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Apple buys patent portfolio from defunct home security camera maker Lighthouse

Apple has snapped up a batch of U.S. patents from a defunct home security camera company, Lighthouse AI, potentially in efforts to expand its own artificial intelligence-powered user identification technology.

Lighthouse AI



Though some of the patents are standard security fare, a few involve depth-sensing technology, IAM noted on Monday. These include "Computer-vision based security system using a depth camera" and "Method and system for using light emission by a depth-sensing camera to capture video images under low-light conditions."

The portfolio was purchased prior to December 2018, yet official word of the IP reassignment only recently appeared in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database in late February.

In all, Apple acquired eight properties including U.S. Patent No. 9,396,400 for a "Computer-vision based security system using a depth camera," No. 9,965,612 for "Method and system for visual authentication" and No. 10,009,554 for "Method and system for using light emission by a depth-sensing camera to capture video images under low-light conditions." The company also purchased applications currently under review including Method and system for using light emission by a depth-sensing camera to capture video images under low-light conditions, two properties (1, 2) for a "Computer-vision based security system using a depth camera," Speech interface for vision-based monitoring system, Two-way communication interface for vision-based monitoring system and Method and system for incident sharing in a monitoring system. Former Lighthouse CEO Alexander Teichman is credited as an inventor on each patent and application.

Lighthouse shut down towards the end of 2018 after its home security camera failed to perform in a market dominated by companies like Ring, Nest, Arlo and Wyze.

The Lighthouse camera cost $299 and required a paid subscription to enable some AI features. It was, however, capable of 3D sensing and included a facial recognition subsystem to remember homeowners, family and frequent visitors. Depth sensing and facial recognition were indeed part of Lighthouse's draw, with the company offering push notification services that would alert users when certain people arrived home. The tech was also used to filter out security camera "noise" like shadows and pet movement to greatly reduce the number of false positives.

Apple is not believed to be making a play for security camera market, though it could use the patents to deter lawsuits and bolster camera technology for iPhones, iPads and Macs. Apple has been rumored as working on a rear-facing 3D camera for 2020 iPhones, specifically using a laser sensor with 15-foot range. That might enable more possibilities in augmented reality.

The company is also believed to be developing an AR headset, for which depth detection would be a vital component. That may ship in 2020 or 2021.