According to a report by Information, Apple has quietly acquired AI Startup Silk Labs earlier this year. The report of this acquisition has only come out recently. According to PitchBook, a research firm that tracks startup financing, the deal was likely to be a small one for Apple, as Silk Labs only had about a dozen employees and raised approximately $4 million in funding.
Google, Amazon, and other companies have been using cloud-based servers for handling most AI processing for mobile devices. This causes user privacy issues as these companies could monitor users’ requests as they come in. Apple, on the other hand, has always been vocal about “selling smartphones and hardware and not user privacy”. What Apple has planned for Silk is unknown, though both companies have in the past expressed interest in building AI systems that operate locally instead of in the cloud. This may have been the reason for its acquisition of Silk Labs.
Silk Labs is based in San Mateo, California. It was founded by former Mozilla CTO Andreas Gal and former Mozilla platform engineer Chris Jones along with Michael Vines, who served as Qualcomm Innovation Center’s senior director of technology.
Silk Labs mostly works in “video and audio intelligence,” as well as use cases of edge computing ranging from home security to retail analytics and building surveillance. Silk Labs’s 2016 home monitoring camera called Sense was capable of detecting people, faces, objects, and audio signals. It could also play music based on the user’s taste and pair with third-party gadgets like Sonos speakers and smart light bulbs. The distinguishing factor – unlike other AI-based smart home products – was that Sense processed computations on-device and stored data locally to ensure user privacy. However, the project never surfaced and was canceled.
Apple may also release its own smart video cameras, following the acquisition. However, Apple will probably use Silk Lab’s tech to upgrade their underlying software and research to build on-device AI for Apple’s existing camera and mobile solutions