Apple has acquired the motion capture group that created animated avatars for "Star Wars" in a move some experts believe will help advance the media device company's role in virtual reality technology.
Tech news site TechCrunch confirmed on Tuesday, Nov. 24, that the Steve Jobs co-founded company has indeed purchased Faceshift, the Zurich-based startup that provided motion capture avatars for various game and animation studios.
Rumors about a potential deal between the two companies circulated across different tech websites earlier this year. Apple, however, remained mum on the acquisition.
According to TechCrunch, sources and conclusive connections have been uncovered that could prove that a purchase agreement has been made between Apple and Faceshift. A spokesperson from Apple has also come out to confirm the deal.
"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," the Apple representative said.
While it is still unclear what Apple intends to do with Faceshift's motion capture technology, observers believe the company could use it to create real-time avatars for video chats on FaceTime.
The technology could also be used to develop biometrics capable of authorizing payments or unlocking various devices through facial recognition.
Aside from Faceshift, Apple has also acquired other European-based motion capture startups such as Metaio, Polar Rose and PrimeSense.
Faceshift made its start in the computer-generated imagery industry in 2011 as a product of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology's (EPFL) Computer Graphics and Geometry Laboratory.
Since then, Faceshift has been involved in projects with different game and animation studios to develop technology capable of capturing facial expressions quickly and accurately through the use of 3D sensors.
In March, the Swiss company came out with the Faceshift Studio, a computer software that can analyze an actor's facial movements and describe them as a combination of basic expressions, including eye gaze and head orientation. The program then uses these descriptions to generate virtual characters for use in movie and game production.
Industry veteran Doug Griffin, who worked for Electronic Arts and Industrial Light & Magic, was brought on to Faceshift in 2013 to head the company's San Francisco branch.