More than a decade before Spotify, and years before iTunes, there was RealPlayer, the first mainstream solution to playing and streaming media to a PC. Launched in 1995, within five years RealPlayer claimed a staggering 95 million users.
But it was a brief moment of glory for RealPlayer. Amid the dot-com bust and mounting pressure from Microsoft’s Windows Media Player, by March 2001 RealPlayer’s stock had dropped to $21 from $355 just a year prior. Over the course of the 2000s, the entire media software industry reinvented itself. Eventually, RealPlayer receded out of the public eye — most people who grew up using Facebook probably wouldn’t recognize the company at all.
But RealPlayer is still very much alive. Now called RealNetworks, a vast majority of its revenue still comes from licensing media software. But the company has also begun dabbling in an industry that’s suddenly attracting hundreds of firms, most of which operate outside public scrutiny: facial recognition.
Through a startup subsidiary called SAFR, RealNetworks now offers facial recognition for everything from K-12 schools to military drones. The company even claims to have launched a surveillance project in São Paulo, Brazil that analyzes video from 2,500 cameras.
Exclusive: Live Facial Recognition Is Coming to U.S. Police Body Cameras
Police cam manufacturer Wolfcom has contracts with 1,500 organizations
SAFR has also licensed its technology to Wolfcom, a body camera company that is currently building real-time facial recognition into its products. As first reported by OneZero, Wolfcom’s push to bring live facial recognition to hundreds of police departments represents the first such effort within the United States.
Though RealNetworks’ earnings reports say SAFR doesn’t generate significant revenue yet, RealPlayer’s evolution is part of a trend of both large global tech companies and small upstart firms becoming key players in the sprawling facial recognition…