Apple May Have Acquired AI Visual Search Startup Fashwell

Apple may have purchased image recognition startup Fashwell, a company that designed an engine able to recognize products in images to make photos shoppable.

Fashwell CEO Matthias Dantone, CSO Lukas Bossard, and CTO Michael Emmersberger all list Apple as an employer as of January 2019, suggesting an acquisition in late 2018.


Dantone's LinkedIn profile says that he works on Apple's machine learning team, while Bossard and Emmersberger are listed as machine learning managers at Apple.

Five of six other former Fashwell employees also now list Apple as an employer on their LinkedIn profiles, with many of those also on Apple's machine learning team. Fashwell's website is still up and running, but hasn't been updated since late 2018, and the same goes for the company's Twitter account.

Based on information shared on the Fashwell website, Fashwell developed a Visual Search tool to allow shoppers to search for products using an image.
FASHWELL's Visual Search is a search by image solution that we distribute through a flexible API. Add a camera icon to every search bar & allow your customers to shop with any image on your mobile applications and website.

Visual Search improves search success and prevents shop drop-offs, and it's 2x faster than text-based searches - leading to 35% m-o-m growth in usage, higher than any other user channel.
Fashwell's API also supported image tagging to make any image shoppable using its Virtual Search technology, making it easy for companies to auto-tag images with "speed, precision, and at scale." A product tagging API could be used to tag images with different attributes, such as category and design.


Fashwell also offered a visual recommendation tool, allowing image recognition to power product recommendations for product detail pages. Companies could use the feature to embed visually similar products on websites to recommend additional products to customers.

Apple could perhaps adopt Fashwell's technology for its Apple Store website and its Apple Store app in the future, improving the Apple Store shopping experience. We've emailed Apple for comment and will update this article if we hear back.

Apple has acquired several similar AI and machine learning companies over the course of the last few years, including Silk Labs, Laserlike, Perceptio, and more.


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Apple Reportedly in Process of Acquiring Self-Driving Vehicle Company Drive.ai

Apple is in the process of acquiring self-driving vehicle startup Drive.ai in order to boost its own development of a self-driving vehicle system, according to unnamed sources cited by The Information's Amir Efrati and Alex Heath.


The planned deal is described as an "acqui-hire," suggesting that Apple is interested in the company primarily for its employees rather than its technology. The acquisition could reportedly result in dozens of Drive.ai engineers ending up at Apple, where they would likely work on autonomous driving systems.

"We don't comment on speculation," an Apple spokesperson told The Information, suggesting that the acquisition may not be finalized.

Drive.ai was founded in 2015 by a group of Stanford University students. Based in Mountain View, California, the company launched a self-driving shuttle service in select cities in Texas, but the report claims it has been "struggling" recently and looking for a buyer. It looks like that buyer may be Apple.

(Thanks, Chris!)

Related Roundup: Apple Car

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Apple Acquired Tueo Health, a Startup Developing an Asthma Monitoring App

Apple in 2018 acquired Tueo Health, a startup working on an app to help parents monitor asthma symptoms in sleeping children, reports CNBC.

Tueo's CEO and COO, Brownwyn Harris and Anura Patil, changed their employers from Tueo to Apple in late 2018, which is perhaps when the acquisition was completed.


An Apple spokesperson declined to comment to CNBC on the acquisition, and it's not known how much Apple paid for the company. It's possible, given the lack of comment from Apple and the absence of the company's standard statement related to acquisitions, that it was an acquihire rather than a traditional acquisition.

Tueo had been working on a mobile app that was designed to pair with commercial breathing sensors to manage asthma symptoms in children. The app was meant to send alerts to parents if a child's breathing changed over the night.
We use commercially available sensors to monitor asthmatic children while they sleep. Our technology leverages the data from these sensors to create a personalized baseline for each child. Alerts are automatically sent to parents when there are deviations from their child's baseline. These alerts are interactive and informative - we provide contextual information and just-in-time education and support to help them better manage their child's asthma.
It's not known if Apple plans to incorporate some sort of related feature into a future product, but there have been rumors that the Apple Watch could include sleep monitoring capabilities in the future.


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Apple Has Reportedly Acquired Italian Startup Stamplay

Apple has acquired Italian startup Stamplay, which offered an API-based back-end development platform, according to Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore. The report claims Apple paid around five million euros for the company.


The report does not cite Apple's standard statement for acquisitions, which typically reads "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans." We've reached out to Apple for our own confirmation, but we did not immediately hear back.

Nevertheless, one telltale sign of the acquisition or at least an acqui-hire is that Stamplay's website was almost entirely stripped of information within the past few weeks, as is usually the case following Apple acquisitions.

Stamplay describes itself as a "low code workflow automation platform, empowering organizations to streamline manual work by integrating data and business applications used every day." The "API-based development platform" enables developers to build and launch "full-featured cloud-based web apps."

From the startup's LinkedIn page:
The powerful web-based editor includes everything a developer needs to create and run a powerful backend for their app, including popular APIs like Stripe (payments), Sendgrid (email), Twilio (SMS and VoIP), Pusher (realtime notifications) and many more.
The report was brought to our attention by setteBIT:

Stamplay was co-founded by Giuliano Iacobelli and Nicola Mattina.


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Apple Purchases Machine Learning Startup Laserlike

Apple last year acquired Laserlike, a machine learning startup located in Silicon Valley, reports The Information. Apple's purchase of the four-year-old company was confirmed by an Apple spokesperson with a standard acquisition statement: "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."

Laserlike's website says that its core mission is to deliver "high quality information and diverse perspectives on any topic from the entire web to you."


The company built a search app that used discovery and personalization machine learning techniques to build a Laserlike app described as an "interest search engine" that provided news, web, video, and local content relevant to each user. The Laserlike app is no longer available following the acquisition, but the company's website continues to cover what it was focused on:
We live in a world of information abundance, where the main problem is sifting through the noise and discovering the stuff you actually care about. For instance, if you care about knowing when the next SpaceX livestream launch is because you like to watch it with your kids, or if the car you bought two years ago has had a recall, or if a company you're interested in announces it's opening a new office where you live, or if there's a music festival coming to your town, you don't know when to look for these things, and there's no product that informs you automatically.

This is one of the things we want to fix on the Internet. Laserlike's core mission is to deliver high quality information and diverse perspectives on any topic from the entire web. We are passionate about helping people follow their interests and engage with new perspectives.
The Information suggests that Apple will use the Laserlike acquisition to strengthen its artificial intelligence efforts, including Siri. The Laserlike team has joined the Apple AI group led by new Apple AI chief John Giannandrea, who came to Apple from Google last year.

Giannandrea has been tasked with improving Apple's machine learning initiatives and bolstering Siri, the company's voice assistant. Laserlike's technology could potentially allow Siri to learn more about Apple users to provide more tailored, personalized content.


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Apple Acquires Voice App Startup PullString

Apple recently purchased PullString, a San Francisco startup that enables the design and publishing of voice apps through its PullString Converse platform, reports Axios.

PullString could be used to improve the voice capabilities of Siri, Apple’s personal voice assistant.



On its website, PullString says that it can be used to “collaboratively design, prototype and publish voice applications for Amazon Alexa.”

At PullString, we strive to help people talk effortlessly with voice technology that surrounds us. Working at the intersection of creative expression and artificial intelligence, we provide agencies and enterprises with the leading solution to collaboratively design, prototype, and publish highly engaging voice applications for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IoT devices.

According to Axios, PullString was founded in 2011 by former Pixar executives and when it was first started, was used to create interactive voice apps for toys.

The company broadened its horizons over the years, though, following the introduction of products like Amazon Echo and Google Assistant.

Apple has not officially confirmed the acquisition and details about the purchase price are not available.

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Apple Buys DataTiger, a UK Digital Marketing Startup

Apple recently purchased Data Tiger, a UK startup focused on digital marketing, reports Bloomberg. The acquisition, says Bloomberg, could improve Apple's digital marketing and make it "more relevant to customers."

DataTiger's website is blank, but a LinkedIn page for the company says that it offers a set of tools that enable customers to build marketing software that "puts data to work."

Using DataTiger is the fastest and easiest way to increase retention & monetisation. With our platform you can individually optimize the marketing flows for your customers in real-time across all channels.

DataTiger can be used as an online tool, importing your data and set up user flows in minutes, with all of your data living in the cloud - or it can be fully customized in-house, building your own marketing solution via our APIs + open-source front-end components.
Specifically, the site more accurately takes advantage of customer data to send relevant materials and advertisements to them.

Apple appears to have made the purchase in December, and based on a regulatory filing discovered by Bloomberg, now controls Operatedata, DataTiger's legal name. A spokesperson has yet to confirm the acquisition, however.


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Shazam App is Now Ad-Free Following Apple Acquisition

Two and a half months after Apple announced the completion of its Shazam acquisition, the music recognition iOS app is now completely ad-free [Direct Link]. Previously, Shazam would present users with various border advertisements throughout the app, similar to most other ad-supported iOS apps, but as long as you are on version 12.5.1 you will no longer see any ads in Shazam.


The app still opens on the main "tap to Shazam" screen, where you can discover a song by allowing Shazam to listen to it. To the left of the main screen is the "My Shazam" area, where the app keeps a list of all the songs you have Shazamed recently. To the right of the main screen is Shazam's "Discover" tab with artist, song, and playlist recommendations, user posts, friend Shazams, and more.

Shazam finally going ad-free comes one year after Apple first announced its plans to acquire Shazam back in December 2017. At the time, Apple said, "Apple Music and Shazam are a natural fit," and that the two companies "have exciting plans in store." In September 2018, Apple completed the acquisition and said that the Shazam app would become ad-free soon.

In October 2018, Shazam began informing its users about the Apple acquisition and aligning its data privacy policies with those of Apple. Shazam has been built into Siri since iOS 8 and there are connections with Apple Music in the Shazam app, and Apple is expected to further integrate the music recognition service with its products down the line.


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Apple Has Reportedly Acquired British Startup ‘Platoon’ Focused on Discovering Up-and-Coming Music Artists

Apple has acquired Platoon, a London-based A&R startup focused on discovering rising music artists, according to Music Business Worldwide.



Platoon was founded in 2016 by Saul Klein, co-founder of defunct British video-on-demand service LoveFilm, and Denzyl Feigelson, who is a 40-year music industry veteran and has been advisor to Apple about matters related to iTunes and later Apple Music since 2003, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The startup reportedly worked with California singer Billie Eilish before she signed to Interscope in 2017. The 16-year-old recently debuted a new song “Come Out And Play” as the backdrop to Apple’s “Share Your Gifts” holiday ad.





Feigelson will lead Platoon’s team of 12 full-time employees from its London headquarters, where it has two recording studios, according to the report. Platoon is expected to continue supporting artists across areas including tour support, original content, social media marketing, and global expansion strategies.

A&R, for those unaware, is all about talent scouting and overseeing the artistic development of recording artists and songwriters. A&R representatives often act as a liaison between artists and record labels or publishing companies.

Typically when Apple makes an acquisition, it issues a statement that reads “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans.” Apple has yet to confirm the Platoon acquisition, however, and some acquisitions turn out to be acqui-hires instead.

If the acquisition did happen, though, it will likely aid the Apple Music team’s ability to continue discovering original music from up-and-coming artists. Apple Music already highlights emerging artists through its “Up Next” program.

We’ve reached out to Apple for confirmation.

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Apple Purchases AI Device Startup Silk Labs

Apple has acquired Silk Labs, an AI startup that focuses on making AI software "lightweight enough" for consumer hardware like cameras and speakers, reports The Information.

Apple purchased Silk Labs, a small startup with approximately a dozen employees, earlier this year. Silk's website says that it aims to "bring next-generation visual and audio intelligence to connected products" with "state-of-the-art image and audio recognition."


Silk's site suggests its technology has a number of potential uses for home security, retail analytics, package monitoring, digital display metrics, access control, parking lot monitoring, and building surveillance with capabilities like people detection, facial recognition, audio detection, object recognition.

Silk used to have a blog where its technology was explained, but it is defunct, as is the company's Twitter account, which has not been updated since 2017. The company's website, does, however, provide insight into its technology, though there's no word on how Apple might be planning to use it. Silk, like Apple, is said to be focused on a privacy-forward AI experience.

The company did come out with a product called Sense, which debuted on Kickstarter three years ago. Sense was designed to be a "digital brain" for smart home products, communicating with them to improve interoperability and to learn a person's smart home needs over time.

The startup was founded by Andreas Gal, Chris Jones, and Michael Vines, with Gal previously serving as Mozilla's Chief Technology Officer.


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