Report: Apple in talks to buy 3D sensor company

A new report indicates that Apple’s iPads and iMacs and its rumored television may get a nifty new trick: depth perception.

The Cupertino company is in early talks to buy PrimeSense, which designs chips that are used to detect motion in three dimensions, according to Calcalist, an Israeli business newspaper. PrimeSense’s technology underlies Microsoft’s motion-sensing Kinect device for the Xbox 360.

The purchase price would be around $280 million, according to Calcalist and Reuters, which translated the article from Hebrew. Senior Apple engineering managers went to Israel to meet with PrimeSense officials in early July.

The most likely application for PrimeSense’s technology would likely be in the smart television that Apple has long had in development, the Israeli newspaper suggested. Steve Jobs, Apple’s former CEO, said that an Apple television would be “completely easy to use” and would have “the simplest user interface you could imagine,” according to Walt Isaacson’s official biography. Some observers have suggested that Jobs meant users could interact with their TV using their voices, via some version of Siri, but gesture recognition would be plausible as well.

Apple wouldn’t be the first company to offer gesture recognition on televisions. In addition to the Kinect, Samsung offers a television that senses gestures and other companies are working on the technology. Sony’s PlayStation 2 had an accessory called the EyeToy camera that recognized simple gestures.

PrimeSense is only one of many companies that are working on depth sensing or gesture recognition technologies. Among the others are SoftKinetic, Pelican Imaging, Lytro and PointGrab.

H/T GigaOm.

Photo of PrimeSense’s Carmine depth sensor reference design, courtesy of the company.

 

Troy Wolverton Troy Wolverton (280 Posts)

Troy writes the Tech Files column as the Personal Technology Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. He also covers the digital media, mobile and video game industries and writes occasionally about Apple, chips, social networking and other aspects of technology. Previously, Troy covered Apple and the consumer electronics industry. Prior to joining the Mercury News, Troy reported on technology, business and financial issues for TheStreet.com and CNET News.com.