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Reports: Apple To Buy Israeli 3D Sensing Company PrimeSense 81

Posted by timothy
from the stereo-vision dept.
Several sources, including this report at Forbes, and this one at All Things Digital, say that Apple has bought (or is in the process of buying) Tel-Aviv based PrimeSense, the company behind the 3-D sensing technology in Microsoft's Kinect, for $345 million. The Forbes piece also gives a compact but interesting summary of the possibilities of ubiquitous 3-D hardware, and the sudden, recent drop in price of the components necessary for that to happen. Devices like the Lynx 3-D scanner that I saw at last year's SXSW (targeting the cheap and portable end of the 3-D scanning market) may have a lot of competition in the near future.
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Reports: Apple To Buy Israeli 3D Sensing Company PrimeSense

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  • Patents (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Inev (3059243)
    Seems like a good way to get some patents to use against Microsoft.
    • by Chrisq (894406)

      Seems like a good way to get some patents to use against Microsoft.

      And a good way to inject cash into a friendly nation's technology centre.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Friendly nation, that's a good one.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Seems like a good way to get some patents to use against Microsoft.

        And a good way to inject cash into a friendly nation's technology centre.

        As if Israel isn't getting enough injection [wikipedia.org].

        But from your posts it is rather obvious that you are frightened out of your skull by anything even remotely related to Islam -- a less charitable interpretation would be to call you a racist -- and since the Palestinians happen to be predominantly Muslim you appear to be following a "my enemy's enemy" line here. Well, you know, good luck with that.

        • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

          by Dog-Cow (21281)

          If a Palestinian is anyone who lived in Palestine before it became Israel, then there are thousands of Palestinian Jews living in Israel today. Even more so if you count descendants (as the Arabs in the West Bank do).

      • by Sun (104778)

        Just Wow!

        How paranoid can one get?

        Is there any reason at all to assume this is anything more than a company, which happens to be American, interested in buying the assets of another company, which happens to be Israeli? If so, please do elaborate.

        Shachar

      • Nice. Let's play six degrees of politicization of a thread!
    • Re:Patents (Score:5, Informative)

      by grouchomarxist (127479) on Monday November 18, 2013 @03:31AM (#45452685)

      Apple and Microsoft are at a patent truce. They co-own the patent holding company RockStar.

      • Re:Patents (Score:5, Informative)

        by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday November 18, 2013 @03:39AM (#45452713)
        Also MS licensed Kinect technology from Prime Sense. These licenses don't go away simply because the company changes owners. SCO found out the hard way in the Novell case. They got the licensing business from Novell, not the copyrights. Just because they bought the business from Santa Cruz does not mean they can change the past agreements they made with Novell.
      • Re:Patents (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bazmail (764941) on Monday November 18, 2013 @03:56AM (#45452773)
        The truce only holds for the patents that they have vested in RockStar. Any patent not fully vested is fair game. I would imagine the PrimeSense patents will be kept well away from RockStar. Companies often sue each other while having an otherwise perfectly workable relationship. See Samsung v Apple.
        • Yes, this is true, but MS and Apple have no need, and probably no desire to sue each other.

          MS needs Apple to continue to exist as a computer maker, or their anti-trust problems grow. MS invested $150 million 15 years ago in Apple to keep them alive, for this very reason.

          Apple needs MS to promote and grow the Windows Phone. Frankly, Apple would MUCH rather have Windows Phone as the iPhone's competition rather than Android. And Apple would have the same problem with iPhone as MS does without competitio

          • by Anonymous Coward

            >MS invested $150 million 15 years ago in Apple

            True

            >to keep them alive, for this very reason.

            Completely wrong.
            http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/RDM.Tech.Q1.07/592FE887-5CA1-4F30-BD62-407362B533B9.html

            It's an urban myth that refuses to die. MS NEVER saved Apple. Steve Jobs saved Apple, not Bill Gates.

            • by rvw (755107)

              Steve Jobs saved Apple, not Bill Gates.

              With the helping hand of Steve Ballmer...

            • by Kalriath (849904)

              You invalidate your point when you cite RoughlyDrafted as a source. That's about as "neutral" as WinSuperSite.

        • Re:Patents (Score:4, Informative)

          by Karlt1 (231423) on Monday November 18, 2013 @11:26AM (#45455205)

          The truce only holds for the patents that they have vested in RockStar. Any patent not fully vested is fair game.

          The MS/Apple patent truce dates back to a 5 year patent cross licensing deal back in 1997. Apple and MS haven't gone after each other at all since then.

        • Re:Patents (Score:4, Interesting)

          by ducomputergeek (595742) on Monday November 18, 2013 @12:34PM (#45455815)

          Apple and MS have been at a patent truce for more than a decade, since the late 1990's. And continue to offer each other a very broad cross patent license agreement.

          Remember the jog dial control on the iPod. Turns out MS held the patent on it. And it was covered under their cross patent licenses agreement.

          MS offered the truce because they desperately needed Apple to avoid DOJ break up. But over the past decade it's proven to be useful for both sides. Largely the two companies don't directly compete with each other. Apple is a consumer electronics company. Microsoft is an enterprise software provider. There isn't a lot of overlap. At least not as much as people on /. would like to believe.

          And strangely enough, the both need each other at this point to stem Google.

    • Seems like a good way to get some patents to use against Microsoft.

      Microsoft? Try, a good way to keep them out of the hands of Google/Samsung et al.

      • One would have to wonder whether Google already holds everything they need for this tech given they are entrenched into the self driving car industry. You'd figure 3D scanning is very much obligatory for that.

        • They use a LIDAR system for that. Pretty ancient technology. Also used for law enforcement (speed guns).
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_driverless_car [wikipedia.org]

          According to the article, this system costs $70.000 euros.
          That's a far cry from the $80 euros of a typical kinect system.

          I guess that's the price you pay for brute forcing your way into the market.

        • The performance of the Google driverless car has not been independently verified through real driving scenarios by a single person.

          Don't imagine it's nearly as sophisticated as you'd hope.

        • Unfortunately, that's not how patents work. You can be operating a business and someone with patents can sue the crap out of you.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      Nokia, MS and Apple entered a court case unholy-union a few years back already(after Apple got spanked in the courts by Nokia) - they even moved a large portion of their offensive patents to a holding company....

      google is more likely to get into the receiving end(google glass gestures etc shit).

      • Re:Patents (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mwvdlee (775178) on Monday November 18, 2013 @03:56AM (#45452771) Homepage

        Don't you just love how patents are primarily used to ensure technology will never be used and combined in new ways?

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          It is common to regard the progress of technology over the past decade as magnificent.

          But all the ingredients are much older than this. For the last decade of progress, all we really have are:
          1) Apple, not for inventing usability, but for merely realising that it is important;
          2) Chinese sweatshop labour for their undying devotion to increased efficiency.

          All the current ideas had already been envisioned by the '70s, prototyped by the '80s, and implemented by the '90s. Today we just have a bunch of consolidat

          • by mwvdlee (775178)

            Perhaps if you define all of technology as "iPhone".

          • Those 70s wankers? The microprocessor 'aint nothing more than a shrinked down bunch of people with calculators.

            Calculators? They 'aint nothing more than a jumped up abacus.

            • Yes, but those are bigger steps than 10um to 22nm, which has been main evolutionary delivery between 1971 and last year..

              • Yeah. I wish some other stuff had happened in the past 30 years. Anyway, can't talk. Going to go play some Pong.

                • Except that the context there was miniaturisation, and the more general statement was about lack of progress in the last 10 years.

                  • I get the feeling you're going to head down that familiar root pointing out that x is really just a refined version of y - where y is some technology that originated 30 years ago. Barring that, I can only assume you've been living with the Amish. Either way, it'll be just as productive if I pretend to be playing Pong.

                    Shush. Pong.

                    • Look at it forwards: what was practically envisaged in each decade? That's a fairly good way of deciding whether something is evolutionary or revolutionary.

                      I once wrote Psion Pong for the first half of a plane trip to Germany, then the second half passing it around between my schoolmates. The turboprop for leg #2 got hit by lightning, and one of the "hard kids" (I was obv. a geek) vomited. I lol'd. But then I let him play with my Psion for the rest of the journey, and he was grateful.

      • Nokia, MS and Apple entered a court case unholy-union a few years back already(after Apple got spanked in the courts by Nokia) - they even moved a large portion of their offensive patents to a holding company....

        When exactly did Apple get "spanked" by Nokia in the courts? Aren't we trying to re-write history here? As far as I remember, Nokia asked for insane patent fees, Apple offered to pay much more sane amounts, they finally settled in court, and Nokia published patent revenue that was quite in line with what you would have reasonably expected Apple would pay.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          When exactly did Apple get "spanked" by Nokia in the courts? Aren't we trying to re-write history here? As far as I remember, Nokia asked for insane patent fees, Apple offered to pay much more sane amounts, they finally settled in court, and Nokia published patent revenue that was quite in line with what you would have reasonably expected Apple would pay.

          hundreds of millions of dollars and apple wanted originally not to pay anything or cross license but they had nothing to cross license. jobs had the jobs opinion that they did have something to license and fight with..("oh have we patented it")..

          if you don't call 800mil + 8 per iphone vs. nothing as getting spanked then that's your problem. they settled because they would have lost and at that point in time they got other pressing matters from another manufacturer to attend to into which a truce fitted quit

          • hundreds of millions of dollars and apple wanted originally not to pay anything or cross license but they had nothing to cross license. jobs had the jobs opinion that they did have something to license and fight with..("oh have we patented it")..

            You are completely wrong. Nokia asked for tons of money and license for Apple patents. (See: Apple _had_ patents that Nokia wanted to license, so when you say "they had nothing to cross license", that's nonsense). Apple never refused to pay for licenses, they refused to pay as much as Nokia wanted, and the refused to cross license. As is usual in these cases, Nokia refused to accept a lower payment (because taking money can be seen as accepting the payment rate and can cost you dearly in court).

            The agreem

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Yes, it's not like this specific company will have signed extensive patent licencing agreements with Microsoft or anything.

  • Now we shall have Peace in our time.
    • Yeah but Microsoft will just buy Hezbollah *cough* sorry I mean Lebanon.

      They'll probably throw Iran in for cheap as well.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      iSrael. It was either get bought out or get sued for trademark infringement.

  • by bazmail (764941) on Monday November 18, 2013 @03:52AM (#45452761)
    1. Only 345 million? At least they actually produce something, Facebook offered to buy snapchat for 3 billion, and thats just another "me too" messenger service flavor of the month.
    2. Why the hell doesn't microsoft already own this? Seems like they made a monumental fuckup not buying this years ago, and now will be beholden to Apple.
    • by Sockatume (732728) on Monday November 18, 2013 @04:28AM (#45452847)

      The obvious answer is that Primesense knew that they were worth more money as a free agent than MS could offer them to work exclusively (they've been licencing the same reference design out to other companies since Kinect came out). I guess Apple wrote a bigger check.

      For what it's worth, I've read that Kinect 2 is enough of an in-house MS Research project that Primesense were not involved.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        For what it's worth, I've read that Kinect 2 is enough of an in-house MS Research project that Primesense were not involved.

        Not quite inhouse, but not PrimeSense either. Microsoft acquired a company that specialized in low-cost time-of-flight cameras and that's what's in the Kinect 2 (PrimeSense is based on structured light fields).

        Or, in other words, Kinect 2 again messes with the 3D imaging companies by offering a low-cost time-of-flight 3D imager, something that would've cost easily hundreds of thousand

    • Agreed on "Only 345 million?"

      They seem to be worth *a lot* more.

  • by Camembert (2891457) on Monday November 18, 2013 @04:50AM (#45452933)
    Technically it is nice. It works great for games. But Apple is not really a game company so I am thinking how they would use it.
    This could be, next to really innovative uses that are outside my limited imagination:
    - gesture control for TV (Apple TV or upcoming TV)
    - gesture controle of home automation (considering that they also bought a home automation firm), perhaps the sensor could be in the upcoming iwatch
    - gesture control, next to the current input methods for osx and IOS - but I am not yet sure about the extra value.
    - turn an iphone into a 3D scanner by for example tracing the outline of an object with one corner of the device.

    So, I can imagine some use cases outside gaming, but somehow what I can come up with seem rahter nice to haves than killer apps. Any other ideas?
    • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Monday November 18, 2013 @06:21AM (#45453171)

      Technically it is nice. It works great for games. But Apple is not really a game company so I am thinking how they would use it.

      This could be, next to really innovative uses that are outside my limited imagination:

      - gesture control for TV (Apple TV or upcoming TV)

      - gesture controle of home automation (considering that they also bought a home automation firm), perhaps the sensor could be in the upcoming iwatch

      - gesture control, next to the current input methods for osx and IOS - but I am not yet sure about the extra value.

      - turn an iphone into a 3D scanner by for example tracing the outline of an object with one corner of the device.

      So, I can imagine some use cases outside gaming, but somehow what I can come up with seem rahter nice to haves than killer apps. Any other ideas?

      I don't know how small you can make these scanners, but assuming the can be made to fit into a mobile device I can think of one more feature: Face recognition. That might spare Apple embarrassing moments like Google had with it's face recognition login feature [youtube.com]. People laugh about CCC hacking Apples fingerprint button [youtube.com], but at least that hack takes more than 20 seconds.

    • Any 12 years old girl will tell you that the next gen mobile phone is holographic communication like we were promised in the first Star-Wars movie 36 years ago. Now we know Apple has been working on holographic projection for years, this here is for the holographic capture ...

      Dah

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Apple had tried buying PrimeSense before Kinect, but they rubbed the PS folks the wrong way (IIRC the characterization was that Apple acted like PS should be grateful at Apple wanting them and take whatever they offer). As for MS, they've moved on to their own internal tech for Kinect 2, so presumably, MS figured $350 million was too much for them.

  • From oy vey to iVey.

  • Firstly: Yes, I agree that whatever price Facebook offered, if it offered anything, to SnapChat is grossly exaggerated and out of proportion.

    However, everyone seems to forget that SnapChat is in touch with almost 99% of all youth and a very large percentage of all smartphone users.

    A "customer base" MUCH larger than anything PrimeSense will EVER dream of touching.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      that's a user base, not a customer base.

    • However, everyone seems to forget that SnapChat is in touch with almost 99% of all youth and a very large percentage of all smartphone users.

      A "customer base" MUCH larger than anything PrimeSense will EVER dream of touching.

      Heinz has a user base much larger than Intel's. A comparison between Heinz and Intel seems just as disjointed and useless as comparing SnapChat's user base (online service for consumers) with PrimeSense (licensing tech and selling niche hardware to geeks).

  • Junk Company (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    1) the Kinect 2 in the Xbox One has NOTHING to do with the dreadful technology from PrimeSense

    2) EVERYTHING clever the original Kinect did was a result of Microsoft's body detection algorithms, and NOTHING to do with PrimeSense

    3) PrimeSense depth detection works in the most trivial (and unreliable) way. And optical sheet in front of a very bright light source projects thousands of carefully pre-calculated 'rays', creating an image that looks like a lot of "random dots". However, the 'random' dots have horiz

    • Complete BS, this. Microsoft made skeleton tracking that is incredibly advanced and yet it didn't quite work. PrimeSense made some of their own skeleton tracking, unremarkable in performance in reliability, and decent object segregation. The brilliance of the PrimeSense tech is exactly what's on the chip, it gives you a quite accurate depth map with only 30ms lag compared to a regular webcam and quite solid as well as long the cam is not looking at open sky. And that depth map is all you need for a number o

  • by nickmalthus (972450) on Monday November 18, 2013 @12:13PM (#45455621)
    It was great to see PrimeSense offer an open API [openni.org] to interact with 3D sensing hardware when the kinect first hit the market. Now with their acquisition will their support of this standard be abandoned?
  • by citizenr (871508) on Monday November 18, 2013 @02:20PM (#45456721) Homepage

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/occipital/structure-sensor-capture-the-world-in-3d [kickstarter.com]

    3D sensor in a phone is a no-brainer once you see the possibilities.

    This is going to be the next big thing in iPhone 6. 300mil is cheap for the next good reason for everyone to upgrade their iCrap.

  • for alternatives. When Apple bought AuthenTec (who made the fingerprint scanners on most laptops), they put out one final version of the software then unceremoniously dropped support for the hardware. Now the AuthenTec website is just gone. I managed to grab the latest (last) version of the software [archive.org] (for the scanner on my laptop) before the website vanished, but only because I happened to do a wipe and reinstall of the OS earlier in the year.

    If Apple wants to make some tech exclusive to their devices,

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