Apple (AAPL) reportedly has offered $280 million to buy PrimeSense, an Israeli maker of 3D sensor embedded chip technology that gives digital devices three-dimensional display capacity, or what the developer calls "depth sensing."
Word of Apple’s involvement first appeared in the Israeli business publication Calcalist and was picked up in a number of other outlets. PrimeSense, founded in 2005 and backed by some $85 million in venture funding, reportedly met in early June with a delegation of Apple senior engineering managers to consider the “company’s technology and its adaption to future Apple products.”
With PrimeSense’s 3D-on-a-chip technology, Apple would be able to incorporate body movements and hand gestures with controls in its digital devices and computers. According to 9to5Mac, Apple has been working on a 3D movement interface and already may be licensing technology from PrimeSense. In addition, Apple owns patents on its own 3D technology.
The talks reportedly still are in the early stages, which may have prompted PrimeSense to issue a statement of denial in response to the publicity, perhaps concerned about scaring away Apple’s interest.
PrimeSense first made a name for itself in 2006 when it showed its 3D chip technology to Microsoft (MSFT), resulting in 2010 in the Kinect motion-sensing input device that Microsoft subsequently replaced this year with its own in-house developed 3D-sensing technology. PrimeSense since has developed Capri, its smaller, next-generation embedded 3D sensor to power mobile 3D-sensing applications—slated for Google's (GOOG) Nexus 10 tablet—which it plans to show off next week at Siggraph 2013.
The company claims its technology is used by more than 20 million households worldwide. PrimeSense maintains a strategic partnership with ASUS for its 3D-sensing technology on some PCs and games.
Snapping up Israeli technology firms seems to be all the rage right now. EMC just nabbed ScaleIO, a flash storage maker, and earlier this month Samsung bought streaming media company Boxee for some $30 million. And, in early June Google ponied up $1.2 billion for mobile mapping and navigation developer Waze. Should Apple buy PrimeSense, it would follow on a 2011 purchase of Anobit, an Israeli maker of a flash chip optimization controller for the iPhone and iPad, for some $400 million.