AI security camera company Lighthouse may have shut down, but its patents will live on: Apple reportedly bought the patent portfolio of the now-defunct company at the end of 2018, according to IAM.
As Patently Apple notes, the patents Apple acquired largely deal with using computer vision to scan and recognize faces, including US Patent No. 9,396,400: “Computer-vision based security system using a depth camera,” US Patent No. 9,965,612: “Method and system for visual authentication,” and US Patent No. 10,009,554: “Method and system for using light emission by a depth-sensing camera to capture video images under low-light conditions.”
If those sound familiar, it’s because Lighthouse’s patents describe technology that’s pretty similar to what Apple currently uses for Face ID on its iPhone XS and XR devices. According to my colleague Nick Statt, who tested a wide variety of security cameras to determine the best one last year, “the facial recognition on Lighthouse was better than pretty much anything else I tested.” Although, he did note that Nest’s camera was almost as good.
It’s entirely possible that Apple is looking to use Lighthouse’s tech to advance Face ID further — say, in a version for a computer that would benefit from Lighthouse’s already proven ability to tell faces apart from a farther distance than the Face ID system currently on its smartphones. Or perhaps Apple could use Lighthouse’s ability to recognize multiple approved users to add the long-requested ability to add multiple Face ID users to share a single device.
On the other hand, Apple might just be shoring up its IP against lawsuits, especially given the similarities between Face ID and Lighthouse’s patents. Acquiring the rights may simply be a defensive move to make sure that no one else can use these patents for another costly patent troll lawsuit.