According to two reports on an Israeli website, Apple, Sony, and Samsung are among the suitors for 3D gesture-sensing company PrimeSense, which provided the technology for the first version of Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect as well the Xtion by Asus and several other products.
For a number of years PrimeSense looked like the prime challenger for ushering in a new user interface based on physical gestures, and its hardware and software is currently in tens of millions of home gaming systems. The technology is interesting for PCs and mobile devices, important for gaming, but potentially critical to the whole new array of living room smart systems that are hitting the market — like the new Xbox One.
An Apple delegation reportedly visited PrimeSense’s Tel Aviv headquarters recently, as top engineers checked out the company’s facilities and technology. Apple already has three research and development centers in Israel.
The only challenge?
Microsoft’s new Kinect, which is much more sensitive than the first model, doesn’t use the Israeli company’s technology, causing the loss of tens of millions of dollars in royalty payments on a go-forward basis. Leap Motion has developed much more sensitive sensing capability — racking movements of both hands and all 10 fingers at 290 frames per second and detecting movements as small as 1/100 of a millimeter – and has inked a deal with Asus.
And with no other really hit products in the market right now, the company’s prospects look fairly sub-prime, and it was forced to lay off a quarter of its staff — about 50 employees — over the last year.
Hence the look towards acquisitions. And the company does have a patent portfolio, reportedly, that could be very valuable.
The question is whether Apple, or any other suitor, wants to be seen as picking up Microsoft’s leavings. There’s a reason why Xbox uses different technology, and only part of it is the fact that Microsoft developed it in-house. PrimeSense reportedly does have a new product that is much more precise than its existing products, but the challenge is that the price is more expensive than competing solutions.
There is of course no corroboration of this report from either Apple or PrimeSense.
Here is an example of PrimeSense’s technology in action: