How Google Swiped Apple’s Hot New PrimeSense 3-D Tech For Project Tango

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In November 2013, Apple acquired PrimeSense, a 3-D technology sensing company that could hint at the ability for future iPhones, iPads and Macs to have a Kinect-like ability to sense where users are and react to their movements.

Given the acquisition, you’d think Apple would be the first company to use one of PrimeSense’s hot 3-D imaging systems-on-a-chip, maybe in the iPhone 6, but no. Google has beaten Apple to the punch, using PrimeSense’s Capri PS1200 3-D imaging SoC in the experimental Project Tango device, the world’s first motion-sensing smartphone.

The discovery was made by gadget vivisectors iFixIt, who found the chip during a routine teardown. They write:

This appears to be PrimeSense’s new Capri PS1200 SoC 3D imaging chip, unexpected for a couple of reasons:

Just last year, Apple bought PrimeSense, manufacturer of the Kinect’s 3D vision hardware. Speculators assumed we would be seeing this hot new hardware in an upcoming iOS device, with intent of mapping 3D spaces. Looks like Tango beat Apple to the punch with their own tech?

The truth is likely more complicated. Apple bought PrimeSense relatively recently, after Project Tango was in the pipeline. Even though Apple might intend on making PrimeSense the killer tech behind future iPhones, Cupertino was likely contractually bound to give Google the chip.

Google and Apple aren’t the only companies working on 3-D-tracking smartphones. Amazon is also rumored to be working on a smartphone for release later this year that would use as many as six different cameras to sense motion within a room.

  • lowtolerance

    Another shit CoM article from Brownlee? Shocking.

    Until Project Tango is out of its prototype phase and is being sold at retail, Google hasn’t beaten Apple to the punch. We have no insight into what kind of prototypes Apple has been working on.

  • Omar O’Hara

    To “swipe” something is to steal. The headline makes it sounds as though Google has stolen something, and they clearly haven’t.

  • Eric Swinson

    Until we see how shitty or good the 3D implementation is in these products it’s hard to concede that anything was stolen (even if just thunder) or what Apple’s product plans were.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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