Apple Acquires Xbox Kinect Technology Creator PrimeSense

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Apple will reportedly pay $350 million for PrimeSense, which is currently working on a depth recognition chip for mobile devices

Apple has agreed to buy PrimeSense, the Israeli developer of sensory input methods, for $350 million (£216m), according to Bloomberg.

The company rose to prominence in 2010, after creating the 3D scanning and gesture tracking technology used to power Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect motion control system. It has since found applications in retail, healthcare and robotics.

Interface of the future

Headquartered in Tel-Aviv, PrimeSense develops hardware and software that allows computers to see and measure depth. Being fabless, most of its technology is integrated into products from other manufacturers, however the company also sells several of its own reference designs.

PrimeSense CapriAt the moment, PrimeSense is working on a new System-on-a-Chip (SoC) codenamed Capri, which it claims is the world’s smallest 3D sensor. Mobile devices equipped with this chip would enable a new generation of space-aware applications, useful in indoor navigation and augmented reality.

Apple maintains three Research and Development centres in Israel, employing between 300 and 400 people. The company’s interest in PrimeSense was first reported by Israeli publication Calacist in July and at the time, Apple was said to be offering $280 million.

It seems that the iPhone maker has decided to keep the motive behind the acquisition a secret. “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” a company spokeswoman told Bloomberg. While that might be true, it’s not every day that Apple acquires a company whose technology was successfully used by a competitor.

Several retailers, including John Lewis and Tesco, have been experimenting with PrimeSense technology as a way for customers to see how they would look in certain clothes without actually trying them on.

Gesture control and 3D scanning are seen by many as the future of computer interfaces. Intel has recently acquired another Israeli gesture recognition specialist, Omek Interactive, for a reported $40 million. Omek develops Grasp – a camera-based technology that allows tracking of the hand and individual fingers at ranges as close as 10 cm (3.9 in).

Meanwhile, HP has signed a deal to bundle innovative Leap Motion Controller, capable of tracking gestures of both hands and all ten fingers at 290 frames per second, with some of its products, planning to eventually build it into laptops.

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