Did Apple acquire imense to help with the HDR photo feature in iOS 4.1?

Mon, Sep 13, 2010


One of the more interesting iOS 4.1 features unveiled by Apple at last weeks media event included the ability to take High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos. A photo taken with the HDR feature turned on helps add detail to a photo that would otherwise be somewhat obscured in high light environments. As Steve Jobs explained, the HDR feature on the iPhone takes 3 separate photos simultaneously, one normal shot, one underexposed shot, and one overexposed shot. The software then combines these photos, with the end result typically being a more crisp and full photo when taken in broad daylight.

MacRumors, having done a little sleuthing, is now reporting that Apple’s HDR feature/software may very well be the result of Apple acquiring a UK-based company known as imsense.

imsense, a spin-off from the University of East Anglia, has developed a technology known as “eye-fidelity” for producing nearly instantaneous Dynamic Range Correction in both standard and HDR photos using software algorithms to remap image tones in order to recover details lost in underexposed or overexposed regions of photos while maintaining color balance and generating final images as close to that perceived by the eye in reality as possible.

The evidence pointing to an Apple acquisition is rooted in the fact that Braveheart Ventures, which initially backed imense, sold it’s stake in the company to “an undisclosed trade buyer in July 2010” for £342,000.

Since then, nearly all traces of imense’s web presence have disappeared, as is often the case when Apple acquires a company. Moreover, other circumstantial evidence pointing to an Apple takeover includes the following:

– imense’s iPhone app is no longer available for download from iTunes

– imense’s Director of Engineering Alexis Gatt joined Apple as a senior engineer in July 2010, coincidentally right around when the deal to acquire imense went down.

Lastly, MacRumors points to a number of UK government filings which show that “three of Apple’s officers were named directors of imsense as of July 15th, 2010: Gary Wipfler (Treasurer), Betsy Rafael (Vice President, Corporate Controller and Principal Accounting Officer), and Gene Levoff (Corporate Counsel). Levoff was also installed as imsense’s secretary as of July 28th.”



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