Apple purchases 3D sensor firm behind the original Kinect controller

Apple has purchased PrimeSense, the Israeli firm responsible for the 3D sensor in the original Kinect motion controller. Rumors of a deal have been swirling since late last week, and the BBC has now received official confirmation from PrimeSense. There's no word on what Apple will do with the 3D sensing technology, though. PrimeSense declined further comment, and an Apple spokesman told the BBC that the iDevice maker "buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans." Initial estimates claim Apple spent $300-350 million on the acquisition.

Although PrimeSense technology fueled the first Kinect controller, Microsft went with an in-house design for the next-gen unit found in the Xbox One. PrimeSense has kept itself busy with other projects, including a downsized sensor targeting smartphones, tablets, all-in-ones, and consumer electronics gear like televisions. Dubbed Capri, this miniature sensor was demoed in a Google Nexus 10 tablet earlier this year.

Since as early as 2011, Apple has filed for multiple patents covering touch-free 3D gestures. Cupertino clearly has an interest in motion control, and PrimeSense gives it technology that can be deployed across multiple existing products. 3D gestures could also work their way into Apple's long-anticipated TV—the actual television, not the Apple TV.

Microsoft has clearly made a big investment in gesture controls; the Xbone ships with a 3D sensor by default, and the same tech is coming to the PC next year. Intel is developing a depth camera for next-gen notebooks, too. It will be interesting to see how those solutions compare to whatever Apple is cooking up.

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