Move over Microsoft. Apple now owns PrimeSense, the Israeli chip company behind Microsoft's motion-controlled user interface in the original Xbox Kinect. Multiple news reports confirm that Apple bought PrimeSense for around $360 million.
PrimeSense Ltd. specializes in three-dimensional sensors and "machine vision" technology for natural user interface systems. The company and the technology first hit the commercial mainstream in 2010, when Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) debuted the Kinect controller for its Xbox game system. Interest in gesture-based UIs has skyrocketed since then, and numerous companies are now developing or buying sensor-driven technologies for user interface control.
Speculation is rife that Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) could use the PrimeSense acquisition for its fledgling Apple TV offering. But the chip technology could -- at least theoretically -- work equally well in a hub device designed to power a home control system. The launch of the iPhone 4 brought motion sensors to the forefront in the mobile industry, and Apple could combine its smartphone presence with a broader motion-sensing system to extend its technology domain further into the home and beyond.
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), meanwhile, showed its hand in gesture-based UIs with a patent filing earlier this year titled "System and Methods for Controlling a User Experience." That application describes a UI that would let users perform a gesture within an electromagnetic field to control TV functions, as well as home appliances such as thermostats and connected lights. (See Comcast Goes Sci-Fi With Sensor-Driven UI Plans .)
Whatever the outcome of Apple's latest purchase, it's clear that the market is heating up for motion control and sensor-driven UIs.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable