News of the reported purchase of SnappyLabs was relayed by Techcrunch on Saturday, which cited sources close to the matter as saying Apple recently bought the one-man operation amid bids from "most of the usual players." Apple has yet to confirm the acquisition and terms of the deal were not revealed.
SnappyLabs was founded by John Papandriopoulos, an electrical engineer who studied at the University of Melbourne. Papandriopoulos is still the only member of the SnappyLabs team, meaning he will likely be working with Apple on future camera-related projects as a result of the acquisition.
SnappyLabs' lone app, SnappyCam, allowed users to take multiple shots in quick succession with a negligible hit to image quality. The app, now pulled from the iOS App Store, boasted shooting speeds of 20 to 30 frames per second, much faster than Apple's own solution.
Papandriopoulos explained the science behind SnappyCam in a blog post, which has subsequently been taken down along with SnappyLabs' website:
First we studied the fast discrete cosine transform (DCT) algorithms...We then extended some of that research to create a new algorithm that's a good fit for the ARM NEON SIMD co-processor instruction set architecture. The final implementation comprises nearly 10,000 lines of hand-tuned assembly code, and over 20,000 lines of low-level C code. (In comparison, the SnappyCam app comprises almost 50,000 lines of Objective C code.)
JPEG compression comprises two parts: the DCT (above), and a lossless Huffman compression stage that forms a compact JPEG file. Having developed a blazing fast DCT implementation, Huffman then became a bottleneck. We innovated on that portion with tight hand-tuned assembly code that leverages special features of the ARM processor instruction set to make it as fast as possible.
Armed with the burst-photo technology and Papandriopoulos' expertise, Apple could feasibly update its Camera app to better take advantage of the latest iPhone hardware. In addition, the company may be able to extend burst shooting modes to legacy models that currently lack such functionality, which appears to be limited to the imaging sensor module used in the iPhone 5s.