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Update: According to TechCrunch, the deal was made for $29 million. Neither party has confirmed the acquisition, however.
According to Norwegian website Mac1.no, Apple has purchased Polar Rose (Google translation), a company that specializes in facial recognition. The company offers a number of products based on its technology, including FaceCloud, which allows facial recognition for Web services, and FaceLib, which brings the functionality to mobile phones.
One of the company's products, dubbed Recognizr, could take a photo of a user and recognize that same person when shown on video. In a video demonstration, the application places social networking sites associated with that person around their face when seen via a mobile phone's video camera.
Polar Rose is a small company with less than 20 employees. Its technology came from research conducted in two universities located in southern Sweden.
Earlier this month, on its official blog, Polar Rose announced it would no longer offer free end-user face detection and recognition services. The service allowed users to tag their Facebook friends in Flickr photos.
"The service got quite a few users interested and this in turn led to interest by larger companies in licensing our technology," Polar Rose's Thijs Stalenhoef said. "This meant refocusing and that left our free service out in the cold. Although we did try to keep it up to date, this became harder and harder over time, as our licensing business accelerated."
Apple has its own "Faces" technology featured in its iPhoto and Aperture applications. Faces uses face detection and recognition to find and organize photos by the people in them.
In addition, Apple has shown interest in having its devices identify users using a camera and facial recognition technology. In January, before the iPad was announced, The Wall Street Journal revealed that an early prototype of the device would use a camera to recognize users' faces, allowing it to be one device easily shared by the entire family.
Apple reportedly experimented with the ability to customize the device, and have it automatically switch to a user's personal settings once they picked it up. One early feature included virtual "sticky notes" that one user could leave for another, and would be read the next time they picked up the iPad.
The feature did not end up in the iPad, which lacks a camera in its first-generation version. However, the company is believed to be aggressively pursuing a new iPad equipped with a forward facing camera for FaceTime video chat.