Apple Purchases Israeli Facial Recognition Company, According To Reports

Israeli business and tech news website Calcalist is reporting that Apple has purchased Tel Aviv-based facial recognition start-up RealFace. If the report proves true, it would be the fourth tech company Apple has purchased in Israel, with flash memory maker Anobit, 3D sensor manufacturer PrimeSense and camera tech company LinX being the previous three.

Calcalist estimated the deal to have been worth millions of dollars for RealFace.

CNet‘s Michelle Meyers suggested that the purchase would make sense, considering recent rumors that Apple might be adding facial recognition features to the forthcoming iPhone 8.

“Several sites have floated the theory that the upcoming iPhone 8 could have an embedded iris scanner that would let you unlock the phone by looking at it and another report speculates that the next iPhone will include tech like RealFace’s as an alternative (or perhaps supplement) to the current Touch ID fingerprint scanner authentication system,” Meyers writes in an article for CNet.

RealFace launched in 2014 and its first product was an app called Pickeez, according to Meyers. Pickeez helped users select the “best” picture from several platforms by using the company’s facial recognition software.

“Apple already does this to a certain extent using iOS 10’s facial-recognition software for photos,” Meyers notes.

“But rumors have been floated lately that indicate Cupertino could be looking to add facial recognition as an authentication tool.”

While Apple has not yet confirmed reports of the purchase, numerous U.S. and international news and tech outlets are covering the reports and giving them considerable credence.

The Times of Israel, Jewish Business News, SlashGear and Engadget have all covered the reports.

Engadget‘s Jon Fingas argued that Apple purchasing RealFace would be both “new and logical.”

“[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.”

SlashGear‘s Adam Westlake seconded the notion that Apple purchasing RealFace would make sense, but questioned whether or not the technology would be implemented in the iPhone 8 or in a later “completely redesigned smartphone.”

“This acquisition news comes as rumors build that Apple is planning to use facial recognition features in a future iPhone model to replace or be paired with the existing Touch ID. While most rumors specify the iPhone 8 when discussing these features, the tech is unlikely to make its way into this year’s iPhone, but could be a big part of a completely redesigned smartphone for 2018.”

The Times of Israel reports that prior to news of the acquisition, RealFace was estimated to have raised roughly $1 million in start-up funds and employed 10 people. RealFace has clients in the U.S., China, Israel, and Europe.

If Apple is planning to use RealFace’s technology for facial recognition to either bypass the need for passwords, or to provide additional security beyond passwords, for smartphones and other devices, then that would fall right in line with RealFace’s vision when the company was started.

According to the Times, “Realface, set up in 2014 by Adi Eckhouse Barzilai and Aviv Mader, has developed a facial recognition software that offers users a smart biometric login, aiming to make passwords redundant when accessing mobile devices or PCs.”

That should help make the technology easy to introduce into Apple’s platforms on various devices.

[Featured Image by Ian Waldie/Getty Images]