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Apple reportedly buys an AI-based face recognition startup

The RealFace deal could hint at hands-free authentication for your iPhone.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
February 19, 2017
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Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Those rumors of Apple exploring facial recognition for sign-ins might just have some merit. Calcalist reports that Apple has acquired RealFace, an Israeli startup that developed deep learning-based face authentication technology. The terms of the deal aren't public, but it's estimated at "several million dollars." Cupertino would mainly be interested in the promise of the technology than pure resources, in other words.

We've reached out to Apple for comment on the reported deal and will let you know if it has something to add. However, RealFace recently took its website down and left nothing but a skeleton server behind.

Apple is no stranger to buying companies with some form of facial recognition tech. However, a focus on authentication would be both new and logical. If Apple wants to reduce its dependence on fingerprint readers for password-free iPhone logins, it needs a face detection system that will quickly and consistently sign you in across most situations, not just ideal conditions. RealFace's AI tech is supposed to be highly accurate, so it might not be as finnicky or easily duped as some implementations.

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