Apple buys PrimeSense, a 3D sensor company


The Apple logo is illuminated in the entrance to the Fifth Avenue Apple store, Nov. 20, 2013 in New York. (Mark Lennihan/AP)
November 25, 2013

Apple confirmed that it has bought PrimeSense, an Israel-based start-up that focuses on 3D sensor technology, after weeks of rumors that it was interested in the firm. PrimeSense was involved in the early development of Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensor, which has since become an integral part of the Xbox line of gaming consoles.

Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet confirmed the deal to The Washington Post on Monday, but did not offer any other details about what it may have been worth.

Bloomberg, citing one unnamed person “familiar with the deal” reported that it was worth around $350 million. That would be on par with the $356 million Apple agreed to pay for AuthenTec, a fingerprint recognition and mobile security firm that it bought in July 2012. AuthenTec’s technology was central to the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner in Apple’s iPhone 5s this fall.

PrimeSense’s products — which bear a striking resemblance to the first-generation Kinect — can be used to sense and identify people and their body movements and gestures. They also provide in-depth mapping of limited indoor spaces, such as living rooms, and work best with indoor light.

What Apple will use PrimeSense’s technology for is anyone’s guess. The acquisition may certainly re-ignite smoldering rumors that Apple is planning to release something for the television. That rumor got legs in 2011 after biographer Walter Isaacson’s tome on Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs revealed that Jobs thought he’d “finally cracked” an intuitive way to make an integrated television set. But as the years have passed, the company’s Apple TV set-top box has yet to evolve into anything dramatically different. Adding voice and gesture control to the Apple TV might make the peripheral more useful, or at least a little more intuitive to use.

Apple is certainly not offering any clues of its own. Huguet told The Post, “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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