Apple has made a stealthy acquisition of WaveOne, a Mountain View-based start-up that was creating AI algorithms for video compression. Apple has not confirmed the acquisition, but several former employees now work within Apple’s various machine learning groups, including one of WaveOne’s co-founders. The start-up’s website was shut down in January, and WaveOne’s former head of sales and business development announced the sale on LinkedIn a month ago.
WaveOne’s founders, Lubomir Bourdev and Oren Rippel, sought to make video codecs AI-powered, with a content-aware video compression and decompression algorithm that could run on AI accelerators built into many phones and PCs. The algorithm used AI-powered scene and object detection to prioritise faces and reduce the size of video files by up to half. WaveOne claimed that its video compression technology was robust to sudden disruptions in connectivity, making it an attractive proposition for investors.
Prior to the acquisition by Apple, WaveOne secured $9m in funding from Khosla Ventures, Vela Partners, Incubate Fund, Omega Venture Partners and Blue Ivy. Investors saw the potential for more efficient streaming and lower bandwidth costs, which could be used to deliver higher resolutions and framerates on Apple TV+ depending on the type of content being streamed.
The acquisition of WaveOne by Apple suggests that the technology giant is focused on increasing the efficiency of video streaming. Minor improvements in video compression could save bandwidth costs and enable higher resolutions and framerates. YouTube is already working on similar innovations, having adapted a machine learning algorithm to the problem of compressing YouTube videos, leading to a 4% reduction in data. We may see similar innovations from the Apple-owned WaveOne team in the future.
WaveOne’s acquisition is also a strategic move by Apple to expand its AI technology portfolio. By adding WaveOne’s technology to its existing machine learning groups, Apple can enhance its AI capabilities and integrate the technology into other products and services.