Apple Acquires Startup To Improve Computational Photography on iPhones


Apple has acquired a UK based startup called Spectral Edge which should help improve computational photography on iPhones.

Spectral Edge uses machine learning, along with infrared, to provide shaper and color accurate photos. In some cases, the company's technology can even help improve low light video quality. Apple's acquisition means that we could see Spectral Edge's technology integrated into iPhones and iPads in the future.

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Apple had lagged behind for some time in computational photography, compared to Pixel 2 and Pixel 3. However, with iPhone 11, the company has leapfrogged its competitors and has some of the best smartphone camera results in the market. iPhone 11 Pro Smart HDR, Deep Fusion and Night Mode have proven that Apple knows how to get the best out of computational photography with its hardware. However, the competition is still strong with the likes of Google, Samsung, Huawei, and Xiaomi still competing for the top place.

Apple's own custom silicon, combined with Spectral Edge's machine learning technology could be the advantage that iPhones need to stay ahead of the competition. The company's technology can be implemented via software or hardware. Knowing Apple, they will likely implement it in both software and hardware, by designing their next processors with the technology in mind and also including it in iOS' imaging pipeline.

As per Spectral Edge's now-defunct website:

Based in Cambridge, and born out of the University of East Anglia’s Colour Lab, Spectral Edge is a fast growing deep tech company that combines cutting-edge image processing with machine learning to improve pictures and videos on mass market devices. Our patented IP is embeddable and can be implemented purely in software or silicon, without needing any apps or filters.This is done in real time on a pixel-level.

Here is a video by Spectral Edge showing how they improve infrared to improve color reproduction, compared to just RGB sensors.

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The company also has its own take on night mode, which reduces blue light in photos to preserve image quality and show natural skin tones.

Whether you use iPhone or Android, it is good to see healthy competition in the smartphone camera arena. No matter which platform is ahead, this competition benefits consumers at the end of the day.

via Bloomberg