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Apple buys facial-recognition firm Polar Rose

Apple's all-but-confirmed purchase of the Swedish company could lead to facial-recognition capabilities in the iPhone or iPod, or services like MobileMe.

iPhoto facial recognition
Facial recognition in iPhoto, soon coming to the iPhone with Polar Rose's help?

Apple has acquired Malmo, Sweden-based Polar Rose, a facial-recognition company with several products that could be integrated into Apple's current and future product lines.

"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not comment on our purpose or plans," Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet told CNET when asked about Polar Rose, all but confirming the widely reported acquisition.

Polar Rose closed down a free face-tagging service it operated on September 6, citing interest by larger companies in licensing its technology. Thijs Stalenhoef, director of solutions for Polar Rose, wrote on the company's Web site that the increased interest by companies "left our free service out in the cold."

"You may yet see our technology in one of our licensees' products in the future," Stalenhoef wrote.

Polar Rose has developed a number of facial-recognition technologies, including FaceCloud, a server-side solution to add facial recognition to any service. FaceLib is the company's mobile solution for iPhone and Android platforms, FaceCore is command-line tool, and Recognizr is a tool that combines facial recognition and augmented reality.

Apple already has a couple of products, Aperture and iPhoto, that utilize facial recognition. It's easy to see how Polar Rose could fit into those products. Polar Rose could also help Apple integrate facial recognition into the iPhone, iPod Touch and its MobileMe Internet services.