Apple buys image recognition startup

Apple  is accelerating its efforts in augmented and virtual reality, hiring industry experts and recently acquiring a startup specializing in image recognition.

The acquisition of New York-based Flyby Media is the latest in a series of deals to bolster Apple’s long-running interest in augmented and virtual reality.

Apple’s team investigating the technologies has grown to more than 100 people, according to people familiar with the company.

Flyby Media provided the image-recognition software for Google’s Project Tango — an effort to use a smartphone’s sensors and cameras to create a kind of three-dimensional map of a user’s surroundings.

An Apple spokeswoman confirmed it had acquired Flyby Media. She declined to elaborate on the deal terms or Apple’s interest in virtual or augmented reality. The Financial Times earlier reported the acquisition and Apple’s push into augmented reality and virtual reality.

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Virtual reality uses headsets and headphones to immerse users in experiences that appear to be all around them. Augmented, or mixed, reality displays digital objects in users’ view of the physical world — typically via headsets but also via smartphones or tablets — much like the yellow first-down line shown on football broadcasts.

On a Tuesday, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook was asked whether he considered virtual reality a mainstream technology or a geeky niche. “I don’t think it’s a niche,” Mr. Cook said. “It’s really cool and has some interesting applications.”

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