Confirmed: Apple buys facial recognition firm Polar Rose

Apple has bought Swedish facial recognition software firm Polar Rose, according to a report on Norwegian Apple site Mac1.

Polar Rose makes software that recognises people’s faces, technology that was implemented into Facebook and Flickr as part of a browser plug-in to tag photos. 

Over time it expanded into a more sophisticated set of facial recognition tools, including an Android app called Recognizr. Recognizr users facial recognition and augmented reality to provide a very unique user account feature for Android phones. 

When pointed at John’s face, it takes a picture he can then surround with icons for Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail, for example. However, should Mary prefer to have the Android Market and the Music feature more prominent a new profile can be set up for her. Pointing the camera at either of them will then log them into their respective profiles. Whoever they are.

The potential benefits of this for Apple’s iOS are numerous and expand upon previous forays into facial recognition, such as iPhoto, which is used to automatically tag photos. The new software may become part of a login feature or as an element of videoconferencing.

Polar Rose was founded in 2004 and is a relatively small company with only 15 employees, but it has managed to create a wide array of software, including an enterprise facial recognition product called FaceCloud, an API of its mobile phone offering called FaceLib, and a shared library of its core software called FaceCore, which gives developers quite a bit to work with to bring facial recognition to the forefront of Apple’s next iOS.

A few weeks ago Polar Rose said it would be closing down its facial tagging service because larger companies wanted to licence the technology. Little did we know that a full buyout was also on the cards.

Polar Rose received a large investment of $6.1 million from Nordic Venture Partners, which then gained a majority share. Some reports suggest that Apple has paid as much as $29 million for the whole shebang.

The acquisition has yet to be confirmed by either party.

*EyeSee We have heard word from the VC geezers at the White Bull conference in Sitges that, yes, Apple has definitely bought Polar Rose.