Apple Buys Visual Effects Firm Faceshift, Tech Used in Star Wars

Faceshift, a Zurich-based startup whose motion-capture technology is used in the coming Star Wars film, has been acquired by Apple for an undisclosed amount. Founded in 2012, the company develops software that lets users create and "train" animated characters and virtual avatars with real-time recognition of facial expressions.

Neither Apple nor Faceshift responded to our requests for comment in time for publication, but the deal was confirmed late Tuesday in a report on TechCrunch. The publication reported that Apple confirmed the purchase with its usual statement, "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."

While Apple isn't saying anything about its plans, several observers have noted that this latest acquisition falls into the same area as several other purchases the tech giant has made over the years. Two years ago, Apple acquired PrimeSense, whose technology is used by Microsoft's Kinect motion sensor, and in 2010, it purchased Polar Rose, a Swedish firm that developed facial recognition technology.

'Democratizing' Facial-Tracking Tech

Founded by Thibaut Weise, the company's CEO, Faceshift grew out of technology developed during Weise's time as a researcher at the university of ETH Zurich. As the company further developed its offering, it also expanded geographically with offices in San Francisco.

Faceshift's U.S. presence was led by Doug Griffin, hired in 2013 to reach out to entertainment clients. Griffin, a long-time veteran of the film industry, was in charge of capture reality technologies at Industrial Light & Magic -- the special-effects company behind the Star Wars movies -- from 1998 to 2005. His LinkedIn page was recently updated to indicate he has left Faceshift to start a new company in stealth mode.

In recent years, Faceshift has demonstrated its technology at a variety of venues across the U.S. and elsewhere....

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