Earlier today, Apple confirmed it purchased Seattle-based AI company Xnor.ai (via MacRumors). Acquisitions at Apple’s scale happen frequently, though rarely do they impact everyday people on the day of their announcement. This one is different.
Cameras from fellow Seattle-based company Wyze, including the Wyze Cam V2 and Wyze Cam Pan, have utilized Xnor.ai’s on-device people detection since last summer. But now that Apple owns the company, it’s no longer available. Some people on Wyze’s forum are noting that the beta firmware removing the people detection has already started to roll out.
Oddly enough, word of this lapse in service isn’t anything new. Wyze issued a statement in November 2019 saying that Xnor.ai had terminated their contract (though its reason for doing so wasn’t as clear then as it is today), and that a firmware update slated for mid-January 2020 would remove the feature from those cameras.
There’s a bright side to this loss, though, even if Apple snapping up Xnor.ai makes Wyze’s affordable cameras less appealing in the interim. Wyze says that it’s working on its own in-house version of people detection for launch at some point this year. And whether it operates on-device via “edge AI” computing like Xnor.ai’s does, or by authenticating through the cloud, it will be free for users when it launches.
That’s good and all, but the year just started, and it’s a little worrying Wyze hasn’t followed up with a specific time frame for its replacement of the feature. Two days ago, Wyze’s social media community manager stated that the company was “making great progress” on its forums, but they didn’t offer up when it would be available.
As for what Apple plans to do with Xnor.ai is anyone’s guess. Ahead of its partnership with Wyze, the AI startup had developed a small, wireless AI camera that ran exclusively on solar power. Regardless of whether Apple is more interested in its edge computing algorithm, as was seen working on Wyze cameras for a short time, or its clever hardware ideas around AI-powered cameras, it’s getting all of it with the purchase.