Apple shopping spree continues with $390M investment in Finisar

Pocket change

It looks like Apple CEO Tim Cook has finally found his wallet, and just in time for the holidays. Following the not wholly unexpected $400 million acquisition of music-identification app Shazam on Monday, Apple has now dipped into its billion-dollar Advanced Manufacturing Fund and infused specialized chipmaker Finisar with a $390 million investment.

Finisar makes specialized chips needed for Apple’s Face ID system, the animoji feature and the portrait tech used in the dual camera setup. So, it’s important tech for Apple going forward. The chiptech Finisar makes is known as “vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers,” and they’re located in Sherman, Texas, just north of Dallas. CNET says the windfall will re-open a plant that was shuttered in 2012 and will bring 500 jobs to the city. To be clear, Apple isn’t buying the company, just heavily investing in it.

Apple made a similar investment into Corning, which makes the Gorilla glass used in every Apple portable device. And for some perspective, if Apple’s $250+ billion dollar cash reserves were just 250 dollars, the investment into Finisar would come to 39 cents. OK Tim, by that measure, Sony is just $55 and Tesla is $57. You should buy yourself both of them for Christmas.

The space opera in space

So Star Wars fans, counting the minutes to Thursday’s wave of midnight showings of The Last Jedi? Hey, we’re right there with ya. But you know who won’t be in line for the latest edition of Lucas’s space opera? People who are actually in space aboard the International Space Station. No worries though, as NASA says the current residents of the ISS will indeed get a screening of Last Jedi while onboard their actual spaceship, which whips around the Earth every 90 minutes.

According to Spaceflight reporter Robin Seemangal, NASA will upload the Death Star plans… er, we mean The Last Jedi movie file at a future date so the crew can enjoy it on a laptop or the station’s video projector. Wait, the ISS has a video projector? Apparently so.

Next up: Lightsaber training

Hey, speaking of Star Wars, remember that little sub-theme in the original trilogy about how Luke loses his hand to Darth Vader and then gets a spiffy mechanical one like it’s no big deal, except it makes him more like Vader? We love that part. Well, once again, actual science is catching up to science fiction. Take a look at Jason Barnes, a pianist who lost an arm in an accident five years ago.

A team at Georgia Tech has fitted him with this fully articulating five-fingered prosthetic, and using some machine learning tech and a bunch of sensors, Barnes is back at the keyboard, tapping out tunes. It’s still a research project, but they’re hoping to refine, miniaturize and improve the design so that eventually, it’ll be a commercial product anyone can use. Maybe robots will install it as well. We can only hope.

We’ve got more news on our Facebook page and YouTube channel, and be sure to tune in to this week’s DT podcasts: Trends with Benefits (general tech shenanigans)  on Thursdays, and Between the Streams (movie and TV topics) every Friday.