Apple Inc. has agreed to acquire PrimeSense Ltd., the maker of motion-tracking chip technology that was used in Microsoft Corp’s Kinect game console. From the last known discussion, Apple and the Tel Aviv-based PrimeSense were negotiating a deal for about $350 million.
The deal fits Cupertino, California-based Apple’s pattern of buying less well-known companies whose capabilities are folded into future products. PrimeSense’s technology gives digital devices the ability to detect movements and objects, and then translates that into depth and color. The US350M is a small percentage of the $146.8 billion in cash and investments for big acquisitions.
PrimeSense original investors include Canaan Partners, Silver Lake, Gemini Israel Funds and Genesis Partners. In addition to its use in gaming, PrimeSense has been developing new depth-sensing technology that allows for a 3D camera in a mobile phone to enable apps like indoor navigation tools or 3D shopping catalogs. PrimeSense also has said its technology can be used for measuring depth, allowing a person to take a photo of their living room into a furniture store to determine if a sofa would fit in the space. Such measurement technology can be useful for incorporation into mobile applications.
In terms of other technologies, Apple this year also acquired navigation-software company Embark, online transit-navigation service HopStop.com, business-locations maps company Locationary, and WifiSLAM, which makes location-identifying technology for when a smartphone user is inside a building.
What would Apple do with PrimeSense tech? I personally don’t think it might be incorporated into mobile devices yet. Perhaps it could be the development of a motion sensor to be used with an upcoming Apple TV, iMac or HDTV type device. Considering PrimeSense’s close work with Microsoft took the Kinect from a wild-eyed concept to a device that’s changing the way people interact with their televisions, it’s not hard to see how the company’s hardware and patent portfolio could give Apple an edge as it (reportedly) tries to crack people’s living rooms. Also to compete with the Xbox One console which has grown beyond just being a gaming console.
Alternatively, Apple could work with PrimeSense to incorporate the motion, 3D scanner technology into the iPad or iPhone camera lens. This would allow for the collection of 3D data from a mobile device, and perhaps could be used as a form of motion controller instead. Like a wave or gesture to unlock.