Apple Quietly Acquires Israel’s Camerai
Apple is well known for quietly smaller startups to augment its business, and now news has leaked about the latest of these. The news has come up nearly two years after the fact, sometime between 2018 and 2019.The tech giant reportedly acquired and shut down Camerai, an augmented reality and computer vision company based out of Israel, which used to be called Tipit.
The news was first reported earlier by the Israeli newspaper, Calcalist. Camerai’s CEO Jonathan (Yehonatan) Rimon declined to comment on the acquisition. Calcalist said the startup was sold for several tens of millions of dollars. From being founded in 2015, Camerai raised around $5 million – including a $2.5 million round in 2017 and another $2.5 million in 2018 – with investors including the Atooro Fund and another called the SKO Fund.
It seems that the acquisition came on the heels of multiple approaches from a number of companies at a time when AR was arguably at the peak of hype and many big tech companies wanted a part of that. Back in 2018, there were rumors that those approaching and looking at the startup included Apple, Samsung and Alibaba.
The Calcalist report said that Camerai employees joined Apple’s computer vision team, and the company’s technology has been incorporated into Apple products already. It’s not clear where and when, but both iOS 13 and iOS 14 have big software updates to the camera. Camerai had built an SDK and specifically a range of software-based AR tools to help edit and use camera-made images in more sophisticated ways.
The company’s tech included the ability to detect different objects in the picture, outline them with precision to alter them cosmetically; ability to outline and apply filters across the whole image; a skeleton tracking neural network API that could detect and draw body joints in real time overlaid a picture of a human and its own version of selective focus for enhanced portrait modes.
“In Israel, there are 350 global corporate companies, from 30 countries, who search for local innovation. Some of them like Apple, Microsoft and Google, even have local R&D,” said Avihai Michaeli, a Tel Aviv based senior investment banker and startup advisor. “Those global companies look mainly for tech that could serve as its competitive edge. It is not the first time that an acquired startup is asked not to publish it was acquired, nor talk about it.”
Other acquisitions that Apple has made in Israel have included camera module maker LinX, semiconductor startup Anobit and 3D sensor company PrimeSense.