Apple may have bought eye tracking tech firm SensoMotoric Instruments

Posted June 28, 2017

Apple has reportedly acquired SensoMotoric Instruments, a German firm specializing in computer vision and eye tracking technologies.

According to evidence compiled by MacRumours, legal activity discovered through a shell company and carried out by Apple attorney Gene Levoff all point towards Apple having acquired the German company. It is also worth noting that SMI recently updated its website by removing over a dozen pages with detailed information about its products. The company, founded in 1991 and based in Teltow near Berlin, develops eye-tracking tech to be used in virtual and augmented reality headsets and glasses. At WWDC earlier this month, Apple unveiled its new ARKit solution, aimed providing developers with new tools for crafting AR experiences as well as improving motion tracking to create virtual objects that are more "rooted" in real physical space. Among other systems, SMI has developed glasses with built-in eye-tracking sensors.

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"Apply buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our objective or plans", a representative from Apple said in a statement. As it often happens with big enterprises, they tend to use shell companies for corporate and other acquisitions, in order to minimize publicity of the deals. Moreover, since the technology is created to enhance resolution only in the area where a user's gaze is detected, the other portions of the display are blurred, which in turn reduces demand for power on the headset's CPU and components.

Apple's upcoming smartphone - the iPhone 8 - is expected to have AR and VR features. The company also brought VR development support to the company's highest-end desktop, the iMac Pro. The tech giant's iOS 11 operating system, now available as a developer preview with a fall launch, will become "the biggest AR platform in the world", Craig Federighi, Apple's SVP of software engineering, said in announcing the update. The company has also been rumored to be working on AR glasses, as well - hardware that would take its AR ambitions to another level.