Apple acquires German company specializing in AR and eye tracking

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Apple today confirmed its acquisition of a German computer vision company called SensoMotoric Instruments, according to a report from Axios. 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. Given Apple’s increasing focus on AR applications, this acquisition could help it further develop software to be built either into future versions of the iPhone or into standalone pieces of hardware.

Apple has not officially confirmed the deal, as it never publicly discloses its acquisitions. The company does however hint at confirmation of an acquisition by issuing the same statement every time, one it indeed gave to Axios this afternoon. “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” an Apple representative said.

It’s not entirely clear how Apple plans to use the talent or intellectual property of SensoMotoric Instruments, and we likely won’t know for quite some time what type of hardware or software the iPhone maker might be cooking up in Cupertino. Yet Apple CEO Tim Cook has expressed in interviews that he thinks AR is a burgeoning and hugely impactful technology — he thinks it might be as transformative as the smartphone itself.

At its annual WWDC gathering earlier this month, Apple also unveiled its new ARKit platform to let developers build new apps that take advantage of the iPhone’s camera and sensors to perform depth estimation and place virtual objects in real-world environments. Just weeks later, we’re already seeing some stunning demos that let you do accurate measurements with a virtual tape measure and even a fun little SpaceX rocket landing animation that places the launchpad in someone’s backyard swimming pool. As my colleague Vlad Savov argued this morning, Apple’s ARKit could become the vehicle to bring these types of applications to the mainstream faster than any other software platform out there, including even Google’s existing Project Tango.

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