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Report: Apple nixed Xnor.ai’s work for Pentagon

Xnor.ai person detection at work
The Xnor.ai team gets scanned by the company’s person-detection technology in 2017. (Xnor.ai Photo)

The Information reports that Seattle-based Xnor.ai played a role in the Pentagon’s controversial Project Maven, but that Apple ended Xnor.ai’s involvement in the project after acquiring the startup.

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Apple acquires Xnor.ai for price in $200M range

XNOR.ai object recognition
XNOR.ai’s computer vision tool can recognize objects using software that resides on a smartphone rather than in the cloud. (XNOR.ai Illustration)

By Alan Boyle, Taylor Soper and Todd Bishop

Apple has acquired Xnor.ai, a Seattle startup specializing in low-power, edge-based artificial intelligence tools, sources with knowledge of the deal told GeekWire.

The acquisition echoes Apple’s high-profile purchase of Seattle AI startup Turi in 2016. Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources said Apple paid an amount similar to what was paid for Turi, in the range of $200 million.

Xnor.ai didn’t immediately respond to our inquiries, while Apple emailed us its standard response on questions about acquisitions: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” (The company sent the exact same response when we broke the Turi story.)

When we visited Xnor.ai’s office in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood this morning, a move was clearly in progress — presumably to Apple’s Seattle offices.

The arrangement suggests that Xnor’s AI-enabled image recognition tools could well become standard features in future iPhones and webcams.

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Apple reportedly working on secret satellite project

Image: Satellite web
An artist’s conception shows a constellation of satellites in orbit. (Credit: OneWeb)

Apple has joined SpaceX, OneWeb, Amazon and other companies in targeting the market for satellite internet services, Bloomberg News reported today.

Bloomberg quoted unidentified people familiar with the work as saying that the California-based company has a secret team working on technologies that it could use to beam internet services directly to devices, bypassing wireless networks. The effort is reportedly still in its early stages and may not necessarily come to fruition.

Apple did not immediately respond to GeekWire’s inquiries about the report.

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Opera gets to the core of Steve Jobs’ character

John Moore in Steve Jobs opera
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (played by John Moore) raises a smartphone in a scene from “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs.” (Seattle Opera Photo / Philip Newton)

You shouldn’t expect to glean startup tips from “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs,” the one-act opera staged by the Seattle Opera this week and next. And don’t expect to hear the brand names “Apple” or “iPhone” or even “Microsoft” sung. But you can expect to see and hear the tangled tale of Apple’s enigmatic co-founder, told on a literally operatic scale.

There’s also a message for techies that can be boiled down to the first words flashing on the supertitle screen, even before the first note sounds: “Look up. Look around. Be here now. And turn off your devices.”

Devices like Apple’s iPhone figure heavily in the staging of “(R)evolution”: Even the set elements that swirl around the stage and serve to project backdrops are proportioned like giant iPhones. The first big aria in the work, with music by Mason Bates and libretto by Mark Campbell, celebrates the iPhone’s introduction in 2007: “Only one device / Does it all / In one hand / All you need.”

But devices are never all you need, even when you’re an introspective, obsessive genius like Jobs.

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Apple concept could turn cars into zombie-killers

Zombie Road Highway
How about playing a game like Zombie Road Highway in virtual reality while you’re riding in a self-driving car? Now there’s a patent application for that. (Dawn Studio Illustration)

Running over virtual zombies might seem like a strange way to fight motion sickness in a moving car, but that’s exactly what Apple is suggesting passengers do in patent applications published today.

The applications, filed last September, aren’t focused on zombies per se. They merely suggest how a virtual-reality or augmented-reality system, complete with headset, could help counter that queasy feeling some folks get when they’re riding.

“Vehicle motions may be integrated into the virtual experiences to help prevent motion sickness,” the inventors explain. They even suggest adding physical effects, ranging from surround-sound audio to the rush of hot or cold breezes through the car’s vents.

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