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Apple purchases facial recognition startup Emotient

Apple has announced the acquisition of San Diego-based artificial intelligence startup Emotient, presumably in an effort to keep pace with rivals Facebook and Google's recent investments in AI technologies.

Emotient's software analyses facial expressions in order to read people's emotions and has been used in areas such as healthcare by doctors to interpret signs of pain in patients and by retailers to monitor the expressions of shoppers throughout stores.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, an Apple spokesperson confirmed the acquision with the statement saying Apple “buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” Ken Denman, Emotient's Chief Executive, has so far declined to comment.

Emotient was founded in 2012 and describes itself as "the leader in emotion detection and sentiment analysis based on facial expressions. Emotient's cloud-based services deliver direct measurement of a customer’s unfiltered emotional response to ads, content, products and customer service or sales interactions."

It raised $8 million (£5.4 million) in funding from investors including Seth Neiman and Intel Capital and reportedly failed in a recent attempt to gain a new injection of venture-capital financing.

Artificial intelligence is becoming a hot topic in the technology industry, with the likes of Google and Alibaba all announcing investments in recent months. Even just this week, Mark Zuckerberg announced his plans to build his own artificially intelligent personal assistant similar to that used by Tony Stark in the Ironman and Avenger films.

Image source: Shutterstock/Anton Watman