Partnerships / Acquisitions

Apple, Silk Labs Buy To Boost AI Offering

Apple has reportedly acquired Silk Labs, the maker of a home-monitoring camera called Sense that failed to take off, as it works to build artificial intelligence (AI) into devices.

According to a report in VentureBeat, Silk Labs launched a 2016 crowdfunding campaign for the home-monitoring camera but canceled the project a few months later and refunded the backers. According to the report, Silk Labs said its underlying technology enabling on-device AI software to detect people, objects and audio is what attracted Apple. The idea is that with the technology, a device could open specific apps or app features depending on who or what it sees in a video stream. Silk’s technology is for mobile and embedded chipsets such as the ones found in iOS devices, noted the report.

VentureBeat noted that Apple acquired Silk earlier this year and likely paid a small amount for the company and employees, numbering about a dozen. Silk Labs has raised roughly $4 million in venture funding, noted the report.

Apple has been making a bigger push into AI ever since it rolled out the iPhone X with its own built-in AI chip. In April, Apple poached Google’s John Giannandrea, chief of search and AI, in what is seen as a major win for its AI efforts. The New York Times, citing Apple, said Giannandrea will report to Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook and will run the company’s machine learning and AI efforts. With Apple seen as behind its rivals in AI, the Giannandrea hire is viewed as a major win for the Cupertino, California iPhone maker, the New York Times noted. Apple has been working to improve Siri, its voice-activated virtual assistant, which has faced criticism that it doesn’t do as much as rival digital assistants from Google and Amazon. Amazon has had huge successes with Alexa, the voice-activated digital assistant found in its line of Echo smart speakers. Google has its Google Home assistant that is also growing in popularity.

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