motion capture company called Faceshift, whose technology was used in the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie. The startup specializes in facial animation using real-time motion capture, but it’s unclear how it will be used by Apple.
There were rumors suggesting Apple may have acquired Faceshift back in September, but they remained unconfirmed. Now TechCrunch reveals that it has “dug up further sources and conclusive links between the companies,” while Apple provided its usual statement:
Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.
On top of this, several Faceshift employees are now said to be working for Apple out of Europe.
You may have seen Faceshift’s technology around recently; the company has released software that works alongside your computer’s webcam to transpose your expressions onto CGI avatars of dogs, orcs, and other animated characters in real-time.
Faceshift’s technology is demonstrated in the video below.
Faceshift’s technology has also been used in the making of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you look closely around the 41-second mark in the Star Wars Comic-Con video here, you can see Faceshift’s software in action.
It’s unclear what Apple’s plans are for this acquisition, but the takeover almost certainly means that Faceshift technology won’t be used for any other movies anytime soon. Instead, Apple is likely to take exclusive advantage of it in-house for its own products.
The Cupertino company has acquired other facial recognition and augmented reality startups in the past, including PrimeSense, Polar Rose, and Metaio — but we’re still waiting to find out what it will do with them. Some reports have suggested the company is using the technology to develop new ways of interacting with platforms like OS X, using Kinect-like motion gestures.