These may not be the droids you’re looking for, but it could be the patent you want. Photo: Lucasfilm
Apple may have already used the name “Force Touch” for its touch-sensitive tech, but if you’re a sci-fi fan who’s ever dreamed of wielding The Force to control your Mac with an Obi Wan-like sweep of the hand, you could be in luck.
Apple today published a patent for a technology which describes in-air 3D gesturing which allows it to accurately establish not only where a user’s hand might be, but also what it is doing. As such, it opens up the possibility of creating detailed hand poses for triggering different actions.
Throwing up a pair of hand horns to get AC/DC blaring out on iTunes? Yes please.
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.
Having recently purchased both Nest and AI startup DeepMind, Google is currently on a high tech spending spree. Even Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson has claimed that the search giant’s recent acquisitions have helped it take the lead over Apple when it comes to innovation in 2014.
But Apple is also putting its $159 billion worth of cash and investments to good use by carrying out its fair share of acquisitions.
Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California (image taken by Benjamin Feenstra)
It was widely reported in January that Apple was in talks to buy Waze, an Israeli startup with a hugely popular maps app. Waze was rumored to be asking Apple for $750 million. The same outlet that broke the acquisition rumor quickly backpedaled and said no such deal was taking place. Google ended up buying Waze in June for $1 billion.
And so goes the buyout game in Silicon Valley, a power play where tech giants like Apple and Google court hot startups with the hopes of adding them to their war chests.
Apple had its biggest year ever for acquisitions in 2013, with a record 15 smaller companies joining the fold. A dozen of them have now been publicly disclosed.
For an entity as secretive as Apple, examining the companies it buys is one of the only ways to peek into its future plans. When AuthenTec, a company that specialized in fingerprint readers and identification software, was purchased in July 2012, speculation immediately followed. What did Apple want with fingerprint sensors? The answer ended up being obvious, and the technology debuted in Touch ID in September 2013.
Often the outcome of an Apple acquisition isn’t so immediately apparent.
Historically, Apple acquires far fewer companies than its competitors. But the line is starting to blur. Google publicly bought three times as many companies as Apple in 2012 and not even twice as many in 2013. Apple bought more companies than Microsoft in 2013.
So what does all of this say about Apple’s future?
It’s the third most asked question next to “did I make the right choice of next generation iPad?” and “why is it so cold at the moment?” (I’m writing this post from England) — but what exactly does Apple plan to do with PrimeSense?
Having acquired the Israel-based 3D-motion tracking company behind the original Xbox Kinect for an estimated $360 million, most people assumed that Apple would use the technology to incorporate motion tech into its long-awaited television-based hardware.
According to Washington Post tech journalist Jessica Lessin, however, that’s not right at all.
Remember the rumblings about Apple acquiring PrimeSense, the Israel-based company behind the 3D motion tracking in the original Xbox Kinect? It turns out that the rumor is true, as Apple has officially confirmed the buyout.
Reports dating back to this summer have said Apple and PrimeSense were in talks, and just last week it was being reported that the deal was close to completion. Israeli business site Globes said the deal is valued at $300-$350 million earlier today, and AllThingsD later said the asking price is “around $360 million.”
PrimeSense certainly has expertise in full-body motion tracking, as evidenced by the Kinect, but lately the company has been focusing more on mobile. Its Capri 3D sensor is the smallest in the world and is designed for implementing natural gestures for smartphones and tablets.
Apple is close to buying PrimeSense, the company that invented the 3D motion tracking technology used in the original Xbox Kinect. Whispers of the acquisition were first reported by an Israeli publication called Calcalist back in July, and the site is now reporting that Apple has a deal in place with PrimeSense to the tune of around $345 million.
While Apple’s mysterious ‘iTV’ product seems like an obvious reason for the acquisition, PrimeSense has also developed a smaller 3D sensor called Capri that’s more suited for mobile.