Apple has purchased PrimeSense, a Tel Aviv-based company focused on 3D-sensing technologies. Bloomberg, to which Apple confirmed the buy, estimates the purchase price to be around $350 million.
Most Americans know PrimeSense's 3D Sensor technology through the Microsoft Kinect game console—it's what captures users' movements and makes the games possible.
The technology can be used in a number of applications and industries, though, according to PrimeSense. A video on its site shows humans waving, pushing and pinching the air, and machines responding—office presentations zooming, digital catalogs turning, the Roomba being beckoned or dismissed. Among the more fun functionalities is the ability to take a photo of a room in 3D and be able to see how specific pieces of furniture will fit in it.
Its sensors are currently in more than 20 million devices.
PrimeSense calls its Carmine 1.08 3D Sensor, used in Kinect, the "most robust, affordable, and market-proved 3D sensing reference design ever made," while its smaller Capri 1.25 solution uses system-on-chip technology and is "ideal," says PrimeSense, for embedding in phones, laptops, all-in-ones and TVs.
Apple is widely expected to be working on a television, which would be an easy fit for PrimeSense.
In April, analyst Brian White, then with Topeka Capital, reported that Apple iTV will come in 50-, 55- and 60-inch options, and that each will come with a "mini iTV," a smaller device that users can direct content to—with a swipe of the hand, it's now easy to imagine, in the context of PrimeSense. The mini iTV will keep users from missing anything, enabling them to carry the small screen to the fridge during a game, for example, or to the bedroom.
Apple has also developed an accessory called iRing that could be used as a navigation pointer for iTV, "enhancing the motion-detection experience and negating some of the functionality found in a remote," White said in the April note.
While an Apple iTV could act as yet another screen, enabling a user to surf the Web, check email and take calls, the iRing—like the iWatch smartwatch Apple is also said to be working on—will offer alerts, supplanting the need to carry a phone around the house, White said.
In October, after a move to Cantor Fitzgerald, White updated his expectations for the iWatch, telling investors in an Oct. 10 report that it will be less of a smartphone complement than a household remote control.
"As an Apple supplier, our contact offered insight into the iWatch and described this potential new device as much more than an extension of your iPhone, as a multi-purpose gateway, in allowing consumers to control their home, (i.e., cooling/heating, lights, audio, video, etc.)," White wrote.
Cantor Fitzgerald expects Apple to introduce two iWatch models—one with a 1.3-inch display and another with a 1.6-inch display—during the fourth quarter of 2014, and for the Apple televisions to arrive during the third quarter.
Pricing for the iTV, White said in April, will range from $1,500 to $2,500, depending on the package a user puts together and how mini iTV screens it includes.