Apple’s increasing reliance on facial recognition tech prompted a $390 million investment deal with Texas-based laser-chip maker Finisar Wednesday. The money for the deal will be drawn from Apple’s $1 billion Advanced Manufacturing Fund, which is dedicated to supporting the American manufacturing sector. The expansion of Apple and Finisar’s partnership is aimed primarily toward improving the iPhone’s facial recognition technology through the further enhancement of the TrueDepth camera.
Finisar was previously tasked with manufacturing VCSELs (vertical-cavity-surface-emitting lasers) which are integral to the functionality of the TrueDepth technology, for the original iPhone X. The new funds will allow Finisar to “exponentially increase its R&D spending and high-volume production,” according to Apple, resulting in 500 new jobs for engineers, technicians, and maintenance staff. This expansion also necessitates the re-opening of a long-closed, 700,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Sherman, TX. This gigantic laser-production hub will be converted into a highly-modernized facility that will be considered the epicenter of VCSEL production in the United States. The facility is predicted to be shipment-ready by the second half of 2018.
“When you combine our proven ability to consistently manufacture exceptional products with our new state-of-the-art Sherman facility, we’re confident we can achieve our shared goal of providing consumers with incredibly exciting features.” – Finisar CEO, Jerry S. Rawls.
The investment is part of Apple’s push to incorporate popular camera-based features from the iPhone X, including Face ID, animojis, and portrait photography, into the three new models it has set for 2018 release. Its 5.8 and 6.5-inch OLED models of the iPhone X, along with a 6.1 inch LCD version of the iPhone will be expected to build upon the gains made by the original iPhone X, which is already thought to contain the most sophisticated facial recognition tech used in consumer manufacturing to date.