Apple (AAPL) has just acquired a small German firm that specializes in eye-tracking for an undisclosed sum, according to MacRumors, increasing speculation that the Silicon Valley giant plans to be at the forefront of augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies.
SensoMotoric has made significant strides in eye-tracking hardware and software since it opened for business in 1991. Its proprietary glasses are reportedly capable of recording natural gaze behavior in real-time and have been used for many purposes, ranging from athletics to clinical research, in-car systems, AR and VR.
The company’s technology has attracted particular interest in VR circles. Aside from helping to counter motion sickness, a common side effect of VR, SensoMotoric’s eye-tracking device also enables users to control menus and aim at targets during games by adjusting their gazes. These important breakthroughs have seen SensoMotoric team up with HTC, Samsung (SSNLF) and Facebook’s (FB)
What Is Apple Up To?
While Apple has yet to launch its own VR headset, speculation is rife that it is currently in the process of building one. The Silicon Valley company is also reportedly creating a prototype pair of smart glasses for use with the iPhone. With SensoMotoric’s eye-tracking hardware now on board, Apple’s ability to make cutting edge AR and VR technology has been significantly strengthened. (See also: Apple May Release AR Smart Glasses With Carl Zeiss.)
Prior to buying SensoMotoric, Apple acquired a number of other AR and VR specialists, including software firm Metaio, 3D sensor expert Primesense, facial mapper Faceshift and 3D motion tracker FlyBy Media. After making those deals, CEO Tim Cook claimed that VR and AR could one day be as big as smartphones. The company also unveiled the new ARKit platform earlier this month for developers. (See also: Why Apple's ARKit Could Be a Game Changer.)
"I do think that a significant portion of the population of developed countries, and eventually all countries, will have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day," Cook said last year, according to Business Insider.