Apple Buys Polar Rose Face-Recognition Firm

Apple gobbled up a Sweedish company that specializes in face recognition software called Polar Rose, according to reports from Norwegian Apple blog called Mac1. So far the report is unconfirmed, but if true Apple gains a technology similar to facial recognition used in its iPhoto software called Faces.

A New Apple Focus on Faces?

Polar Rose, a fifteen-person company, started out as a specialized image search engine for Facebook and Flickr. At first the Polar Rose search engine was a browser plug-in that could be used to tag Facebook friends in Flickr photos. Over time the plug-in graduated to become a tightly integrated tool in Facebook that could used for photo tagging.

The technology has also been used in face-recognition apps, such as the Android augmented reality app Recognizr. Recognizr uses Polar Rose technology to scan someone's face and bring up their related social network's contact information, all of which are displayed conveniently on the Android phone screen.

Recognizing New Apple Opportunities

Polar Rose was previously majority-owned by Nordic Venture Partners, a Danish company. Apple took over the company by buying a majority stake of its stock for $29 million, according to TechCrunch.

It's unclear as to what Apple plans to do with its newly acquired technology. Apple has already dabbled in face-recognition technology with its iPhoto "Faces"--a feature which automatically detects and recognizes faces in a user's photos.

iPhoto can recognize faces that look like the same person so that users can easily add names to their photos. Perhaps Apple will introduce more in-depth face recognition for its Mac OS X (think webcam face recognition passwords), or maybe it's looking to integrate face-recognition into the iPhone.

The company announced, a couple of weeks ago, that it was shutting down its face-tagging service, because "larger companies" were interested in licensing its technology.

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