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Apple adds 'dark data' startup to its AI roster

Lattice.io uses machine learning to transform unstructured data into more usable information.

Apple has acquired Lattice.io, a data intelligence company.
James Martin/CNET

Apple has acquired data intelligence company Lattice.io, according to a TechCrunch report Saturday.

Lattice.io uses machine learning to transform "dark data" such as unstructured text and images into structured data for use by traditional data analysis tools. Founded in 2015, Lattice.io was born out of the Stanford research project DeepDive, a framework for extracting raw data from text.

Apple paid $200 million for the Menlo Park, California-based company, TechCrunch reported. The deal is said to have closed a few weeks ago, with about 20 Lattice.io engineers joining Apple.

In recent months, Silicon Valley and countless startups have been all about artificial intelligence, a broad area of computer science that involves training software to reach its own conclusions -- in a sense, thinking like humans -- rather than simply carrying out rote instructions. Among other things, AI is helping Facebook recognize faces in photos, learning how to beat humans at complex board games and playing a role in medical diagnoses.

Apple hasn't been as outspoken as other tech giants about its efforts in this area. In December, though, it said it was ready to start publishing some of its AI research, and earlier this year, it joined the Partnership on AI, a research group that also includes Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

Lattice.io was co-founded by Michael Carafella, a professor of computer science at the University of Michigan. Carafella, who serves as the company's CEO, is a co-creator of Hadoop, an open-source technology designed for analysis of big volumes of data. Chris Re, a professor of computer science at Stanford, is also Lattice.io co-founder.

Lattice.io didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, but Apple confirmed the acquisition with its routine statements about its acquisitions.

"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," a spokeswoman said.

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