Apple Now Owns a Startup Working on AI Video Compression Tech

Apple last month acquired WaveOne, a Mountain View, California-based startup that was working on AI-powered video compression technology (via TechCrunch).

While the iPhone maker has been quiet about the acquisition, WaveOne took down its website around January and its former head of sales and business development, Bob Stankosh, announced the sale on LinkedIn about a month ago.

“After almost two years at WaveOne, last week we finalized the sale of the company to Apple,” Stankosh wrote in his LinkedIn post.

“We started our journey at WaveOne, realizing that machine learning and deep learning video technology could potentially change the world. Apple saw this potential and took the opportunity to add it to their technology portfolio.”

WaveOne was founded by Lubomir Bourdev and Oren Rippel in 2016. Several of the company’s former employees now work within Apple’s various machine learning groups.

WaveOne’s mission was to harness the power of AI to improve video codecs. The company’s main innovation was a “content-aware” video compression and decompression algorithm that leveraged AI accelerators that come built into many modern phones and computers — like the “Neural Engine” in Apple’s A-series and M-series chips.

According to WaveOne, its algorithm could essentially “understand” a video frame, allowing it to prioritize the rendering quality of important objects like faces and text over other elements within the scene to optimize bandwidth usage.

What’s more, WaveOne claimed that its solution was resilient against sudden, short-lived losses in connectivity and could reduce video file sizes by as much as half. The company’s tech was promising enough to garner $9 million in backing from investors before Apple bought it outright.

Apple held an employee-only AI event last month where the company reportedly showcased what it has planned for the space. However, the company’s acquisition of WaveOne might not even have anything to do with AI.

Apple could use WaveOne’s AI-powered video codec for more efficient streaming on Apple TV+, allowing the tech giant to save on bandwidth costs or deliver higher-quality content.

At the same time, Apple’s acquisition of WaveOne might not be about the company’s tech, but about its talent instead.

In any case, the acquisition comes at a time when Apple is reining in budgets and implementing cost-cutting measures like a hiring pause to avoid having to lay off employees en masse like the rest of the tech sector.